The Great Birmingham Run, in which I develop a blister on my toe and discover I love running

Before the half marathonWell, my legs have stopped aching and my feet are almost back to normal, so I guess it’s high time I blogged about the half marathon!

My charity vest arrived at the very last moment, the morning before the race – I had already given up on it and acquired a club vest (similar to the one in the photo behind my left shoulder, minus the bunny ears!) so that was quite exciting, particularly as it turned out to be a pleasingly complementary colour to match my sports top. On Sunday morning I woke up bright and early to meet Linda who had very kindly volunteered to give me a lift into the city centre, since the trains don’t start running until almost 10am on Sundays. It was very peculiar to arrive in the city and be totally surrounded by people in running gear with a rainbow of coloured numbers pinned to their front. Apparently there were 20,000 of us running the race – that’s a lot of Lycra!

We arrived and managed to track down the other members of our running club (aided by the fact that one member was dressed as Minnie Mouse – her skirt is just visible in the corner of the picture). We took the obligatory group photo, from which I have shamelessly stolen a portion to illustrate this post in the absence of the official photos, and after we’d each stood in the extremely long but suprisingly fast-moving queues for the toilets we headed off to the starting line for the scheduled warm up.

By the time we arrived, half of the runners had already set off in earlier waves based on their predicted speed, but there were still far more people than I think I have ever seen in one place before. Incredibly we managed not to lose anyone other than Linda’s cousin who chose to start with her wave instead of dropping back to join the rest of us in the slow group! The warm up was fun; there was a buzz in the air and we all enthusiastically joined in with the arm waving and knee bending despite not being able to see the demonstrator at the front. Finally, Ellie Simmonds blew an air horn to officially set us on our way and we shuffled forwards before setting off over the starting line at a controlled jog.

The temptation, as I had been warned multiple times, was to get swept up in the crowd and run much too fast for the first few miles. It wasn’t helped by the fact that the first section of the course was mostly downhill, but we carefully slowed ourselves down and although I think we ran the first couple of miles about two minutes faster than my usual pace, we didn’t wear ourselves out.

After four miles, the faster members of our group began to slowly pull ahead and I ran the next stretch just with Linda, who during our training runs was usually only a tiny fraction faster than me. We chatted and enjoyed the cheering, the music and the adorable children who held out their hands to high-five passing runners and squealed with excitement when a recognisable costume came past. Eventually around the 8-mile mark, after I had gratefully accepted a glucose tablet to fend off the threat of light-headedness, Linda pulled irrevocably ahead but by that point I was feeling confident that I could finish the race and enjoying myself enough not to need motivating company.

I had expected it to be hard work and to have to remind myself that I was running for a charity and that it would all be over eventually, but I found myself grinning my head off and really enjoying the experience. Whenever I thought I was about to start flagging, we’d run past a family who had dragged out tables and chairs into the street and were blasting music through a portable CD player or handing out jelly babies and cups of water, and my spirits were lifted again. Linda and I played “spot our running club members” and pointed out interesting costumes to each other (I think my favourites were the leprechaun, the Dalek and the Wolverhampton Bobsleigh Team, who were running inside a wooden bobsleigh complete with eight-foot Jamaican flags and a ghetto blaster).

I’ll admit that parts of the course were tougher than others. For some reason, around the 10th or 11th mile we ran through an almost-deserted housing estate with no music, no water stations, no spectators… nothing except the relentless grind of running and, by that stage, quite a lot of people who had given up and were walking. I was determined that I wouldn’t give in and join them, so I drove myself through by imagining myself telling people afterwards “I ran every step!”, a surprisingly effective technique. When we came to the steepest hill on the course, which people who had run in previous years had bewailed as an unwelcome new addition to the route, I put my head down and powered up at what was quite possibly my fastest pace in the entire race, other than the last 200m. Fortunately, at the crest of the hill the music and crowds started up again, but I still feel that the whole experience would have been improved if that encouragement-black spot hadn’t existed.

I’d been told that the last three miles would be the toughest, but once we’d passed mile ten I kept thinking “for every step you take now, you’ve already taken at least three”. It felt as though I had never done anything except run; that running was all there was. I couldn’t actually imagine what it would be like to stop running, although at around 12 miles I became aware that if someone had put a gun to my head and told me to run faster I probably couldn’t have done it.

