Item one: The knee brace is wonderful. Truly, honestly, wonderful.
Item two: If you are ever found needing to run more than 17 miles, download as many episodes of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me as you need.
It was a glorious day in Oxford, which right now is saying a lot. I didn’t have to fully winter up, which is surprising, as Oxford has been threatening to stay in winter mode and not switch to spring. (I’m seeing the flowers starting through the ground!) On my immediate start I got a stomach cramp, which I was silently both cursing and praising. Cursing as stomach cramps do hurt. Praising as I knew that if I decided to turn on the sloth jets straight out of the gate I might pay for it later.
Port Meadow was a mud slide. As I usually run on Sundays I was engaging with the Saturday runner crowd, which there are quite a few more of. Obviously I am not as well versed in running through thick, slippery-slimy mud, but 10 others (at least) in this city are. The “thuck, thuck, thuck” of shoes and willow thin women glided by as I suddenly realized I could be adding twisted ankle to my roster of growing woes. Mercifully I made it right through, down into canal walk and straight up into the entire neighboring city’s people departing a train all at the same time.
Here’s something very strange about Oxford: You can run directly at another human being, assuming that they will slide or move out of the way in some fashion – and they don’t. They sort of look at you with a slightly open mouth, gazing up and down at the wick-away fabric and highly fashionable knee brace, and continue to walk right at you. I’ve completely given up on running through city centre because of this. (Not to mention they also will have bags which they can hit you with.) But unfortunately it is not entirely unavoidable, and so as the entire city of somewhere marched towards the centre of town I dodged and weaved and somehow made it through intact. I considered this the slalom portion of my event.
Into Botley I went, which carries a somewhat mellow shopping crowd and only a few cars who fully believe you must race to the end of a street to stop as quickly as possible. I extended my route, knowing that at the point of N. Hinksey road there was a bike path people used to get into the industrial estate where my work, and another connection to the canal walk, existed.
Another strange point about Oxford: You get used to having sidewalks, paths, or trails somewhere. Now, I’m formerly well-versed in attempting to run in Houston, Texas, where the rich believe that portions of sidewalk belong to their estate and therefore remove them entirely for water features or flower beds. Here, it’s so pedestrian that you immediately believe wherever you go there will be something for you to walk on.
Did you know that N. Hinksey road’s sidewalk sort of dumps you into traffic a good tenth of a mile before you get to their bike path? I bet you didn’t. Now you do.
Thankfully I endured no carnage, and managed to wind my way onto a very busy but beautiful bike path back towards work. At this point I had had to stop about two times to adjust the knee brace, which was working wonders. A little twinge here or there, but it was keeping all my walking, jogging, and running in line.
My tactic this run was distraction after my point of threshold. (Wow, that sounds sort of fancy and well thought out!) For me, that threshold is about 10 miles. One of my first mentors, and now mayor of the city of Houston, was invited onto the US NPR Show “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” I’ve always been a fan of the show, as it picks current news topics and immediately finds intelligent ways of making them hilarious. But, as I don’t run 50 minutes in one go (thankfully I’m faster than that), nor am I on trains like I used to be, listening had fallen by the wayside.
Not anymore. Now I have these crazy long runs to contend with. First, download the show with Annise Parker (my mentor), she’s excellent. Second, if you are ever out on stupid long runs, just download the show. As I hit the canal run, past the Hertford College crew out turning their boats and practicing strokes (which is cool by itself) I found myself laughing and giggling and jogging on without near the worry or stress I usually find myself in after mile 10. Now, yes, I did get some odd faces from people out enjoying a nice day, but mentally I was feeling so strong that the moment I realized I had whizzed through Cowley and was in my “victory lap” at University Park it had only felt like minutes.
By that point my legs were stiff and I most likely looked like a bow-legged jogging cowboy, but my spirits were very good. I got into the house about four hours after I left it, which was my goal. I mentally managed to hold it together until right before bed, where I felt my brain just pop out from the amount of time that is training for a marathon.
So there you have it, 17 miles. I have one more long run to go – 20 – but that (and about 6 downloads of Wait, Wait) is for next week.