On the Run!

Lamlash leg: 10.08.2016

Me from Goatfell

Run date: Wednesday 10 August 2016

Set-off time: 8.20am

Pace: 10.16 mins/mile

Distance: 5.33 miles

Total run time: 54 mins, 44 secs

Terrain/landscape: Pavement, road, an elevation of 237 foot, then flat round the bay

Weather conditions: Perfect; a veritable mill pond.

The route: After conquering all 2,866 feet of Goatfell at decent speed, with the T-shirt to prove it – and an impromptu fell run which Harry humoured stoically – my ambition of running the hilly 6 mile+ route to Brodick and back was p’raps always going to be overly ambitious. So I started the up, enjoyed the puff, then flowed back down the hill to run the length of Lamlash. All was calm beauty: Holy Isle looked regal ‘cross the water, and there were seals along the shoreline, lots and lots of seals. Pretty damn near perfect.


Music of choice: Nothing, again. I decided that being musicless is the best way to get to experience new running lands. And I’m coming to like it; especially now I can actually hear and appreciate the camaraderie of my fellow runners, morning hikers, togs and twitchers, and cyclists, all out to take the air.

Fuel? Nothing. But I took a bottle of water out with me, and followed it up with a hearty mugful of mini Shredded Wheat, milk and banana, and later, one of the Arran Cheese fingers. YOM.

To sum up: My run may have suffered slightly after The Goat, but it was worth it. I at the very least did what I always set out to do: add an Asics-clad touch-down on a new island to the tattered running log.

Lochranza Castle


What to do when it rains in Scotland? (Ahhhhhhhhh Barry Manilow)

How’s this for an oxymoron: Harry and I are on a summer Scotland expedition! You heard me right.

We’ve split it between Edinburgh and the bonnie Isle of Arran. Translation: we have between us half a pair of trousers and two shoes still dry. Intepretation: We are currently sheltering in ‘PHT’, one of our locals, while Boney M. is piped VERY LOUDLY overhead. In summary: I am in dire need of a large glass of wine, because I can’t for the life of me concentrate with ‘Rivers of Babylon’ (1978) bouncing Europopilly through my lugholes. Aaaaand now it’s Barry Manilow (1975). And now Meatloaf’s Hellbats (1977). Help, we’re trapped in a ’70s easy listening earwarp!

(Phew… Lou Reed. Praise be to he. Balance is restored.)

Anyway, let’s push on through, shall we – we have had an ace shock of days in the crammed ‘Burgh for EdFest. Key constituent parts: proper lovely faces (big thank you to Amy and Laura); some good running (including round Arthur’s seat); my surrealist first date with Tony Law (a stand up dissenter. Still not sure what happened, but it felt like an awakening); a stomping midnight ceilidh in the city caves with the bae (that’s his cool name now) and company (our calves are still feeling that one).

Edinburgh crowd

Bill EdFest

Me and Darth Vader

And now we’re camping in Arran, as of last night, from o’er very choppy waters. In my 28 years I’ve been able to count myself very lucky to have been to most of Scotland’s Western islands, but Arran’s a first for me. For H-face it’s a trip back into seven year-olddom, the cutie. Today after a somewhat concerning night with the wind, we’ve trekked to see the best standing stones the island has to offer and soaked up remnants of ancient burial rituals. (To my Dad, we have been trawling some wonders! And doing some wanders. You’d be proud).

What always surprises me is the number of Englanders who haven’t been to Scotland, let alone taken the trip up watery westwards, and to them, I say, go. Go now. Unless you are a fool without a cagoule. For there is a big rule. Weather apps are nice, but they become a bit null, and often void in these lands. Being islanders anyway, you should’ve come to know and appreciate that things can change quickly where the weather’s involved. On the likes of Arran, this is even more pronounced. Case in point: we’re camping in Lamlash, and we have seen Lamlash stun in the sun, and Lamlash become the inside of a soaking waterproof in the rain. The kind of rain where you feel like a giant is chucking fistfalls of sea at you. It’s great.

