RED FEB

After starting 2022 in my usual catastrophic fashion and flunking RED January at 9:20 on January 1st, I decided to try again with RED February. As February is a bit shorter than January I decided to start a bit early, on 22nd January, and therefore as of today I have run thirty days in a row.

Of course the downside to running every day is that I have no time to update my running blog, or for much else really. I find that normally my rest days aren’t deliberate rest days but days when I don’t have the time or energy to run, often because I’ve partaken in another physical hobby, either another sort of exercise like Les Mills or Zwift on the indoor contraption, or hunting for imaginary birds (be grateful I haven’t time to start a birdwatching blog…) and volunteering in the local cemetery (wrangling nettles and ivy to liberate Victorian gravestones.) Something has to give, and at the moment it seems to be my non-physical hobbies (writing, drawing and genealogy) and the biggest reason that I wouldn’t keep up an indefinite run streak is that I would like to have a bit of time back.

Anyway, the highlights of RED February so far have been:

A trip to Gunnersbury parkrun, which is one of my fast disappearing London To-Do List. I’m basically down to the ones that are miles away (which I will probably do some day) or that are grass (which I won’t). Gunnersbury is a bit of an oddity as it is a very grand and regal looking park with a museum and ornamental lake and some kind of ruined towers but has some of the worst kept tarmac paths I have ever set eyes on. They are full of pits, cracks and bumps and reminded me of news footage of earthquake stricken third world countries. I was so careful to watch my feet (I think I have a bit of PTSD from my faceplant at Beckenham) that I didn’t really take in much of the scenery and had to make Camilla walk around again with me after we finished. My time was 36:33, which I can’t really blame on the defective paths as my recent times at Harrow, Barking and Mile End have all been rubbish too, so I will blame it on “tired legs from RED” and “focusing on the half marathon” again.

The new course at the Olympic Park for Chase the Moon. I think I would have liked this, but the weather conditions made me not like anything and seriously regret leaving the house. I finished in 37:19 but I think I did an extra kilometre blowing randomly around in the park in the wind so it’s not really as bad as it looks.

Winter Run in central London. I must confess that I kind of cheated in this race. I didn’t want to cheat, I just didn’t want another late start because I had to visit my sick mother later on (violins pls), so I snuck under a barrier (after being turned away at the start like a naughty child) and started two waves early with the sub 1 hour people. I just about managed to not cause an obstruction by running the first 500 metres at an appropriate pace for this wave then nearly choked on my own lungs. I then slowed to a more realistic pace as the pack thinned. As it did, I realised my early start had actually given me an unfair advantage because I was running in very sparsely populated streets whereas if I had started in my “proper” slot I would be dodging run/walkers in tutus and large groups of people with rucksacks who looked like they were only doing the course because they’d taken a wrong turn on the way to the cinema and couldn’t get off. As it was I had a perfect run, gradually gathering pace as my legs loosened up and finishing with a final km of 6:28 and an overall time of 1:12:00 which is my fastest ever time in a central London road race by quite some day and over three minutes faster than I ran the same race in 2016, a week before I got my half marathon PB, when I was at the pinnacle of my fitness. This gave me a moment of belief that maybe this will be the year I get a new half marathon PB but I tried to quash those feelings because as we all know, the moment when you start to think things are going right is usually the moment a big tree falls over and lands on your head. Maybe not even metaphorically.

Speaking of my half marathon PB, the Brighton Half is in five days (and my half marathon PB will be six years old the very next day, unless….) My main cause of stress at the moment is not whether I can beat it but the fact that I don’t know whether I can beat it so I don’t know what pace I should aim for. It’s an episode of The Chase. Do I aim for the “safe” pace and just enjoy the run (of course I am not going to do this, I don’t know why I am even writing this), go for a post-leg PB of sub 2:45 (I think this is possible but not certain) or do I go for broke and risk burning out halfway and having to walk and have a miserable experience? I think my choice probably depends on mood, weather and how my feet feel at 8:59 on Sunday morning. And whether I can sneak into the sub 2:30 pen. Things were so much less complicated in 2016 when I didn’t really know anything about pacing or targets and just ran as fast as I can until I couldn’t, whilst wearing massive 80s earphones and a t-shirt. Looking back it seems terribly unfair that 2016 me did so well in the first place.

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