The God of Small Joys

There must be one surely? I’m not talking about those major events in life like the birth of children or falling in love. I’m talking about the little things. Finding a fiver you didn’t know you had in a pocket when you really need a coffee and a cake. A smile from your beloved when you wake up. That sort of thing. They deserve to have a god. If love can have a god, then so can smiles from loved ones and children.

This came to mind because I had a really rubbish run yesterday. I had no energy, no vim or vigour and I worked really hard to post a 26 minute run around Wimpole Estate parkrun. It was a bit muddy and sticky but it shouldn’t have been so bloody hard. I’d spent the week on the road in Manchester and Yorkshire meaning lots of miles, hotel nights, unfamiliar beds and crappy food on my own. I hadn’t run since Sunday’s St Neot’s Half in spite of taking all my kit and shoes with me. My lack of energy and oomph has been hanging around for a while.

So I ran flat out and slowly round parkrun on Saturday morning and crossed the line feeling a little meh. However, it wasn’t a crap run. It was a beautiful morning – really, really cold. It took the best part of twenty minutes for the feeling to return to my fingers even though I was wearing my best winter running gloves. It’s definitely winter again and that makes me happy. I was running among friends. I saw familiar, smiling faces everywhere I looked. I know lots of them now but even more of them know me. There were runners of all ages out on the course yesterday and they were by and large giving the absolute berries. Afterwards I had a very nice mocha, one of Cambridgeshire’s better sausage rolls and a slice of Bakewell so sexy I wanted to call it Joan.

My parkrun is so much more than the run and that’s just as well. Running in general is like that. My St Neot’s Half was an hour and three quarters of socialising and partying. I ran the last mile quite hard and it took a good five minutes before I stopped wanting to throw up but apart from that I was chatting and laughing. My time wasn’t dreadful, less than three minutes slower than my 2011 PB on the same course and it was a happy, happy day.

Small joys are important. They keep us going and give us something to rely on when small sadnesses creep up on us and the god of small joys knows there are enough of those around.

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The Moaniness of the Long Distance Runner

I’m injured again. Again, I’m injured and I tell you what, it’s a complete pain in the arse. Except that it’s in my right foot, and up the outside of my right leg and ultimately in my groinal bits. A physio would probably say – has in fact said – that it’s because of weak gluteals but that’s by the by. It’s a pain in the arse foot. I should probably try to have Anne massage my intimate areas. It wouldn’t be any sort of cure but it would definitely cheer me up because there’s nothing quite as mardy as an injured runner.

I’ve had a couple of weeks off now ever since having to stop at 8 miles in the Wimpole Hoohaah Half Marathon. I shouldn’t really have run there, just as I shouldn’t really have run at the Bourn to Run 10k the previous week but having got away with it once, I thought I’d get away with it again and I really, really didn’t. Coming downhill at speed resulted in stupefying pain and I ended up gingerly walking down the hills and caning it up them. I was climbing at better than 8:00 per mile and descending more slowly than 10:00 per mile and the whole thing was a mess so I’m moaning about it now. I finished, by the way, in a PW of 1:55 something, jogging in while people frothed and foamed and sped and sprinted past me. Well done, them.

I’ve been moaning about it quite a lot to anyone who’ll listen and it’s a testament to my friends and clubmates that they will listen to me. Endurance runners all know what it’s like to be on the bench. They will lend an ear to one of their own in pain because they know, know in their super-stressed ligaments and bones that they will hurt too soon. Perhaps “moaning” is the wrong word, at least for what everyone else does. We swap stories of our aches and pains. We get help and advice and support from one another. Positivity comes but first there’s the grouchiness and ouchiness and just the faintest tangs of whine. “Oh, it’s nothing really but I’m slightly fed up…”

The thing about not being able to run is that nothing else is really the same. I wanted to take my bike out today but it rained off and on all day. Running in the rain is a joy. Cycling in the rain is misery cubed. I hummed and hawed and bumbled round the house not doing any chores until I dragged my weak glutes to the gym for a stint on a rowing machine. I lasted all of fifteen minutes. Fifteen miserable minutes or miserable misery. Chris said on Facebook that I should have taken my bike out in the rain. He was probably right. I’m going to try again tomorrow. I’ll take my headphones and listen to some music or a podcast and maybe I’ll last longer or maybe I’ll just break down.

