Sometimes, the hardest thing about a run is the act of putting your trainers on and leaving the house. You’re tired, it’s cold and last night’s take-away didn’t agree with you. But more than anything else, you just can’t face running those bloody hills.
That was me earlier in the year. After spending over two decades running, I finally found myself defeated by hills. We moved to a new house in November last year and up until that point, we had several routes we could follow. If we wanted hills, we could run our hill route, if we wanted a mainly flat route we would hop onto the East Lancs (not the prettiest route I know), and if we wanted a mix, we would join the East Lancs and then branch off onto one of the adjoining roads. But once we’d moved house, we discovered all routes from our front door led to multiple hills. We tried being clever by heading off onto different roads, only to be met by a hill that we’d somehow forgotten about. We started running routes in reverse hoping the hills wouldn’t be as bad, only to find ourselves cursing, followed by me dramatically declaring I was never going to run outdoors again – until the next weekend of course.
I realise that some hill training is good and I don’t mind adding it in occasionally, but tackling hills every time I ran was sucking the life out of me. I started to hate it. When my 6am alarm woke me, I found myself turning it off, getting up an hour later and doing a home circuit instead. And if I did manage to crawl out of the warmth by convincing myself that the hills wouldn’t be that bad, 5 minutes into the run I found myself dreading what was coming. No sooner had we recovered from one hill, we found ourselves approaching the next one. I was broken, and after every run I found myself taking to Instagram complaining about the bloody hills. My love of hitting the pavement, and watching the sun come up while my neighbourhood was still sleeping, was slowly but surely fading away.
Taking a fall
Then at the beginning of April, on a nice steady run where for the first time in ages, I felt a little bit of joy creeping through my veins – I tripped. It happened so fast that for a second I thought I‘d regained my balance – but I hadn’t. Time somehow slowed down and weirdly everything went into slow motion. I saw the pavement coming towards my face and all I could think was ‘please don’t fall, please don’t fall, please don’t fall’. Like a mantra on repeat, it echoed through my head. I felt my right knee hit the floor, so I put my hands out to try and stop myself going down, but it was too late. The pavement was coming closer and my mantra suddenly changed to ‘shit no – not my face, not my face, not my face’. But it was out of my control and before I knew what was happening my left knee, my hands, my left shoulder and then finally my face all hit the tarmac and I skidded across the gravel. I lay there for a few seconds before sitting up to assess the damage. A moment later as shock started to creep in, I felt warm tears start to roll down my cheeks. Luckily, I was wearing gloves and a hoody with thumb-holes so my hands escaped with just some minor grazes and loose flaps of skin. Too scared to look underneath my ripped, blood covered running pants, I decided to wait until we got home before examining the damage to my right knee. 4 miles into a 6-mile run meant we were still a couple of miles from home, so we started to walk – slowly. Ian offered to run home for the car, but obviously quite shaken, I said no. 30-minutes later, realising how long it was going to take us (me) to get home, I finally agreed to let Ian run ahead while I continued walking at a snail’s pace. My whole body was shaking with the cold, and my limbs were starting to stiffen. It was the worst run ever!
I was out of action for a couple of weeks, and my first run after falling was awful. I was hoping it wouldn’t affect my confidence but it clearly had. Each step was tentative and every hill was a nightmare. I dramatically made another vow to give up outdoor running forever! It was about this time we decided to start looking for other routes, and if it meant we had to drive out somewhere, then so be it.
The following week we headed to Riversway Docks. It was windy and cold, but it was flat. We weren’t the only runners either. We saw runners, walkers, bikers, dog walkers – a vast difference to our previous routes. We had found the holy grail of flat running! Over the following weeks we found ourselves driving over to Riversway, heading off through the industrial estate, past the car showrooms and out onto the main road exploring different areas then finishing off with a lap of the river – all without a hill in sight! It was after a few weeks of running this route we stumbled upon the Preston Guild Wheel and realised we could join it from the docks.
The Preston Guild Wheel
The following week, with no idea of where we would end up, we drove to Riversway and joined the Guild Wheel. It was 18°. Tufty white clouds floated through the sky and the sun warmed our skin as we ran. The river was still, and as the trees reflected upon its surface we ran alongside the water. We ran up steps and over bridges, through streets and under trees. We passed by houses and discovered parts of the city we never knew existed. With no set route in mind, we hopped on and off the wheel, exploring as we went. It was so refreshing, and this my friends, has completely changed my outlook on running. The picture at the beginning of the year couldn’t be more different from the one I’m looking at now.
Come rain or shine, I look forward to hitting the pavement. If I’m tired, I push myself to go. If it’s cold, I put on a jumper. And if last night’s take-away hasn’t agreed with me, I just hope that I’ll be okay until I get home! Is it easy? Hell no! Running is something I have to work at. But no matter how hard it is, and no matter how much I want to give up – I keep going. Because exploring the city on foot has become one of my favourite things to do. And one footstep at a time, the love I had for running is slowly working its way back into my veins.