But, I am mindful of the fact that it is usually the dismaland that keeps people away, so I want to assure you, you can do summer here, with the rain! You just need some tactics…

1. Go for it, get wet
This is a big one. There is no point waiting for the sun to come out. If you have a plan, unless it is climbing up to the peak, you go out. And when it’s slightly less than pouring, you go out. If it’s driest in the morning, go out. But bring wellies.


2. Get thyself to an outdoor shop
…to afford yourself, at the very least, the psychological semblance of preparedness by checking out every flummoxing outdoorsy snicket available to you. We’re planning to head up Goatfell tomorrow (yippee) and I know I am going to be wearing my running lycra. We went to an outdoors shop earlier and I picked up some child’s waterproof trousers, in a dab at practicality. But they were still too long, and some of them were £50 a pair, which is ridiculous. So I’d also advise sticking to what you know or are at least comfortable in. Non-chafing!

3. Go to a distillery and/or do a trawl of local crafters/producers.
The latter in particular is very cathartic. Especially when you see something refreshing, something aside from commercial prints and easy sells, something which really is a creative translation of the world outside. The former is also quite fun and tastes nice. As does cheese. We got to see the curds today! Arran curds. These are cheese fingers.

Daisy cheese fingers

4. Enjoy a good nap. Or Battleships!
We did the nap. We needed to after our R.E.M. was destroyed by the midnight wind. But we appear to have lost our Battleships. The intention was there though.

5. By Harry: Find a good pub, drink plenty while your better half tap tap taps away. Tappidy tap tap. Tap. Then eat food, drink more and stagger through the water home. I say home, back to the tent. The windy windy tent. Windy, noisy flappy tent. Best tip here – stuff your pillow in the hood of your sleeping bag, tighten the cord so then your head is wedged. It’s like a pillowy cacoon, one that shields your ears from all the noise. I was particularly pleased with this early hours innovation – how often do you get a good idea when you’re sleeping and actually get to carry it out there an then, rather than something forever forgotten.

Harry C in the rain

And that, dear friends, is that.

On the Run!

Legging it round Edinburgh! 05.08.2016

Arthur's Seat

Run date: Friday 5 August 2016

Set-off time: 9.56am

Pace: 9.52 mins/mile

Distance: 5.85 miles

Total run time: 57 mins, 46 secs

Terrain/landscape: Pavement, parkland, road, flat then UP, flat then UP

Weather conditions: Warm/cool, drizzling

The route: An almost 6 miles of erratic routing, running small loops in many different directions, realising taking wrong direction, Google Mapping to Arthur’s Seat (pictured) and charging round…


Music of choice: Nada! But my need for distraction was circumvented by my new TomTom Runner 2 GPS Watch, which I took for its second outing. I love the ease of simply being able to glance down at my wrist without the rigmarole of having to laden myself up like a donkey with my various bits of kit. To quote 10cc, I don’t like it… I love it.

Please let me also take this opportunity to explain/apologise for my absence these past few days. I started feeling very droopy and leaden on the day of the canal-side 8 miler, thinking maybe I’d been too cocky, jumped too high (a la Malleus Maleficarum), and worn myself out in a fit of pique, like an overexcited five year old who’d been exposed to a week of birthday parties. My newly-hewn, detonsiled throat felt especially sensitive and swollen, like it was due to crack. So I sulked for a good week, bought uber-strength throat lozenges, and after seeing Harry’s own fits of sneeze, came to the conclusion that it is probably hay fever.

Fuel? Nothing, but the night before we had a perfect balance of salmon, sweet pots and steamed green veg.

To sum up: The hills got the heart a-pumping, the face a dashing crimson and the improv-nature of the route was probably good for the soul. A solid 7/10.

Me in Edinburgh


Out on the Canal


On a roof of skid-resistant treacle, the sun’s hot beams out, to heat a weary stomach.

I am a bad poet at best, I know. But how often do we grab time to create a whimsical sentence or few, like that scrap? Not often. That’s unless you get lucky, and out on the canal.

