Running my way out of a pandemic: Great North Run Training week 10 and 11

Week 10! OMG how have I got here almost in one piece. Well actually I’m at the end of week 11 at the time of writing, but the thought still stands. And towards the end of week 12 at the time of sharing – things got busy! Running now really really clicks, and I have to force myself to have rest days to avoid breaking myself or injury before GNR day. I’m generally quite knackered at the moment, now my mileage is increasing, especially at the weekends, but it’s a good kind of knackered. A “my god I actually can bloody DO this!” kind of knackered. I’ve also noticed the hunger. That feeling of “I must eat all of the things!” I’m burning a lot of calories at the moment, so I was told this would happen. I’ve struggled to keep up with weekly writing about running as I’d hoped, and sometimes I just don’t know what to say. ‘There, was another tree, then I ran another K,’ doesn’t make for an exciting read. I’ve also worried that NO ONE WITH BE INTERESTED IN WHAT I HAVE TO SAY, and that I’ve probably bored most people to death by now. “Oh there’s Alice again, talking about ANOTHER run.” I know it’s probably not like that, but my brain has other ideas. The runners fatigue that has now kicked in has been the most difficult thing to deal with so far on top of working full time, so resolving to document my training fortnightly and not put any more unnecessary pressure on myself seems wise.

My Tuesday run was with the running club, that seemed to coincide with all of the teenagers in the area celebrating leaving school. There was a massive gang of them having a jolly time. They were everywhere. I suddenly felt very old as I calculated how long it is since I left school. It’s tradition in these parts for young people to celebrate and I’m assuming get very drunk in a field adjacent to where I run. Not exactly Covid secure, but I also couldn’t imagine being a sixteen year old in Covid times. I wasn’t very good at it in normal times, so hats off to them for getting through the year. Our run was momentarily disrupted by slightly worse for wear young people making their way across the viaduct. “Ahh I don’t want to be a youth worker when I’m off!” I said, “They’re intimidating when they’re in packs” the person who I ran with commented. “Oh I’m much better with ones I know,” I replied. We waited until the young people had moved on before we continued our run. it was a nice gentle 5K. I’m getting more confident with routes now, and feeling more reassured that I won’t get lost. We meandered round the lake, and I attempted to make conversation while we ran, which consisted of the odd sentence here and there. Some people are really chatty when they run, and I’ve seen women have full on in depth conversations, but I can’t do that. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like a good in-depth conversation, but not when combined with running. I like the two separately. I need to spend most of my time making sure I’m running in a straight line and not falling over, adding a chat into the mix is most definitely too much brain power.

On Friday I ran alone, we were having a take-away family curry so I decided to run to the local Indian restaurant where we were picking it up from. Motivation like no other. It was a nice steady 5K, and a fairly quiet run. I’m getting towards the stage of training when I’m sailing through the shorter runs during the week. If I run on my own I almost always run with music, unless I forget to charge my headphones the night before. 5K on a longer run now acts as a nice warm up as I begin to find my stride, it always takes me a while to get into a run, and by 5K I’m eventually there, often feeling I could run further. And sometimes I do, except this time a curry was calling me.

Talking of longer runs, Sundays run was a 10K. A whole 6 miles. Getting up to 10K still feels like it’s something other people do, not me. On this run I discovered the meaning of running blisters and tried interval running without completely losing it and falling over. I have found, and it didn’t take me long to discover this, that singing whilst running helps me to regulate my breathing. I guess it has the same affect as having a conversation, except this way I don’t have to talk to anyone. I had ringing in the back of my head “if you can get to 10K by June, you can do a half marathon in September,” I can’t remember who said this to me, but it’s stuck. As I ran, and found a nice bit of grass near the duck pond before it joined onto the main road again, I decided to have a go at running intervals. Interval running is essentially made up of two parts A) find a nice piece of flat ground with clear markers B) Run between those markers as fast as you can without falling over. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? So I found a nice piece of grass to break my fall if I couldn’t put the breaks on after speeding up, that had trees I could run between. I also made sure no one was around to watch. They weren’t. I bombed it along as fast as I could, and shouted ” COME ON ALICE,” out loud. As if I thought a bit of encouraging myself was what was needed. Quickly realising, interval running had quite a bit of room for improvement. I did it. But my grass didn’t last forever, so running at a ridiculous uncoordinated speed didn’t last for long. Quickly resuming my comfortable trot. I also ran the whole 10K, later coming home to eat lots of food, and not moving from my spot in the sun for several hours.

