Where did ten days go?

I’ve been exercising, but not enough. I’ve been eating cream cakes too much. My appetite still seems to be of marathon capacity, but my training schedule doesn’t match it any more. I’ve been running, but in such a relaxed fashion that I haven’t used my Garmin since I did the Bluebell 10 trail race two weeks ago (and have no idea where it is). I try to vary my runs: some alone, some with Veggie Runners, some with my club. I went to Copenhagen, and went running again with Roger Harris of ISWAN. We met at 7:30 and ran through the city to the water, and ended up here, appropriately, as we were both in Copenhagen to attend a shipping conference:


The next day I got up at 6.30 and headed out of the hotel door towards the Frederiksberg Palace. I ran for a mile and found myself in a cemetery and thought, odd to have a cemetery in the grounds of a palace. But I ran around amongst the gravestones – I like graveyards very much, and this was a beautiful one – before realising I’d run in the wrong direction when I left the hotel. So, back along the busy Falkoner Allee, where as in all of Copenhagen, the biggest danger seems to be being run over by bikes. Copenhagen is bike heaven. I never saw a road without a dedicated cycle lane. And because every driver, cyclist and pedestrian has a dedicated urban space, everyone seems happy to wait. There is no jumping of red lights. Taxi drivers are cyclists too so they don’t want to kill them. It’s wonderful. Anyway I ran back to the hotel and carried on and half a mile later I found this.


And then I saw this:


And I ran down the hill in the park and into some woods and found a gingerbread witch’s cottage, too:


If I hadn’t gone running, I would never have found the cemetery or the palace, or walked seven miles through the city. It’s the best method of exploring I know of.

When I got back, I played squash. I’ve been wanting to for a while. But it was a mistake.

I’m not very good at squash. I played tennis for so long that I still think there is such a thing as a double-handed backhand in squash, too. When my opponent is doing his special back-of-the-court-dies-in-the-corner serve, a double grip on a racket is the last thing required. I used to play squash against my mother when I was a teenager. She would be devastating, and she never had to move from the T-bar. She stood still and angled the ball all over the place, and I had to run like a banshee. I was always exhausted, she wasn’t, and she always won.

Paul, my next-door studio neighbour, wasn’t as good as my mother. He won the first game to love, but then I warmed up, and he had to run too. By the third game, I had an advantage because I was fitter and had more stamina. He played better, but he was tired and not running for shots he was running for in the first two games. He still won all three games, but only by two or so points. It was great fun. But it was still a mistake, because squash is a series of jerking sudden movements. It is stretches and lunges and reaches. And during one of my stretches or lunges or reaches, something stretched too far.

We played squash on Thursday and I didn’t run again until Saturday morning at the Mob Run Parkrun at Roundhay. Mobrun entails two things: each Leeds club tries to bring the most runners, and the race director dresses up like Al Capone. My friend Jason was staying for the weekend, and he gamely came along with his American-tourist SLR slung around his neck. He looked rather alarmed at the Parkrun and said he didn’t much like organized positivity (that’s right, isn’t it, Jason? He reads this). He went off for a walk, and we set off. Up the hill to the mansion, along the top. I felt good, though I’d had the usual “I have no idea how to run” thoughts at the start. I was overtaking people, because as usual, being a woman, I’d started modestly far back in the field. But then my shin started to hurt.

I was wearing my new Brooks Pure Connect. They are more minimal than my other road shoes, so I know I need to get my feet used to them. I’ve tried them out on two runs and had no problems. But, I thought, maybe they were causing my shin soreness. I kept running, down to the cricket pitch, past the pavilion. I had the usual runner’s dilemma running through my head: is this bad enough to stop? Should I run through it? I’ve just finished reading Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run, which was actually fascinating. “Actually,” because not many running books are, and ultramarathoners can be even more dull about running than the un-ultra kind. But Scott is a vegan ultramarathoner and that is interesting to start with. Also, he gives recipes, though I don’t think I’m ever going to be a person who makes eight-grain vegan pancakes for breakfast, however good they sound. I also don’t think I’m ever going to run more than 160 miles around a one-mile course in 24 hours. That just sounds nuts. But I do admire his ultramarathon running up mountains and over trails. And he does seem to run with injury and serious discomfort most of the time. So perhaps I should too.

But I didn’t. I stopped. And then I dropped out. I don’t think I’ve ever dropped out of a race before. I dropped out because the pain was getting worse, and because I suddenly had an image of my muscle tearing. Nothing less serious than a broken leg is going to stop me running the Edinburgh half marathon this weekend, so I dropped out, and then disconcerted most of my club-mates by standing at the side and cheering them on. Their reactions were identical and lovely:

Are you OK?

I would like to run tonight but I can feel that the muscle is still sore. I don’t want a shin splint and I certainly don’t want to run 13.1 miles with a shin splint, so I am on total run-rest. That means I will miss the Apperley Bridge Canter on Thursday, which is disappointing because it’s a lovely run. It may also however mean that I may actually get to the swimming pool over the road as I’ve been threatening – in that vast space in my head where my good intentions are – to do for weeks.


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