Saturday, 10 December 2011

A moonlit, December run

168 days until the Edinburgh marathon.


Last night my wife had plans to go out with some of the other local mums, and so, if I was to run, I needed to do it as soon as I got home from work.

It was cold, - 2 C (29 degrees F), and when I arrived home I didn't feel motivated to go out. Yet, I'd read a bit about Emil Zatopek in Why We Run by Robin Harvie, and this was inspiration enough to get me out of the door. Zatopek would run dozens of 400s on the track near his home, and his motivation was to do more than others were willing to do. For him, running fast was a matter of training the will. For me, getting out on a cold night was a step in this direction.

I donned my headband, a long-sleeve shirt and a short-sleeve shirt, gloves, running trousers, wool sox, and my running shoes. I carried a small Cateye bicycle light.

As soon as I stepped out into the night, I was glad I'd done so. I jogged through a nearby neigbourhood, picking my way carefully around icy bits of the road or sidewalk. My finger tips were a little numb, but my torso warmed quickly.

I followed the path around the loch in the center of our town. The trees on the side of the path were barren, and the moon was bright, so I didn't need my torch (flashlight) to see my way. Across the loch the ruins of a palace were visible, illuminated by the moon. The path was frozen, and occasionally crunched underfoot.

After the loch, I followed a road around some farms, and then looped back through town to my home.


I'd meant for this blog to finish with the Boston marathon, and indeed, I haven't updated it since the race this spring.

But I want to restart it now. I want to go back to Boston. Posting about my runs, somehow, allows me to hold on the these experiences a little longer.

Now, to be honest, I think it will be a challenge to meet the new qualifying time for Boston. I have to do a sub 3:25 marathon to qualify. My best time was a 3:29:46 at Loch Ness last year - and I felt like I left everything on the road there. So, I need to run 5 minutes faster than that. I will try to do this in the Edinburgh marathon this spring.

Hmmm... wonder if I can go out with 7:40 miles, and hang on for as long as possible.


Last week we had a terrrific windstorm here in Scotland, and it overturned the table on our deck. This morning, there was a inch or so of snow covereing everything. During the night, a cat must have checked out the disorder.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Picking them up and laying them down

The second wave of runners in the Boston marathon started slowly. The crowd was thick, and only a slow jog was possible as we crossed the start line. There was an ocean of bobbing heads on the road ahead.

I wore a synthetic t-shirt, running shorts, sox and shoes. The sun was bright, and as I ran along the right side of the road, I looked for a discarded cap that I might pick up to wear. It had been chilly at the runner's village, with a stiff breeze. On the road the wind was behind us, and the sun felt warm.

Mile 1 felt slow, and came in at 7:55.

I'd shared a seat on the school bus ride out to Hopkington with an E.R. doctor from Buffalo named Gregg. Like me, he had small children, and we talked about life in the midwest and running. He warned me to stay out of the sun at the athletes village, and recommended going easy on the first downhill miles of the race.

It was like this the whole weekend. I kept striking up conversation with cool, interesting people at every turn. It was like being on the Appalachian Trail with thru-hikers. Everyone was engaging in their passion, and as this was shared, there was an ease in chatting with strangers. Where are you from? What are you looking to do today?

Mile 2 was 7:30. Many people had discarded gloves and hats along the side of the road. I hadn't found a cap yet. The crowd was still dense, but the corral staging seemed reasonable - we were all running a similar pace.

3 was 7:45. The route passed in front of people's houses, and I slapped hands with children who were watching the race.

Mile 4 was 7:51. I was hot already.

5 was 7:47. I carried my usual fuel: small doughnuts and a brownie in a plastic bag. My forehead was sweaty. At a water stop I took water and ate a doughnut.

6,7, and 8 were 7:47, 7:45, and 7:55, respectively.

I didn't feel bad, but the running didn't feel effortless either. Had I done too much sight-seeing the day before? My legs felt a little tired.

Mile 9 was 8:10, but this included a pee break.

10 was 7:35. I took on more water, and had a bit of my brownie. I was back on pace, and in double digits.

11 was 7:53.

