Session Twelve Point One – The Run Without A Run

I promised myself tonight that I’d not run, that I’d take it easy on myself. Easy enough to do until you get a phone call asking if you fancy a game of football.

Still being twelve years old inside, I jumped at the chance of a kickabout and whilst I was little use beyond the first five minutes (truth be told I was little use in the first five, but I tired quickly and got worse) it was nice to be exercising without just pounding a pavement. Being a lot older than twelve on the outside, my limbs feel like they’re paying for it now.

Yes I forgot my football boots and had to wear trainers, yes the bib was snug round my waistline and yes I all round looked like the school kid who you didn’t even want to pick when he was the only one left, but it was great fun. Hopefully I can make it a regular fixture to break up the training a bit. Tomorrow will be a late one round the mean streets of Ashington after an amazing low key gig in Sunderland with Kai Humphries and Nathan Caton (get in touch for details), and it’ll seem tame in comparison, but I need to get the miles in.

For now, I’m happy I got out and exercised. I’ve got new muscles aching that I never feel just running. As sore as it is, there’s a slight buzz that accompanies the pain. Almost as if it’s a not so gentle reminder of a job well done.

Session Twelve – Achy Breaky Heart (and legs and arms)

“Jesus Christ, the Old Testament, church, God, Mary, Joseph, Jonathan Edwards, the Bible, Aled Jones, the Holy Ghost, catholicism, miracles, christianity, holy water, the sabbath day, the new testament, Adam and Eve, Songs of Praise. Can you hear me Songs of Praise? Your boys took one hell of a beating.”

And so it came to pass, that on God’s day of rest, F-Dog (that’s me) hit the pavements of Ashington and did anything but rest. Okay, so it wasn’t a mega pumped up affair and I nearly killed myself doing two miles, but I still managed it and in the relatively respectable 23 minutes, meaning a slow run still came in way under 12 minute miles. That’s progress for ya.

Annoyingly, I’m now aching all over, some six hours later. I can’t decide if it’s my body catching up with what I’ve put it through over the last fortnight, or that I just didn’t warm down properly. Either way, I’m going to take tomorrow off (unless I magically heal overnight) and hit the swimming pool and let that take the strain. I’ll still fit my five runs in next week, all with an extra mile on, but at the moment a three mile run out tomorrow feels like it’d be hell.

Still, that’s a full fortnight of running, I’m relatively injury free and definitely improving. And I’ve had virtually no abuse shouted at me by slim people. Maybe they think I’m one of them now! Yay! Hopefully the scales will back this up tonight when I weigh-in, for now I’m happy just to have got myself to this stage and praying these creaky old bones don’t pack in just yet!

Session Eleven – The Frogs Bore Us (quite a good pun)

Wednesday’s exploits were heroic, the sort of bravery and accomplishment that would make a soldier in Iraq blush, so topping that sort of effort was always going to take some doing. Besides, aids could be cured today and I’d hate to overshadow something like that with my fantastic achievements. Especially as I’d vowed to take things easy today and over the weekend.

To be fair, as much as I wanted to go and do another three miles tonight, my brain argued anyway and put forward the rules – add one mile per week. Doing three now might get the girls on board, have the chicks digging me and, er, I’ll stop or it might get crass. You get the picture. Another long stint tonight would have been great, but it would’ve also been jumping the gun and if I picked up an injury, I’m not really on the sort of timescale where I can just put my feet up for a fortnight. So it was decided for me really – I’d do two miles, back on the frog route.

This time I was accompanied by my gorgeous Garmin GPS watch rather than shitty lizard wannabes. the GPS watch is a nifty bit of git – capable of constantly relaying my pace to give me an idea how I’m doing. You see, a well oiled machine like me, it’s hard to tell when something’s wrong under the bonnet (apart from the chronic aches and pains). So this gave rise to another option – if I’m doing a shorter run, why not do it faster than before?

What a great idea – the perfect way to start a weekend, by running so fast that I can’t feel my legs for the rest of it. I made an impromptu target of hoping to run under 11 minute miles for two miles – if I could do this in September for the full 13 miles, that would be the dream, so why not give it a bash now?

Frighteningly, the outbound mile was pretty straightforward (I was back on frog lane and it was empty – the stupid fuckers daren’t mess with me during daylight. The cowards). That’s not to say I was skipping along and singing The Sound Of Music soundtrack as I whistled away, but I hit the first mile in 10mins 38 seconds, giving me room to play with for the way back. And boy was that a struggle. But, strangely, with nothing but time to compete against it worked as quite the motivator.