I have another week of Not Running. I’m being good. My foot feels okay with just a hint of tighness across the top when I dorsiflex my toes. I’d like that to be gone before I try again. Patience is a virtue, quite an old fashioned name for a girl and something with which I am usually completely unacquainted. It’s so tempting to join in with tomorrow’s session running the triangles on Parker’s Piece or the mile time trial on Tuesday night at C&C. I need to be sure that I’m back properly before I start training again so the idea is to have a bimble round a parkrun on Saturday and if that goes okay to do five or six miles on Sunday. Please God, let it go well. I can’t cope with being this grumpy for much longer.

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On The Drowning Of Rats And Nakedness In Toilets

Went for a run this morning with Paul. It was pissing it down when we set off just after nine. I love running in the rain; it keeps you cool when you’re working hard. We weren’t working all that hard today. It wasn’t that sort of run. We were trotting along through the wind and the rain, ticking off six minute kilometres. The wind made things a little more difficult than they ought to have been.

There is a particular combination of wind and rain which can make running a complete misery. We were lucky today in that the wind and rain kept just missing that particular combination. It was a damn near run thing at a couple of points. There was a moment as we were running back along the top of a ridge just the wrong side of a hedge line for about half a mile. The wind blew the rain across us and just for a few seconds straight through us in a denial of the laws of physics and common decency. it was easier for us to keep going in one another’s company. I don’t think I would have gone out on my own in those conditions.

I had an equipment failure too. The zip on my rain jacket kept sliding down without me noticing. It’s not a great piece of kit, if I’m honest. It’s barely showerproof so today’s conditions were always going to test it. I’d be running along and glance down and the zip would be almost completely undone. I have an ongoing problem with zips. I’ve turned into one of those men whose flies are continuously undone because I forget to do them up in the morning when I pull my trousers on. I don’t notice until I head for the loo. No matter how many times I say “Oh fuck” to myself when I discover that, I never remember to check before I have my coffee.

My foot began to hurt again after about four miles so we cut our run short. It’s frustrating. I can run more quickly uphills than down them just now. The braking forces through my right foot cause me to slow down. too much. I don’t trust it enough to run hard downhill and going slowly causes even more pain. We looked like drowned rats when we arrived back at the stable block. It’s a funny phrase that. I’ve never seen a drowned rat. I’ve seldom seen a dry one either. I know they’re around, like paedophiles or UKIP councillors but we have little to offer one another so we seldom encounter one another. Paul said he would take a photograph to mark the moment but he set off to do a little more running while I headed to the loo to get changed.

I found myself naked in a public toilet (not for the first time but I’m not ever going to be drunk enough to tell that story.) I had a change of clothing in my bag. I headed for the sole cubicle in the gents and began pulling layer after sopping layer off before I started to chill and shiver. I was quickly naked in the loo, rummaging through my bag looking for a pair of boxers. Happily there were two pairs in there, alongside two pairs of socks, my jeans, a t-shirt and a jersey. There wasn’t a shirt but that wasn’t a problem. There wasn’t a belt for my jeans and that was more problematic. I will happily contemplate spending ninety quid on running shoes or two hundred or more on a new Garmin but baulk at the thought of blowing £20 on a pair of jeans from Tesco. As a result, all my trousers are too large for me now I’ve lost weight. It’s been three years and I don’t think I’m going to put that weight back on now. Even so, I’m not all that keen on throwing the baggy trousers out and buying more. I have only one belt which is small enough to hold them up now too and that was on my bedroom floor and not in my bag.

Paul and I had our sausage rolls and hot drinks in the restaurant when he returned from his extended trot. My foot stopped hurting quite quickly which was a relief. It’s sore now, as I write. When I flex my toes up, there is a tightness across the top of my foot. I need to get rid of that before I run again. I’m due to race next weekend in the Fenland 10 in preparation for the St Neots Half Marathon next month. I don’t think that’s going to happen now. I’ll probably rest my foot now for two weeks and cycle instead to keep my fitness up while my foot heals itself again.

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