12 was slightly downhill in the approach to Wellesley. I saw a tall guy trip and fall here, though he was up and running again rapidly.

In mile 13 I could here the women of Wellesly college screaming their support to the runners. I'd read about the tradition of these women kissing runners, and now I saw that many students had signs indicating why you should kiss them: "Kiss me if you are from NYC"; "Kiss me if you are from Utah".

I was content to just slap hands.

But then I saw an unusual one: "Kiss me, I'm a neuroscientist".

I teach neuroscience. So I stopped and kissed a Wellesly neuroscientist wearing a green sweater.

Mile 13 was 7:40. I passed the half-marathon point in Wellesly at 1:42.

Now I was starting to tire a bit. My right achilles was tight, and my left quadricep felt sore.

15 was 7:56.

16, with the downhill to route 128, was 7:33.

17, with the first of the Newton hills, was tough. I was starting to suffer. My achilles and left leg were sore, and I was taking water now frequently. This mile came in at 8:19.

Mile 18 was 8:28. My pace had slipped, but this was a hilly mile.

19 was 8:08.

20 was 8:39.

21, with Heartbreak Hill, came in at 9:40. Now I was moving into survival mode. My legs felt spent. I started to think about just gettng to the next mile marker. The crowds were frenetic. I'd never run is such an atmosphere before.

22 was 9:31. Now on Beacon Street, I was entering a private world of exhaustion. I took water or Gatorade at every stop, and had to stop myself from downing the entire cup. I'd read somewhere a quote from an ultra-marathoner - Ann Trayson? - who said that it hurts up to a point, and then doesn't get any worse. I kept that in mind, but it seemed to be getting worse.

23 was 10:12. Yesterday I'd walked through Coolidge Corner, and now all I could do was shuffle through.

Mile 24 was 10:50. Many people were passing me. I had nothing left in my legs. If it had been an emergency, I probably could have sprinted another 100 meters, but that was all that was left.

I switched to run-walk. I'd run for a minute, then walk for 30 seconds. Now, my goal was to get to the finish line with the little bit of energy I had left.

This worked well for a bit. The walk breaks strengthend my run periods, and I'd catch the same people who'd run past me on the walk segments.

The small rise in the road over the highway caused my left calf suddenly felt like it had been put in a vice. I couldn't run. People shouted at me to keep going, but I could only hobble. Mile 25 took me 14:38.

My mother and sister were waiting for me at Kenmore Square. I started running again, and my sister snapped a photo.

I started running as the route headed towards Boylston Streeet. I was near a guy dressed as a cave-man, running barefoot. I saw the finish line and tried to run hard, but cramped again for a bit. This eased, and then I ran across the finish line, with the last 1.2 mile segment taking me 11:44.

I finished in 3:44:39.


I'd started this blog two years ago as a way of documenting my attempts to qualify for and run the Boston marathon. I tried to qualify at the Edinburgh marathon, but failed. Later that same year, I was able to run a qualifying time at the Loch Ness marathon.

To finish this blog, I was hoping to describe was how, at Boston, I'd picked up the miles and layed them down.

But the race didn't go that way.

Still, I was there, and it was terrific.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


5 days until the Boston marathon.


The past 24 hours have been stressful. My father remains in the hospital, and his condition yesterday was extremely worrisome. I will be visiting next weekend, on a previously planned trip, but I have been torn whether I should leave as soon as possible.

For the moment I will stick with my original plan, and hope that things are ok.


For the past few days I have been with my wife and children up in the Scottish highlands. The children are on their Easter break, and we rented a small cottage for the week.

There are trails just outside the cottage that wind through forests of Scots pine. These are great for running, and I had the chance to get in a few not-too-long runs.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A run in the woods

13 days until the Boston marathon.


I'm tapering, I guess.

This past weekend I ran about 13 or so miles on a trail near my house. The trail is about 10 miles long in total; I just ran 6-7 miles and then headed back.

I ran to a place called "Wallace's Cave" (the dark bit on the right side of the photo). Apparently, William Wallace (Braveheart) hid there once. It's a small cave, but an interesting rock formation.

