The last time I ran 10,000m was about a year ago when I was training for my first, and second, half marathon – which became the Freyathlon marathon. Since then, running hasn’t featured much in my activity portfolio and I’ve been relying on my cycle commutes as preparation for the Freyathlon triathlons. Yes. Two triathlons.
But there’s a 10000m in the track athletics programme and it’s been lurking in the background for a few months. I knew I couldn’t face running round an athletics track so appealed for ideas. One friend (Hello Adele!) suggested I could do a pre-parkrun 5000m one Saturday morning then do parkrun – which had the attraction of post-event cake. And the Hilly Fields parkrun was the venue for the Freyathlon 5000m. Another friend suggested taking part in a race but I wasn’t sure I could fit any more events into the Freyathlon calendar.
One of the things I do like about running is that you can just step outside your front door and you’re doing it. Running. And you can go anywhere. For as long as you want.
A cancelled open water swim class proved to be the spur. Suddenly I had an available Saturday morning. I checked my running routes and laid out my clothes – so I would have no excuse.
I had no idea how far I’d be able to run so gave myself permission to take it slowly and return home if it got too much. I filled my water bottle, stuffed an emergency gel into my back pocket, checked there would be food to eat when I got back home, and selected the run option on my watch. A clue for what happened later: I’d been running for almost five minutes before my watch joined me.
I ran steadily, thinking about how familiar the streets had become during my half marathon training. One of the highlights of my runs had been taking note of local flytipping – one friend in Australia (Hello Bev!) once commented how she missed my updates when I stopped training. All I spotted on this leg of the run were two double mattresses and one double bed base.
A couple of people waiting for buses or walking their dogs smiled at me. No one honked a car horn or called out to me. I turned a corner and ahead of me was a man wearing a pair of slippers. I decided to overtake him before he reached the next lamp post. I did.
I got bored.
And started thinking about the food I could eat when I got home: homemade bircher museli, bagels, avocado, eggs. Whether to eat all of the food. Whether I miss drinking coffee. Why more energy foods should be caffeine-free. Which is my favourite cake. Why some people put cream first on a scone.
Because I’ve run the route a few times I knew roughly where the halfway point was. When my watch bleeped to tell me I’d run 5k, I checked how long it had taken me and decided my legs were good for a bit longer.
I looked at the gardens I was running past and noticed a few changes – trees pollarded, shrubs pruned, renovations underway. I wondered whether anyone would notice me and whether they’d think I was running faster, or slower, than this time a year ago.
After spending most of my run on quiet, residential streets I turned onto the main road and grabbed the energy gel to give me a boost as I passed my local café. On past the supermarket, the chip shop, the bookies, and the dry cleaners. At the bus stop, a woman called a child to move out of my way just as a man carrying a fridge walked backwards out of a second hand shop. I thanked the woman and turned left to head towards the park.
Bored again, I started thinking about everything I needed to do when I got home: eating and showering were high on the list. But I also needed to iron clothes and pack in time to catch the train I needed to get to a wedding in Birmingham (Hello Lydia and Matt!) that afternoon.
In the park a woman passed me on the way to the gates, then passed me again as she headed towards the bandstand. The courts that had hosted the Freyathlon tennis event were empty and I made my way down the slope to the bottom of the park. I usually run clockwise around the park but had decided to surprise myself and go anti-clockwise for a change.
At the gates at the bottom of the park, a man crossed my path and walked up the steps. The air filled with the smell of marijuana. I realised it was the first time I’d seen or smelled any smoke, nicotine or marijuana, on my run. Trotting up the slope to the top of the park, I passed the remains of some outdoor fitness equipment that we used to use for weekly bootcamp sessions (Hello Nicola!) about five or six years ago. I wondered whether the equipment would ever be replaced.
Near the bandstand a man was skipping which reminded me how much I’d enjoyed skipping as a warm-up for the Freyathlon boxing. And decided to find the skipping ropes again.
And the area opposite the bandstand had been the venue for the Freyathlon modern pentathlon and the Freyathlon rhythmic gymnastics. Happy days.
I started the second lap of the park and calculated my watch would probably bleep on this lap so I’d be able to head home for breakfast.
And my pace picked up. A bit.
A man overtook me. I realised I hadn’t seen him before and wondered when he’d pass me again. It didn’t take long.
I spent most of the lap waiting for my watch to bleep and trying to work out how far I’d run since it had last bleeped. I decided another lap was needed and that, as soon as the bleep sounded, I’d walk home.
For the third lap, all I could think about was why my watch wasn’t bleeping and how hungry I was.
I completed the lap and decided enough was enough. I trotted out of the gates at the top of the park and along the road.
Back home I checked my watch and discovered I’d run 10250km.
Further than I’ve run in more than 12 months.
And I did it because my watch didn’t tell me I’d run another 5km.
- my watch only tells me when I’ve covered the first 5km of the day – which I probably should have noticed before
- it’s a good idea to plot your route for distance rather than rely on technology
- I can run for longer than I think I can
- I could probably run faster than I think I can
- I think about food a lot when I’m running – but then I think about food when I’m swimming, cycling, walking.
Athletics, 10,000m. 30 July 2016
Hither Green and Mountsfield Park