And yet when we pulled back into the city centre and ran the last 500 metres, I found a sudden burst of energy and elation. The streets were lined with people cheering, clapping, waving signs and yelling personal encouragement to any runner who got close enough for them to read the name on their badge. For the last 200m I pushed up into a sprint, with such a huge smile on my face that the radio commentator began talking about how wonderful it was to watch people who thought they’d spent all their energy find one last reserve for a sprint to the finish.

As I crossed the finish line I couldn’t believe my eyes: the official timer clock announced that for pink wave starters, the time was 2 hours and 35 minutes, plus a quantity of seconds I didn’t have time to notice before I had passed it. I had been aiming for a finish time of 2 hours 45 minutes and had lain awake on Friday night worrying that I hadn’t done enough training to actually achieve my goal, so to not just achieve it but to better it by such a big margin was an incredible feeling. I wove my way around the other people who had finished with me, most of whom were walking, but I couldn’t get my legs to stop running quite yet. I jogged along the path until I finally had to force myself to stop in order to pull my timer chip off my shoes and drop it into a bag held out by one of the myriad smartly-dressed Scouts. I took a bottle of water from another group of volunteers and bumped into Fiona from our little group, who had finished just ahead of me. We made our way along the surprisingly lengthy walk back to the main race station, collecting our goodie bag en route.

The first thing I came across when I delved inside was a cereal bar which was very nearly vegan – and indeed entirely vegan if you fall into the “honey doesn’t count” camp. Whilst I haven’t yet made up my mind on the issue, I knew I wasn’t going to make it back to the baggage point to collect my peanut butter sandwich and banana before I felt the effects of having run over 13 miles and not eaten for more than six hours, so I ate it. Then I gave away the chocolate bar and milk-based protein bar before I was tempted!

There were so many things about the entire day that I found incredible. The people who were running against the odds: people who looked fairly unfit but completely determined to keep going, the woman who set off at the same time as me but who I passed on the dual-direction stretch eight miles later, still grimly pushing herself in her wheelchair about five miles behind, the impressive-but-probably-foolhardy people wearing costumes that looked unbearably uncomfortable.

And then there was the weather, which had spent the week playing “how bad can the forecast get before you give up?” and then turned out to be almost perfect on the day. Not a speck of rain until more than half an hour after I’d finished, by which point I’d just retrieved my bag and coat. The efficient organisation of the event, including charity donation bags in which to collect up the abandoned jackets and hats and a clever road-sweeper for gathering up dumped water bottles. I was a little taken aback at the sea of almost-full Powerade bottles which had been flung to the ground not far from the water station in the 10th mile, though. There must have been 500 or more of them, with only a few sips drunk before they were abandoned. Surely it would have been possible to hand out small paper cups with a few mouthfuls of drink in them?

We all finished and made our way to the pre-arranged meeting point in a nearby bar for a drink and a debrief. I suspect it was a very good day for the city’s pubs! I ended up staying quite a lot longer than I’d anticipated, and due to that and delays on the trains I only had half an hour at home to shower, eat a Nakd bar and dry my hair before Susannah picked me up to go to a Taize service in the city. I regaled her with tales of the race on the journey, which turned into something of an adventure thanks to an unhelpful satnav and a very convoluted road system. The service, which for anyone who has never been to one is basically a group of people singing in various different languages in a peaceful room with candles, was exactly what I needed after the flurry of activity the day had been, and afterwards I was introduced to someone else who had also run the race that morning and we compared aches and pains. Then Susannah and I headed off to meet another of her friends for curry, where after a bit of discussion with the waiter I managed to procure a delicious vegan meal which I wolfed down. I caused much hilarity thanks to my inability to stand up, sit down, walk down stairs or in any way move without an involuntary “ow!” with every step.

It was quite hard to sleep on Sunday night, thanks to the unbelievable soreness of my legs. After waking up every two hours for most of the night I caved in and staggered to the bathroom to find some Ibuprofen, which allowed me to get three hours of unbroken sleep. It will not surprise anyone that I caught the train to university on Monday morning! But it did surprise a few people, including me, that on Monday evening I donned my running gear once more and went for a slow, short run around the block with another of the half-marathoners from the club. Then we joined the rest of the crew in the bar to listen to each others’ stories of aches, pains and fundraising triumph. Another of the unexpectedly wonderful things about this half marathon is that it has helped me to cement some budding friendships; I finally feel like I have made friends here. Friends who have talked me into doing the Great North Run next year… oh dear.

