Springtime / Summertime

Over the past few years I’ve had a bit of a routine going; winter runner, summer cyclist. And it’s all worked out very well for me because, basically, I’m very shit at running in the heat. There’s no two ways about it. I’m very shit at most things in the heat if I’m being honest, except for drinking beer or lying in a pool of water (note: I mean a swimming pool, rather than a puddle formed from my own sweat). I’m just not built for anything else. The last summer I ran all the way through, back in 2011 training for my first ever marathon, felt like it nearly killed me and convinced me: never again. Much better to be whizzing along a country lane on a lovely roadbike eh? My stupid hair flapping in the warm breeze, maybe stop for a beer in a pub garden on the way home. Lovely jubbly.

Well not this year. Once again, thanks to thieving shitbags my feet are all I’ve got. And just to add to it all, this time around it’s happened to coincide with one of the warmest summers in my living memory.

What a funny old year eh. The coldest winter I’ve literally ever run through seemed to turn, almost instantly, into the hottest summer of all time, or at least that’s how it’s felt. There was no spring. No gradual increase allowing us to begin to acclimatise to it. I got to the start of April still running in hat, thick gloves and baselayer. A fortnight later and I ran (well, staggered) round the hottest London Marathon on record. Since then, give or take the odd couple of days or so, it’s been pretty much 25 degrees plus, day after day after day. And I’ve decided to keep on running right through the middle of it.

It’s been heavy going. I’ve definitely got a bit better at it, helped mainly by running shorter and slower, that and also pouring gallons of water over my fat head as often as I can anyway while trying to resist the temptation to jump into the River Mersey. Mainly though, I’ve just tried to limit the time spent out in the sun in a single occasion. Running more regularly, but not as far. A few short jogs home after work each week perhaps, a cheeky parkrun here and there. I think I’ve only had a single run with double figure mileage since the marathon and I felt a bit “odd” at half distance and thought it would be a good idea to have a nice little sit down in the shade before plodding the rest of the way home. I’ve since avoided those ones. The longer stuff can wait, all that marathon wankery is now behind me forever for a bit. It’s just nice to be out. Ish.

I did actually manage to squeeze a race in on one of the warmer days though (edit: who am I kidding ALL OF THE DAYS ARE THE WARMER DAYS). A lovely little race that popped up on my radar out of pretty much nowhere and with an entry chucked in just a few days before, the Liverpool Spring 10k was a second opportunity in 2018 to run a race with my wife on the streets of Liverpool. On our last occasion her ten-miler scooted round the very periphery of Sefton Park; here it would be one of the main attractions of the race, doubling back and forth round the lake and through the fields of daffodils. And thankfully, with the temperature nudging the mid-20s, underneath plenty of trees.

I’ll definitely do this race again. A slight incline in the first mile or so to get up to the parks (you briefly scoot through Princes Park as well in the early stages before heading across the road to its big sister) otherwise it’s pretty flat with nice scenery and few little pockets of enthusiastic supporters, particularly on the home straight heading towards the finish line. I came into the race not really knowing what to expect as I’d got a bit lazy with my training following the marathon, but started at a decent early pace and managed to hold it pretty much all the way round to hit my seventh sub-40 10k and complete a pretty successful, if sweaty, day at the office. I’d especially like to thank the bloke stood out on his own spraying people with a garden sprinkler at the 9km mark for getting me home under the magic limit.

My better half did brilliantly too, getting round in a PB yet again meaning she’d beaten her 10k time in every race so far since also becoming a running wanker, and even better here considering she’d never run in heat like that before (although it was good prep for her as she would end up running the Great Manchester Run a couple of weeks later in even warmer temperatures, in the middle of the afternoon and with barely any shade on the course). I got a good spot to cheer her onto the last couple of hundred yards which made me happy as ever and hopefully gave her a little boost to bring it all home, and then it was all over. A ludicrously bright T shirt, which I insisted on wearing all day and all evening out and about round Liverpool, along with a unique glittery little medal that stands up like trophy were the prizes, and all for the decent price of just over £20. It’s a race well worth doing I tells ya.

There’s not really been much else to report on since then. It’s been a difficult few weeks trying to keep things ticking over with no race in the diary, the weather severely hitting the motivation to go for a run when all you want to do is get a bag of cans and sit in the sun. But generally I feel pretty pleased with how things have gone, usually managing to get a slow run in on a weekend and at least one shorter, faster one in the week. I’ve discovered the difference a proper running vest makes rather than running in any one of my 25-year-old collection of football shirts, even if it does make me feel a bit of a prat, although you could argue that a Tottenham shirt produces a similar effect but I’ll leave you to decide that one.

And now, there are races on the horizon. Three in fact as I repeat the October Standalone / Manchester double again but before all that a new race for me as I head over to The Wirral have a little bash at their half marathon as a warmup for Manchester six weeks further down the line. As if any sort of warmup is needed when it’s been a million degrees since April but you know what I mean.

Essentially though, after a couple of years not really putting pressure on myself to hit any sort of time target in any of my races, a little tiny bit of me wants to have a go at seeing how close I can get to the magic 1:28:00 half I set in Liverpool over five years ago, and with Manchester being flat as a pancake – I actually ran my second fastest ever half there back in 2016 with very little training – it looks like as good a race as any to go for it. Or more than likely I’ll find out just how badly I’ve deteriorated with age now I’m officially classed as a veteran in most of the races I enter. We’ll see. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll have cooled down a teeny tiny bit by then.

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