06 March 2012


Six days away from race day is not the right time to start to prepare for a half-Marathon, but I prefer to think that I am checking my ability to do one rather than training for it. It will be slow and it might be painful but I should be able to get to the end.

Lunch - the quarterly, or thereabouts, ROMEO lunch, for people, almost exclusively men, involved in the classical music world - was great carbo-loading (large-calibre spaghetti) but not-so-good hydration (half a litre of wine each, with an option of three beers instead. Whatever happened to Lent?). But that does not account for the curious wiggles in my route to Paddington afterwards. That's down to Garmin, or the satellites.

Running home from the station is radical therapy, and perhaps the first time I have done it (I've run the other way a few times). The elevation gain, modest though it may be, is not welcome on the way home at the end of the day, but at least the pedestrian route easily avoids Hagbourne Hill which is such a drag on a bicycle. The evening was clear and the moon almost full, so the fact that - fool that I am - I had left my Knucklelights at home did not make as much difference as it might. I have done this journey in less light at times when the sun was supposed to be up, and I cast an impressive shadow in the moonlight which my BlackBerry was quite incapable of photographing.

Achilles complained a bit, as I'd expected, but not nearly as much as at other times in the last couple of years. Apart from the drop and climb where the Hagbourne footpath intersects with the old railway line, the only steep climb was leaving Upton, which I know from bitter experience is nasty on a bike, though then the uneven surface is a big part of the problem. So I walked that to prevent straining him. Actually, I tried something else too, which I'd read about on someone's blog: I ran backwards. I'm not sure what the benefits might be, but it provided no respite for Achilles so I stopped and walked forwards again. I also thought - and this is something of a first for me - that it was just a bit daft, running backwards in the moonlight up a hill along a cart track with ruts and (as I discovered later) deep puddles. Especially as I had just encountered a dogwalker, who inevitably came along just as nature bade me to stop for a moment. In fact I met two dogwalkers, both almost invisible in dark clothes (one even in camouflage, I think) with no light or reflective material. I also met a cyclist, fully illuminated, so no complaints there: but only one? That seemed a low score.

Having found two large, deep, puddles - thankfully only in the last mile or so - I arrived home squelching and with heavy feet. Before showering (yes, after a run I always take a shower, whether I need it or not) I weighed myself as I had run, then sans backpack, then sans shoes as well. 12 stone 5 lb, then 11 stone 9, and finally 11 stone 5. Well, these scales (on which I was weighing myself as a child when my weight was somewhere around 4 stone) don't seem fantastically accurate, and are hard to read, but a ten-pound backpack is quite a thing to be lugging around. It contained a pair of black Oxford shoes and a new tracksuit top and bottoms which I had bought en route to Paddington, and imagined I might wear if the run became too cold - it didn't, though it was a gelid evening with the temperature approaching freezing, there being a significant frost this morning. Shame it wasn't cooler, in fact, then perhaps the puddles would not have soaked my feet. I wished I'd taken my Huaraches - they'd have been much easier to manage in my backpack all day, too.

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