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The Advent of Autumn

Autumn has been my favourite time of year for as long as I can recall. I love the weather; the cool crispness of the air, the colour of the leaves, the smell of bonfires, the comfortable feeling of being inside on a dark evening. After a week of drizzle and occasional showers which turned the canal towpath to a sea of mud, this weekend has been perfect. Yesterday afternoon I met up with a friend who had borrowed a dog from a man at church and we tramped round yet another new park. It was just warm enough not to need coats and just cool enough not to be tiring. Oddly there weren’t many people out; at one point the children’s playground had mysteriously emptied, which was useful for us as it meant we felt safer letting the dog off his lead (fortunately, he knew where the dog biscuits were and always came back when we called him!).

It’s been a bit of a mixed week, as I’m finding it hard to adjust to the new schedule, and the structure of my new degree, so it was lovely to just be outside with a friend and a dog enjoying the sunshine and not having to worry about anything more than a few self-important geese. In the evening I was babysitting for two boys whose mother I randomly met in the local shop last week; the boys were both sound asleep when I arrived so I spent four hours doing a bit of studying, reading Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and enjoying the treat of being in a house with more than one room, sitting on a real sofa.

It’s funny really; after the number of dead ends I’ve followed in the search for a babysitting job, the unexpected encounter in a shop seems likely to be the one that actually turns into a semi-regular arrangement. By coincidence the family attend the same church as me, although I have been going to the evening services while they are normally at the morning ones so we hadn’t met before. They’re also close by, unlike the people who have contacted me wanting a regular babysitter. One was honest enough to tell me that I wasn’t reliable enough (I was upfront about the fact that I couldn’t promise every weekend, due to my university placements) and the other never emailed me back, so either I charge too much or they need more certainty of hours.

This morning I was up bright and early because I’d volunteered to be a marshal for the running club’s annual 10k race. I had thought about running it myself as preparation for the half marathon but in the end they seemed to need marshals more than I wanted to race! I was stationed very near the finish line, so I encouraged people as they came round for their first lap and cheered them on at the end of the second. There was a moment of drama when one participant collapsed a little further back along the route; someone running past told me and I sprinted over, mentally reviewing my emergency first aid training, but I have to admit I was relieved to arrive and discover that another runner had stopped and got him into the recovery position. She turned out to be a nurse, so I stayed to help her and took mental notes for future reference. It was the first time I’d encountered a situation where first aid would have been useful, and I don’t think I was really prepared for it.

Fortunately he didn’t seem injured; we didn’t know what had caused him to collapse but it was an unusually warm day, it was his first race and he had been running pretty hard. The ambulance team arrived to take over and he seemed to be recovering but I was glad he was in professional hands just in case. Heartbreakingly, once he had come round enough to realise what had happened he was desperate to be allowed out of the ambulance to run the final half mile and finish the race. All I can hope is that he is able to do another 10k soon and complete it. It was a salutory experience both from the first aid perspective (time to read over my handbook again) and because I’ll be attempting twice that distance in two weeks and would prefer to make it to the end! If you’d like to sponsor me and give me even more impetus to keep plodding on, my JustGiving page is here and I’d really appreciate it – I’m running on behalf of the Birmingham Women’s Hospital.

How I Spent My Last Days of Freedom

That title sounds a bit like a tabloid headline for an article about being sent to prison, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, it’s nothing as alarming as that! It’s just that I realised today was my last completely free day, possibly for the next three years, since tomorrow I’m volunteering at the PowWow Literary Festival all day (if you live in the West Midlands you might have spotted the item about it on Midlands Today last night, although I wasn’t there when they were doing the filming as I was off having another cookery lesson) and then on Monday I start my new degree!

I finally got sight of the timetable for Freshers’ Week today. We’ve had the timetable for the term for a couple of weeks but Freshers’ Week was left blank. Now I know that I’m in every day except Wednesday, which is the Freshers’ Fair. Since I have no intention of or time to join any societies and clubs, and no need for five dozen free pens and a mountain of flyers, I won’t be going to that.

I’ll probably have to spend Wednesday attempting to rescue my undelivered post; on the Wednesday just gone, I was in the city centre showing my brother the new library and missed a letter which needed to be signed for. I’m very much hoping that it’s the Disclosure and Barring Certificate which I need for university enrollment, although it’s not a lot of use to me sitting in a sorting office somewhere and I’ve managed to mislay the Something for You non-delivery notification. I rang up and the helpful man told me that although I couldn’t collect it without the piece of paper, he would contact the delivery office and see if it could be redelivered. He promised to ring me back this morning. He did not. I wasn’t expecting that he would.