Encouragingly, I felt good on the run. After feeling slightly tired on my runs all week, I somehow had some bounce in my legs. Perhaps I do have some fitness.

Does everyone feel uneasy about tapering? OK, I buy that you don't want to arrive at the starting line tired. But it's hard to pull back. Nonetheless, I've been trying. I'm doing a moderate taper. With some hills.


My father's condition has stabilised for the time being, which is encouraging. There were a few moments of real anxiety this past weekend, but it seems like he is pulling through.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Nature's first green is gold...

16 days until the Boston marathon.


This will be a somewhat personal post, so if you aren't really interested in that type of stuff, please feel free to stop reading.

The marathon is just over two weeks away, and I have my number.

My excitement has been muted, however, by concern for my father.

He's 72, and his health has been declining in the past few years. Recently, because of his many problems, he's had difficulty walking, and as of two weeks ago he has obtained a wheelchair. There's been some discussion of him having to move to a nursing home.

But he's continuing to have other problems. Last week there was some problem with his feet. Yesterday he was taken to the hospital because he was weak and nauseous. He's back home, I think, but I don't have any details.

So I've had some background anxiety. When I get to work and check my e-mail, I half-expect some additional worrisome news from my family.


Last weekend I did my last really long run - 22 miles. Most of this was along a canal that runs through our town all the way to Old City. It was slightly breezy, but the daffodils were out. Spring seems to be coming as slowly as possible this year.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Half-marathons are hard!

29 days until the Boston marathon.


The gun went and the crowd surged forward.

I was towards the front of the 901 runners in the Alloa Half Marathon. It was overcast, drizzling lightly, and cool. Perfect for running. I wore a short-sleeve synthetic shirt, running shorts, socks and the newish running shoes that I'll wear in Boston. The timing chip was strapped to my left leg, just above my ankle-length sock.

I crossed the start line and started the chronometer on my watch.

I ran with the crowd, and consciously took the first mile easy. 7:06. This was a touch too easy maybe; to break 1:30, my goal, I needed to run 6:52 miles. On the other hand, it was useful to go out easy and have some gas in the tank for the later miles.

I tried to pick up the pace slightly in mile 2, and it came in at 7:02.

In mile 3 I picked out a runner who had passed me, and tried to stay with him. He was wearing black shorts and a black shirt and was older, or maybe my age. His calf muscles were thinner than you usually see in a distance runner. He was running a good pace though.

Mile 3 had a bit of uphill, and came in 7:17. I was certainly off pace, and was beginning to think it might not be my day.

In mile 4 I felt like I was picking up the pace. It too had some uphill, but also some downhill. The guy in black was pulling away. I was disappointed to see it come in at 7:18. Was I really that far off pace? It felt like I was running hard, but the clock was telling a different story.

Mile 5 contained a steady downhill. I strided out a bit, and felt that I was running as fast as I dared this early in the race. It came in at 6:27. All was forgiven - I'd cancelled out one of those previous slow miles.

The course descended into a village at the base of a local range of hills. The guy in black seemed to be slowing a bit, and as the route turned to follow a different road, I caught him.

The route was mostly flat for the next four miles, with only an occasional rise or dip. Mile 6 was 6:50.

I started picking people off. I fixate on the person in front of me, close the gap, and then pass. It was a gradual process. 7 came in at 6:58.

Mile 8 contained a short out-and-back on an adjacent road to make the correct distance. I knew this was coming from last year and sped up a bit. 8 must have had a gradual downhill as it came in at 6:16.

Mile 9 had the steepest climb of the race as the route turned back towards Alloa. I was passed by one or two people on the hill, and the mile came in at 7:07.

The 10th mile leveled out a bit, and I caught the guys who'd passed me. It came in at 6:53.

In mile 11 I caught a young guy who looked like a footballer. Now I was running hard. We passed the mile marker together, and I remarked that there were just two to go now. He grunted his assent. The mile came in at 6:49.

The route was now level, or slightly downhill. I passed one or two people, and was now occasionally passed by runner who were opening it up here towards the end. The pace was appreciably quick now. 12 came in at 6:43.

