Thursday, 18 October 2012

What a Beautiful Day...

I am lucky enough to live by the sea, which makes for some fantastic running routes, but as much as I love the variations of the coast path and the crashing waves cheering me on, I have a particular fascination with the moors so when ever I get the chance I head inland for my moorland fix.
Until I took up this challenge, a trip over to Dartmoor involved nothing more strenuous than making a flask of coffee and a picnic and finding somewhere quiet to soak up the silence. These days, however, I find myself taking in a wholly different view of the moors. There is something quite remarkable about a long ribbon of road stretching ahead for miles through the wilderness, far from seeming daunting and never ending, it inspires me onwards, and rather than the aching relief when I come to the end of one of my usual routes there is always a kind of regret when I finish a run on the moor. I could have gone further, run for longer...
Dartmoor Running
Last week I was lucky enough to don my running shoes and head out across both Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor. We hit Dartmoor later in the day than we had planned. As is so often the case, shopping and errands took twice as long as expected and it was already late afternoon when we arrived. And cold! Boy, was it cold! It's the first time I've run on a truly cold day and for the first mile I was really having to force myself to carry on, to focus on my feet pounding the tarmac rather than the burning in my ears and my bitter cold fingers. I don't know if it really warmed up, or if I simply became numb to the pain, but beyond that first mile it seemed milder, less distracting.
Andy, as he usually does, followed my progress in the car, hopping from lay by to car park along the way, occasionally slowing as he passed me to offer advice or correct my stride. It's always interesting when he does this. He picks up on things I would never notice, and for a novice like me that's very useful...even if I do find it frustrating when he says 'OK, that's enough for today'. At one point I wondered what on earth I was doing wrong when he was wildly gesticulating from the side of the road, until I was close enough that the wind didn't snatch his voice away before it reached me, and he was yelling 'TURN AROUND'. Still not understanding I followed his instructions to be greeted by a spectacular rainbow stretching across the moor behind me.
Unfortunately we didn't have the camera ready in time to capture the magnificent display, but as it turned out that was fine, Mother Nature wasn't finished with me yet.
The cold was less noticeable, and I felt I could go on much further but dusk was lowering across that wide, open sky so Andy reigned me in with the promise of another run on the moor the next day.
And so it was that Saturday afternoon saw me enjoying my first ever proper off road run. Oh, I've run sections of the coast path before as part of a longer run, but for the first time I was to head out across open moorland.
Distant Cheesewring
This time it was Bodmin Moor, and we parked up at Minions. I had in mind a circular route, of about three or four miles, heading out past The Hurlers Stone Circle into the wilds, and coming back via the Cheesewring. With the Levellers on my MP3 and the wind in my hair, I set out on my new adventure.
It had rained heavily during the night, and the ground was very boggy indeed, but my new NB's coped admirably with the terrain, draining well leaving my feet wet but not soggy and uncomfortable.
I didn't really mind the wet though, it was a small price to pay for sights like these.
The Hurlers


Bodmin Moor
My legs sure knew about the rougher terrain the next day, but I loved every minute of it. I may just have found my new, favourite place to run. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Shoes, Running for the use of

Once upon a time my primary concern when purchasing anything intended to go on my feet was looks. Nice pointed toes and teetering heels were the order of the day. I didn't really care what unnatural shape they forced my toes into, or how distorted my arch was to reach those dizzying heights, or even how damned uncomfortable they were, just so long as they looked the part on a night out.
Over the years however, the heels got lower and the toes less likely to take someones eye out, as the practicality of running around with a double pushchair or mounting an expedition to Sainsbury's, or jumping off a still moving number 38 on Shaftsbury Avenue without breaking my neck,  took precedence.
My first ever pair of trainers came from Lilywhites in 2003, a pair of Reebok's which up until last week I was still wearing! (Look, this running thing is new to me, OK?) To say they were past their best was putting it mildly, but hey, they were comfy - and as much as we hate to believe it when we're young, there comes a point when comfort wins out over fashion. It's the first sign of ageing, so watch out for that one ;)
I hadn't really put much thought into choosing that first pair. They looked OK, they fit, what else was there to think about?
Almost a decade later and my mind was in a spin. My Mum and Step Dad had very kindly said they would buy my very first pair of proper running shoes. All of a sudden I was lost in a world where the shape of my foot, my gait, and all sorts of technical stuff I'd never heard of before entered the equation. I did my research. I read reviews. I asked for advice from the people who know, and got more confused by the minute. Eventually, I just couldn't hold off any longer. There comes a point when you just have to put aside your research, make a mental note of all the advice and bite the bullet.

So here I am with a nice, new pair of New Balance 610's.

And I love them!

Now, you may have noticed these are men's running shoes and that is for two very good reasons. The first, and most important, is that I just don't get on with women's trainers, they just don't suit my feet. It didn't matter what brand, model or size I tried, they just felt too constricting. Every time it felt like I was trying to squeeze my toes into a pair of my old pointy heels! The other reason, and almost as important in my book, is the range of colours women's running shoes tend to come in. I'm sorry, but I don't do PINK! Alright, I know they aren't all pink but a rather high proportion were, or mauve, or aqua, or lemon. I like to think of myself as being feminine, but I'm NOT a girly girl. Once a goth, always a goth. I think it's in the blood. I wish manufacturers would realise we don't all want pretty pink sparkles on our feet. I'm forty-two, not six.

That's not to say I paid much attention to colour while trying on the vast array of possibilities (Sorry Andy, I know shoe shopping with me is your worst nightmare and I've just elevated it to a whole new level!), I didn't really care what colour they were (yes, I know I'm contradicting myself, I'm a woman, and its my blog so that's allowed) so long as they did the job. These were comfortable, with plenty of room in the toe box for my odd shaped feet, and lots of support around the heel which was important as I have quite weak ankles.  I hadn't actually gone looking for trail runners but given the terrain around here and the fact that I'm starting to extend my runs and look for longer routes, there's a good chance I'll be spending quite a bit of time on the coast path. And with winter fast approaching, even a lot of the smaller roads around here can seem more like muddy trails by November! These seemed a good option under the circumstances, as they are apparently suitable for both on and off road use.

I haven't tried a longer run in them yet, the farthest I've been is about 4 miles, but the longest run I've ever done has only been 5 so that's OK, I'm building up to it :) I have to say that so far I've found them very comfortable on a variety of surfaces and really appreciated the extra stability off road. Wow! What a difference! Now, I know all I have to compare them to is a tatty old pair of trainers but for me, the difference is astronomical. I have been able to run on paths I wouldn't have even contemplated before. I no longer look off in to the distance with longing thinking somewhere is just too steep, uneven or muddy, I just give it a go.

And I'm faster!

Speed isn't that important to me. I'm sure some hardened runners may gasp with shock and horror at that statement but it just isn't. Maybe that will come in time, but I hope not. The important thing to me is that I actually get to a stage where I'm capable of finishing the marathon. Finishing. That's it, as long as I actually finish it, with my knees, ankles and sanity still in one piece, I'll be happy. How long it takes me doesn't matter. Which is perhaps as well because I'm slow. I don't always bother to time my runs but I do know it has always taken me 22 minutes to run the 2 miles to my favourite little beach. But since I got my NB's I'm doing it in 20. Like I said, I'm really not that bothered about the speed but it is proof that my lovely new shoes must be doing something good.