The Black Rabbit Effect

When is a pint more than a pint?

It hadn’t started well. As we waited to cross the start line of the South Coast Challenge on Saturday we heard that the Black Rabbit, the pub that held my dream pint at the end of the course, was now a ‘Harvester’

There were 100km and a sleepless night between me and what was apparently now a terrible pub

My friend and I split up after about 30km because he was struggling with my pace, so I was having to wait so long for him at the rest stops that I was getting stiff. So I quickly fell in with five girls who invited me to join them. All runners, we had similar mindsets, a fast pace, and the shared goal of completing in the target time of 24 hours. We spent the next 50km – definitely the most challenging part of the course – moving along together, much of it in the dark

I LOVED it!

At the 80km rest stop there were lots of problems with blisters and exhaustion setting in, and we had to split into two lots of two, plus two single walkers at various paces to maximise the chances of achieving the 24 hour target. At that stage it was 3am and I was still absolutely enthralled by the walk. My legs felt as fresh as when I started and I was looking forward to seeing the sun come up in a few hours. I did not have a watch or use of my phone, and so I would have to judge my pace if I wanted to finish in time

I crossed yesterday’s finish line at a jog (yes, I did) in 22 hours and 28 minutes. I was elated. I was there to clap for all the girls finishing the course, four of them within 24 hours and one only just after. We all enjoyed a glass of bubbly and had something to eat before partners arrived. I texted Brian to spur him on and he told me not to wait for him at the line, but to go and warm up in the pub with Baz

And the Black Rabbit? Not a Harvester at all, just a lovely place for a couple of pints of Tanglefoot and a meal, before a bath and a quick afternoon nap

Thank you for the supportive messages. I really enjoyed them and we also raised around 1200 pounds for Bloodwise

I feel great. My feet are already recovering from the bruising and my rogue ankle hasn’t troubled me at all

If this is ultra-eventing, bring it on!!!

 

 

Those kittens won’t shoot themselves

encounters on South Beach

The boardwalk provides a 4-mile morning loop on an ideal running surface to the temple of Starbucks at South Beach. It’s an easy run as long as I am back to the hotel before it gets impossibly hot each day (around 7 am)

The distinctive huts along the beach are my landmarks
IMG_0625Enjoying my temporary routine I notice others around me, who also start their day by coming hereIMG_0666

The cats are in all shades of ginger, grey, white and ‘Branston pickle’IMG_0710Taking shade in the sea grape bushes during the heat of the day, they appear each morning to enjoy small piles of kitty biscuits, lovingly placed by dedicated locals

By the second day I recognise several of the cats, and I am on nodding terms with a few people – some of them runners and some ‘feeders’. One lady says she feeds them ‘every day, sixty three of them’. Another man tells me he gives food to ‘about three dozen’. Clearly this is a great commitment and a real passion

As we settle in bed one night, we tell C that we will both be getting up at a time she’s only heard of, for me to run and Baz to find and photograph the groups of kittens that she won’t see during the day. She groans and pulls her cover over her head, unimpressed

‘Those kittens aren’t going to shoot themselves,’ says Baz, but in the morning the kittens elude us, ushered away by protective parents before we can snap them

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The beach walk is popular with runners, cyclists, dog walkers. Many people practise yoga. Many more sleep on the beach – some through choice, some through necessity. I see one man asleep each morning on the same piece of boardwalk, and there are many more adrift here

After a chaotic Saturday night in SOBE a pair of abandoned or forgotten gold-heeled shoes lounge on the beach. There are lovers and revellers not yet returned from clubbing. As I pass two men in their twenties sharing an early morning joint, one shouts out to me: ‘Good morning beautiful lady, you look great’

I am glad of his encouragement. Name me one fifty year old woman who wouldn’t enjoy that!IMG_0481

The initial warm breeze will become a searing heat by 7 am, so I am delighted to see the beach hut we christened ‘half-of-Lisa-Simpson-hut’, signalling that I am almost back at the hotel. It’s now our last morning in Miami, my last run in Miami, and a man shouts gruffly to me: ‘Cold! Eyes! Bitch!’

Just another nutter, this place is full of them …

Are You Really Going Out In That?

More stories of spandex. And inappropriate smoking

IMG_2469Running isn’t for everyone. But if it’s your thing – if you are used to just popping out and running fairly good distances – and then suddenly you can’t anymore… well, it’s hard to explain how that feels

Tonight the towpath beckons and I decide to do a couple of miles. I’m easing myself back in slowly after hurting my ankle back in March. It seems incredible that an injury caused while standing still can have set me so far back

Sadly, this will be the year I hang up the Hawaiian bikinis for good (it probably should have been a few years back!), but even that sturdy and sensible one-piece swimsuit won’t wear itself. So I’d better get on with it before the summer hols

There’s a honeysuckle that stretches along the path by the river, and as I pass it the scent is incredible. I fill my grateful lungs with the perfume, taking a reward for my small discipline this evening and feeling so glad I came out

Breathing is everything. I mean, obviously, because we wouldn’t be alive if not breathing, but also in running terms. It’s easy to put one foot in front of the other but it’s the right breathing that allows you to run. If you can’t match your body’s oxygen requirements you’ll just be exhausted in no time

Of course, there’s an exception to prove most rules:

Norman, a friend and associate in Singapore, is a hard-living heavy drinker who has chain-smoked all his life, but after suffering a heart attack in his late fifties in 2008 he told me he had taken up running on the advice of his doctor. He was fully expecting to hate it. Yet in 2014, while I was injured and had to forego my first ever marathon place at Brighton, he was running regularly and looking forward to his first marathon in Singapore. By the next time we got together for a few drinks a year later he had run two marathons and I was absolutely in awe of him

I asked if the second one was much easier

Norman told me how he had struggled on the second one, but had really enjoyed the first one. He was eating up the miles, he told me, and he only stopped for a cigarette at eight miles, twelve miles and twenty-one miles. I honestly thought he was joking. I didn’t know it was possible for a smoker to run a marathon, let alone to stop for a fag break along the way

I wonder if he stopped for a Scotch too?

As I hit the end of my two and a bit miles I stride out a bit, get a bit of momentum going, and I feel how my lung capacity has improved

I am no Norman. But for the first time this week, there is more in the tank 🙂
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Pigeon Steps, but Progress

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(they’re chicken steps really)

I am pleased with myself this week. Having taken ten days out to recover fully from the flu that rendered me completely ‘speechless’ for three days, I have been out running again

Perhaps it’s the prospect of longer summer evening runs with friends through the Great Park, returning home to a meal cooked by the lovely Baz. Or perhaps it’s just the fear of not feeling good in a swimsuit on holiday. Whatever it is, I am grateful to discover that I have not lost all discipline

I have been doing only 3.5 miles at a time and I covered just ten miles last week, but I remind myself that it’s ten miles more than I have been doing for the last two years. I’ll work out a new route to get back on target for increasing my mileage and I need to start stretching again, as I realise that I am already developing bad habits. I cannot risk more injury, especially with my megalomaniacal left hamstring already getting edgy (after some strenuous furniture moving last week, which always sets it off)

So, thank you to the very kind gentleman in a transit van who waited patiently for me before reversing on Monday evening, and to the other driver who chose to let me cross the road on my way home in the dark. These small kindnesses remained with me, and are part of why I got up early again to run through the frost on both sunny mornings this weekend, breathing in the delicious air and watching the small birds warm themselves low in the hedgerows. Running this week has been absolute heaven