Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Leg Horror

Back in what would have been the late nineteen-eighties, some poor sod came off his motorbike on the A537 and his leg was bent backwards, from the hip, so that his heel touched the back of his neck. The story about this in the Macclesfield Express was headlined 'Leg Horror' and I can still remember my dad laughing out loud at it.

I've had my own, milder version of Leg Horror over the past couple of days. Saturday's run was the furthest Andy and I have been so far, and it took its toll on our tendons, muscles and general constitutions. But it was great, too. Great to know that we could even get that far.

At around midday, we started off from beautiful, sun-kissed Blackheath and some hours later we'd end up in what appeared to be scenes from the Old Testament, the weather was so bad. But more on that later and back to the start, at the top of Greenwich park, where  a group of Harley Davidson-straddling old fellers were blasting Eric Clapton's 'Crossroads' out of a boombox and revving their bikes' engines.

From there we headed down to the Cutty Sark and on through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, under the Thames. It was instantly fun and even though I'd had a night of terrible insomnia (look, what I'm saying is that you should be impressed) I began to feel that, hey, I was going to enjoy this.

Andy in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, looking like a murderer or a minotaur or something.

From there, we stuck to the bank of the river around the Isle of Dogs, then up through grim Blackwall and instant befuddlement, as we tried to find the right subways under the roads of roaring traffic.

Along the Thames.

View from the Isle of Dogs.

And from there, we carried on up to Limehouse Cut and onto the path by the River Lea. That bit was great. Past Three Mills studios and along waterways that gave you wonderful glimpses of old London. There were barges, sure, but old painted signs that had faded on their walls, too. And even the occasional sunken rusty boat. I'm not joking. By now we seemed to be going okay - not fast or slow, but simply steady. The sky, however, was curdling and as the clouds got greyer and lower, the air was getting colder, and colder.

About six or seven miles in, we stopped near the Olympic Stadium for a cup of tea. By then there were lots of cafes along the river and canal banks, with punters spilling out of the doors wearing Steve Zissou-style hats and having hip conversations. The first place we ran into was actually a pub, but the second did tea - and was a strange little German Deli that on first glance could easily have been a branch of Wickes. The woman at the counter asked what we were up to, and when we said Marathon training she said how she could 'run 10km in about half an hour'. Okay, we said.

Walthamstow Marshes.

From there, we carried on up to Walthamstow Marshes and, by then, I was beginning to get pretty knackered. 'How far do you reckon we can get' asked Andy. 'I dunno man, we'll see. We'll see' was my breathy answer. What I didn't know was that we were about to read the map wrong, head out through Waltham Forest by mistake and stick another three or four miles on our route.

The River Lea.

It was here that things began to change. The clouds were startlingly close and it was beginning to get really, really cold. And then the wind showed up, too. Running into it was more difficult than I could have expected - and in some points it rooted me to the spot and practically turned me into a mime. And then finally - the pay off - and the heavens opened.

We ran down from Northumberland Park station in the kind of weather you only really hear about in the Book of Deuteronomy. If this sounds like hyperbole, it isn't. Not really. I was quickly soaked to the skin as the sky boomed and flashed above us. We headed down through Stamford Hill and spent most of it avoiding the yarmulkes and shtreimels being lifted from Jewish mens' heads by the wind. Everyone was dashing from awning to shop doorways, trying not to get blitzed. Everyone was saying 'fucking hell'.

Finally, at Dalston Junction, we stood shivering in the train station. 'That was some run' said Andy. I ag-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-eed through chattering teeth. Of course, by the time we got inside, the rain stopped.

All in, we covered around 17 miles. Going by an app that Andy had downloaded, we'd run 15 of those and walked for two. And we'd burned something like 2400 calories. This last bit has made me think about our training as, by the end, I was in desperate need of refuelling and, were this a marathon, we'd still have another 11 miles to go. It made me think about nutrition, and about what we take with us when we go out. Horribly, this may even mean energy gels.


The next day, I had to sack off the planned 'Recovery Run' (a four miler, to get our legs moving again) simply because my lower legs and feet felt as immovable as two 9-irons. Earlier in the week, I'd also cried off with a shivery cold.

Andy carried on with four miles each time and, this morning (Tuesday) I ran three before work. By the end of it, the sun had come up my legs weren't seized up as they had been for the past 48 hours. It really was as if the rust had fallen off. Funny how your body works, eh. 

Saturday's route.

Distance: 15 miles/ 24 km ( plus 2 miles of walking)
Time: AGES. Hours.
Recovery run distances: 3.4 miles/ 5.4m km (Elliot) and 4 miles/ 6.5km (Andy)
Times: Half an hour for each.
Total distance (Andy): 101.8 miles/ 163.8km
Total distance (Elliot): 106.6 miles/ 170.5km

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