Monday, March 21, 2016

Over the Hill - Two Weeks To Go

Halfway there: The first half of the course covered.
I’m busy on many fronts. That’s a blessing in many ways, because I don’t have time to worry, and I’m forced to live in the present. Last week, I covered my peak training distance, 70 miles in one week, including a 29 mile run from Glasgow Queen Street Station to Falkirk High. My entirely voluntary and therefore self-inflicted burden of Scottish Green Party responsibilities mean I’ve been up late every night production-editing 15 versions of our mini-newspaper for electors in the region, as well as coordinating the nomination of dozens of our candidates throughout the country. And my paid employment has hit a critical peak, as the project I’m working on ramps up into full swing. There’s no time to think, to make anything more than the most immediate of decisions, or to reflect on any alternative to the way things are now. And there’s been no time to blog.
I feel good about the race, which is just two weeks away. I seem to have adapted to this five-runs-a-week regime. It is difficult to rise in the dark three mornings in a row and run to work, and the selection of routes I take are becoming very very familiar. Low mood dogs me. Routine helps me get through this. I am almost living out of a sports bag and the repetition of the weekly schedule means there is no time wasted on decisions.
I’ve never danced with tiredness for so long like this. If I sit down to watch half an hour of my favourite television I will nod off several times. In the evening the smallest tasks, like counting my pills out for the next few days, or laying out my running gear, feel as though I’m performing them at high altitude. My concentration is shot. I can’t read more than a page or two before I either fall asleep or turn instead to mental junk food like social media.
But I can work. I seem to be in a state where I take great solace in just getting things done. Just as this low-speed high-mileage running has no innate thrill or euphoria but is merely satisfying to tick off, so my work, filling in forms, cutting articles to length, chivvying colleagues, refining technical implementation plans has become a calling. It’s dull and routine, but I feel much better for doing it. I go to bed and wake up thinking about it. This is the state of flow, albeit a sluggish sticky kind.
This is all going to be over in two weeks. I’m a bit frightened by that. I will experience a sense of decompression. I will need to be met at the prison gates and taken to a halfway house. I’m more anxious about after the ultramarathon than I am about the ultramarathon.
I know what the course will look like, because I’ve covered all of it now. Having run the second half a few weeks ago, I ran the first half last weekend, both times running in the direction of the race. I even practiced what it would feel like to take the train to Glasgow in the knowledge that I was going to run dozens of miles back the same way. That was funny, because at the station in Glasgow I met two Green colleagues. One was going to picket the SNP conference, and the other was going to a party council meeting five minutes from my house. And I was going to run to Falkirk.
It was a fantastic run. I felt a sense of great beauty and presence as I went north and then east along the Forth and Clyde canal, going past the huge isolated tower blocks that still look like the future to this child of the sixties. A burnt out car had the grace of a modern art exhibit. I was passing through towns I’d never been to before, covering 29 miles I’d never set foot on before. It fills a real need in me. I want to pace the world.
I’m bearing up physically. My Achilles tendons are taking it in turns to complain but neither has hurt so sharply I’ve had to stop. I just have to keep out of trouble for two weeks. This taper period is notorious for little niggles to out so I’m prepared for that. My choice of shoes for the day is being made for me. I will wear the pair that hurts least when I’ve run 30 miles in them. I’ve been tentatively posting on the event’s Facebook page, tipping off the other runners that there’ll be a lot of fresh new tarmac for us to run on. I’m glad about that. Most ultras are wild, hilly, rocky affairs. This is flat and smooth.
Bring it on. I’m ready.

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