The last full mile. I was tiring now, but able to hold my pace. When I'd first done this race two years ago I'd suffered at this point with iliotibial band pain and fatigue. I'd thought then that I was so happy not be thinking about a full marathon.

This year I was in the midst of marathon training. 13 came in at 6:51. I still couldn't see the turn towards the finish line, but shortly after the mile marker I started to kick. I passed a few runners, and made the final turn towards the end. There was a guy in front of me, and I got close, but didn't pass him.


I'd finished in 1:30:49, 163rd out of 901 runners. I'd failed to break 1:30. Worse, I don't think I could have run any harder - I was at or near my capacity for this route.

But I'm 45 years old. This was a personal best time for the half-marathon, which, admittedly, I'd only started doing two years ago. I can't be too disappointed.


Hmmm.... wonder if I could break 1:30 on a flatter course.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

It's not long now...

37 days until the Boston marathon.


Somehow, the marathon is almost here.

Reluctlantly, I'm forced to concede that the bulk of my training is done.

I'm going to try for another 20 miler this weekend, and then I'm doing a half-marathon race next weekend, then a 20 miler the weekend after this, and then tapering. So, really, just two more proper long runs for this training cycle.

As usual, I don't feel particularly ready, but when I think about it I have done a lot of running. Listening to various running podcasts on my way to and from work, and particularly Marathon Talk, has made me feel that others do much more mileage. I wonder though, if running time, rather than mileage, might be a more appropriate comparison. My suspicion is that it may be easier to book higher mileages if your baseline pace is fast.

For me, it has been challeng to get out as much as I do now, with work, and my children. I had a good 20-miler last weekend, so if I can book one or two more of these, I'll be more confident.

My goal for Boston is to enjoy it. (OK, I'd like to run a good race, and break my marathon personal best as well.)


This morning we woke to snow, and a few inches have accumulated since that time. The snow is wet, and walking across our deck I left slushy footprints.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Racing in the street

47 days until the Boston marathon.


I'm part of an informal running club in my town. We run on Tuesday evenings, doing a 6-mile loop through town, and on Sunday mornings, doing a loop through a nearby woodland park.

The Tuesday runs are faster than the Sunday runs. Often, one or another runner will be feeling good, and will start to push the pace a bit midway through the run. On other occasions, it will be pretty fast from the start.

This past Tuesday the pace at the start was reasonable. I chatted with one or the other runners, and at about the midway point one runner, G., started pulling away. G. is older than me, but we run at about the same level.

I was feeling good, and wanted to keep him in sight.

He slowed a bit at the top of a hill, and another runner and I caught up with him. We ran together for a bit, and then the other runner pulled off to head home. G. picked up the pace and began pulling away again.

Another runner, A., caught up with me and we chatted. G. had now opened up a sizeable gap, and I started to pick up my pace.

A. is the fastest runner in the club, and likes to compete. There was little over a mile left of our loop, and to catch G. we had to start making up some ground.

We worked together. He'd set a fast pace for a bit, and then I'd surge ahead with a fast stretch. We began to close the gap.

We crossed a street, and G. looked back and saw us. He sped up.

It was cold out, but I was sweating hard. We had less than a half-mile to go, and we were running all out. G. was going hard; A. was on his tail, but couldn't catch him, and I was running fast, but couldn't stay with A.

G. finished first, A., second, and I came in, breathing hard, just after. On A.'s watch, we'd run the last mile in under 6 minutes. We shook hands.


The sun is now gaining some strength, and the weekend before last we visited the castle ruins in our town. My son and daughter enjoyed running through the various passageways, and sun made the stone walls seem warm. My son couldn't resist peering over the walls at the rooms below.

Friday, 18 February 2011

A run along the coast

59 days until the Boston Marathon.


My alarm went off at 6. Reluctlantly, I got out of bed, gathered my running clothes, and took them to the sitting room to dress. We were staying in a small chalet, and I didn't want to wake my wife by dressing in the bedroom.

The chalet was cold as we had turned down the heat for the night. It was near the coast of Scotland, and we'd travelled there for a long weekend during the children's half-term holiday. (Half-term is a week off from school, for no apparent reason, half-way through the school term. I don't remember such breaks when I was a child; I suppose it's a British tradition.)

