It felt like an odd week last week, after the disappointment of a DNF at Preseli (yes I still count the beast finish as technically a DNF) it left me kind of flat for a few days. All sorts of thoughts were wandering around my head as if looking for something to do. At times I was even thinking Christ perhaps I’m too old for this ultrarunning shit and hey why do I even need to put myself through it anyway. I could take it easy, laze around a bit like I see everyone else doing. Just be … normal or something.
But when I thought about it and I mean really thought deep down about it I couldn’t be happy returning to the lazy way of living. Something changed back in 2015 (have I really been running 7 years?) and I don’t think its ever likely to change back until something really derails me and I don’t think coming up short a few times counts as a derailment. It’s more of a pull your head out of your ass issue.
So back to the running I went, easy at first, a few miles here and a few there as I recovered from Preseli. Then a series of slightly longer runs over the weekend. It’s time I was a little more consistent. They all count not just the long ones. I need to keep remembering that.
I also invested in some poles, giving me plenty of practice time to see if they will make a difference when things get steep. All i need to do is to go and find some very steep terrain where Murph can also be off lead as I’m not sure I can pole and hold him at the same time.
I was up this morning at dawn to run to the beach and back. only two or three miles but it makes such a difference. It’s never particularly easy getting up, lacing up and going straight out but I have never once failed to be glad I did it.
We have just over 2 weeks left in the countdown to the run over the other side. Battling a sore back at the moment that just seems to tweak nastily every now and again. But then again when have I ever run a race without an injury so it’s going to be a fingers crossed and hope its ok on the day kind of thing, even if its not perfect I reckon it’ll be good enough.
So crew is sorted and we have a vague plan, its handy to have a friend who is willing to spend all day driving and meeting up with me and listening to me moan about how everything hurts. She’s seen it all before in my first 50 miler and doesn’t really give a shit as long as she gets to spend the day with the dogs.
Its a two dog adventure again and Murph will get to spend the day with his new best buddy Dug. We’ve been getting some training in but also enjoying the chance to to walk too with Dug, he’s a Romanian rescue and although not quite as damaged as Murph he has some issues that are being ironed out. Judging by the photo avalanche below you will see what I mean.
Another day another injury – not me this time but the Murph who had a cut on his paw. No idea how he does it, theres just a lot of sharp stuff out there and when you have an active dog in nature it’s gonna happen.
So the decision then becomes do I run without him? And I can’t bring myself to leave him at home and go out and enjoy myself without him so therefore how do we make the best of the situation? So I dialled up the mobility and strength part of the training. Ok so it’s not running in nature but it’s going to help in the long run. So stretching and weights it was.
And yesterday and today we are back to running – keeping it short and sweet while I keep an eye on his paw – to be honest it wasn’t even making him limp and I only noticed it because he was playing on the floor next to me while I stretched so I am probably being over cautious but hey look at me being all responsible!
So thats been the last week or so – but now we are back! It’s not like we haven’t been out.
On Sunday we trotted out for a few miles of running, I wasn’t intending too much as it was midday and on fine weekends the coast gets busy and we don’t like busy. But as we sped down the lane after a quick parents visit it just felt too soon to head for home. It was just too nice out and the legs were feeling like they had many more miles in them so we set off towards the clifftops. In the distance I could already see people walking the coastal path but hey ho in for a penny and so we turned right instead of left which led us along the cliffs away from home so we could drop down at Witches Point to do the full stretch of the beach where hopefully there would be less people.
Along the cliffs we passed a number of walkers and you know what? Murph coped. He wasn’t happy about them but he coped. He didn’t growl, bark or pull too hard to get past them.He just put his thousand yard stare on and bravely (for him) just got past them without a fuss. On the beach I let him off the lead and he stayed right with me, we ran within 50 metres of people and he plain ignored them and stuck to my heels. I didn’t even need to put him on the lead until we hit the singletrack path off the beach and even then he behaved impeccably. Pulling slightly as if under tension but controlling his fear.
