Back in 2015 friends convinced me that I should train and run “The Grizzly” with them. For those not in the know; the Grizzly is a mud, flint, shingle and bramble scramble along the coastal path between Seaton and Branscombe- oh and back again via various bogs. A stupid idea really for a fifty something postal worker who’s knees are shot from thirty years of climbing in and out of Royal Mail vans and twenty five years of getting kicked around by drunken plumbers and farmers on boggy football pitches covered in molehills and cowshit. Training runs were going well until one fateful day in February (I think.) We had covered about eight miles. Having negotiated the wind swept climb from Beer to Branscombe, and survived the infamous Branscombe “cowshit alley;” where mud and cowshit combined to supply an ankle deep slurry filled gravel track. Not for the faint hearted; here you ran with mouth closed to avoid swallowing any of the flies from the resident swarms and to avoid a mouthful of splash back bovine excrement from the runners shoes in front of you. Which in my case was most of my running companions. Back through the village and then it was just the beach run, climb the stairway and back to Beer, and then home for a fry up. Easy! And then I stepped down onto the shingle- which wasn’t there, I overstretched and my right knee bent backwards. Game over. Or at least it should have been. Stupidly I hobbled on back to Beer. My knee was now football sized. No more thoughts of Grizzly running for me. The Doctor agreed and after studying my X-rays he threw in the lack of knee cartilage from previous surgery, oh and a touch of arthritis to boot.
Five and a bit years on and here I am; now a sixty something postal worker, debating whether to give it another go…sod it, what’s the worst that could happen? Last week I accompanied my daughter Lily on one of her Couch to 5k runs. Well when I say accompanied; I mean I lurched some conciderable distance behind her as she bounced gazelle like on ahead, whilst shouting words of condescending encouragement to me. “You’re doing well, etc” The scene to any stranger would have looked highly suspicious. A young athletic girl running away from an ageing sweaty, gasping man in not so hot pursuit.
Today I went solo. Well not quite solo, Sherlock reluctantly came with me. I loaded up the Strava app on my phone, clipped the lead on Sherlock, pressed start on the app and away we went. Fifty yards was all it took before Sherlock decided he could do a poo big enough to fill one of his bags! Off we went again, I was now slowed down by a bag full of about a kilo of shit in one hand and a lead in the other hand with a confused dog attached to it. I glanced down at Sherlock, his facial expression was one of horror. I could hear him thinking “Seriously, what the hell are you doing you idiot- to both of us!” With no bums to sniff or cats to chase (for Sherlock) we made it along the road section- thankfully without being spotted by anyone we knew. The river and undulating woodland paths were safely but slowly negotiated without a fall or even a stumble. I’d made it to the field with only a couple of walks. It was now as I reached the gate I realised Sherlock was nowhere to be seen. ****ing dog I thought aloud and began backtracking. I found him some distance behind, ambling without a care in the world and a look of defiance in his eyes. His way of saying “You’re on your own mate, I ain’t running.” Safely harnessed to his lead we crossed the road (again unseen) and headed or hobbled up the lane. I soon found out that running on tarmac with my knees is not a great combination. The jarring of bone on bone significantly slowed my progress- not that Sherlock was complaining. Back on to the footpath past the Country Estate, Sherlock was unleashed and we crunched across the gravel drive together and up the hill past the farm- except now Sherlock was missing again. Backtracking for the second time I found him in deep discussion with one of his doggy mates “Merlin.” No doubt he was telling Merlin that I had obviously lost my mind. “He’s running again- what a twat etc.” I swear that both dogs had sarcastic grins on their faces when I approached them. (thanks Lewis!) The sun had now broke through the grey barrier and I was sweating, I’d swallowed a couple of flies (what was that about keeping your mouth shut whilst running?) and I had a doggy companion with a perverse sense of humour and a total dislike for running. We completed the footpath with just a nettle sting and a few choice words between us. Back on the lead for the last road stretch home. I now had to literally drag the blasted hound along the footpath. He was like a ball and chain around my ankle. Past the tennis courts and Sherlock suddenly puts a spurt on, a sprint finish to the sofa. He’s the winner- of course.
I stop the app on my phone and look at my time. Bloody hell, I’ve walked it quicker than that! Apparently you can break your run down in to split times etc on the app, but to spare my embarrassment I shall just be strapping a calendar to my wrist if I ever decide to go running again- alone!