Saturday, 24 April 2010

Knowing when to bow to peer pressure

With a week to go before my big race of the year - the "Three Forts Challenge," I'm well into my taper.  I've (nearly) cut out the beer, crisps, cookies, and other junk foods that have somehow worked their way into my routine.  During my 15 mile run last weekend, I passed the very attractive Mount Inn in Stanton, and the Sunday lunch preparation smelled fabulous.  So, I decided that I would end my slow and easy 10 miler there today, and indulge just a little to celebrate getting through my training plan injury-free.

  The Mount Inn, Stanton Worcestershire
(The hot braised beef & onion baguette was particularly delicious!)

I duly advertised my plans on our local running club forum and waited for responses from that part of the membership who normally run a bit slower than me, but who are great fun and would provide a convivial atmosphere. What I got was a response from my friend Craig, who can only keep with me in the hills with incredible patience - his, not mine.  The result?  My slow & easy run was neither slow nor easy (I think much of Craig's was).  But, we had a lot of fun in a fabulous location.

  The beautiful village of Stanton, Worcestershire

So, without anyone to sandbag but me, we set out across the fields at a steady pace well in excess of my planned saunter.  On the ups, Craig kindly stopped to open & close the gates, or waited at the top (since I knew the planned route, and he didn't, he had no choice).  On the flats we kept a pace that meant he wasn't bored, and I wasn't struggling too much.  On the downhills, I generally led the way.  When we finished, I was on the tired side of very tired.  But, I felt like I'd earned the eventual 1/2 pint of ale at The Mount. 

So, why, when Craig was more than willing to slow to whatever pace I wanted, did I not just drop back to the planned saunter?  Why risk overdoing it on the weekend before my marathon?  Well, to be honest, it just felt nice to have someone else push the pace a bit after weeks of long slow runs on my own.  I figured that one last tempo run would tune me up for next Sunday.  Time will tell.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Trails and Pubs

I've been a runner nearly all my life, but I only discovered the joy of trail running about two years ago. Most, if not all, off-road runners are happy to wax lyrical about the joy of being a part of the scenery, instead of just looking at it. In my little part of the world, nearly as many of us are also likely to mention our favourite runs relative to the best hills, but also to the best post-run watering holes.

(local foal curious to learn more about running free in the hills)

You see, the northern Cotswolds are full of chocolate-box villages, most with a friendly pub that thrives on the passing trade of ramblers and fair-weather walkers. They tend to have a small, but enjoyable, selection of cask-conditioned ales, which is great if I'm not destined for the driver's seat. As a result, if I am struggling to decide where to go for my weekend jaunt, I decide where I want to settle down for a pint afterwards - a good beer garden if it's sunny, a nice open fire if there's snow. After that, it's just a case of choosing how long I spend in the hills before I hit the pub.