Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

On this occasion, I’m going to allow my day job as an English teacher to sneak into my running blog as I borrow my title from John Keats’ Ode to Autumn.

Why the poetic reference? Quite simply, there has been a most definite change in the weather over the last couple of weeks, bringing out my inner literary geek and putting me in mind of Keats’ lines. The tail end of September was really rather nice with bright, warm days and beautiful autumnal colours, but the arrival of October has certainly brought with it a distinct chill in the air (and a bit more rain to dampen the spirits!). As a teacher, October has brought a much-needed break from school to recharge my batteries, catch up on some marking and plan for next term. As a runner, the change in weather has signalled my Autumn Kit Rotation. Those shorts and vests that I have been steadfastly clinging to have, with great sadness, been relegated to the back of the wardrobe for now and space cleared at the front for the longer running tights and cosy base layers – I’ve even checked the status of my gloves and assorted other cold weather peripherals! Yes, my mind is already turning to dark nights and winter running.

I’m looking forward to heading out on crisp Sunday mornings when the temperature is just right for a run, but I’m not so fond of running on those dreich, dark evenings when my route is dictated by the presence of streetlights. It’s all very well wearing hi-viz gear so bright I could be seen from space, but that doesn’t help me to see where I’m going and from a safety point of view I feel much more comfortable running where there are lights and other people.

But that’s all for the weeks to come. At the moment, I’m enjoying a couple of weeks off running to allow my body (and particularly my calves) a bit of recovery time. As runners we often forget that rest and recovery are just as important as training so it’s good to schedule a bit of downtime now and again. In the past few days since running the Aviemore Half my activity has been limited to some gentle swimming and lots of stretching to complement my massage and physio treatments. With heavy rain forecast for tomorrow, I’m glad I don’t need to head out for a run and can have a rare Sunday off. Next week, it will be time to get back into the gym for some strength and conditioning work. With the running season coming to an end, this is a great time to get back to basics and work on key areas to prepare the body for winter training. For me, this will largely be focused on strength and balance work around my ankles and legs to help prevent further problems with my calves. In a week or two I’ll also get back to regular Metafit classes to work on my core fitness. I know that the better I prepare my body now, the less likely I am to have problems as I increase my weekly mileage in the new year.

All in all I find October a great time to take stock: my last serious competitive race of the year is behind me (although I plan to take part in a few “fun runs” over the next couple of months) and I am starting to make plans for the year ahead. As the nights inevitably draw in, it would be easy to start feeling down and retreat under the duvet until spring, but I find setting new goals and having targets to work towards help to motivate me through the dark winter months – there’s nothing like the routine of a training plan to make the weeks tick by quickly! Many big races have early bird entry rates so it can be worthwhile to make those decisions now and get the entries in while I can make a saving. It’s also worth considering when in the year races fall in order to plan around the “A” races (after all, nobody wants to find themselves slogging round a half marathon just a week before a full marathon when they should really be deep in the throes of tapering madness and putting their feet up!).

Next year more than ever it’s important for me to get my plans and training right. Next year I’m going to take on a big fundraising challenge and have been working this week to get some of the details in order. One or two parts of the puzzle still need to be slotted into place, but I hope to be able to announce my challenge in the next couple of weeks. Watch this space!

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