Sunday, 12 April 2015

Unexpected company

Yesterday my long run went according to someone else's plan and not my own.  It turned out to be the most enjoyable, hard, thought provoking run I think I've ever had.

Even the start of the day wasn't quite how it was anticipated.  A friend of ours, Paul who is a faithful Christian and from Birmingham, phoned late on Friday evening, hoping to call in on Saturday to see us.  The only window for Paul was breakfast and it was truly great to see him.  We had breakfast as a family together with Paul joining in and it was certainly nice to have his company; he's always a blessing for us.

A little later on in the morning my thoughts were on getting in my long run.  By that I mean something over two hours.  Owing to the complexities of getting two teenage daughters to their respective hobbies (kayaking and tap dancing), I went to Luton and started my long run from there prior to resuming the fatherly taxi service.  I had run for less than one mile when I bumped into my friend Jon!  Jon is another friend with a strong Christian faith and it certainly shows itself in his day to day life.

Bumping in to him was amazing.  Seconds later we would have missed each other.  How does this kind of thing happen?  Coincidence?  Something else?  Read on....

Both Jon and I know the value of running in terms of staying in good shape and that's just the tip of the iceberg.  For both of us running is a fantastic way of sorting through things in our minds, working through problems, generating solutions, being reflective and the list goes on.  It was wonderful we could share 90 minutes of each other's company and we probably did around 10+ miles.

The run itself
I was on Jon's territory, not mine.  Instantly Jon suggested a general route which I was happy to go along with.  It included pausing once or twice for "I think this is the right way Doug" and "there might be a footpath over there".

Now that "over there" involved sneaking through a small wood near someone's grand house (we were just inside the prosperous Hertfordshire at this point and clearly on someone's land, as opposed to a footpath over farm land).  Next was skirting around a little boggy area before climbing over a vicious barbed wire fence and through a hedge with all kinds of sharp twiggy bits. "Man" I thought "I remember running with Jon before and having a nasty fall - just as well I'm not superstitious!".

And we were fine.  No barbed wire mishaps, no angry landowners (or their dogs) or anything to lessen the impact of this being a lovely run.

Included in the run was a sharp climb.  It was called the "Baulk" or something like that.  Now I had a quick call of nature at the foot of the climb, Jon continued out of politeness and so I could meet him at the top. Wow that was a fantastic climb, I could feel some of my leg muscles burning and I knew I was at the limit.

"But there's Jon!... I think I'm closing the gap.... yes I am, no I'm not, YES I AM!...."

And I wouldn't let up at all, in fact as I could see the top was so close I pushed on even harder, really to the limit and more - and then there I was, at the top with Jon.  We both paused, gasping and getting our breath back before we carried on, at a somewhat relaxed pace for a little while.  I can tell you, I could really feel my quad muscles burning in the last few yards.

The miles drifted by and it seemed almost disappointing that we got back to Luton as quickly as we did.  I had some time on my hand, before switching into Dad Taxi mode, plus I needed a few more miles.

So off I went on my own for a loop around King's Walden
This was the hardest part of the run by far.  Biggest problem was "running on empty" as I was starting to feel thirsty, almost to the point of my lips becoming dry.  I also knew I was in my third hour and I think every runner running non-stop over two hours should be thinking about fuel in me - i.e. getting a bit of energy inside.  And at that point I remembered I'd tucked an energy gel inside my shirt key pocket.  Turned out it had gone off, past the "use by" date and useless.

I pressed on, not quite realising how many miles I had run, I was starting to get a bit confused in trying to work it out.  Should be simple enough trying to work it out but I knew I was becoming muddled.  My running was becoming slower to the point the last 3 miles were at 10mins/mile.

Fortunately the hills were neither long nor steep.  Nevertheless the slopes sapped my energy further.  The last quarter mile was up an incline and (please don't do this at home) I just went for it as fast as I could.  Now I should say "just went for it" does not mean a dramatic increase in speed. Instead it was squeezing the last bit of energy out of my tired legs before they turned to jelly.  I made it, with 5 minutes to spare!  Phew!

Afterwards I was sweaty, achy and buzzing alive with a wonderful euphoric feeling.  Must be all those endorphins and a rush of Runner's High.

So who's plan was it?
Seeing my friend Paul at breakfast time was lovely, encouraging and long over due.  Seeing my friend Jon was remarkable; second later we would have missed each other and yet we both needed a good run, probably for slightly different reasons but running together was all part of the day and how we were being blessed.

So unexpected, so hard, so wonderful.  Each one of those 18.7 miles was incredible and I loved each one.  Who's plan was it?  I think you might already know.

Thank you so much!

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