I don’t know why I’ve not considered it now. Hot baths, music, distance, I’ve tried everything to make me challenge myself. Adding the element of time, so I can beat myself, works far better than any Hanson record.

I’ve all but ditched the music now. I might save it for special treats or long runs, but I’ve found the last few runs without it a lot easier, as it’s one less thing to depend on. Besides, the GPS watch looks as good a companion as any – I fought tooth and nail to beat the 11 minute mark again, but with a load of hills just staying under 22 minutes would do, and as I hit the last half mile, it was clearly on.

I reached home, a straight two miles, in 21 minutes and 8 seconds, smashing my target in the process. I’m not anticipating that speed increasing even further, but if I can replicate that over longer distances I’ll be as happy as a frog at midnight.

Session Ten – Feeling Strangely Fine

With baking hot weather, Wednesday seemed like a perfect day for a run, hopefully one where I could make up another half a mile and do 2.5 miles and get me back on course for the week. It was so hot, in fact, that I even headed out wearing a vest! A vest!

Yep, with my podgy white wings hanging out I hit the road in glorious sunshine and thought I’d change route again. There’s a big lake not too far away from us that seemed perfect for running around. Nice scenery, a miniature railway and lack of frogs swung it and down to the lake it was.

Glorious sunshine as I got there, followed by miserable fog almost as soon as I made a start around it. Still, it was warm and I was feeling good, once more without any tunes. For some reason it seems a lot easier not singing along to the beat of someone else’s drum. Sure, it means being able to hear my own breathing, heavier than your average Babestation caller (I imagine), and running the risk of people pointing out my frame to me and me being able to hear, but it’s working.

The route clocked in at 3.06 miles and took 38mins 28secs, so a relatively slow pace but considering the big step up in distance I was fairly chuffed. Nearly forty minutes on my feet – I can rationalise that somewhere in my head that it’s close to the 2.5 hours I’ll spend completing the Great North Run.

A well deserved break for Thursday will be followed by a nice little two miler (easy now) on Friday and Saturday, but less than two weeks into the challenge and despite some sore limbs, I’m feeling pretty good about myself.

Session Nine – No Singing In The Rain

With Monday’s frog-fest almost forgotten about it was time to head back on the road again, only this time to be confronted by something just as brutal – North East weather.

Rain lashed down like you wouldn’t believe so I decided I’d eat some tea so I had plenty of energy, sit it out for an hour or two until the rain cleared, then set off. Two hours later, it was still pelting down and there was nothing for it.

The wet weather robbed me of one thing though, and that’s my trusty BlackBerry. No, I’m not that much of a wanker that I use it on the move, but it doubles up as MP3 player and GPS tracker quite nicely. Frighteningly, as seems to have been the case when I’ve left it at home, the run seemed easier.

I usually plug music in for two reasons – firstly, it helps pass time and if the tunes are good it helps you keep going. Secondly, I’ll be honest here, it blocks out the noise of people shouting at me in the street. People do seem quite hostile to anyone wanting to keep fit, it’s unreal. I’ve never seen people hurling abuse at paramedics in ambulences (“fucking weirdos, trying to help people live longer, get a life!”) so why runners get the brunt is beyond me. Being my size doesn’t seem to help things though.

As much as I’d like to say I battled the frog demon, I bottled it and chose another route. Annoyingly, it’s a lovely route but planted firmly around Ashington town centre. Luckily last night was another late one so even the pubs were shut by then, but if I follow that again it’ll be an early morning/very late effort.

I got home in relative comfort and a nice surprise via – I’d covered 2.58 miles in 31 minutes and 40 seconds. Distance wise that’s fab, and pace wise fantastic.

Another run is on the cards tonight, and possibly another different route (those fucking frogs have scarred me). Let’s see what God throws at me this time, the sly bastard.

Session Eight – The Prince And The Frog(s)

First things first, I didn’t hit the two mile mark tonight. I wasn’t too annoyed at myself in terms of fitness, just preparation and circumstance. 1.18 miles in 13mins 17 seconds is upsetting but I’m not too down about it.

A delightful gig in beautiful Middlesbrough meant I’d not bothered eating for most of the day, coupled with getting home for 11.40pm. So, with midnight sneaking up on me and no energy left in my body, I tried to propel myself through the Northumbrian countryside.

Things hit a sticky patch within the first five minutes as I nearly stood on a frog. I just about recovered from the fright and within 20 seconds another one hopped past me. At this point I almost shat myself but tried to grin and bear it. Until another of the weird little bastards got in my way.

