It’s Sunday 27th March. 7pm has come around. I have waited all day to head out for my training run today as the weather was supposed to clear, which it has.
I wearily gather up my running vest so I can carry some nutrition, my head torch (cause despite the clocks going forward, it’s still going go get dark), kiss the wife and kids goodbye and then out into the twilight I go.
Heading up to the Havant road my path takes me westwards before I turn south and head onto Portsea Island (the island which Portsmouth city is on). Jogging past houses and flats, I am instantly struck by how much more you notice when running than any other form of locomotion.
I have driven, cycled and walked down this road hundreds, if not thousands of times, but running seems to allow me to take more in that any other method of getting about. I notice roads I have never noticed before, little cut through alleyways and paths weaving between the houses and flats. I am struck by the beauty of the twilight. It is quieter than I expected, and even though I am on a busy dual carriageway style urban road, there are few cars about.
Making my way further west the flats become a bit less frequent and more of the sky becomes visible, and it is a beauty. We often get stunning reds and oranges in our sunsets in Portsmouth, especially over the Solent, but todays sunset is lilac and purple and deep blue. There is a real “other worldly” sense about the night tonight. Dawn and dusk are by far my favourite parts of any day, but I think I especially enjoy sunset. The hustle and bustle of the daytime is giving way to the relative peace and tranquility of the night. The birds flying overhead are finding their nightime resting roosts, and not quite yet, but in a few weeks time the bats will be out, hoovering up insects as they expertly weave their way around the urban landscape. There is always great beauty to be found, if you just look around a bit.
Eventually I turn south, crossing over (or under in this case) the M27 and then making my way round the very top of Portsmouth Harbour. There is nobody about, and as I make my way past Hilsea Lido and then shortly afterwards, the SouthCoast Wakepark I am actually feeling fairly decent. I am just over 5km into my half marathon (21km, or 12.1 miles for those of use who like ancient units of measurement) and have completed the distance in about 35 minutes, which is far from fast, but perfect training pace.
They have recently updated the path around this part of Portsmouth Harbour, and they have done a great job. It is a great area to cycle or rollerblade or run or whatever, but tonight, other than an odd cyclist and a very occasional runner, I am out here on my own.
As my distance increases my pace slows a little, but this is inevitable. I am not as well trainied as I should be at this stage of my marathon training plan, but then again I never ever am, so this is par for the course. Never-the-less, I plod on, turning left again and making my way east across Portsmouth through North End. The houses here are mostly old Victorian terrace housing built around the turn of the century (1900 not 2000) and they have large bay windows and high ceilings. I have always loved this type of architecture and ponder to myself how so much of it is still in such good condition. I doubt when these houses were built anybody expected people to still be living in them 100 years later.
The occasional sickly sweet smell of what must be rather pungent cannabis hits my nostrils as I pass certain houses. “Clearly they are having a chilled one tonight” I think to myself, contemplating if they hear me shuffle past from inside their living room and are wondering to themselves what the hell somebody is doing out running. It is now about 8.30pm, I have been out for about an hour and I am going along nicely.
It is always strange where your mind goes to when you run long distances. More than an hour, and my mind seems to just relax into it. As long as I am not aching or struggling too much, I achieve a sort of Zen like state. I suppose it is the rhythmic pounding of my feet on the ground, the relaxed but elevated breathing, my heart going quicker than at rest, but I find the entire thing very relaxing. No sooner am I thinking how lovely and relaxing it is, than I turn south again and straight into the wind.
Now it is almost always windy in Portsmouth, so running in a breeze is standard fare for me. Running into the wind makes it a bit more tough going, but I soldier on past houses where old friends used to live, filled with memories of fun times. Many of these friends have left Portsmouth now, but the memories of BBQ’s and watching football matches and just hanging out remain. Great times.
Eventually turning back to the east and then northwards, I am out onto the Eastern Road and making my way North towards home. Now somehow (and I have no idea how) the wind is still into my face. Portsmouth has a unique way of channeling the wind so you always feel like you are running into it, and tonight is no different.
Slogging up the path to the side of the dual carriageway I am cursing the stupid wind. I am starting to feel pretty tired now and the last thing I need is the wind hampering my progress. I know that I have to do 10 miles (16km) before I will turn down the cycle path that runs along the north side of Langstone Harbour and the will be sheltered from the wind, but I am a few kilometres from that yet.
Approaching the 10 mile mark I start to get a bit of a second wind (pardon the pun). 10 miles always seems like a significant distance to me and I pick up my pace ever so slightly. I change from my usual audiobooks that I like to listen to when running, to a comedy podcast (The Wolf and Owl – extremely highly recommended) and turn onto the path that signifies the final leg of my journey. My kids call this path the “Dead Rat Trail” because they once saw a dead rat here, and imagining them talking about it amuses me as I complete the trail, turn north, then quickly west and am finally on the Havant road back home.
Arriving back at the house, I have completed a half marathon in just over 2hrs 30 mins, which is a good time for a training run, and most importantly, I have run the entire way without stopping and don’t feel like I am going to die, which is always a bonus.
I’m starting to feel like a proper runner again, which I am loving. It feels good to be able to go out and run long and enjoy it. Is a proper little bit of tranquility in an otherwise crazy world.
I hope you enjoyed reading this, and if you made it to the end, thank you for sticking with me. Just to remind you that all this training is in aide of the London Marathon for Daisy’s Dream, so if you can donate to my fundraising effort I would really appreciate it.