So, what genuinely exciting things have I been up to? As I said, on Wednesday my brother came to visit. I met him at the train station and dragged him off to my new favourite eatery, The Warehouse Cafe, which offers lots of delicious vegetarian and vegan food. We had lunch – he kindly paid for it, which is an idea I’m going to have to adjust to: my little brother is earning more money than me! He has a real proper grown up person job! – and then went to my second favourite place in the city centre, the Library of Birmingham. I gave him the full tour, and we tested out every style of seating we could find (my favourite were the swivelly winged arm chairs in the Book Browse section). Then I loaded myself up with reading material and we came home to tidy up my flat and cook dinner.

On Thursday I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed (I’m still working on getting my sleep schedule diurnal again, although it’s much better now!) and we headed off to Birmingham Nature Centre which involved a ridiculous amount of faffing in order to obtain the precisely correct change for the bus fare.

The nature centre gate with its elaborate sign
The nature centre gate with its elaborate sign

I had high hopes for the Nature Centre, because I had seen internet rumours that there was a petting zoo! Alas, alack, no petting zoo could we find, but we saw lots of adorable animals including baby meerkats born just a couple of months ago. They were practising the classic meerkat lookout pose, and frequently falling over in the process. (I do have a video of this, but I can’t work out how on earth to upload it!)

Lemurs having a hug!
Lemurs having a hug!

I also liked the many different tiny monkeys, although Xander was most taken by the sugar gliders which were hidden away in a darkened section of the centre. Once we’d eaten our packed lunches next to the lemur enclosure and seen everything there was to see, we caught the bus back to my flat – passing a rather exciting hedge fire on the way.

After a short tour of the village and an early meal of leftovers from my cooking class on Tuesday, my brother set off back up north on the train and I failed miserably to go out for running club. I did manage to trick myself into going for a run on my own today though; I told myself and indeed a friend on Skype that I was not going, but then got changed into my running gear and decided not to waste all that effort. I’m finding it tricky to motivate myself to train for this half marathon now that the weather is getting miserable, but there’s not long to go now! I made the unexpected discovery today that I’ve lost 3kg since I last weighed myself, which means I’ve lost 7kg (more than 1 stone) overall in the last 18 months just by exercising regularly and eating more healthily. I’m quite pleased with that; it puts me comfortably in a healthy weight range and I don’t feel that I’m doing anything other than making a few lifestyle changes.

Yesterday and today I spent mostly lounging around, with a bit of tidying, washing and cooking in between. The flat is looking almost how I imagined it – I’ve finally unpacked the last suitcase of clothes, and now all I have to do is move a few boxes to their permanent homes out of the way, figure out where on earth I’m going to keep my KitchenAid, and maintain the tidyness!

Running the Birmingham Half Marathon

I recently decided that I was no longer going to conceal the fact that I’m living in Birmingham these days. I originally planned not to post about it, because of concerns about the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s policy on internet use (many nurses and midwives have been pulled up for posting inappropriately on the internet), but I decided a far better solution was to simply not talk about my midwifery placements or anything that might be confidential – since I wouldn’t do that anyway, there was no need to be cagey about where I’m doing my degree. And it was preventing me from talking about some awesome stuff – visiting Cadbury World, which is so close to where I live that I can sometimes smell chocolate, the Library of Birmingham gala open day (I missed seeing Malala Yousafzai by ten minutes) and the 4 Squares Weekend that has just happened. I might write a post about some of those things soon but right now, a running update!

On October 20th I will be running the Birmingham Half Marathon. I’m running it for the Birmingham Women’s Hospital, who I might do my midwifery placements with, but even if I end up based somewhere else it’s still a great cause. They have fantastic facilities for women who want to give birth in a home-like environment but be close by if medical intervention is needed. They’re also investing heavily in care for premature and sick babies. It’s pretty amazing how early babies can be born and still survive with the sort of care that the hospital provide.

Anyway, that’s enough of my advertising spiel. If you would like to donate to the charity my JustGiving page is here. On horrible days when I would much prefer to stay in bed than get up and go out for a run in the rain, the thought that I’ve committed to the race and to the charity (normally…) drags me out. It’s also helpful that I’m running with the local club, because running on your own is. so. boring. Last Sunday I managed 10 miles (significantly further than I’d managed before) because I was with a bunch of other people who are also doing the half marathon, although I have to admit that I was aching for days afterwards!

