The Special Run, Durham, Saturday, April 4, 2020

15 Miles

Corrine Whaling

Striders

I had been following Allan’s marathon training plan – albeit now without a marathon to train for. I have found it hugely helpful to continue to follow the plan, as it’s given me a sense of purpose and consistency in a world which at the minute is unpredictable and forever changing. The plan on the other hand is a constant in a sea of change. It tells me what to do, and I do it. It also keeps me feeling connected to Allan, and to Anna whom I had been training with for London.

Usually the plan is fairly straightforward – it gives me a number of miles to run, and Allan’s advice was to run the majority of these “by feel”. This is what I have been doing, although I am very aware that how I feel is now a lot slower than I would have been had I still been training for a marathon which was going to happen. That’s partly because of everything happening in the world, and the mental and physical exhaustion that I feel as a result. It’s also purposeful – as an NHS doctor I am a key worker, and I feel strongly the responsibility to do all I can to stay well and at work. This means not putting my body under undue stress and pressure. Too many long or hard runs may reduce immunity, and a long hard run is definitely off the cards at present.

So today’s run was a conundrum. The “special run” is one of the stalwarts of the plan. It’s a marathon pace driven 15 mile run, with some intervals thrown in just for good measure! The original plan which Anna and I had created was slightly bonkers – we’ve learned that having some bonkers plans in amongst the serious stuff keeps our running fun! We’d planned to take Friday 3rd April off work, stay over in Roker on the Thursday night, go for a nice carb loading Italian with a mutual friend, then run along the coast together following the Special Run pace plan on Friday morning, enabling me to get back to Durham in time to catch the train to Manchester to watch Rory, Nik, Karen and numerous other Striders run the Manchester Marathon on the Sunday. Given the fuss I was making about London I had also planned an indulgent weekend away with Rory, who had missed out on a Good for Age place in London by 19 seconds when they adjusted the time goals.  

Clearly now none of these previous plans were going to happen, so I needed a creative solution to the “special run”, and so began the forming of a plan……
I decided I was going to run 15 miles starting at home and following a route that would be special to me. This was to run routes which reminded me of happy times – and for me this meant Striders training sessions.

I loved this run! Whilst I had to run it alone, and at stupid o’clock in the morning to make sure I was assured of observing social distancing on such a long route, running these familiar routes meant that I was accompanied by memories of friends throughout. 

I ran from home along the A167 towards County Hall. This initial stretch of the A167 was part of a 7mm 10 mile route which Anna and I had offered to lead on a Wednesday Striders night– we had no other takers! It was a lovely run though just the two of us, reminiscent of our Brampton to Carlisle run in distance and pace but had felt more comfortable than B2C– a sure sign that our training was going well.

I then arrived at County Hall and did some reps of the car park with a couple of efforts up the hill (clearly I can’t stop myself from doing some pace work – the competitive Type A personality is strong!). I had Stephen  in my mind, telling me to maintain my form, Jan  encouraging me up the hills, I was remembering Peter  pipping me to the finish on the final hill rep, and chasing Michael  and Graeme  up the hills (not winning that one!). I was remembering friendly hugs from Juan, and drinks and chat with Wendy and Chris afterwards. 

From there I made my way down to the riverbanks, and ran the final stretch of Parkrun – again unable to resist putting in an effort and pretending it was a sprint finish! I was reminiscing on a number of previous fast finishes there, personally when pacing 25 min with Kathryn and Malcolm finishing just close by. Lovely chats with Karen and Lesley afterwards, and hearing about David and Juan battling out the finishes. 

Next up was a cut through the woods towards Maiden Castle, and a run along the riverbanks, across the bridge opposite the Rose Tree, then back along the other side of the banks towards Noisy Bridge. This was a route that Anna and I had run often as a warm up prior to our early Tuesday morning track sessions with Allan. Frosty mornings had not deterred us, although today was sunny and warm by comparison. As I approached Noisy Bridge I had Allan in mind again, his spot at Parkrun provided an opportunity to think of him and to be thankful for all he gave so many of us. The track was not too far away, and that also provided a number of lovely fun memories of times spent there – the Christmas run being the most recent with inflatable Santas, Mince Pies and chocolates! I toasted the front of Maiden Castle with a Kendal Mint Cake gel – my new running food of choice. I was imagining Striders gathered outside MC doing stretches and cool downs, and the good humoured banter that goes along with that (including Lesley’s scarecrow joke which had Phil, Mark, Rory and I in stitches – for all the wrong reasons!)

Onwards to the club run route – I ran one lap this time round, remembering the first time I had done this route. Stephen came flying past towards the middle of the first lap, looking supremely comfortable. I had commented to Alex B that it was so unfair that Stephen looked so comfortable – Alex said something that would stay with me – he pointed out that the “speedies “ were trying just as hard as the rest of us, and it wasn’t easy for anyone. Too true! Running through the woods today was brilliant – quiet, peaceful, birds and squirrels galore. 

After the club run route I headed up towards the science site, remembering a club run there a couple of years ago which was great fun. Michael and Fiona had organized a 3 drill run – reps of the hill, laps of the carpark, and a Parlouf style run towards South Road. I had been paired with Anna M, and we’d had great fun. I again couldn’t resist a couple of efforts on the hills and flats. Going up the hill I had Allan R in my head – “go, go, go” – how he has the energy and breath to shout encouragement whilst still going at some speedy pace himself I will never know!

I then returned to South Road and made my way to the Theatre of Dreams. This holds so many happy memories – I was a regular last year and that was when I really started to see my times improve.  I thought the track was for speedies, and had avoided it in favour of 10k routes around town, but the idea of running round a car park was not so intimidating so I really took to it and the interval training it provided reaped big rewards. I had really enjoyed chasing Peter, Mark, David, Alex, Matthew C and Anna M round in circles – we were all very close in pace and had great fun lots of Wednesday evenings. I enjoyed watching Michael and Mark K go flying past, often joined by Graeme in close succession. Seeing Lisa L improve her times here, along with so many others, made it a lovely social occasion.

The last stop was Low Burnhall where I had Elaine in my mind, funny warm up dances, and setting off far to quickly on the first efforts at a pace that I could not sustain throughout despite desperate attempts to do so. I’m not naturally a cross country runner, but I do enjoy trying. Memories of Nina and Jan encouraging me to try to catch Elaine, and of Barrie going flying up the hills, as well as lots and lots and lots of mud….

Back along the A167 I had meant to jog the final mile, but the legs felt good, so I decided to go for it – and ended the run to find I’d got a second place Strava trophy for the “A167 short section” segment, only behind Tracy Millmore on the leaderboard – not bad for the end of a 15 mile run! Clearly my legs are still in decent condition, and the urge to race has not left me! In fact perhaps I’d better to back out and try for that crown soon……

This was a great run – showing that although we are socially distancing, we are not socially distant. My Striders friends were with me throughout that run, in my mind and thoughts. I look forward to the time when we can be together again in person, but until then the Striders family remains a source of strength, inspiration and great memories!

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