I thought it timely be useful to write a little update on running and cycling these days. Here goes…
Right now my cycling tends to be mostly short local commutes and I’m quite enjoying this. Normally I go to a Council place in Houghton Regis once a week and from time to time I drop in for a meeting or hot design at the Council offices in Dunstable. Journeys are just as fast by bicycle, even though I’m hardly a speed merchant these days.
I like the independence cycling brings; going from A to B under your own steam without the fuss of running a car. Besides, I do admit to feeling a tad smug as I get places quicker by bike. I also enjoy some traffic free routes which is pleasant and this brings added enjoyment. Mind you, interacting with other road users can be increasingly problematic and I’ll give you some examples:
- Being invisible on traffic calming road humps. These seem to be popping up everywhere in the 20mph residential areas and often narrowed, so only one car can drive over the hump at any one time. Even when I have priority many car drivers tend to “chance it” with me and assume I’ll move out of their way, even though they’re in the wrong. Whenever this happens I hold my ground and ride straight at them. They know they haven’t got a leg to stand on and simply have to stop, looking embarrassed (this should teach them a useful lesson). I don’t wish to antagonise motorists but I’m certainly not going to give way if I’m in the right. Motorists need to learn and take note!
- Packs of school boys on their 29ers. While it’s great to see groups of lads cycling to school, they are a bit uncontrolled at times. They’ll ride all over the road, often pulling wheelies and wobbling about. I tend to give them a wide birth.
- Laid back and lowered blokes. These are those increasingly common young men driving around in cars with lowered suspension, often with silly lights and dark windows. To complete the laid back look their seat backs are almost flat and they can barely see out of the windows; in fact they look like 12 year olds trying to grow beards. While the laid back and lowered blokes are doing their best to look cool in their uncool cars, I think they miss seeing me at various junctions. When they do see me, they often look so annoyed their fancy cars are moving so slower than yours truly simply freewheeling past them. I love this!
I sometimes think I run more miles than I cycle these days, especially if I include treadmill miles. Nevertheless running still brings more bangs for my bucks and I try to have a run four times a week.
Since the clocks changed back to GMT a couple of weeks ago, I have been running a few times at night. I quite like doing this as it’s something a little different and touches on my senses in a different way. As I ran out into the countryside afterwork one day with a head torch, I was struck by how much I could smell, much more than normal – onions, damp soil, wood and so on, making it quite special.
It’s a strange sensation when you come to run (or cycle) down hill and you haven’t seen the change in gradient. You simply find yourself going faster and faster without anymore effort.
Running at night isn’t all plain sailing. I have to be so careful I don’t trip up and fall. My eyesight isn’t brilliant and it’s easy to miss seeing the odd stone or tree root and the last thing I want is a twisted ankle or a broken arm away from help. It is also quite hard to see the natural path to follow with so many falling leaves covering the track.
The scariest part was catching sight of a wood carving of a faceless monk-like figure in the woods. While I have seen this many times before, seeing it in what I thought was a different place really scared me first of all! Believe me, it is seriously creepy.
I am hoping to have a night run during the coming week with my good friend (and financial advisor) John. Hopefully we will head over my favourite 7 mile hilly route over Dunstable Downs. While I have run this many times before, perhaps 100s of times, I have never run it at night. This is the kind of course which does take you off road for a couple of miles and you need company. So I’m really looking forward to this as I’ve enjoyed so many night cycle rides over the years and a decent run has the makings of something very special.
I do like Strava; it brings an extra layer of interest to running and cycling. It can be very satisfying and yet also a bit dispiriting. Let me explain. Two years ago I last ran a marathon and my pace was about 8:30mins/mile and I was quite pleased with that. Nowadays my pace on much shorter runs is typically 9:15mins/mile. It is depressingly true the blood pressure tablets I take to bring on tiredness and this might account for some of my slower times, together with being two years older.