Wednesday, May 31, 2006


This post will ramble a bit. But it will get to running in the end.

In Scotland, a popular mountaineering endeavour is to climb all the Munros, peaks over 3000 feet in height. In Colorado, where they have younger, more thrusting mountains, there are the Fourteeners, mountains over 14000 feet. There are 54 of them, and when I was living in Colorado one summer long ago, I met someone who had climbed the lot.

One day he invited me to go and climb Longs Peak with him (14,255 feet). There's no great technical challenge to Longs Peak; it's basically just a very long steep walk with fantastic views. And not quite as much oxygen as you might be used to. Not to mention the over-friendly marmots. You start at around 9,000 feet, but it still takes all day, so getting an early start is essential. There's a book you sign into at the starting point, and we were there well before dawn, but even on a weekday there were fifty people on the mountain ahead of us.

In fact our expedition had been slightly delayed by a transatlantic misunderstanding. I was living in an apartment block in Boulder that summer, and I'd told my friend that the apartment was on the first floor, meaning one floor above ground level, as is the British usage. But in the US, the first floor is the one at ground level, and I was in fact on the second floor. So my friend had spent a while poking around at ground level in the pre-dawn darkness trying to find the right door.

So to avoid causing any misunderstanding to American readers, I should explain that when my wife and I were first married, some years after I climbed Longs Peak, we lived in an apartment which in British English was on the second floor, but in American English was on the third. There was no lift, and the stairs wound upwards, giving you a fine view over neighbouring bits of Cambridge.

Often when we arrived home at this apartment, we noticed a particular phenomenon, which we christened the getting-out-of-the-car-monster. We would get home with a carload of shopping, turn off the engine, and...just sit there for a bit, perhaps talking, perhaps just enjoying the peace and quiet. There was a definite reluctance to actually get out of the car and face the prospect of heaving our bags of shopping all the way up the stairs. We attributed this to the getting-out-of-the-car-monster, which had noticed our arrival, and even now was lurking behind a nearby bush, ready to attack as soon as we foolishly opened the car doors. So we had better just sit there comfortably for a while until he got bored and went away. Eventually, of course, we would muster the energy to get out of the car, grab the shopping, and trudge over to the building entrance and up all those stairs.

A few years after that, we moved to our present house, where we can park just outside the front door, and the getting-out-of-the-car-monster disappeared from our lives.

Runners, however...well, some runners, anyway...well, runners like myself, at least, have a similar challenge to face on early morning runs: the getting-out-of-the-house monster. There he is, lurking just outside, waiting for any unsuspecting runner who ventures out at such a ridiculous hour. Much better to stay indoors. Preferably in bed.

There are various ways of dealing with the getting-out-of-the-house monster. The two I'm currently using are, firstly having a morning routine which involves getting up at the same time whether or not I'm going running, and secondly, sleeping in my running gear. And it's working reasonably well so far. Of course, I have extra motivation to get up early on non-running days, because it's a vital opportunity to deal with certain dull but necessary domestic tasks while the children are still asleep. And on running days, it definitely helps to get in the mood if I wake up already wearing my running gear. Though not the shoes, obviously. My wife would probably object to that.

So if you're planning to go running first thing in the morning, be aware of the getting-out-of-the-house-monster, and develop strategies to deal with him. Because once you actually get out there, and are striding along breathing in lungfuls of the invigorating (and, today, surprisingly chilly) morning air, then the getting-out-of-the-house-monster will vanish away like the phantasm that he is.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Of course being a bank holiday it's now tipping it down. And to reinforce the British public holiday stereotype, I have some shelves to put up.


Running on a sunny spring morning is just fantastically gorgeous. The warmth of the sunshine, the birds singing, the little white puffy clouds floating along - and a minute's break from running every 90 seconds. Hello trees, hello sky. It's great to be alive.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Easy like Sunday morning

A gentle but very pleasant run/walk this morning, round the slightly longer loop. I felt as if I could have gone on for some time, though a minute running then a minute walking isn't too challenging. Sunday morning is definitely a good time to go out. I'll increase the running interval by half a minute a week until I get to run 4/walk 1, then by a minute a week until I get to 10/1. And I'll gently increase the overall distance, too - no more than 10% a week is a popular rule of thumb.

One thing that slightly concerns me is that my standard route is on surfaces that all slope gently down to the left, which is probably doing something funny to my running form. Perhaps I should cross over to the other side of the road to spend a bit of time running on a surface that slopes the other way, or perhaps I should just run down the flat middle of the road, if there's not too much traffic about. Hmm.

Friday, May 26, 2006


I don't open the curtains upstairs when I get up to go running, so as not to disturb my snoozing family, and the bathroom window is frosted, so it wasn't until I came downstairs this morning, already in my running gear, that I noticed that it was raining.

I uttered a word with a distinguished Anglo-Saxon heritage which I won't repeat here.

I peered out the front door. It wasn't tremendously heavy rain, but it was certainly more determined than drizzle. Well, I decided, I could be more determined than drizzle, too. So I headed out. It was surprisingly pleasant, and not at all cold, though I did manage to tread in a cunningly concealed puddle in Gilbert Road. With both feet.

The forecast for Saturday isn't great, either, which is a pity, as I'd planned to spend the afternoon relaxing on Jesus Green at the beer festival with the children playing happily on the bouncy castle. Standing huddled in a muddy marquee watching the rain come down probably won't be their idea of fun.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Oooh, a bit stiff this morning. So I'll give it a rest until tomorrow. There's a lot of good stuff about beginning running on the Serpentine Running Club's site, and in particular this programme for beginners which is based on listening to your body - deciding each day's activity on whether you feel tired from the day before. I don't feel exactly tired, but definitely a bit stiff. So I'll leave going out again until tomorrow morning.

A key feature of my new running schedule is that it involves getting up at the same time whether or not I'm going running. If I can stick to it, this means that the choice isn't "Should I stay in this nice warm bed for half an hour or should I drag myself out onto the cold, damp streets of Cambridge?", but rather "Should I go for a nice invigorating run, or should I do the ironing?" We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Back on the road

I've decided to start running again. I made this decision yesterday evening, during a game of tag in the back garden with the children. Although I could still comfortably out-pace the one-year-old, I was having a harder time keeping ahead of the four-year-old. And things were, well, wobbling rather a lot.

So it was up at the crack of 6:45 this morning to return to my old plodding ground, the short loop around the nearby streets. I took it gently, stretching before and after, walking for a bit to warm up, and trundling gently along with run 1/walk 1 intervals. I haven't retained a great deal of residual fitness from last year's running; I was going about as fast I did after my first week of running. But I suppose that's only to be expected.

It's always a good idea to write your goals down, so here are mine:
  • Short term: Go running at least three times a week throughout June. Actually I'm hoping for four times a week, including one longer run at weekends.
  • Medium term: Run the short loop (2.36k) without stopping. As before I'll extend the intervals gradually until I get there.
  • Long term: Run 10k without stopping. And I'm going to do this before I even think about running in a 10k race.