Goal: 5 miles with middle 3 at 7:30 min/mile, 7 min/mile. 6:30 min mile.
A perfect morning. I’d slept through my alarm that I set for 7am, finally waking at 10am. But today it didn’t matter. It was the bank holiday weekend, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and I was sure whenever I ran today it would be a good run.
After a lazy breakfast and shower I pulled on my running gear and headed into Yeovil for my run. When I think of trail running, I don’t think of Yeovil. But maybe I should. There’s a disused railway line – flat, smooth paths and reclaimed as a trail with a thought for the wildlife – and it’s PERFECT for running. This morning with the blue skies overhead and with tall trees and lush green banks all around the lazy hum of bees to keep me company it would be perfect. It was also too early for the local chavs to be out, although I didn’t really have to worry about them wanting to run with me. They don’t tend to like running, sticking instead to their tried and tested daily circuit exercises of ‘speed-smoking roll ups’, the chav triathlon of ‘cider- drinking, vomit-hugely and pass-out-in-resulting-vomit-puddle’ and ‘distance expectorating’.
I parked near the start of the trail and while I waited for my Garmin to pick up a signal, I saw a raven behaving strangely. It was flapping around something it had dropped but didn’t want to pick up with me nearby so I went to investigate. A shape on the ground was sinuously moving away from me. My first thought was a grass snake, but it was too small and had no real markings except behind its head. A slow worm. These look like snakes but are actually tail-less lizards – you can tell as these have eyelids like a lizard, snakes don’t. It didn’t seem particularly afraid of me so I bent down to have a proper look at it. The very end of its tail was missing – maybe it had been breakfast for the raven - but it didn’t seem particularly distressed as it moved away towards the safety of the grassy bank.
Being a bit superstitious (aren’t all runners with our lucky race tops and special socks?) I might have taken a raven dropping a snake as a symbol of something. I wasn’t sure quite what it could be a symbol OF though. Everything I thought of didn’t sound quite right.
”Today snakes can expect a lucky escape” sounded too much like a horoscope in a tabloid and “The Guardian of The Tower lets slip the Tempter” sounded like the start of a new Stephen King Gunslinger book. In the end, I decided that it was just a warning for everyone around that runners will steal your breakfast if they’re close enough.
I ran onto the trail and stood at the start of the path looking down towards my route, the distinctive Wyndham Hill to my right with its crown of trees. This is the start of my run. And I breathe deeply wondering what today and this run will bring.
I’ve got 5 miles to do this morning and the middle 3 are to be build-up miles. I can start at any pace but mile 2 is to be run at 7:30 min/miles, mile 3 at 7:00 and mile 4 at 6:30. I can wheeze and puff like a 60-a-day smoker and run at a 15 min/mile for mile 5 if I like. So long as the middle 3 miles are right.
I trot down through the trees, using the first mile as a warm up and just enjoying being out and moving in the morning sunshine. It’s really warm already and is vest top weather. I can finally believe it‘s going to be June next week. There are lots of Dads out today, all with little girls. Maybe Saturday morning is Mum’s lie in morning or grocery shopping. Or maybe Mum is out for a run and will be running past them later waving cheerily as her daughter looks on and longs for the day that she has long legs and can run as fast as Mummy.
I notice that my breathing isn’t as easy as it should be and realise I forgot my hayfever tablet. Bother. A silly thing to do and one that could make a difference to my run this morning. I try to ignore that and just concentrate on how nice it is to run on this path in the morning and listen to the river running by on my left and the birds in the trees. Today is a perfect running day.
The trail is so tree covered, the Garmin signal and pace are jumping around so I reset it after the first mile so I can get an average pace over the next 2 miles. It’s no good checking the watch and being told I’m doing a pace worthy of Mo Farah one moment and then the speed of Gordon Brown the next. My math isn’t good enough on the run to work out what the average is likely to be. My brain turns to porridge while I’m running.
It’s a lot easier with the average pace. My only problem with this is that I worry that I’m going to slow down towards the end so speed up in the hope of keeping some ‘in the bank’. It just means I do the interval too fast and get puffed out. This showed up in lap 3 which was the 6:30 min/mile. I struggled to keep my breathing easy. I don’t know whether this was actually down to hayfever or just me knowing that I’d forgotten the tablet and was expecting it to be hard. I paused near one of the gates I had to weave through and gave myself a few steady breaths (read: pant like a Labrador) before carrying on.
I pushed on through and finally finished by a quiet pool and a bridge crossing a quiet stream surrounded by weeping willow trees. A girl passed me with a black Labrador and gave me a sympathetic smile. I wheezed at her and attempted a smile which probably looked like a grimace but which seemed to reassure her I wasn’t dying even though I was making all the right noises for it.
After I recovered slightly, I realised that I’d finished my mile by an interesting uphill trail ... Seemed silly not to run up the hill. That’s what hills are for, after all. And who knows what interesting things might be at the top.
I ran up it. And up it. And up it. I’m sure it wasn’t as mountainous as it felt but it DID feel positively Himalayan. I got a pause for breath as a family straggled by the Dad being towed by the daughter and the Mother by a little boy. I got a “Why is she so puffed out from running these TINY hills” look. I pretended they cheered me on instead and passed them by and found a choice of trails. Uphill? Or downhill? Up of course. I followed the smooth dirt trail and it wound between tall trees and gave views into little hidden valleys. In the sunshine, it felt warm and exotic and didn’t feel quite like England.
The trail wound downhill and I ran down enjoying the feel of my feet on the smooth path. At the bottom it looped down further and narrowed and I found a cloudy blue pool like a cataracted eye. The stones around the edge were wet and puddled and there was a spring filling a small basin with water. I stopped and looked over the edge of the bridge and my reflection stared back at me, but the water was opaque and I couldn't see the bottom of the pool. It felt like a secret and magical place and one that I’d never find again, except by chance.
I left the pool and ran on, following the trail through a stone archway and back onto a gravel path and back to the world of traffic noise, ice cream vans and children playing in the garishly coloured playground.
Goal: 5 miles with middle 3 at 7:30 min/mile, 7 min/mile. 6:30 min mile.
Actual: 5.79 miles with middle 3 at 7:12 min/mile, 6:42 min/mile, 6:25 min/mile
Garmin info here:
Miles 3, 4 and 5 (after avg pace reset):