Out on the canal, you see the world more slowly. Scrap that: you see the world, slowly. That’s not to say you simplify it, shutter off, or strip it bare, but remember to breathe in, between hectic, same-filled days, and feel it more. For some that’s a weakness. I think, sad or odd that slowing down could be pegged as privilege or luxury, or part of those rare, one-off times. Surely you need slower spells to really see the colour and clarity of life around you; to break the fuzz of speed.

Out on the canal, you have no choice. Your top pace is 4mph, and most times calls from all sides are to ‘Tick Over!’ when you pass mooring boats, so walking speed is a stretch for a bulky barge.

What do you do on a canal boat? You can spend your days unmooring, moving, shuffling up and down locks, strengthen your arms, torso and legs by taking on locks and paddles, admire the longevity of this Industrial Age technology.

You might eat and drink a tonne, unused to the constant motion of treading up and down a canal path. Your skin fizzles, and your hair gathers rain, with the glory-dust and grime of being outside.

You see life and art; people steering away from bullshit, people steering away from society, or towards an alternate society that fits their soul. People create worlds with boat paint; illustrate their arms, life rings, let their hair fall long and low; go anti-Heathrow expansion, cycle and be-rid of the car, make friends with white-dappled ducks, duck from the herons; some steel away to fish where they shouldn’t; some fill their universe with herbs and flowers, in the shadow of a manor house.

People choose a nostalgic life, a hobby horse, or want to make less of a troubled imprint on the world. There is beauty, poverty and luxury, out on the canal.

On the Run!

Moonshadow, Moonshadow: 28.07.16

me under the canal bridge crop

Run date: Thursday 28 July 2016

Set-off time: Around 10.30am

Pace: 9.4 mins/mile

Distance: 5.4 miles

Total run time: 51 mins, 15 secs

Terrain/landscape: A largely undefined towpath, like a flat trail run

Weather conditions: The coolest of the week, cloudy, rain/sun/wind-free

The route: Straight up the towpath, then a 2.5 mile walk back for a warm-down and slightly crazed catch up with Leah. My Asics app GPS wasn’t playing ball but I managed to work out my pace with my phone’s pedometer and my old cheapy Casio timer, which the internet then corroborated.

My heelMusic of choice: None! But I could have done with the distraction from my lacerated heel – caused by a combination of my Asics shoes and running socks getting to the end of their time on the 8 mile the other day. Youch:

Also since we’ve been spending the last few days on Moonshadow, our bargey beast, I’ve had the same triad of moon-related earworms buzzing round my head: ‘Moonshadow’, by Cat Stevens (obviously), Savage Garden’s ‘To the Moon and Back’, and ‘Moon Dance’ by Van Morrison. And quite frankly I’ve had my fill of all of them.

So as I ran on I forced all my concentration energies into a shuffled replay of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’ in my head, which kind of worked.

Fuel? A bowl of Mini Shredded Wheat and some dried fruit an hour before, and a cup of tea. Last night I also necked a venison steak, which seemed like a solid choice. But there was also the Pinot Grigio, which I am avoiding today.

To sum up: It felt like it took a little while to get going, especially with the painful heel, but it seems it was a fairly swift effort, even with having to slow down for gates and stiles.

Training and motivation

The Perils of Running in Public – My Top 5

crop Messy Runner on a Sunday morning

The launch of ‘This Girl Can‘ was a triumph for trying to combat anxieties about being seen getting a sweat on in public. It’s something I get, having been through that tortuousness as a teenager. But when I got to my mid-twenties, I realised that resolve is everything. And celebrating your health through exercising with gusto is even more.

My biggest tip to the sweatyness shy? Look like you mean it, etch that determination on your face, and everything else will follow.

Beyond embracing my public perspiration, since I’ve been regularly running 3/4 times a week in public, I’ve discovered the perils that come with it. Some more so than others. Here are my Top 5 Perils of Running in Public – please feel free to add more to these in the comments below.