I made a cup of coffee, and ate a cinnamon whirl that was left in the kitchen. The children started stirring a bit, perhaps excited by waking somewhere new, and I told them it was too early to get up. They agreed, and closed their shared bedroom door, but I could their quiet conversation continuing.


It was dark outside, and cold. It had rained the night before, but this had cleared, and now the road was icy in places. I had gloves on, but my fingertips were cold.

The road was a single lane farm track. I chose to stay on this, rather than head onto busier roads, as I was unlikely to encounter any traffic. I left a bottle of diluted juice and a snack bar behind a sign near the side of the road. My plan was to run to the end of the track - about four miles - and then back, and then do it all again.

What does one think about on a long run? Initially, I thought about how unnatural it was to be up and running in the dark. It was almost if you are running in secret. I then thought about how, as I age - I'm nearly 45 now - my preferences have insensibly become more domestic, maybe more staid. For example, air travel used to be wholly exciting for me, and it still is to an extent. But now it's tinged with a dread of jet-lag and the fatigue of travel.

The road led through pastures and bits of wood, with only the occasional house. Suddenly, at a curve in the road, I could smell the sea. It was dark out still, but there was a light from a small boat in the bay. A low cloud hung over open water at the end of the bay.

Up ahead was a light near the shore. As I approached, I could see that it was a red telephone booth, with a light on inside. Next to it were lobster traps and buoys. One could leave the phone booth and in five strides be on the water's edge.

The road narrowed, and ended in a fenced driveway. I turned, and headed back the other way as it started to get light.


Later, after the run and breakfast, we took the children to a sea-life center. It had a trail next to the shore, and I took a picture of a fishing boat anchored a short distance away.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The dark days are ending

67 days until the Boston marathon. Oh my.


Scotland is unexpectedly north. I mean, if you were to draw a horizontal circle around the globe from where I live, you'd hit Hudson Bay and southern Alaska.

As a consequence, although we don't get unduly cold winters (because of the Gulf stream), we do get the short days, long nights, and the low sun associated with northern latitudes.

December is fine. You get to the shortest day before you know it, perhaps because of the pre-holiday build-up. A tradition here that I've particularly enjoyed is the boozy Christmas party at work.

But then comes January. It's dark. It's usually rainy. And even when the sun is up, it's so low in the sky that it gives little warmth or brightness.


I went for run at lunch-time today, as it was my only chance for the day.

I jogged from the building where I work, across a few blocks, and headed into the park in the center of Old City.

For the first time in awhile, the sun was out, and the light felt warm on my face. I seemed to hear birds for the first time this winter. It wasn't spring, but there was a noticeable difference in the air. As I ran around the park, I took off my head-band and gloves because I was warm.

As I rounded one turn in the park, I startled some sea gulls who had been resting in a pond there. They took flight. The light was good, and a bit of sea was visible in the distance, so I stopped and took a photo.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Running in the rain

73 days until the Boston marathon.


I've had a tired, rainy week of running. Last Sunday night I did a 16.2 mile long run. It was made up of three of my 5.4 mile town loops. I felt good - even strong - on the second loop. I listened to The Extra Mile and Pheddipidations podcasts while I trotted away. On the final lap, however, my pace slowed dramatically in the last two miles. I wasn't at the wall, but it was a tired finish.

Monday was my scheduled day off.

Tuesday was my regular full-court basketball game with friends from work. There were only six of us, so there was a fair bit of running in the hour and a half we played. I count this as cross training.

Wednesday I did an 8-mile run on The Road - a long hilly road behind my workplace - with my Work Friend. It was raining and dark, and on the four-mile outbound segment, my legs were tired. On the way back, we faced a stiff wind. My nylon running trousers were soaked and stuck to my cold legs. My fingertips were numb. There was nothing to do but to keep moving. Afterwards, we enjoyed a welcome pint in the pub.

On Thursday the rain was coupled with gale-force winds. My active pair of running shoes were still wet from the day before, so I put on an older pair. I was intitially thinking an easy-paced town loop, but was slightly worried about falling branches near the loch. Instead I did four miles through some of the neighbourhoods in town.

