This time, I hope not.
The simple truth is that running has become an increasingly painful thing to do.
The deeper truth is that NOT running is equally an increasingly painful thing to do.
I'm getting older.
The arthritis that found it's way into my knee when I had it operated on at 19 years old has surely spread by now. There are aches and pains within me that suggest it.
There is a painful spot at the top of my hamstring that niggles at me constantly. It started after a particularly brutal long fell race, but the more I think about it the more I blame it on another car crash in which I was a passenger, for that is exactly where the handbrake was sticking into me after we'd broken through the hedge and plunged down into the field.
Starting running back in 2007, at the age of 35 brought equal measures with it of difficulties and rewards:
My knee, which had become so painful by then it kept me and my now ex-wife awake all night when there was any sign of rain, actually got better! I lost weight. I gained confidence. I had an antidote to depression more effective than anything I'd had prescribed.
But with it came other injuries too. Achilles, right knee when I fell off Yorkshire, and it is these sites of other injuries that stiffen up a little more with every passing year.
I'm not ready to give up on running though. Mentally there is unfinished business, not necessarily with anything specific, I am realistic enough to know that goals I once had that seemed ridiculous become more distant, more unachievable with the passage of time.
The Paddy Buckley round can still be done, but I can take it at a leisurely pace, and enjoy 2 or 3 days out in the mountains of Snowdonia - I don't need to run it within the 24 hours to know that I did the round, just need to do the round.
Last year, I put a good effort into training for the Snowdonia marathon, my unfinished business with that race was that I've never actually stood on that start line feeling like I'm fit enough to give it a good go. I still managed to overdo it at the last and ruin the race for myself once more.
Since then, it has been false start after false start when it comes to getting going again with my running. Without the joys of fell races to go to, and for a chunk of time not even being allowed to access my "go to" Clwydian hills, motivation has been hard to come by.
I always rest off after Snowdonia anyway, kick on again in the new year. 2020 has brought no signs of kicking on.
It would be wrong if I didn't acknowledge at this point that the difficulties and changes that have come along with COVID haven't played a part, they have.
It would also be wrong not to acknowledge that being moved over onto shifts, taking on parts of the vacant managerial role, without reward, have stretched my working day to a point where work / life balance was too heavy on the work side of the scale. At least with the appointment of a manager now (whether I agree with the choice of person or not) I can address the work / life balance issue and let that person do their job.
Running in 2020 has so far looked like this:
January; 1 run, 5 miles
February and March, with a marathon in our sights that would be cancelled due to COVID, were ok.
April; 4 runs
May; 1 run, 4 miles
June & July; 4 runs each
August; 1 run, 6 miles
September; tried running every other day and got 6 runs done at the start of the month.
I have faltered, and I have faltered, and I have faltered.
But something happened yesterday!
I've made a plan - I've approached it in a more leisurely, Taurean kind of way, wrote it up before what would have been Marathon Eryri 2020, given myself time to absorb it, to consider if it's what I really want.
The goal is the Shropshire Way "Mammothon", the one that had been cancelled in April 2020, now set for April 2021.
I started on a Monday, as every plan I've ever made does. Kept my commitments to it through the week, swapping Tuesday's yoga for an alternative form of relaxation, and Thursday's short run for a lower impact workout on the bike.
Then yesterday, in the unpleasantness of the autumnal winds and persistent rain of the morning, out I went for a planned 8 mile run / walk (it is a trail marathon the Shropshire Way - one should always train the body for what it will be doing on the day).
Little choice about where to go. I looped around the smaller of the two "lakes" on The Moss, low loop, high loop, looped around the longer loop further on, then headed for the woodland path beside the golf course. Followed it until I emerged out onto the road. Ran a little on the road until the first path on my left. Slipped and slided up the wet muddy bank out into the fields at the top, then back into the woodland once again to finally finish running under the tree cover in The Moss, on the old Gatewen railway line. 10k of running done. Walked it home from there.
Arrived back at the house feeling something I haven't felt in at least 3 years, maybe more - it was a training run that finished on the endorphin buzz of that mystical "runner's high".
I hope to feel it again.
I hope this isn't just another one of those false starts.
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