28 August 2018
Today was my final Running School session and I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or sad. The previous sessions had all been extremely tough, pushing me to my limits but there was something almost enjoyable, in a masochistic way, about being tested and getting through it. Maybe enjoyable isn’t the right word and maybe the joy part when they were over was more about having survived. Either way, I set off this morning with mixed feelings. For once there was a good chance of getting wet along the way and I was actually wearing a thin raincoat.
There has been sporadic rain for the last few days. It’s been much needed and no one is really complaining about it but I was hoping it would hold off until I reached my destination. The sky told me I might be suffering from a huge case of wishful thinking on that count. The smell of freshly cut grass hit me as I approached the park. A grass cutting operation was in progress and the scent was heavenly.
The river was in beaten lead mode and a small tug boat seemed to be trying to negotiate the far arch. From where I stood it didn’t look as if it was going to fit. Much as I’d have liked to stay and watch, I had to keep moving but I walked backwards along the path for a while watching. It looked as if the owners of the boat had misjudged the tide and were going to have to stop and wait until the river was lower.
A few spots of rain began to fall as I came to the reedbeds and I sought shelter on the path through the trees. There were fungi here, on an old tree stump, soaking up the moisture gratefully. There seemed a certain irony to needing shelter from the rain when, on every other walk, it had been the sun I was hiding from.
By the time I reached Woodmill the shower had stopped. A man on a paddle board was rippling the still, flat water. For once, there were no birds on the mill pond or the mill roof. The water trickled slowly through the sluice and a large clump of Himalayan balsam decorated the edge of the bank nearest the road. It looked pretty as a picture but I wished it wasn’t there. The native wildflowers can’t compete with it and it is slowly choking up our waterways, crowding them out.
Without really thinking where I was going I carried on, through the mill, past the church and across the green bridge. A few steps along the trail through the trees told me I probably should have thought harder about my route. The trail was covered with a thin layer of mud. Each step was a slippery balancing act with a distinct possibility of ending up in the brook. My feet slid on the mud and my pace slowed to a crawl of tentative foot plantings interspersed with occasional sliding arm waving skids.
The abandoned plastic pipe that someone has moved off the path into the undergrowth is still there but, as the brambles begin to recover from the lack of rain, it looks as if it will soon be completely hidden. There wasn’t much time to ponder on this though as all my attention was on staying upright and moving forward.
Crossing the road near the Fleming Arms gave me a brief interlude from slipping in the mud but the second part of the trail was no better than the first. Although I’d allowed myself plenty of time for my journey, I hadn’t counted on this super slow, cautious pace and I was now worried about being late as well as falling over.
Somehow I made it to the railway bridge without falling. A buddleia, clinging tenaciously between the bricks was flowering, a bright splash of purple amongst all the green. A train sped past, breaking the woodland silence. This time I captured it on my phone, although it wasn’t the best photograph.
A muddy puddle slowed my progress on the final stretch before Monks Brook Meadows. The ground around it was so slippery I almost fell but managed to regain my balance at the last moment. On I went, visions of arriving covered from head to foot with mud dancing before my eyes. Paul, I was sure, would have found this very comical.
The path around the edge of the meadows was, at least, dry. Of course there were brambles clutching at me to slow me but this seemed easier than all the sliding that had preceded them. Here there were bright red rose hips and colourful fruits to enjoy between disentangling myself. The mud and the brambles left me no time to stop in the final field, although I did try my best to clean the mud off my shoes when I made it to the road.
Any idea that Paul would be kind to me as this was my last session was sorely misguided. There were all the usual tortures, including the calf raises that crippled me last time. He said the DOMS wouldn’t be so bad this time but I wasn’t sure I believed him. Then, towards the end of the session, there was a brief respite from single leg squats, twisting stretches and glute bridges for some fast walking on the treadmill. This was to film me for a comparison to the film Paul made on my very first day. While I caught my breath, we both watched it. The improvement was impressive and I could share it with you but, as I still look like a chubby mad woman walking, I won’t. A few more single leg squats and a piriformis stretch with Paul pushing down on me until I thought my hips would break and it was over. Somehow I survived it all and, somewhere along the way, my pain has gone. Now all I have to do is keep up the exercises…
Please see my copyright information before you copy or use any of the above words or pictures.