Today, Friday, my wife was leaving for a work trip in the evening, so I had to run at lunchtime. There's a track near where I work, and I did a warmup mile, and then 7 Yassos (800 meters hard, with a 400 meter recovery). There was a driving rain, and for half of each lap around the track I headed into the wind. My clothes were wet, and I felt tired. Near the end of these intervals, however, I did start to feel a little stronger.

So, I've been getting my runs in, but they haven't felt easy.


Tonight, I'm going to relax with my current book, Life of Pi, and a beer.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

A short race and then a long run

82 days until the Boston marathon.


This past weekend I ran the Devil's Burdens relay race. I ran with friends from my local running club, and I did the first leg. In this leg, two runners were required from each team, and I ran with M. from the club.

There were two starts for the race. The 9:30 start was for the slower teams, and the 10:30 start was for the others. Because we were unsure where we'd finish, and in part because I had to get home for child-care, we opted for the early start.

We lined up towards the front of the 39 pairs of runners, and with the horn we were off.

We made our way through the historic village of Falkland, and headed up through the woods to East Lomond, the hill above the village.

The pace wasn't too hard, and I found myself near the front with another woman. Shortly after, a guy from a nearby hill run club passed, and I ran with him for a bit. I didn't know the route, although I carried a map, and was happy to follow someone who had done the route previously, as this guy had done. M. was just behind us.

We emerged from the woods and headed up the steep, grassy slope of the hill. It was too steep to run. I was breathing hard, but felt good.

At the summit there was a checkpoint where we had to make a hole punch in our checkpoint list. From the summit there were terrific views of the surrounding countryside (photo: copyright Scottish Hill Runners).

M. and I descended quickly. Although we were second to the summit, we somehow were the first team down, and had to navigate on our own. M. was familiar with the area from previous cross-country races, and led us in the correct direction. Occasionally, when pausing to look at our map, one or two teams would catch up to us. This proved useful, as we were able to confirm our route.

The first leg wasn't too long - 4.4 miles - and as it neared the end, we pushed to finish first, and were able to do so.


The next day, Sunday, I had to get in a long run.

I'd done 10.8 miles for my long run the weekend before, although my schedule called for a 15-miler.

The week before this, my schedule had called for a 13 mile run, and, tired, I'd only done 3.

So, I'd been short-changing my long-runs, and it was time to address this.


My first lap around town - 5.4 miles - went fine. It was around 5 p.m., my children were having their dinner, and my wife knew I'd be out for a while.

On my second lap through town, I started to feel the fatigue from the race the day before. After finishing our leg, M. and I had run most of the route back to my car, so it ended up being about 8 miles all told.

I'd borrowed my daughter's ipod shuffle, and listened to podcasts: American Public Radio's Marketplace, and Steve Runner's Intervals and Pheddipidations. It was now dark out.

I wanted to get my distance in, but I was tired. I switched to a 8 min run, 30 sec walk schedule. This got me through the second lap around town, and the third.

Tired, but not exhausted, I finished my longest training run so far in this cycle: 16.2 miles in 2:24.

I still have a lot of work to do before I'm ready for Boston.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

A moonlit morning run

88 days until the Boston marathon.


My watch alarm went off at 6:11 this morning. I'd set it to get up early for a run.

I'd run the night before, a 6-miler with some hills, and was feeling pleasantly tired in bed. My legs were stretched out, I was warm under my duvet; I didn't want to get out of bed, put on running clothes, and head outside again.

I turned over. Sometimes when I wake up early and don't need to get up I like to think about camping - resting in my warm sleeping bag, somewhere in the mountains, a day of walking ahead perhaps.

I turned over again. The marathon was now less than three months away. Every training day, now, counted. My only chance to run today was this morning because my wife was out tonight.

So, I either got up and went for a run or I didn't run today.

I got up.

I made a cup of instant coffee. My son, aged 5, wandered into the kitchen. I told him that it was too early to get up yet and I put him back to bed.