For those that don’t know Murph was a mess when i got him. Scared of his own shadow, he had obviously been mistreated and no way could he have got past all these people like this back then. He used to panic and run in the opposite direction to people. Eventually he found his voice and learned to bark at them to stay away but he has always been so scared it’s been heartbreaking sometimes.
But on Sunday I was so proud of him, I could tell at times he wasn’t happy about being close to strangers (once he knows you he is fine) but he soldiered on, gritted his dog teeth and kept going. I told him so in the last field on the way home, he got a 10/10 mark from me on Sunday – never happened before.
It’s taken over three years and maybe we have reached peak Murph rehabilitation but even if it is then it warms my heart to know I’ve made a difference to his life, replacing fear with love.
My posting that is, I have plenty of time to write but seemingly it’s more fun doing something than writing about it. So as per usual we’ve been out and about, running here, running there but no longer logging the miles like last year. Which took a litle while to get used to but after having to record every single walk and run I think I do prefer just getting out there and doing it and sod the numbers.
We also have a few projects on the go. First up is Run all the Footpaths which does basically what it says on the tin. There’s a vast network of footpaths and bridleways around here and I want to run them all with murph, which takes us maybe to places we haven’t been before. Hopefully it will turn out to be an ever expanding circle of footpaths on a google map that I’m recording them on. Christ I’ve ended up recording things after all.
We also now have a Go Pro camera and as of yesterday a camera harness for Murph. So we’re been doing some filming and I’ve been playing around with video editing – which I’m not very good at. And Murph now has his own youtube channel where I can store all the finished videos. The lastest is being uploaded as I type and is his first test run with his hardness for a Murphs eye view of a run.
Should be more to come, especially as the weather starts to improve, I don’t really want a harness on him when it’s wet and to be honest I don’t like him wearing one at the best of times but the odd bit of filming won’t hurt I reckon.
We have some more things in the pipeline and for now I leave you with his latest photos!
Again it’s been a long time since i last posted, been busy busy busy, Well when I say more too lazy to post to the blog. If it’s a choice between writing about doing things or actually doing things its no choice at all. So we spent the summer running at dawn before the sun kicked in and then strolling through the fields once it did. It works well for us, neither of us particulary likes running in heat and I always feel its my choice if I do so but Murph would just follow me until he collapsed and thats not fair.
Between all that running and walking we’ve seen a bit of an increase on the old Murphometer.
Thats right we are around 1800 miles – which means I think we’re going to be done with 2000 miles this year a few months in advance – I’m sure we’ll keep it ticking over though. I’ve been pondering it and I think next year I’ll forget about logging mileage – it’s an interesting thing to do but I want to also just wander without having the numbers clicking through my brain. After all that the reason I don’t train with a watch anymore.
We also started exploring the Brecon beacons again now we can go back out there in preperation for some plans I have a long way down the line and of course it’s always great to get out there with murph for a day.
And some sad news is that we lost little Trouble the cat after 21 years. The little dude just got too old in the end. Weird to spend almost half your life with an animal and then he’s gone. I still look for him waddling about in his old routine and find myself still saying morning to him first thing as he headed for his food bowl.
However onwards and upwards. The sadness fades and there are always happy memories and many more memories to make with Murph. It just brings it more into focus.
I had a plan. It was a good plan. I tried to execute the plan. I failed. Maybe.
The plan was to run overnight on the solstice weekend between dusk and dawn, so from 9.34 PM to 4.57AM. I would do it mainly on the beach as the tides were right for most of it.
So I packed a drop bag and set off with Murph last night at 9.34 on the dot. We left the bag hidden on the beach as dusk set in and off we went. It was fun, it was different but something was off. I didn’t feel like the running was right, once it was totally dark it was harder than I thought to keep going over the rocks with a headtorch only – and to do it safely I was slow – which was fine by me. but something was off. Just a feeling. We covered 14 miles or so with a few rest breaks at the bag. but something was off. The ankle played up worse than normal and I think the battering it took on the rocks, the stumbles and incorrent foot placements had blown it. It was no excuse I’ve run through much worse pain than that.