May be an image of Alice Hewson, tree and outdoors

Tuesday was a nice slow practice run to stretch my legs in preparation for Wednesday, and my biggest running achievement. I’ve always been aware of the Blaydon Race, it’s the only thing my home town is famous for, but never believed it was something I could ever do, or even want to. Since I started running, and wanted to start running races, The Blaydon Race has always been something to aspire to, not least because being from Blaydon and being a runner, people always ask, “So, you’ve ran the Blaydon race then,?” And saying “well no, I haven’t,” doesn’t sound right. I entered the 2020 Blaydon Race, when I thought I was running the Great North Run last September, but didn’t get a place. Then the pandemic hit so I wouldn’t have been able to run the real thing anyway. The real thing being, as the famous song will tell you, running along the Scotwood roooooad into Blaydon toooon. For those who don’t know the Blaydon race is 10K or 6 miles for those who can’t get their heads around kilometres. I have to run two and a tiny bit more when I run this half, which still feels daunting. As I began training this year, and keeping my running to a consistent routine, I signed up to run the Blaydon Race virtually. As my finisher t-shirt tells me, 10k alang any rooooad. I took the day off work especially and made sure I had an exciting lunch for when I returned. I decided to run in the morning, because it seems to be the time I run at my best, the rest of the time I generally feel very sluggish and longer runs are so much harder. Hobbling around a 5k works just about, but anything else often feels like it wasn’t worth going out for. With an appropriate playlist of Geordie folk songs, I was off. Gannin’ alang any road. I’d worked out a rough route and used my Fitbit as a guide to make sure I’d done the maths right in my head. I was grinning a bit like a Cheshire Cat as I ran, it was boiling, and running in the heat is hard but I kept plodding on. on exactly the 9th of June I was running my first Blaydon Race solo. I kept to a decent pace, finishing with a slightly faster time than the 10K’s I ran previously. Getting to 10K when it once seemed way beyond any of my capabilities, was a magical moment. Experiencing this moment on my own felt like the right thing. Next year I hope to run the real thing, with a crowd, and other runners and dancers at the end. My first 10K race, and hopefully not the last. I even have the T-shirt to prove it.

Still on a high from Wednesdays Blaydon Race, I ran 12k on Saturday, ending week 11 with the most intense runners fatigue. The first 8K was brill, the last 4K, not so brill. And talking about the not so brill parts of running is just as important as the runs that do go well. At 8k, when I was firmly in my stride and running like a boss, I encountered a dog who was clearly barking at me. Maybe it was my pink hat he didn’t like, who knows. A teeny tiny, very angry looking dog. I stopped running and began to walk as I approached it’s owner. Those of you who know me will know I’m more of a cat person, although I’m not totally against dogs. I’m fine with dogs I know. We have friends who live on a farm, and their dog Patch absolutely adores me. I have no idea why but the feelings mutual. Dogs when out running, and dogs I don’t know how they’ll react as I run towards them are a different story. As I walked closer, and the dog clearly wasn’t going to stop barking, I asked the owner, “can you put your dog on a lead please?, I’m not keen on dogs.” I decent request I assumed. “He won’t go for you, he just barks,” I was told. If I was a family with young children, or walking a nervous dog, or any other person, would she have said the same? I was an often anxious woman, on my own trying to enjoy a run. I didn’t need the extra anxiety she caused. I asked again for the dog to be put on a lead. “NO I WON’T,” she continued. “There’s loads of dogs along here, you better get used to it. “YOU shouldn’t be running along here if you don’t like dogs”. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t think I was at all unreasonable, it had taken me months to get to the stage of feeling comfortable running again, and I feared this dog walker had just put me back to square run. Although I didn’t think this at the time, her dog, now much closer was still barking at me. I then, before he could get me, sprinted away as fast as I could. The dog trying to chase after me. “KODY COME HERE,” I heard her shout the dogs name. I ran the fastest I’ve ever ran in my life. The adrenaline made me realise how fast I can run if I am being chased, although as I general rule I wouldn’t recommend it as a way to crack interval training. I stopped to catch my breath after my sprint, and noticed my FitBit only said 8K. Only another 4K today. Can I manage 4K if dog lady had worked me up so much? Still full of adrenaline I pushed on to finish. I ran a whole 12K. The furthest I have ever ran.

May be an image of Alice Hewson, standing and outdoors

I was pleased about my run, but this joy was overshadowed my an unpleasant experience once the adrenaline and the dopamine hit had warn off. I had just as much right to be there as she did, I could run, she could dog walk, the problem was when she thought her right to dog walk overshadowed my right to run. I thought if only you knew where I’d been to get on this path right here. But then I thought she didn’t need to know, that wasn’t her right. And if she did, she probably wouldn’t be understanding as her demeanour demonstrated. Writing about the bad runs is important, because I knew when I embarked on training it wouldn’t all go smoothly. If anything, life has taught me just that. I’m a living, breathing example of things not always going to plan. I didn’t envisage an angry dog walker taking such exception to me running along the path because I didn’t think her dog was wonderful, or want to be barked at. I adore the outdoors, so much more since the days of anxiety, depression and more recently lockdown. Getting outside is special. Really really special. And we all need to make it easier for others to enjoy it too. Even if that means putting your dog on a lead, slowing your bike down or walking in single file to make way for more cautious social distancers. Running is helping my recovery in a big way, and I don’t need to discuss that with a stranger. We all have a story to tell, I write about mine for you to read because it means so much to be able to run, and for a small part of the day to feel free from my brain.

If you’ve got to the end of this, there is always time to SPONSOR ME! I’m pushing on with my training for Gateshead Youth Council, and it would mean so much to me and them, if you could support my half marathon. The support helps me to believe I can, on days I’m certain I can’t.

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