Well, gentle reader, sadly it’s tights weather yet again. For running, you understand. I’ve long since moved away from the old school style of running that insists on wearing shorts at all costs, and, if it gets really cold, just tells you to run a bit faster. I run a bit up in Newcastle, where I believe tights are considered a bit, well southern, and I’m sure some of the people that I bump into running round Town Moor at -2C in a hailstorm think that wearing a shirt is a bit of an unnecessary luxury as well. But I’m afraid these days, not freezing my nuts off of an evening has become something of a priority.
The other deviation that I’ve made away from old school running has been a sad reliance on needing company on my runs. By company, I mean needing to be plugged in to music or a podcast or a radio, and I justify this based on the fact that I’ve been running pretty much every day now for about twenty years, and so I’ve kind of got bored with the wonders of nature and the beauty of foot mechanics and being alone with my thoughts. Friends of mine who are proper runners are very sniffy about this, and warble on about junk miles not really being worth anything, and that I’ll only ever run slowly if I don’t fully focus on the run itself, but, sometimes I’m past caring, and I just need to hear the latest from Dan Carlin, or No Such Thing As A Fish, or This American Life, and the whole experience turns into a bit more fun. And these days, I have the added joy of an iPhone that I can strap to my arm, which also allows me to, as they say, stay connected.
So, off I go last week, out of the office in Newcastle, and away for a brisk run across Town Moor, with 3x two miles hard to tick off on the training plan, and all is well with the world. And the ‘well with the world’ status lasted well into the changing room, where I realise that I’d left that clever little armstrap for my phone several hundred miles away. As I saw it, I had three options – leave the phone in the changing room and have a good run but with no entertainment; carry the phone in my hand and Not Look Like A Proper Runner; or tuck the phone into my tights. Naturally, and helped by the fact that these were compression tights, which I suspect may have featured in an early draft of 50 Shades of Grey, I squeezed the phone into the waistband and set off.
An easy mile one, and I’m moving at a nice pace, with my eyes on the first 2 mile effort on the moor. History Extra podcast is my choice of entertainment, this one featuring things you didn’t know about Hitler’s cocaine habit (really). Get to the moor, and all is well, except for the fact that I have to knock out a 2 mile effort in the dark. But knock it out I do, get my statutory 2 minutes rest, then go for effort #2. This time, things do not go quite so well. For some reason, my phone starts slipping. At first, it’s just a bit irritating, but after mile one of the two miles it starts working its way, well, downwards. Possibly lubricated by sweat, which is pretty unpleasant, and heading downward at a steady rate, which is even more unpleasant. About a half a mile to go, and I find myself effectively sitting on my phone while running. In order to halt further progress, I naturally alter my running style to what I like to call ‘1950’s PE teacher’ – head back, back straight, high knees, and all the time trying to complete the effort.
Statutory two minute rest while I try to decide what to do. Sadly, it never entered my head to carry the bloody thing, instead, I went for the extra tightness option of tucking my phone into my pants, with added security from the compression tights. You may well be ahead of me here. I got another mile and a half around the final effort before disaster struck. The phone didn’t travel so far south this time, but unfortunately it did adopt a more, ahem, central position. So I’m running along in the dark, trying to keep a 6:30 pace up, with a running style owing a bit too much to John Wayne after a long day in the saddle, just having heard that he had a bad case of rickets, but needing to get to the Last Chance Saloon before closing time. Anyway, just about managed the last half mile and I’m about 50 yards from the end when History Extra (now focussing specifically on the amphetamines in use by the Fuhrer during the siege of Stalingrad), is disrupted by an incoming call. Given that it might be important, or my wife (teehee), I elect to press the little button and gasp ‘hang on’ while I get to the stopping point. It’s my wife.
“I can’t hear you very well” she says “I don’t think the reception’s very good at your end”
If only she knew…
More fun in tights to follow on this Sunday’s long run. But first, a word about fashion. When setting off for a winter run, it’s more than likely you’ll wear tights (black), gloves (black) hat (black), and, if you’re not careful, your favourite long sleeved top (black). Black clothing is of course, very practical and, I understand from too many copies of Grazia, very slimming. But unfortunately you end up looking, at best, like the Milk Tray man. Or, potentially, Andy McNab, and neither of these things count as A Good Look. Unusually, I looked in the mirror before I left the house, and saw a complete idiot looking back, and so went for my second favourite shirt, a charming, and quite frankly, gleaming, long sleeved white number.
Off I trotted, thinking that I looked slightly less twit-like, and maybe bordering on the mildly athletic. On reflection, this might have been a bit optimistic, given that I’d carbo-loaded the previous night with two pints of Wherry, one of Amstel, and a double whisky.
A couple of miles into the run, and I found myself a) running off road and b) running very slowly. Got to a stile across a very muddy field, and thought I’d better pick the pace up a bit. Did I mention it was very muddy? It was very, very muddy indeed, and as I tried to speed up, I was rather held back by my right foot getting completely stuck.
Or not. In fact, it was my right shoe that was stuck, and my right foot was released into thin air, leaving the shoe sinking into the mud. As I had a reasonable amount of momentum built up, I didn’t have a lot of time to think, but I tried to effect a Jonathan Edwards-type hop with my left foot, which, given the circumstances, was reasonably successful. Unfortunately one successful hop was not quite enough for any sort of recovery, and the momentum of the hop quickly turned into a trip, and the trip turned into a full-on face plant. I got up very slowly, and for some reason I don’t really understand, because my right foot was completely coated in mud, I hopped, on my left foot, back to my shoe. And, again, for reasons I can’t really explain, picked up my shoe, walked back to the stile, took off my right sock and, standing one legged tried to knock the mud off by banging it, Basil Fawlty style, against the gate.
Now, muddy foot encased in muddy sock inside a muddy shoe, I tried to prepare myself for the next part of the run. I had no idea what I looked like, but if my previously white shirt was anything to go by, my face would have looked like Brutus in the Green Mile, just after the moon pie episode:
And that’s when the dog walker came into view.
“That was really funny” he said, “I really enjoyed seeing that”.
I spent the next 15 miles trying to think of what I should have said back to him. I’m not sure whether I managed anything better than what I actually replied: