Upping my game

I’ve parked my car at the top of the Shibden Wall, next to the pub. I’m feeling nervous about this run. There’s no rational reason for me to feel nervous, I’m running on my own on a route that has very few people so no-one will see me. There’s no reason for me to feel nervous. Yet I am.

The previous Friday I had gone to Leeds to help someone who is conducting research into barefoot running. This interested me a great deal as I have been wearing zero drop shoes for over 6 months and I am now feeling the benefits. I’ve only been walking in them and doing the research gave me a reason to go to the next level and run barefoot.

At the university in Leeds the researcher asked me to run in my socks on a treadmill while she took various measurements from the electrodes on my legs. To my surprise I jumped on the treadmill and immediately started running on my forefoot. I have no idea where this came from as I’ve always been a heel striker and struggled to run on the treadmill, yet here I was running on my forefoot, upping the speed, and feeling good about running on a treadmill.

The next stage was to run in my Merrell’s, very lightweight, minimalist shoes with 3mm of sole separating me from the treadmill. Without thinking I was on my forefoot again and this time I was running faster, 8 ½ minute miles which for me is very fast in my current physical state. I came away from the session happy with helping someone and even happier with my own performance on the treadmill. I had proved to myself that I had so much more in me, left to show itself than I realised.

All weekend I was wondering if I could transfer what I had done on the Friday, on the treadmill to running outside on the trails and over the moors and I knew there was only one way to find out, to go out and do it.

I wasn’t sure what was going to happen which sounds stupid but so many scenarios went through my mind. Would I trip up and end up with my face in the mud? Would I find it too difficult to replicate what I had done on the treadmill and revert back to my usual style or would my legs, in particular my calves not be able to cope with 17 ½ stone over the trails and cramp up leaving me to limp back to my car in pain and embarrassment?

I got out of my car and set off trying to get a balance between running naturally and running on my forefoot on purpose. The trail starts off downhill which is ideal to get going, get into a good stride and see if how I feel.

I feel good. I’m doing more of a midfoot strike but my legs are moving well and I’m feeling confident about my running, hitting the ground well, avoiding the rocks and not stopping when I see a drop. The trail goes through some trees, a farm and out onto an open trail. I push the pace here to see if I can go faster. I can. I start walking about halfway down as my breathing isn’t up to keeping up with my legs yet, but I only walk a short distance before I run again.

There’s a short but steep drop down to the top of Claremont and it’s a descent which I always struggle on but today I run down with more confidence and pace than I usually do. At the bottom it flattens out and I up the pace again before taking the muddy descent down towards Stump Cross. It’s slippy and I have to watch my step in places but overall I’m happy with how I felt coming down this tricky path.

At the bottom I head up the path back towards Horley Green Lane. It’s a steady ascent and takes me past a house which I call the hidden house because it’s easy to miss it if you don’t know it’s there. To my surprise there’s someone in the garden working. This is the first time I’ve ever seen someone at this house so it’s nice to know that someone is looking after it.

I go on the path heading towards Shibden Mill Inn but before I get there I go through a stile and head up the hill towards Hag Lane. This is one of my favourite climbs as it has a bit of everything and gets tricky where the path has been eroded. It doesn’t go straight up either but cuts across the hill making it that bit longer and more enjoyable to run.

At the top where Hag Lane converges with Turner Lane I carry straight on up and over to Bradford Old Road where I turn right and head back to my car. The run has taken me just over 45 minutes which isn’t a great time but gives me a good target to chip away at.

After the run I head down to the gym for a shower and a sauna but before I do that I have an 18 minute ride on the indoor bike and do some strength work on my abductors and adductors. I’m even more pleased with this as usually I do a run and that’s it. Doing a bit more is another step in the right direction towards regaining my fitness and losing weight.

It’s been a good day and I’ve learnt a lot about myself and my abilities, a step in the right direction for me personally and physically.

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