This is my last week before uni starts, so I’m getting myself sorted and enjoying my last few days of having nothing to do. On Wednesday my brother is coming to visit, and yesterday Stumo stayed the night on his way from Wales to Cornwall and we went out to a bar restaurant which had a vegan menu as well as typical pub food – this is almost unheard of, by the way. And at the weekend I’m volunteering at a literary festival, which will take my mind off the slight anxiety of Freshers’ Week all over again.

A Running Update

Goodness, isn’t the weather unusually summery? I’ve been telling all the summer school students that they picked the right year to visit England, but to be honest the hot weather has a downside for me: I have to run very early in the morning to have even a hope of avoiding the worst of the heat. I’ve been managing fairly well and the actual running has seemed slightly easier each time I’ve gone, but I’m still only running for short bursts of time. After having run for almost an hour several times last month, my twenty minute jogs feel like a bit of a cop-out, but there simply isn’t time for longer runs thanks to my fairly punishing schedule.

I’m still enjoying this job a lot, but I am very glad to have reached the weekend. We’ve worked long, busy days since Sunday and I’m looking forward to an evening and two whole days where all I have to do is socialise with my friends, eat meals (one of the requirements of the job is to be present at breakfast and dinner in case my students need to ask me something) and sleep. Oh, and run, of course.

Running out of time

As in, I have no time in which to run! My job this month has very long hours (but since we are incredibly busy, they tend to fly by – I looked up today, saw it was ten to five and genuinely wondered whether the clock was broken because it didn’t feel like seven hours could possibly have passed) and the weather is extremely hot. My working day starts at 8am, when I have to be present for breakfast, and finishes at 7pm at the earliest, sometimes later. It’s too hot to run in the evenings until after dark, so my only option is to get up at dawn and run then before it’s heated up much.

Honestly, I’m sort of feeling like I’m too exhausted to get up at 6.30am and go running before working anything between a 9 and a 14 hour day, but then I think about the fact that if I don’t, I will have lost an entire month from my half marathon training plan and I realise that isn’t an option. I’ve switched my training plan back to the slightly easier level I was initially on, not because I can’t physically manage the demanding level but because I haven’t got time to run for 35-60 minutes, four times a week. I’ll kick it back up a notch in August.

I am really enjoying this job, though. It’s very varied, and so far I haven’t managed to mess anything up too badly. I’ve forgotten a few tiny things, but the permanent staff are very on the ball and usually notice before it’s become a problem. I’m getting into the swing of it and I feel like I’m generally on top of things. Tomorrow, however, the summer school classes start and a whole raft of new tasks materialise. My jobs so far have ranged from stuffing information leaflets into cardboard files and vacuuming up flying ants to meeting with the conference manager to discuss meal bookings and making announcements about fire safety.

I’m now off to bed, at an almost unprecedentedly early hour, and hoping that my phone doesn’t ring in the night. It probably won’t, I am not anticipating any emergencies, but if it does I have to answer. Rather concerningly, my work phone has almost no signal in my room, but there’s not a lot I can do about that!

Becoming a runner

Today has been quite a busy day. I did a fair amount of cycling, a great deal of walking around and a bit of organising (mostly in the form of buying useful things like drying racks and toilet rolls). I’ve discovered the nearest location of just about every cheap shop ever – Lidl, Poundland, Wilkinson, Asda, ShoeZone, New Look… all the high street stores that have been absent from my life while I was in Cambridge. It’s a fair trek out, but manageable by bike and since Sainsbury’s is no closer, it’ll be worth the trip to do my bigger shops.

I didn’t manage to find the one thing that would be really useful in getting my flat straightened out, though, which is an over-door storage hanger with pockets for all my bathroom bits and pieces. At the moment they’re clogging up a kitchen cupboard, which means the worktop is covered in my ridiculous quantity of plastic storage tubs and kitchen appliances. I think I’ll have to bite the bullet and order one from the internet, despite the painful shipping costs.

Despite the busy day and all the trailing around, I persuaded myself out for a three mile run at dusk. I’m still not quite used to the fact that every time I go running, it gets a little bit easier. I realise that’s how fitness works, but somehow I don’t remember having experienced it quite so clearly before. I’m even enjoying it a little more. Today I could have run for longer, except for the fact that it was getting dark and I needed to do some laundry before going to bed. I had underestimated the length of the laundry cycle – it’s only just finished. And on that note, time to take it out and hang it around my room in a desperate attempt to get it dry for packing tomorrow!