After I while I realised that I wasn’t going to do the full seven and a half hours and once I came to terms with that then the pressure – albeit pressure only I had placed on myself – lifted and for the last few miles and the trip home through the fields and woods I was refreshed. I took the time to think about the whole experience and realised that in failure I had learned a lot more. Once we were off the beach I could turn my headlamp off and just move without having to cooncentrate fully on every step. I no longer had to worry about Murph (in his led collar) as the fields hold comparitively few dangers compared to the beach. I realised that much of my stress on the beach was worrying about him in the dark, I couldnt see what he was doing or exactly where he was. It struck me that in the total darkness I couldnt see him enjoying himself – Thats why i love to walk and run him – And in the dark I couldnt.
It was a good plan and it failed not because I failed but because it was a plan I came to realise didn’t matter. The failure would have been to not try in the first place. We got home around half two, I could I suppose have stuck it out for two and a half more hours in the fields but I would have done that just to make up numbers. It didn’t matter anymore. We woke at 7 and walked to the beach – and I could see him loving it, having fun and because I could see that it made all the difference.
I may have failed at one thing but I suceeded at a lot more last night.
And so the clock ticks and the seasons turn, in this case thankfully from spring to winter and so we all adjust to a new way of living, for a while at least. But some things never change and that no matter where you’ve been, no matter how far or near the roads always lead home. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do the distance you did, or be outside as long as you were you can always return home … and then do it over again … and again.
I know what im trying to say but am struggling to put the feeling into words. This photo though unspectacular struck a chord with me, it’s one of the many I take then forget about but this one stuck with me.
This is the road home for us after we’ve been out training in the fields instead of the beach. It’s also the end of our route home after we’ve been up to see my parents in the next village. For me this is a journey from one home to another. I’ve never lived more than a mile from my parents (barring university) and where I was born and grew up, be it where I am now or when I ran the pub. Some people find it strange that I’ve never lived anywhere else, I think some see it as almost sad. I find great comfort in it and the realisation for me is that simply I’ve never needed to be anywhere else. I love where I live, I’m exceedingly grateful to live here and the current climate is truly making me appreciate how lucky I am. I’m lucky that I have roads that lead to two homes.
I’m lucky that I consider the whole area my home, be it the fields, beach or woods. I know every inch locally like the back of my hand, I explored everywhere as a kid and I still can now through running and walking with a dog. Blessed is truly the word.
In these difficult times when people are told to stay home I have come to realise that for me that means everywhere. All these photos are taken within a mile and a quarter of home. Truly lucky and grateful.
I was out on the beach last week. It was cold, windy and raining. I had taken a fall and banged up my knee and elbow. The way back was into the headwind and I was feeling like I hadn’t had enough calories for the run (which i admittedly hadn’t). I was feeling kinda miserable and had the internal monologue of self pity going on at my suffering.
Then I thought this isntsuffering at all. What people are going through all over the world is suffering, losing, lives, loved ones, jobs, freedom. Thats suffering. My choice to run along a fucking beach in shit weather is hardly suffering on any scale and the only one who makes me do it anyway is me. And in that moment I realised I was being a complete self absorbed dickhead. I had the beauty of the beach, I had the company of my dog, I had health enough to run this and the freedom to do so. I am truly blessed and fortunate and its something I need to remember.
It’s made me realign a few things, go out and help people during this crisis, do what I can even in small ways, look after my parents, neighbours and community as much as I possibly can. Give something back for once, I can take what I need from nature on the run.
Time to step up and help others suffering because I’m fortunate enough to not be. Take care out there people and if you can do something good then do it. Little things, little gestures might just go further than you think.