Session Fifteen – Radio (nearly) Killed The Running Star

After a slow start we’re starting to get somewhere, baby! That’s right – I called you baby. Mock me, see what I care – it’s unlikely you’re slim and fit, like me. Anyway, a cancelled gig on Saturday night at short notice meant I could go out for my planned longer run and see where I’m at with this whole shebang.

I had in mind that doing five miles would be nice and should be the minimum aim and at about the same time I should have been stepping on stage, I headed for the lake, which I’ve yet to spot a frog at yet. The lake is about 1.5 miles round and about half a mile away from home if I fanny about and go round the houses getting there. That would mean that to hit five mile I’d need to do three laps and I’d cover a half mile extra as a bonus. Excellent. Only, I hit a few problems early on.

I thought I’d stick another podcast in and take things slowly and just try enjoy it as best as I could. An hour-long podcast would see me cover four miles even if I took my time, and more likely have me well on my way to five. So I set off from the house, hitting ‘play’ on Five Live’s Fighting Talk, back for the first game of the season. Ten minutes in and my whole phone froze – GPS tracker, MP3 player, the lot. Piss. No way to check my pace (that’ll be the world record attempt out the window then, damn technology), nothing to listen to, just me, my water bottle and nature for company.

I managed my first lap of the lake no bother. It’s frankly a lovely setting and relatively flat, much better than getting laughed at by charvers or attacked by frogs. Piss-poor terrain compared to the Great North Run, but in terms of a nice run to get miles under your belt, it’s spot on (pics, if you’re desperate for them, here: As I headed round the second lap in silence… well, with my panting, maybe not silence, but you know what I mean. As I headed round the second lap in silence, I could feel a blister starting to kick in. Annoying, and if I headed home it’d still mean a four mile run, but I was determined to hit five miles. There’s not long left until the GNR and I need to be getting a few serious long runs in, regardless of the time it takes. I’m already facing an uphill battle as it is.

Despite the night beginning to draw in and me being constantly landed on by flies and midgies, I decided to brave another lap. Brave seems a bit arrogant – I’m pretty sure the soldiers, policemen and doctors don’t see a fat bloke waddling round a lake at a pace better described as a brisk walk than a run and think “wow, what a guy.” Still – sod them. If they’re gonna think like that, they’re the bad guys, not me. Bet that got you back on my side, eh? Or at least confused and on the verge of giving up. Like I was.

But I battled through the last lap, then headed for home and a bath. I was aching pretty badly – despite being hungry I had no energy to actually eat and I was convinced I’d pushed myself way too far. Now, two days later and about to head out for a fast run, I know I didn’t. I also mapped my run online and discovered I ran a pretty amazing (for me) 6.74 miles. That’s half way! Meaning that, training wise, things are, despite a ridiculous lull in the middle, not going too badly now.

I’ve no idea of the time it took, thanks to technology depriving me, but truth be told, with no podcast in I know I ran faster than I would have, and the lake is obviously longer than I first thought as well, meaning it’s going to become very handy for adding distance onto runs. Although I’d have liked to have known the time, I went way further than I would and I’m now in a good frame of mind.

Session Fourteen – You’re The Run That I Want (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)

So then, I chickened out of last night. There’s several excuses for this – firstly, arriving home late after watching Inception left me short of routes, secondly, I’m lazy. But mainly the routes thing.

The easiest route to take would be my ‘usual’, head two miles up the road then turn around and come back. However, it’s also what can only be described as ‘that one that was fucking full of frogs that time’. There. I said it. I’m a little bit frightened. I’m not quite sure what of – I’d kill one if I had to, or even if it just tried to fight me. But the thought of a hundred of the slimy green gets jumping out at me ruled that out.

Route two would take me into and around town. It’s a nice little run to be fair, but at 9.30pm when England are playing, not ideal. I’ve shouted abuse from the safe confines of a pub and if I saw me running past I’d do the same again. There was nothing else for it – Thursday would see me hit the four mile mark.

And hit it I did, friends. Not just hit it, but smashed it. In fact, not only smashed it, I took it out to dinner as friends and it turned into a date and we then got married and had babies together. Okay, so I might not have nailed it quite that well, but 4.18 miles in 52mins 43secs isn’t too bad – not a million miles away from 12 minute miles.

The run was pleasant – there’s a lake near us that’s about a mile and a half to run around, there’s very few frogs kicking about, some swans and not many people. Oh, and a miniature railway and a big railway nearby too. Essentially, it’s got everything I need except a kebab shop.

I stuck Carl Donnelly’s excellent podcast in and whilst listening to people talking is abysmal for speed, it seems to keep me hooked and I forget about the agony my body is going through. There was a brief moment three miles in where I thought “is that it?” but it was a far easier run than one with my mp3s on random.

The next step will be some shorter runs sans-tunes, so that I know I can still run faster than a mobility scooter when required, but for now I’ve nailed surviving the longer runs. I’m hoping to hit five miles on Saturday morning before hopping up to bonny Scotland for the weekend.

No doubt my next blog will be a fortnight away, apologising for not keeping the promise.

  • Session Thirteen – Too Right It’s Unlucky For Some

    Doing the Great North Run this year seemed an ace idea. With not doing Edinburgh Festival this year a quiet August should have given me plenty of time to get myself in shape.

    Somehow I’ve managed to make August one of my busiest months of the year, which, combined with utter laziness on the odd occasion I’ve had half an hour to spare, has meant I’ve fallen way behind on training.

    In fact, my last run was August 1st, admittedly a lovely 3.67 mile run over 45.44 mins, which this is supposed to be a report on. It was a pleasingly long run, but the details are sketchy. All I remember is that it got foggy really quickly, and that despite my lack of exercise felt pretty straight forward. Thankfully I’ve kept up playing football each Monday, so I’ve not been totally inactive, but it’s nowhere near what I need to be doing.

    Now for the hard bit – trying to hit four miles tonight with very little practice. If I can do four miles tonight and try a sneaky five miler over the weekend, I’ll feel a bit better about the whole situation and might be able to rescue it and finish this damned North Run.

    It’s looking pissing well difficult right now though. Fingers crossed there’ll be another blog soon – I’m starting to run out of time.

  • 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.