There are a lot of advantages to living in a beautiful part of the country. I get to spend all year in a place some people have to save all year just to visit for a couple of weeks. Lucky? You bet I am! I have the sea on my doorstep, the moors within easy reach, and miles of stunning, undulating, countryside in between.
I can run through tranquil woodlands, or with the music of the sea in my ears. I can run along winding country lanes between high hedges full of life, or across wide open moorland watched only by soaring birds of prey and the occasional curious pony. Not for me the monotony and fumes of city streets. Wonderful, yes? Yes, indeed, but there is a downside. Or more accurately, an UP side.
Cornwall is a land of hills. There is no getting away from it. It doesn't matter which direction I head in when I open my front door each morning the one thing I can count on is a bloody great hill somewhere on my route.
I cheated a bit when I first started training (OK, I cheated a lot) and deliberately planned routes that encountered hills going in a favourable direction, ie. down! This was a great motivator. I got to cover more distance than I could have managed otherwise and the general downhill direction meant I invariably ended up at the sea. What better place could there be to sit for a while and catch my breath before plodding, exhausted, UP hill towards home?
This was fine when I was only attempting short runs of a couple of miles, but the very thing that makes this land so beautiful means I can only go so far before the path starts to rise again to crest the next hill. As I gradually increase my distance I have to accept the inevitable and begin to tackle those pesky hills.
There is one particular hill on the return stretch of my favourite route which starts out all innocently as a gradual incline. It is a twisting trail along a narrow lane between Cornish hedges covered in moss and ferns. It is shaded and cool, it is peaceful and pretty, it is evil and designed by the devil himself (not that I believe in him, but hey, I have to blame someone). It twists and turns, making it impossible to see just how steep and long it is when I, all gullible and inspired by the downhill stretch, embark upon its dreadful length.
I reach the first bend thinking 'yeah, I can do this, easy peasy'. By the second my legs are starting to ache but I'm still going strong, if a little slower. By the third I can see sunlight through a break in the trees and I exult 'Yes! I'm nearly there!' and then wham! Another turn reveals it stretching onward and upward, steeper and narrower. By now my legs are starting to quiver and I resort to conning myself. Just to the next lamp post. To the next bend, then I'll rest. It's only 10 yards to the post box, go on, you can do it. Oh god, there are people coming! Happy holiday makers skipping downhill with buckets and spades and windbreaks and picnics. Smile. Smile! SMILE. Look like this isn't killing you. 'Good Morning!' they chorus. Christ! Do they expect me to answer? Nod, smile. Talk is impossible. It's more of a grimace than a smile but at last they are gone and the road ahead is...still there. Still going up. I'm red faced, sweating, panting, legs like jelly. Almost there. Almost. Just make it to that driveway. OK, now, just one more bit, one more bend, and the steepest bit...but I can see the top now. It's there, just there, just a few steps more. I can't do it. I can't. Impossible...done. I'm there and I'm not dead. Amazing.
And I get to do it all again tomorrow. Oh joy.