It’s nearly midnight on Saturday and I’m still awake (and unhappy about that fact). Rewind a year and I’d not only be happily awake at midnight on Saturday, but slinging back the champagne cocktails and probably dancing on tables. I definitely wouldn’t be standing in my kitchen, measuring out protein powder and sterilizing my Camelbak in preparation for a 9 mile run in, oh, seven hours time.
So 6.29 on Sunday morning, I’m wide awake just before the alarm goes off and out of bed like a shot. During the next half hour I move around the house like a stealthy tornado, tracking down all the parts of my kit that I forgot to lay out last night while trying not to wake up my family. I’m 99% ready by the time rundancerun and SuperSarah arrive to collect me for our Richmond Park adventure and keen to get going because I haven’t had a chance to think, much less worry, about how my calves will cope with our 9 miler.
The weather is surprising mild and I’m mildly disappointed, the girls have painted such vivid pictures of Richmond Park in the frost that I’ve been dreaming of running through a winter wonderland. Still, when we pile out of the car and start peeling off layers, I decide that I’ll take the mild weather and be glad of it. The others are in full length tights, and multiple layered tops, I’m still in Capris and microfiber t-shirt.
We get moving and I am immediately annoyed by the sloshing noises from my Camelbak and the heaviness of my Asics 2160s (feet are mostly recovered from the Barefoot 10km last week, but I didn’t want to cripple them by wearing the Vibrams too soon, or for too long a distance). I start fantasizing about buying Newtons and then realise how much I’ve changed already, because light and bouncy the Newton trainers may be, but stylish they are not.
We are running a different route to last time, and for the first mile I’m so busy admiring the view that I almost don’t notice the first of the Evil Inclines. Fortunately, my calves are more than happy to alert me to the fact that I’m running uphill and it hurts. The First Evil Incline continues for just over a mile and a half, its one of those strength-sappingly deceptive hills that don’t look very impressive but completely punish your legs, and I’m quite content to let the girls go a few feet ahead of me as I concentrate on just getting one foot in front of the other.
The distracting view
We reach the top of the hill just after the 3 mile mark, and I immediately feel a bit better because we’re going downhill and we’re a third of the way there. Of course that means we still have two thirds of the distance to go, but I try not to torture myself with negative thoughts. It starts raining, heavily, and I’m able to torture myself with thoughts of my brand new but uninsured iPhone becoming water-logged. At least it takes my mind off the miles to come.
We reach the end of the downhill section just as I finally manage close the 10ft gap between me and the others. I get a feeling of déjà vu, swiftly followed by a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach because we are coming up to the Second Evil Incline – Dark Hill. It has stopped raining now, which I feel is inappropriate – there should be thunder and lightening and perhaps some atmospheric howling of wolves in the distance to accompany the slog up Dark Hill. I decide to give my calves a short walking break and rundancerun immediately says “ok, walk to the bridge”, I quickly agree, happy that my laziness has been officially sanctioned, until she points out that the bridge is a mere 20 feet in front of me. Ugh! Nevertheless, I start running when we get there but can only make it 2/3rd of the way up before I wimp out and power walk the rest of the distance. I’ll get you next time, Dark Hill!
We are then treated to a lovely steep downhill section, I let gravity take over and enjoy the ride – smiling and nodding at passing runners while feeling particularly smug that I’m not struggling uphill with them. The trail then evens out and we continue at a good pace for another mile and a half, which gives us an excellent opportunity to discuss important issues such as “what kind of knickers are best for running” (my vote goes to La Senza Barely There Seamless Thongs) and catch up on juicy gossip.
We arrive back at the Roehampton Gate car park having only done 7 miles, and so head off down the road for another mile. I can’t describe how proud I am that we didn’t just decide to pack it in and go for a coffee and Danish pastry at this point. I scrutinise my shadow and try to improve my gait (where is a wiseguy shouting “Pick your knees up!” when I need one?), and blithely agree when SuperSarah tells me that we’ll run to 8.2 miles then turn round. (It should be noted that at this point I was secretly thinking, “YOU two can run an extra .2 miles, I am turning round as soon as my Garmin reaches 8 “). However, we all turned around at the same time and enjoy the final mile stretch back to the car (broken half way so that I could snap a few pictures of the park). 9 miles done in 1hr 51 minutes, just as the park starts filling up with cyclists, runners and Sunday strollers.
The best part of the whole experience was that I got home just after 10.30, right on time for breakfast. I could be converted to this early-morning running malarkey.
Dashinista does Richmond Park