I’ll come clean, jogging has been in my regime since I started moving about more so I’ve built up my top distance to about 7 km. That is until last Sunday when I decided to run about twice that. It wasn't planned, it just happened.
The day before I’d done a bit on the bike so even though I didn’t feel tired I was in two minds whether to do even the long run so I proceeded cautiously for the first five minutes wondering whether I was up to the long distance and after much inner arguing I settled on the 7 k (and only one scrambled egg with no sausage for breakfast). At one point the option of an even shorter run was vying for attention but that would have meant only one square of chocolate come elevenses so that was never going to win.
After a little stop for a bit of a stretch I continued still at the pace of 'jog'. My legs, I discovered, were a bit heavy from cycling but nothing my growing fitness couldn’t handle. In fact I settled into a nice rhythm, a waltz, and encouraged my mind to wander off elsewhere.
There were loads of joggers en route. It’s central London so, unless exceptional circumstances arise (like you forget where you are) you don’t flounce along waving and saying hello to everyone like you do cycling in the lanes. When I first started trudging (the step before jogging) I’d be continually passed by loads of fellow fat fighters and sometimes, against my better judgement, I would automatically follow a steady wheel. It is an old habit of a cyclist, an affliction even, that if training seriously is fundamentally lazy (the secret on a bike is to not make any noise so no gear changing or heavy breathing. You can sit in for hours like this). The difference with sitting in on a jog is that the rewards of slipstreaming aren’t that great unless it’s blowing a gale. It just forces you to go faster which is just really hard.
Then I heard the cacophony of a knitting circle approaching from behind. This could mean one of two things, tourists are now hiring mobility scooters or I was being caught by a running group and was about to be overtaken like I was the slow one in a Red Arrows display team. I braced myself but nothing happened, then zip they came past. My mind did a quick (cycling afflicted) calculation which included a bargain; run along behind this lot for a while and you can have that extra scrambled egg. I was on the back like a shot.
After about half a kilometre I was still there and fairly comfortable. Four middle aged men absorbed in chit-chat about, I don't know what - recipes, hairstyles and shopping. I decided to stick it out and see how far I could get. One kilometre, two… three… still okay. My old cycling mentality kicked in completely; taking the shortest route around bollards and kerbs, looking for the best 'wheel'. They happily ran over cobbles, which I never do (due to my blisters) but I followed not daring to move from my pacers. Then they noticed me and, in the words of Master Chef's Greg Wallace, it got a whole lot harder.
I'd been on my limit for the last kilometre and now I had to find the energy to chit-chat! They were very good natured and I think they thought there was a chance I’d latched onto them with the hope of catching myself a middle aged bald man (bless ‘em) I didn’t have the heart to tell them I was actually there for a bit of extra scrambled egg.
After a couple more K's I realised this type of jogging wasn’t the sort I normally do because we were RUNNING. I said, ‘How far are you going?’ ‘Oh, probably as far as the Mall.’ That was it. I said my goodbyes and darted up some steps and over the nearest bridge. Actually I didn’t dart I trudged. Walked in fact, up a massive flight of steps and began my long trud- (the step before trudging) homeward bound.
This was not easy. My legs felt terrible, my breathing slightly out of control. I’d entered the danger zone and I was about as far from home dressed in jogging Lycra as I’d ever been. I'd forgotten my Visa card ready to purchase croissants, cappuccino, water. My mind started to wonder what might happen if I suddenly got the hunger knock, which as a cyclist used to affect me terribly (memories of longing for a whole box of French Fancies 30 K from home floated through my mind). I saw someone with a McDonalds bag - which IS next to the word disgusting in my dictionary – but I wondered if asking for a bite would be wrong, or could I leave my name an address in a café so I could settle the bill at a later date?
I found myself crossing another bridge and passed a squashed cup on the floor with the word TREAT printed on it. I passed a triangular road sign on the bridge informing me that CHIPS were down. I looked up to see a tower with OXO emblazoned on it. I trudged on mumbling about food… and wondering what size my blisters were. I tried a bit of visualization but images of blisters the size of dinghy’s appeared, and quicksand with swimming floats tied to my feet. People coming toward me began to look alarmed my face was so red. Head down, I stared at my comfortable looking trainers knowing full well what was going on inside and wondered if permanent damage was being done…
***Three days later: Obviously I made it home. My feet are still in rehab and the rehydration process is ongoing. To gain benefits from hard training Shane Sutton uses the expression To Recruit, that is to rest up in order for the body to repair and improve. I reckon I’ll be recruiting for about a fortnight.