10 July 2018
My nerves about the Running School were based on Commando’s reports of his sessions there. Each time he’d come home drenched in sweat and filled with tales of something that sounded very much like torture. For someone who has spent her whole life avoiding any kind or organised exercise this was not a welcome prospect. If it stopped my back and leg hurting it might be worth it but that didn’t mean I was going to enjoy it.
The heat of the day meant I arrived rather more warmed up than I’d hoped. In fact I was more than a little overheated. Luckily I was early so there was time to cool down a little before the session began. Paul eased me in with a little slow treadmill walking. All my practice seemed to have paid off when he pronounced my walking much improved.
Then we moved onto something called glute bridges. For the uninitiated, these involve laying on your back with your knees bent and lifting your bottom off the floor to form a kind of bridge. Although glute bridges were not new to me thanks to yoga and Pump It Up, and the rhythmic up and down wasn’t too taxing, I wasn’t exactly prepared for holding the pose quite so long. My muscles screamed and burned while my mind wondered if he’d ever tell me to stop, or had maybe forgotten I was there at all? Fear of failure and looking like a complete idiot kept me going, but only just.
Another, slightly faster, treadmill walk followed. Walking on a treadmill is a whole different kettle of fish to walking on the ground. While, on a good day, I can average four miles an hour on the street, such speed seems impossibly fast on the treadmill for some reason. Maybe it’s the lack of control? I’m also always convinced I’m going to fall off. Let’s face it, sure-footedness isn’t my strong point at the best of times.
Then there were exercises on a mat like the one Commando brought home from his sessions. These seemed simple enough on the face of it, stepping forward, backward, side to side and diagonally. Unfortunately, they highlighted my total lack of coordination and a propensity for going right when I should have been going left. A return to the glute bridges was almost a relief. At least I didn’t look like a complete idiot doing those. Well, probably not anyway.
By the time the hour was up I was dripping with sweat and physically drained. This seemed slightly odd as, apart from the second treadmill walk, nothing I’d done had involved a great deal of movement. It wasn’t as if I’d been jumping around or running. Now, of course, I had to walk home. The three and a half miles that had seemed so simple earlier suddenly felt like rather a long way to my tired little legs.
As I plodded along the road towards the gap in the hedge where I’ve always gone in and out of the field before I noticed a gateway with a footpath sign a little further down the road. Of course this piqued my curiosity, as untried footpaths always do. A little voice in my head told me to take it and find out where it led. Perhaps it was a short cut of some kind? Another, more sensible, voice told me to ignore it. It might well lead me on a merry dance, miles from where I wanted to go and I wasn’t sure my legs were up to extra miles.
After a little dithering, the untried path won out over good sense and I walked through the gate, wondering if I was going to end up regretting it later. The narrow path ran beside a corrugated metal fence and was bordered by overgrown trees. It was shady and quite pleasant, as long as I didn’t think about where it might be leading me.
There wasn’t much time to worry. Almost at once the narrowness opened out and I realised I was standing on the edge of the field opposite the big tree where I’d usually enter. A man was sitting on a folding chair under the tree and another was close by revving a trail bike. Another trail bike was beside him. All at once I understood the significance of the metal barriers. They must have been put down to stop people riding motorcycles on the field. Whether these particular bikers were responsible for pulling down the barriers remained to be seen but they were making full use of the access their removal had created.
A quick and sneaky photo was taken under the guise of looking at my phone. Then I scurried on across the field, barely daring to look back in case the bike was following me. Something about the two men seemed very shady. As I climbed over the remaining barrier and headed for the bridge I remembered walking across the field with CJ some time ago and finding a burnt out trail bike. Maybe this is where joyriders come to play with their stolen spoils and, when they get bored, or the petrol runs out, they set them alight? Whatever the truth of the matter, I was glad to have the metal barrier between me and the bikes.
Feeling much safer now, I slowed my pace and walked back along the trail beside Stoneham Way. The illusive butterflies were still there, still refusing to pose for my camera. The sun was hotter than ever as I plodded across the field towards the bridge and the shady path beside Monks Brook. It drained what little energy I still had. There is nowhere to stop and sit on this trail though so I kept putting one foot in front of the other.
When I finally made it to the shelter of the trees I was glad to at least have some shade for a while. Over one bridge and then another I went, each step an effort but at least bringing me a little closer to home. The greenery all around, the birdsong and the burbling of the brook seemed to refresh me a little.
Dragonflies darted about above the water but I was too tired now to stop and try to take photos. Nonetheless they made me smile. The dappled light in shades of green and blue, the babbling of the brook and birdsong along with the sun shimmering on the water gave the walk a dreamlike feeling. My mind wandered, dulled by the sticky heat, and my feet did their own thing. Walking properly, once such an easy, mindless task, now something requiring lots of concentration, had gone by the wayside for a while.
Soon enough I was walking beside the back gardens of Wide Lane again and I knew my time in the shade was coming to an end. Seeing the kissing gate was almost a disappointment. Yes, I was that much closer to home, but the sun would be beating down on me for the rest of my journey.
Across the road I was just about to pass the gateway to Monks Brook Greenway for much the same reason I’d avoided it on my outbound journey, when I had second thoughts. The greenway might well be overgrown and difficult to get through but time was irrelevant now and it would, at least, be shady.
So I plunged through the gate without giving my change of route much thought. The first part of the trail was anything but overgrown. It looked as if the grass and wildflowers along edges had been cut with a scythe and the path was littered with the dried out, straw like remains. There was no shade until I had rounded the bend and was approaching the blue bridge.
Now the path was far narrower and the assorted greenery encroached upon it. There were brambles and nettles to negotiate but at least the was no mud for once and the trees provided much needed respite from the sun. Soon I was passing the carved mushroom and the green bridge was in sight. This was when I almost made a serious error.
Normally I’d turn left at the green bridge and head towards Mansbridge. My tired brain sent my feet that way and I’d actually taken a couple of steps before I realised this would add around half a mile to my journey, even if it was a little more scenic. Luckily I realised just in time and turned back.
The shady tunnel of trees took me to St Mary’s Church. On any other day I’d have stopped to wander around the graveyard or at least take a photograph of the church. Today I was far too tired and hot. I pointed the phone in the general direction of the church, took one, rather bad shot, and reluctantly left the shade behind.
The rest of my journey was far hotter and sunnier than I’d have liked. Sweltering, I tramped along the road to Woodmill. The tide was out and even the cool breeze from the river seemed to have deserted me. By now I was too tired to do anything but put one foot in front of the other and even the swans by the jetty got barely a glance. Perhaps walking home from a session at the Running School was not one of my better plans but I swear my back felt better than it had on the outbound journey, even if my head and the muscles in my legs most certainly did not. This, I suppose, is progress.
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