Outside it was cold and dark. I could see the frost on my wife's car. My legs were still tight from last night's run, and from basketball the day before. I had in mind an easy town loop (5.4 miles) just to stretch.

I wore my usual winter running clothes. Hat, gloves, long running trousers, a longsleeve shirt, a shortsleeve shirt on top, and a mesh visibility vest. There was frost on the road.

When I got to the loch, a mile into the run, the moon was full and bright. It was still dark outside, but the ruined palace on the other side of the loch was moonlit. There was no one out. The path alongside the loch was easily visible, and I didn't need my torch (flashlight).

My legs loosened and the running became easier. I made my way around the loch, and around the farm. Heading back into town, there were more cars now about. I made my way back, and arrived home 46 minutes after I'd started. I checked our thermometer, and it read -6 C (22 F).

Looking out the window of the house, the moon was low and still bright, so I stepped outside and took a quick photo.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Running at lunchtime

95 days until the Boston marathon. Oh man, that's just 3 months from now! This isn't that much time from a marathon-training perspective.


I went for a lunch-time run today, as it was my only chance to run.

I left the lab where I often work in Old City, and jogged to a park that is near its center. The park is features an extinct volcano, and shear rocky outcroppings, referred to as crags. These are visible from my office window, so I thought a run up to them would be fun.

I left my building, crossed a few streets, and heading into the park. I followed a trail and made my way to the base of the crags. One one side they are shear rock faces; on the other they are steep grassy slopes. I ran up the slopes, and gained a view of Old City.

I made my way along the crags, and then descended to the road that runs around the park. The road through the park was mostly closed to cars for about half of its length - so it was perfect for running.

I was warm and so removed my gloves and head band. It was one of the warmer days we've had in the past month and a half - probably near 40 F.

I ran around the park, and then headed back to work. I was only planning on running for 40 mins or so, but ended up taking 50.

Back at work I had a quick shower, and joined a meeting that I was planning on attending about 10 minutes late.

But I'd got my run in.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Training for a marathon in the winter

102 days until the Boston marathon.


I'm now in week 4 of my 18-week training program for the Boston marathon and, given that some of these weeks have included the holidays, things seem to be going well.

Last weekend my schedule called for my first 15-miler, and I achieved it - or something close - by adding extra miles to my Sunday morning run in the woods with my running friends. I felt good, and was tired at the end, but not exhausted. Altogether the run was about 2:40, but this included a lot of running through snow, stopping, and picking my way across ice patches.

The next day, Monday, I took my usual rest day. Tuesday I did 8 miles with a friend in a cold rain, and my legs were tired. Wednesday I did my town loop of 5.4 miles, and felt absolutely beat. There's still ice covering parts of the path where lots of people have walked and the snow has been compacted, so it requires a little care when trying to run it in the dark.

Tonight, Thursday night, I donned my winter running clothes while my children watched TV before supper. I wanted to get a short run in and be back to eat with them.

It was cold - -2C (28F) - and I wore two shirts, a reflective vest, two pairs of gloves, a hat, my running trousers, sox and shoes. I carried a small LED bike light.

I headed up the road and then up a bridle way nearby. On the bridle way I used my light to see the ground. It's a true bridle way - there's a farm with horses adjacent to it. Portions of this way had ice, but it was mostly clear. The ground was hard and frozen.

I turned off the bridle way onto an intersecting farm road. It was a clear winter's night, and the big dipper was visible to the north. There was just a sliver of a moon. My route had taken me up a hill, and the street lights from my town were visible below.

I headed to a bend in the road where there is a small cluster of houses and a farm. When I run past these I sometimes wonder what it must be like living out here, two miles or so from the village. Do the people who live out here feel isolated? More prosaically, as they are up on a hill, how is their water pressure?

I was warm, but had been out for 22 minutes, and so turned around and headed back. I arrived back at the house to find supper underway.


Last month, December, was the coldest month in Scotland for 63 years. The cold here is slightly different than what I've experienced in the midwest and northeastern U.S., in that there's a lot of humidity in the air. So, to me, the eqivalent temperature feels colder. Also, you get an accumulatation of frost on everything. This is particularly impressive when the trees are covered, as the one outside my office window was last month.