Sunday, 3 July 2016

Enjoying running

Physical exercise - great for health

I'm rather short of material to post online currently, so I thought I'd tell you a story.

As a schoolboy I used to participate in cyclo-cross, a sport involving cycling/running across rough terrain. I was reasonably successful in the Northern League races and able to closely compete with lads who went on to win the National Schoolboy Championships.

Plate 1 - Glossop Velo Club Championships
Plate 2 - Competing as a schoolboy
After starting work with the Inland Revenue, aged just 16, it wasn't long before women entered my life, followed shortly by cars. My interest in motoring was actually fostered by my sport of cyclo-cross, as I used to travel to races in a Healey 3000 owned by professional cyclist, Barry Davies. Barry must have seen something in my early abilities, as he kindly took me under his wing as a schoolboy. He competed in the pro races and I competed in the supporting schoolboy and junior races. Often we would come away with prizes and trophies.

Plate 3 - Ribble Valley cyclo-cross event
Unfortunately, I didn't pursue my interest on two wheels as I lacked commitment to do the necessary training and within two years of leaving school, it was replaced by an aged Austin 1100 in British Racing green with a white stripe up the bonnet. However, keeping fit had been fostered at an early age and this was to feature again much later!

In the early 1980's I was offered promotion, but this was conditional on being transferred from Manchester to London. We ended up living in Kent (the only place we could afford) and I used to board the commuter coach to London at 6.30 am, not returning home until 7.00 pm or later. My wife hadn't really wanted to move South, moving away from family and being left on her own to look after two young children under the age of two was difficult. Work and home pressures resulted in a difficult time for us both. This didn't bode well for my health and it was not long before I was suffering from stress. It finally came to a head when I was rushed to hospital suffering from internal bleeding, due to an erosion of the stomach wall. After an endoscopy and a few days lying in bed on a drip, to my relief I was finally discharged clutching a new wonder drug, Tagamet. Not wishing to take medication continually, I decided something drastic needed to change with my lifestyle... so I started running and managed to arrange a transfer back up North. I have been running and competing ever since, apart from occasional periods of injury and find physical activity very beneficial to my life.

This morning the sun was shining, the birds tweeting and a mild breeze was blowing, so I decided to get out for a run. I fastened my heart monitor around my chest, put my Polar running watch on my wrist, slipped on my old 'Tour of Tameside' vest (awarded after finishing Ron Hill's tough athletic challenge, which featured six races over a week totalling the mileage of a double marathon) and shorts. I pulled on my '1000 Mile' socks (which have a double layer of material to avoid blisters)... and laced up my Asics trainers.

I went outside and pushed the button on my watch to locate the GPS satellites flying overhead. It also registered my heart rate at 68 beats per minute. I pressed the button again to start recording my session and jogged down the Bridle Path. I ran past a number of people out for a ride on their bikes, having to take to the grass verge to get out of their way. I ran through Dunston village, over the railway bridge to Metheringham, turning left to go down the footpath beside the duck pond. Running through the small estate I soon turned to go left over the railway again to go down Metheringham Fen Rd. I love this long stretch where I can just stride out, tune out and listen to my breathing, trying to keep my heart rate around 160 beats per minute. Many times I have done this route and I never tire of it. I've seen grass snakes curled up beside the roadside, buzzards soaring on the thermals and skylarks singing as they rise ever higher in the sky. It is delightful.

It wasn't long before I joined Dunston Fen Road, turning left to go down the farm track behind Nocton Wood. The heat was bouncing off the white gravel road as I bounded along the Car Dyke to Wasp's Nest and I was now sweating profusely. Back on tarmac again, I passed a couple of people enjoying a ride on their horses and before I knew it I was having to labour up the steep hill of Nocton Fen Road, scattering the sheep in the adjacent field. I always recite the Lord's Prayer as I run down this road just beneath the old Priory site - for some reason I get a bit of comfort from this, as if someone is watching over me. Irrational I know... but hey, never mind.

I always feel relief at having reached the top of Nocton Fen Road, probably my highest point on the run, before I enjoy the descent down to the Potterhanworth Road. A fast finish through Nocton, sprinting through The Green to our cottage, where I stop my watch to record the results of the run. This can be fully analysed on my computer afterwards to see how well I performed. I collapsed into the garden chair to recover. The endorphins rushing through my body, I have a wonderful sense of relaxation and well-being. Not bad for a 61 year old bloke covering a 7.6 mile circuit, max heart rate of 181 beats per minute in a time of 61m 07s.

This is my Athlete Profile with my results over the years.

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