By this point I was hopping round trying to avoid them, in the process looking like a big fat sweaty frog myself. Within a minute I’d easily passed a dozen and was shitting myself. I’ve no idea why – in a fight between me and a frog, I’d fancy my chances. They’d struggle to land many punches and would die if I stood on them. Even they must have been pretty freaked out by my girly yelps every time one of them flew across me.

There was nothing else to do but ditch my usual route and go for “round the block”. Another dozen frogs on my way back, I wasn’t sure what I was more angry at – them being there or why they were there. I’ve ran that route for over a week now and seen the occasional frog, probably two at a push. But tonight, why did they all come out? Was it some sort of frog rave? Were they there on holiday? Or had one frog grassed that a fatty was on his territory and got his frog mates to defend his patch? Fucking cowardly frog – be a man about it and sort it one on one rather than getting your homies involved. The tabloids are right – Britain’s gang culture is beyond a joke.

I headed back towards home with the aim of completing two miles but the frog excitement coupled with a lack of food had me crippled. I kept going but eventually the pain around my ribs was a bit too much and I was struggling to breath. I spotted I’d done little over a mile and was disappointed but not too disheartened. I had no food in me, nothing for my body to run on, and that’s why I was struggling. That’s a lot easier to take than not being fit enough.

Unfortunately I’ll have to make the mileage up – I’ll try for 2.5 miles tonight and the same tomorrow. As long as there’s no frogs I’m sure I’ll be fine.

Session Seven – King of the Skinnies

This goes out to the ice cream scum – you know who you are. The chocolate brigade, pasty police and pizza mafia. You are all scum. I rule. I rule the land of skinny, for I am definitely in their gang now. Goodbye 40 inch waist and XXL t-shirts!

Yes, after Friday’s two mile success I thought I’d try and have a chilled out Sunday where I took it easy but lasted longer and set off dead on midday. Things got off to a slow start with my banging new running playlist accidentally playing a slower Hanson number. Still, I soon flicked through and was away and running with some more, er, Hanson. Shut your mouth and stop laughing at me.

Proper music soon followed and the run was seemingly fairly straight forward. I hit the mile mark and decided I’d do another half mile before turning back on myself, taking me up to three miles and King of the Skinnies. Bad move.

I hit a mile and a half and could feel me starting to struggle and turned for home, knowing three miles was too much. I just about managed the two miles and realised I’d have to stop. I briefly felt rejuvenated by the rest and tried to resume, but failed. I checked my funky phone application that tracks me and I’d done 2.01 miles in 22 mins 28 seconds. That’s just shy of 11 minute miles – not bad going for a leisurely run and had I aimed at 2 miles I’d have hit it comfortably so I’m not down about it.

That’s further than I was at this time last week. I’m sure another week of two mile runs won’t be quite as much fun, but I’m not dreading them as much as I was last week. I’ll keep hold of all my jeans and t shirts for another week, though.

Session Six – Love Won’t Tear Us Apart, Blisters Will

I’ve got a new pet hate. It’s not Kerry Katona, it’s not poor quality cutlery, or even cutlery where the handles aren’t long enough. Sure, I hate all of them, but not as much as I hate my new little friend, Mister Blister.

It’s fair to say that he’s not good company. He’s like having a child on a long car journey; constantly nagging you, wanting to go home, reminding you they’re here as well and generally making your life agony. In fact he’s worse – at least you can put kids up for adoption. You can’t really send a blister to an orphanage.

Tonight’s run was short but sweet. I feel like I could’ve happily done a couple of miles had I been sans-blister, but his presence on the bottom of my foot made it really difficult going. The first half a mile saw me gingerly trying to get into a rhythm, the rest felt fine and fast, if a little measured. It was tricky making sure my foot landed comfortably, and I suspect I’ll pay for that tomorrow, but it was nowhere near as bad as I’d feared. As I got home I was surprised to see it’d taken me as long as it had, 11mins 50secs to do 1.06 miles.

I reckon if I’d not brought my mate along it’d have been under 11 minutes, so not bad going at all. I can already see some progress on the fitness front, and if the foot clears up (I’m already sick of the ‘b’ word) I might try a longer distance on Sunday. My main hope is that it’s ready for a week full of two mile runs that I face from Monday.

Enjoy the weekend.

Session Five – Love Racism, Hate Running (not me, you understand)

Last night was all a bit whiny really wasn’t it? “Boo hoo, woe is me, bit of rain, all tired out, I’ve got such a crap taste in music it’s made me obese.” Is that what all the fat people use as their excuses?

