I started out in the drizzle. The light grey skies were not burdened with the weight of heavy rain, just a constant, mist like, precipitation. It was a bit like running constantly through one of those fan/spray contraptions they put out in theme park queues on intensely hot days. The route was new to me, although the starting point was only 3 miles from my house. To begin, I stumbled across a rough and tumble bridle path along the edge of a wheat field, struggling slightly in my road shoes. It would be nice if Strava would provide a little more terrain information on it’s map/route section, but in general anything which is classified as ‘not specified’ trends into this category, with the grass slightly too long, and the path slightly too rutted, for good running. But then, a huge part of the appeal in off-roading is how the terrain challenges our feet and forces unfamiliar movement in our lower legs, isn’t it? It also kept the pace down, something which I have come to really appreciate in the early miles of a long run. Nearly all of the great LR’s of my life have started slow(er).
After about 3 miles of trail I emerged onto the road. I settled, and tried to find a rhythm and consistency in effort. I thought about keeping my heel lift high, about keeping my steps light but strong, using my midfoot to produce a bouncy, trampoline effect to utilise the elasticity of my body to propel me over the road.
In the time between this run, and what I consider to be my last “proper” long run, I have been suffering with plantar fasciitis. To resolve it, I have been fully committed to my strength work. Between those runs there have been hundreds of heel lifts, single leg lunges, and split squats. I have spent time on the bike, time on the rower, time on the balance board. The result is that I finally feel how I want to feel when I run again. No matter how I actually look, I feel a little bit like a Walmsley, or a Kipchoge; light and bouncy and fast. Of course I’m not anywhere near as fast as those guys, nor do I actually look like them, but in that feeling is the flow which makes running so rewarding. It is impossible to find that feeling when you feel heavy, clunky, or when the soles of your feet are screaming at you. It has taken some serious work to rid myself of those negative feelings, but the reward was worth it.
For about 10 miles I continued in this settled approach, working a little on uphill sections to maintain pace. I was being very gradually soaked by the constant drizzle, but I was grateful to be cool, and to not be sweating through my eyes.
The trainers which I wore, the Saucony Endorphin Speed, are probably the most versatile, flowy trainers that I have ever worn. They are perfect for settling in at those long run paces, for helping you find that smooth, light stride, but they can also push on, go fast. I like to finish my long runs sharply, and so at mile 13 I quickened my step on a downhill section and kept it going when it flattened out. I clocked a 6:35. I thought another one of those would do quite nicely. However, with the easy trail start, the coolness of the drizzle, and with the assistance of my shoes, I found a 6:08.
I felt, relatively, wonderful. Relatively, because 15 miles is probably never going to be truly easy for me. Although it is usually races which cap off training blocks, which serve as the assessment to our running, this run provided all the satisfaction and validation that I needed to keep on doing what I’m doing, to trust in the process, in the strength work, in versatility, and, also, to not leave the long run alone again for quite so much time.