Third Week of the Running Madness

I’ve hit week three of my running programme, which is apparently the week that most people quit due to boredom, injury or burnout. Although I did manage to injure my shoulder on Sunday (no idea how, it happened mid-run and was sufficiently bad that I spent evensong with my arm in a sling and the last two days taking Ibuprofen with breakfast, which is very rare for me), it is a lot better today and I decided it wouldn’t stop me from running. Apathy very nearly did – I reached the last possible point at which I could go out without ending up finishing my run after sunset and decided not to go. Then I looked at my diary which happened to be in front of me, and realised that if I didn’t I wouldn’t manage three runs this week. So I went and it was great!

Honestly, I don’t know what has happened to me. I was feeling a bit trepidatious about this week because it involves longer runs with fewer intervals of walking, but the time flew and my legs weren’t aching anything like as much as I expected. When the podcast ended I felt as though I must have somehow skipped ahead on the recording, because it didn’t feel like twenty minutes at all. The clock assures me it was, though. I’m raring to go on the rest of the week, and here’s to the next six weeks as well.

Today is a generally positive day because my exam this morning went excellently, possibly even better than last Tuesday’s. I’m hoping the next two (tomorrow and Thursday) will go as smoothly, and then the slight blip last Wednesday won’t be as much of a problem. I’ve also decided to treat myself to a day out on Friday, so I’m taking myself to a new cafe for breakfast after morning prayer, then going to a National Trust property for the day. Then I’ll head home and curl up with some popcorn to watch Potiche, my latest LoveFilm acquisition. It’ll be great. Saturday will be spent beginning my clearing out and packing mission (I’m starting early as I have serious doubts about whether all my stuff will fit into the 2m cubed storage unit I’ve rented, so I need time to find alternatives), and then on Sunday I’m going to some mystery village with the choir for the day. It wouldn’t be a mystery if I just googled the name of the place, but I rather like mysteries.

The Curious Lure of Running

I started running two weeks ago. That in itself is odd enough – I have always hated running. When I was training with the university ice hockey team, we ran twice a week. I always went, and I disliked every second.

So it is rather a surprise even to me that I decided to start running again, voluntarily, on my own. I’m following the Couch to 5k programme and using a podcast that plays music with a good running beat and tells you when to jog and when to walk briskly (we’re gradually building up to running 5k non-stop, but that’s a long way off). Then I announced my plan to several friends, including some internet friends who immediately decided to join me. We’ve now got a small group scattered across several different countries who are all following the same programme and reporting back on progress.

I still wouldn’t say that I enjoy running, exactly. I have to force myself through the run, reminding myself that it will be over soon and I will feel a buzz of triumph when I reach the end. Some days are harder than others. Today was horrible; it’s drizzling, there was wind blowing against me along the first stretch of the park, and for some reason every step was a trial. But I made it without walking during any of the run sections, or stopping at all.

Generally I’ve been running early in the morning, before anyone is really around to see me lumbering through the park with a bright-red, sweat-covered face. On Thursday evening I realised I hadn’t done my second run of the week, and if I left it any longer I would either be running on the morning of what was already going to be a long day (I went to see Singing in the Rain on Friday night – more on that another time) or running two days in a row. So I pulled myself together and went out.

I’m not sure what was different on Thursday to today, but I almost did enjoy that run. I did extra sprint sections, I pounded along with a smile on my face, and I felt like a real runner. I was still very glad to reach the end of the podcast, but then something possessed me and I ran another two minutes just because I felt like it. Part of the motivation was having run past someone I knew slightly – I didn’t want him to think I was too unfit or lazy to keep running. I doubt he even noticed me, honestly, but the psychological impetus was there.

Next week the programme steps up a bit, and I will have to run for 3 minutes without stopping. That sounds difficult to me; it’s twice as long as I’ve been running so far. But I used to run that much and more, when I was forcing myself around the 800m track with the ice hockey team, cursing with every step. There’s no reason why I can’t do it now as well.

I think most of running is about mind games: you trick yourself into thinking you’ve got much further left to go than you have, so you are pleasantly surprised when you can stop. You tell yourself how much you’re enjoying this, even if you aren’t. You smile at little birds or small children and your brain believes you’re smiling at the run. And somehow you make it through. Well, that’s how it is for me anyway.