“Aye mate, I used to be fit as a fiddle then I bought a Steps album at a car boot and I’ve never stopped eating pizza since.”


“Yeah, if the weather was drier where I live I’d be able to sit on toilets made from porcelain as well as just reinforced steel ones.”

Maybe that’s the way of the podge – always someone else’s fault. Blame the Tories. The rich get richer and the fatties get fatter. I’m no fan of right wing politics, so I might not have quite got the hang of things, but that can’t be far off, can it? WeightWatchers have very few links to any socialist/communist revolutions, so it must be. Another reason to hate the fatties – they’re right wing. So the odds are that if you wobble when you jump, you’re a racist.

I’m not though. I guess there’s only one way to prove it and that’s to shift some pounds. I’ll weigh in on Sunday and see if I’ve made any progress on that score, but in terms of distance, tonight I was aiming for the big one. Well, the big two. Two miles that is. And how did I get on?

Smashed it. Could have went another mile, easy. Well maybe not quite. The hill that beat me last night nearly got me again tonight, but I just about struggled up it and onto a slow and difficult last half a mile home. It felt like a struggle and that I paced myself a little bit more slowly tonight, but I hit 2.11 miles in 23 minutes 39 seconds. That’s not far off the sort of pace I’ve been doing my one miles in, so certainly promising.

I also picked up a blister on the way round, so tomorrow could be interesting. I’ll try and hit two miles, but I only need the one which I’m confident will now be a doddle. But the blister? Seriously? I run in my battered old trainers and George at Asda socks all week and my feet are fine, I put a newer, better pair of running trainers on and proper socks and my feet have said no! Is there any part of me that isn’t common as muck? Even my feet are showing resistance to any posh shenanigans. The poncy, self-righteous dicks.

Anyway, I’m delighted. After the disappointment of last night I’ve set out what I wanted to achieve tonight. I know I can run two miles now without stopping, so hopefully next week won’t be as difficult to adjust to. Let’s just hope my feet hold out tomorrow night.

Session Four – Is This It?

Today saw me achieve the most I’ve done so far, yet return home the most disappointed. I covered 1.43 miles in 15:49 minutes, absolutely no great shakes in comparison to what I have to hit in September, but the furthest I’ve done to date. Yet still I came home devastated.

Things were looking up when I eventually got my arse outside. I sat indoors for an hour or two waiting for the weather to chill out and let me run. It was chucking it down with rain when the thunder came. Call me a pussy, but my route takes me along a path covered either side in trees. Big trees. Like “yeah lightening! Hello! Fancy having a go if you think you’re hard enough?” kinda trees. So I wimped out and waited for the storm to pass. Only it didn’t.

I spotted an opportunity when the rain calmed down and bolted. In went the headphones, on went shuffle and straight away I felt good. The rain continued to beat down but I was feeling good,, nicely refreshed and the music was loud and pumping. A bit of The Strokes, a bit of Kasabian and I should have been headed for home. Instead I thought I’d keep running for one more song before heading back, meaning I should hit the two mile mark that I’ll be doing next week. So I continued running and guess who should pop up as the rain lashed in my face? Natalie fucking Imbruglia.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s alright, but it’s hardly the sort of stuff to get your blood pumping as your body says no. Love songs don’t help you run up hills. Just as I was panicking, a bit of The Enemy came on and normal service was resumed, although I tired towards the end and was looking for something fresh to push me on towards home. So just as I was waiting for that moment of inspiration… on came Buena Vista Social Club.  Now I love them, and their chilled out, relaxing, summery music. It’s delightful. But it’s not what you want to hear to keep your legs pumping and your body going in the pouring rain.

I ran up one last hill and gave in, around half a mile from home. Soaked through and depressed that for the first time since starting this training, I’d started walking. Sure, I had a look at my distance and felt a tinge of pride that I’d hit a milestone I’d not hit, but it was mostly disappointment that I couldn’t find that last few percent to push me on towards home. What’s worse was the feeling of failure on the long trudge home, with a t-shirt almost as heavy as me, it’d absorbed so much water. Yeah, I’d still hit my goal for the day, but I wanted more. It’s a bitter taste in my mouth right now. Fuck the three jokes I promised last night.

I’ve tried telling myself it’s a good measure of how far I’ve come, but I’m not having it. Tomorrow I run two miles, like it or lump it. And I’m deleting all the fucking slow songs from my phone!