21 December 2008

Stories of the Street

Surely the Sunday morning before Christmas is a time to stay in bed - pull the duvet tight around you, perhaps get up enough to make a coffee and get back under cover as soon as possible. It was a breezy morning, though dry and not cold; no sunshine penetrated the rolling grey mass of clouds which initially seemed to promise some form of precipitation. Even so, I had that "what the hell am I doing here?" feeling as I lined up with thirty or forty others from Abingdon Amblers for the club's annual Christmas pud run.

No social jaunt, this, but a full-blown half-Marathon describing a big clockwise loop from Tilsley Park, through the town then out through Gozzards Ford to Cothill, Dry Sandford, and Wootton, up Boar's Hill and down the other side before heading through Sunningwell to Bagley Wood, down Lodge Hill and back to Tilsley along the ring road. Perfect preparation for the festive season!

Although I had been up since 6, I adopted a classic "just in time" approach (which might work well in manufacturing industry, but I should try to organise my life according to a different principle). The result was that I just caught Dave, in charge of handing out the numbers, and gave him my entry fee in time to get out to the road before a slightly delayed start. So no warm-up or anything. John, doing duty as starter, called us to the line and almost everyone hung back, so when he caled out "Go!" we set off from well behind where we should have been - which might have corrected the eccentric measurement of the course, as it happens. The first mile marker came up in about 4:40, giving most of us reason to doubt the accuracy of its position (and my Forerunner told me this was at 0.6 miles, translating into a more reasonable pace).

After the second mile (which must have been about 1.2) the markers seemed to be regular enough, though about .15 short all the way to the end (and the half-way mark came up just short of the 7). Still, the data from my Forerunner show that I kept up a fairly steady pace - three blips showing where I made a pitstop, slowed briefly to a walk half-way up Boar's Hill, and stopped for a drink at the second water station. And I certainly felt after about six miles that things were flowing and, while my pace wasn't spectacular (though on a par, taking stops into account, with last year), I felt as if I was eating up the miles quite satisfactorily. Or maybe it's just that time passes more quickly as you get older ...

Along towards Gozzards Ford - about 3 to 4 miles - powered gliders from the old RAF Abingdon hauled themselves into the grey sky, but shortly afterwards the sun broke through and it became a pleasant early winter day, though without what should be winter temperatures. I was even perspiring in my vest and shorts. There were still others on the same stretch of road as me, though Andy, who had caught me at Gozzards Ford, disappeared when I dived behind a hedge. I ran a long way with him in this event last year, but not today. Miraculously, the wind, which had been in our faces along the bleak stretch before the turnoff for Cothill, continued to blow from the same direction when we turned, so part of the route was wind-assisted, and I also benefitted from the encouragement dispensed by one former club member who appeared three or four times around the course to cheer us on.

Recalling my theory (formulated on Friday) that it's not the run that matters so much as with whom you run, this was not a great outing. I ran most of the distance solo, passing only a couple of runners and one of them at the very end. Several passed me early on, a consequence of my being near the line when the start happened, including two shapely young ladies whom I thought I might keep in sight - but that proved impossible, especially without contact lenses (they had not co-operated when I tried to put them in). I was however delighted with my time, just a little slower than last year and I haven't run this sort of distance since April. Now I just need to find some events to get into my diary for the first few months of the New Year.

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