TARS – The Art of Running Slowly, episode 1…

Well. How to reconcile the two opposing thoughts of “Who in the world would give a care for anything that I have to say?”  with “I have so much stuff in my head, if I can’t tell someone I might just go bonkers…”.

So to celebrate my first month experimenting with Twitter, why not try a blog for the first time as well? I’ll send it out there and see if anyone notices. First, a sponsors’ message: this inaugural blog is brought to you by

  • Welsh Songstress @ShappiKhorsandi, one of my first follows on Twitter and always good value. I had seen that she was doing the Brighton Half this same Sunday and had been wondering all day how she was: later in the day she smiled at my comment that she would now become very sensitive to people who called her a Jogger, or Fun Runner. [She had a really good run, 2hrs, and was very happy, soon planning the next.]
  • Specialist retailer (and occasional supplier of kit to yours truly) @upandrunninguk, who on the same weekend had responded to a comment of mine on trail running as “wise words”.
How famous must I be, now! Total strangers both, but somehow those two messages gave me the impetus to try a blog, so if you regret reading it blame them, not me! 

Anyway… last Sunday, just about a perfect run! When that happens, I come back in and as soon as I say “What a brilliant run!!”, or “I’ve been thinking…..” somehow it seems the family all have something urgent to do in another room. So I’ll tell it here instead.

  1. On the way out, barely going for a couple of minutes, and I had a real surprise. A guy about my age by the stone wall in the woods beckoned me over and pointed into the field below, at three deer scampering around. I’ve seen them around here before, right on the edge of a big city and inside the ring-road, beautiful and unexpected. The man was as excited as me…so much so, that it was rather like meeting myself on the path.
  2. I cruised, feeling strong, steady but without really working too hard – as the rules of TARS demand. Hugely satisfying, after a difficult (and unavoidably inactive) week.
  3. I got the clothing just right: the right shoes, some mud clagging, but not too wet; sleeves up, sleeves down; zip up, zip down; the sun lovely on my back in the tailwind, but still comfortable turning round into the sharp blades of the vicious Siberian headwind.
  4. Apart from one or two moments, for once I wasn’t weighed down by whether to make another chasing call for that urgently-needed piece of work, or rehearsing a job interview, or how to juggle and stretch the cashflow. The trees and fresh air and softening ground and music kept it all at bay. Peace; escape.
  5. At the top of the hill before the reservoir-turn, I was surprised by a young (18-20?) girl drawing alongside and then passing before I reached the gate.  Very pretty, black kit, blonde ponytail, all limbs and fluid action and grace, in contrast to my middle-aged lumberings – I enjoyed watching her go, no chance of keeping up. But at the far end of the dam a minute or two later she was sat in the family car removing her trainers as I ran by, still 5-6 miles to go. Youth 1, Endurance 1 – score-draw.
  6. This run was pain-free. Despite even, a partial turn of my vulnerable right ankle on the grass verge at the top of the first long hill away from the houses (that moment of simultaneous fear and satisfaction when you realise that it has sprung back up, undamaged, but you measure the weight of the next strides very closely).  TARS, of course, should keep me pain-free, but that is not always the case. I have accumulated so many injuries over the years, many only partially repaired, and I don’t think there’s a part of my lower body which doesn’t carry some weakness or scarring which may flare up at any time. So, I listen to my body, and take care, and at the moment I am strong. Having been laid up many times, forced to re-start from square-one, I really treasure those days when I can run freely. (Almost pain-free. On the warm-down jog home – is it because I am back on road? – there was just a hint, just a suggestion, of that rusty nail still embedded somewhere deep in my right calf. Just a little reminder, not to get ideas above my station.)
  7. After the full reservoir circuit, after the final climb, an hour-and-three-quarters, I still felt ok, and added two laps of Mal’s field (one clockwise, one anti-; same distance and height but completely different profiles). That made 13.2 miles instead of 12 for the actual run, over 14 by the time I was home. How satisfying is that, and where I wanted to be at the end of Feb.
  8. Nearly back, almost two hours out and at the stony uphill where the route becomes a circuit, a real shock as one of the deer jumped across the trail just in front of me. They counted me out, and they counted me back in…
  9. And all of this, despite the cold wind, under a clear, sharp blue Yorkshire sky, some warmth in the sunshine now and snowdrops and emerging stalks of other plants (don’t ask me!). The world and his family were out walking, jogging/running, and on their bikes: and everyone had a new smile on their face, a glance that said “Spring is here!”
  10. Woven in and out of all of the above, the very special cocktail of emotions that only runs like this can bring, fuelled by oxygen and adrenaline and endorphins, fed by sunshine and wind and water and music. The strength and vigour; the fantasies and daydreams; the joy and the occasional heartbreak. The Life.

That was my Sunday run. That was what I needed to write down, because somehow it never quite comes out right when someone says “How did you get on?” and you say “Really good today, actually”.

That’s what the art of running slowly can give you. And if you’ve got this far, and if any of it made sense for you too, maybe I’ll write some more another day.


About johntleeds

In amongst the perpetual juggling of work, family and things on my mind, this is MY time, MY escape. Any this is what my mind comes up with when it has time to wonder, as I wander on the trails... twitter @johntleeds
This entry was posted in Injury, Life in general, Running and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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