Sunday, 10 February 2013

The sharks of doubt

One of my favourite songs - for running or otherwise - is Jim White's 10 Miles to Go on a 9 Mile Road.  I originally heard this on Desert Island Discs way back when I was training for my first ill-fated marathon.  I was doing my first ever 9 mile run, was worried that it would be too far for me, and then 10 Miles to Go started to play.  I misheard the chorus as 'I've got 10 miles to go on a 9 mile run' which made me gasp at the serendipity of it all as this perfectly captured how I was feeling. 

That one minor word change aside, I still think that this is a brilliant song and I think that it is as relevant for running as it is for life.  Have a listen:

  Look, he's on a treadmill!  This really is about running!
(The song itself starts at 1:26.)

The Sharks of Doubt ('Sometimes you throw yourself into the sea of faith, and the sharks of doubt come and they devour you') were definitely my companions before yesterday's 15 mile run.  I was a bit excited about giving it a go, but I really didn't expect to be able to do it.  I told myself that I could walk whenever I needed to and I took my phone so that I could call Bassman to come and collect me when my body gave up.  I even decided not to do the run along the canal path in Inverness or on the forest tracks at Culbin Forest because I didn't want to have to walk for miles back to the car if I injured myself.  Definitely rehearsing for disaster.

So, in that frame of mind, I went running.  I kept waiting for my calf to seize up or my hamstrings to pull or my achilles tendon to protest.  I  kept waiting to find it...well, difficult.  But it wasn't.  I had the occasional tightness in my calf, but that was only a sign to shorten my stride and as soon as I did so, my calf was happy.  My achilles tendons did what they were supposed to do with no grumbling and, while my hamstrings were definitely burning by the end, that was due to running 15 miles as opposed to them being unfit for purpose.  The most  painful part of me was the blister that's developed on the ball of my left foot; still, it wasn't painful enough to stop and I discovered that paying attention to my form and trying to make my running more Chi meant that the blister hurt less.

In fact, by the end of mile 4, I knew that this was going to be one of those runs where everything fits.  I was tempted to up my pace at that point but, with Adam's 'SLOW AND STEADY' ringing in my head, I decided to make my goal for this run be just that - trying to run a consistent pace from beginning to end (something that I really do struggle with).  I imagined flicking a Cruise Control switch in my brain and just let myself go along for the ride.  Looking at the data from my Garmin, I managed surprisingly well.  My target pace was an 11:30min/mile and, with two exceptions (when I walked briefly at mile 6 to take a gel and then again at mile 10 to have half a banana), I was pretty much bang on that pace for the entire time.  How unlike me. 

The last 4 miles saw the return of my happy skippy legs, although I did rein them in for the sake of consistency, and I finished the 15 miles feeling strong.  I could have gone further and I could have run faster, which was a huge confidence boost.  I almost cried at the end of the run (okay, I did cry, but just a little bit) because I was so euphoric at having not only run further in a single run than I ever have before but having now run more miles in a week than I ever have (24).  For the first time, I am starting to believe that I might just be able to run a marathon. 

As I write this the morning after the Big Run (and after having been out last night with Lizzie for dinner - during which I felt that I could justify 3 courses, including a very yummy dessert of toasted pannetone and vanilla fudge ice cream - and then to watch Bassman's band but not dancing, as I wasn't about to risk a dance-related calf injury), my legs feel a bit tired but otherwise I'm fine.

Sharks of Doubt?  For now, they have been vanquished.


  1. May you have many more runs like this one!

  2. Thanks! We need runs like this sometimes to remind us why we put up with the rest of it.