On Christmas day I went for my last run of the year, a sprightly three miles to finish off the Advent Running challenge. Of everything I’ve done over the past twelve months, running has possibly brought me the most satisfaction. That it’s done so while crippling me twice suggests that I may be in a slightly abusive relationship with this particular obsession (once may be an accident, but twice raises questions about is intentions).
At the start of the year I thought I would be running three marathons, in a weird, exhausting, and ultimately ineffectual denial of the onset of my forties. It didn’t work. Forty happened anyway.
Before I got to the first, while I was training early on in the year, The Beard dropped me a quick line to see if I fancied joining him for the ten mile Great Edinburgh Run, and I’m glad he did. It turned out to be my best race of the year, both in terms of performance and how much fun I somehow had. The route took us past most of the bits of Edinburgh that you would travel there to see, including all the major locations from my novel The Flesh Market*, and there was a tonne of support from crowds who turned out despite it being a grey day. I did a race report here, and if you want to do a run in Edinburgh then I’d recommend this one far ahead of the Edinburgh Marathon.
Because that was my first marathon of the year, and it was the most extraordinarily boring thing that has ever happened to me (hyperbolically speaking). There was almost no Edinburgh in it, for a start, and altogether too much Musselburgh. I wrote about that one too, and it’s worth reading if you have your heart set on a marathon. The course is apparently ‘fast’ (though the furious headwinds on the day put paid to that), and that can be the only reason for this being such a major event. The experience was drab enough to make me wonder whether I’d had my fill of distance running.
Fortunately I was already signed up for the first ever Fort William marathon a couple of months later. Raced in the shadow of Ben Nevis, this is the most wildly beautiful place I’ve ever run. Seriously. Heart-stopping beautiful, even on an overcast day. Properly stop-what-you’re-doing-and-gawp-except-you-can’t-because-marathon beautiful. It starts hilly, racing up and down forested slopes along fire paths and deer tracks, before plummeting downhill at the halfway point to take you on a long, flat, six mile stretch of canal before thrusting you back into the hills for the final leg. Unfortunately, I’d let my fitness slide between the two marathons – not enough long running and too much #runcommuting – and I learned the hard way that you can’t bluff distance running. Things were good until around mile eighteen, at which point I got Runner’s Twang**. I had to cover the last eight miles or so at a limp. You know when you read about runners getting injured in marathons but heroically stumbling onwards anyway just to finish, and there’s cheering, and trumpets, and stirring orchestral soundtracks? Well it’s not like that at all. Instead it’s a miserable, dispiriting experience that hollows you out a bit.
Still, I got a medal. It’s a lovely medal, though not one I feel I earned. I have six medals now, but I’m told that it’s not the done thing to wear them in public***. This is a shame. That’s a lot of wasted bling.
Afterwards I had to let the Twang heal up, which left little time to get back up to fitness before the Loch Ness Marathon. Too little time. I pushed the distance in training too far, too fast, ending up with a Massive Hurty Leg Syndrome that eventually had me pull out before the big day. Loch Ness and I therefore have unfinished business.
After taking October and November off altogether to recover, I joined up with Advent Runners the world over to run for thirty minutes every day between the 1st and 25th of December. That was a simply joyous thing to do, and I really hope some more of you might be convinced to join me if it’s still going next year.
Over twelve months, between training and races, I’ve covered 591 miles in 103 hours and 47 minutes, and gone for 104 runs. If it hadn’t been for injury then I would have covered more still.
Now I’m resting up, because twenty-five days of running with no time off to rest up takes its toll. On the first of January though, I’ll be back at it, training for adventures.
That’s what I realised this year. I don’t just like running for the fitness and headspace it offers (though both are wonderful things to find). I like running because it’s a way to have adventures, often with brilliant people. That’s why a madcap dash around Edinburgh pleased me so much more than a potentially ‘fast’ marathon from a similar start point. It’s why I loved the slopes of Ben Nevis even though I almost failed to finish the actual run, and had little chance of any sort of ‘personal best’ on the course.
Lesson learned. At the moment I have two formal runs planned for next year. Both are adventures far more than they are races. In March, barring injury****, The Beard and I will reunite to take on the absurdly mysterious Mighty Deerstalker, where we shall bound and prance through rivers and over hills for an unknown number of miles, in the dark, while dressed in tweed*****. Then in June I’ll head down to Carlisle to run the length of Hadrian’s Wall, from the Atlantic to the North Sea, in twenty-four hours or less.
And other things too. I haven’t decided what yet******, but adventures, definitely.
As many adventures as I can fit in.
Anybody want to come?
*Available at a very reasonable price, etc.
**When you are running and something in your leg goes ‘twang’, and then you aren’t running anymore.
***Not all at once, obviously. That would be gratuitous.
****Or death, obviously – is death an injury?
*****Possibly very cheap tweed that can be disposed of after five minutes running when it becomes clear how stupid an idea that bit it.
Tagged advent running, adventures, edinburgh marathon, fort william marathon, great edinburgh run, hadrian's wall, hurty leg, loch ness marathon, mighty deerstalker, runner's twang, stupid tweed, the wall