1. Other pedestrians
I’m sorry my fellow pavementeers, t’is ye who feature first in this countdown, and here’s why. Never have I encountered more disdain when out running than from other pedestrians. And not to discount the lovely, considerate of you out there. But there are those countless people I’ve met who will a) barely register your sweat-streaked existence or b) refuse to shift over just a little, hold onto their mutts, or shuffle themselves into single file for just a few seconds so you don’t have to lurch into a traffic-laden road. Oddly enough, being forced to face my own mortality is my biggest public running bugbear.

Yes, I may be travelling faster than you in my heinous, obnoxious display of pseudo-fitness, but I am but running. I am still a fleshly, blood-filled being just like you. Being a runner doesn’t suddenly enable me to take on traffic, scale protruding buildings a la Spiderman, or soar like a sooped-up base jumper over your head (though man, if I could…). I am a 5 foot 2″ human girl; I am not a Transformer.

2. Crossing and running on roads
This requires alertness, technique and experience, and asks as much of the runner as it does the driver. As with number 1 I’ve come across many thoughtful motorists who encourage me to pelt on (suspect many of them were runners/running sympathisers). I try to avoid breaking my pace. Jogging on the spot just about covers it, but contemplating a full halt? Nooo, I won’t, I can’t! I’d rather squiggle. So I end up squiggling until I can cross over without peril. I just figure that the most important thing, with anything involving anyone else, is to make yourself as visible as possible. Even if it means top-to-toe fluoro and semaphore. Yes.

3. Remembering to smile and be gracious
Not alarming members of the public of all shapes, ages and sizes with your puffity breathing, wide-eyed efforts and (my) traffic light red face is something I strive for. Especially when there is a great huge chunk of society who just simply doesn’t understand why a person would want to run in the first place. I’ve found that a thumbs up on the way past, and a cheery thanks for stopping/ acknowledging me by steering your dog over, goes a long way. Smiling, on the other hand, can be met with some confusion. I think sometimes I must’ve pitched my smile a bit weirdly; people just think I’m in pain. Or struggling with wind. But it’s good to persevere.

4. Seeing people you know
– Especially if they’re not even a tenth as sweaty and lycra-clad as you, and you’re going to be seeing them at work in, oh, half an hour or so. My ruse is to adopt a similar method as in number 3, but with an extra jot of, ‘Look at me, I’m in my element!’. And grinning manically. Oh, and speeding up a bit so you can get your image out of their head as swiftly as possible.

5. AND..other pedestrians
It really is my biggest public running bugbear. A meaty, bear-sized bug. 🙂

On the Run!

Mid-afternoon mania: 26.07.2016

Me on the boat (2)

Run date: Tuesday 26 July 2016

Set-off time: Just after 2.30pm

Pace: 9.55 mins/mile

Distance: 8.2 miles

Total run time: 1 hour, 21 mins, 35 secs

Terrain/landscape: The dusty, wavering canal path

Weather conditions: The sort where you don’t have to think about what temperature you are: spot on, and good breezy

The route: An asymmetrical bounce-back to land me back with the lulling boat (and crew)


Music of choice: None, once again. But there’s plenty going on to keep me occupied, especially around Bradford-on-Avon – wood whittling (yes), canal boaters tending to their sunflowers/ repainting their roofs, weaving cyclists, a few lone herons flying in daisy-cutter style, and groups of walking elders looking taken aback.

Not having the distraction of BBC 6 Music also meant I could focus more on my form. I am experimenting with taking a higher number and lighter steps when I run, to leaven my technique and boost my endurance. Not only have I found it a really enjoyable mini-project, but I think it’s having good effects. Today, for example, I found that I ended my run with a good stock of fuel still left in the tank. Though that may have been an overhang of yesterday’s chocolate feast.

Fuel? Excellent! Mini Shredded Wheat and semi-skimmed for breakfast, a banana and peanut butter sandwich on granary for lunch, then an hour after that, onto the run. I felt quite beany as a result. (As in ‘full of beans’. In a good way.)

To sum up: A steady and strong 8 miles, and the longest run since tackling the Cheddar Half Marathon on 12 June

What’s the plan now? Another shorter run canalside, then I’m planning for a longer on Saturday. Maybe even a 10-er. Hey, we’ll see.