This is the first long run of my marathon training and as far as I was concerned it was just supposed to be another easy run on a Sunday morning. 10-miler? Piece of cake that is until I got to Epping Forest and realised this was going to be a hard one. Everywhere was white - the forest was covered in snow! It was icy, cold and beautiful. And the silence – usually the forest is alive with the sounds of animals, birds, dogs, insects and occasionally the distant roar of traffic but today it was dead quiet – not a pip! I was beginning to ask myself if it was such a good idea to come out here.
The first three miles were tough. There are a couple of hills in those first three miles and going up and down them when they are covered in snow was not easy. Going up was not as bad as going down. It was tricky finding sure footing on such treacherous ground and I had to stay focused every step of the way on the ground in front of me. Sometimes it felt like I was running in place.
For those first three miles I saw no-one else – not a soul which only made the voice in my head telling me I should not have come out here louder. By mile 4 I ran into the first group of runners and I thought – ok, I’m not the only crazy one out here! After that I met other runners, cyclists and dog walkers. Just before mile 5 I ran into this father – daughter team and we ran together for the next mile or so. That was also when it started snowing heavily and a slight icy wind began to blow. It was getting worse by the minute but I kept going. And I thought if that kid with her dad could run in those conditions I am not going to quit. I am going to finish this.
And talking of dog walkers – some of them that I have spoken to seem to think runners are a crazy lot but out there in those conditions I couldn’t help thinking; who is crazy now? How can you be out there walking a dog in such conditions? Maybe I am missing something.
Everyone out there was so friendly today. All the runners, bikers and walkers I passed said hello. Information about which trail was closed or still open, what side of the trail to stay on, where to avoid was shared freely and without prompting. It was as if we were all looking out for each other out there. Amazing how the human spirit pulls together at the first hint of trouble. That camaraderie really made my day.
Between mile 7 and 8 at the foot of this big hill I ran into another father-daughter team. The girl was about eleven or twelve. You will not believe what they were doing out there. It was not enough that they were out running in that weather in the first place. They were doing hill repeats!! Hill repeats!! I could not believe my eyes. The dad laughed when he saw the look on my face. I slowed down to watch them; they just got on with it with snow on their faces, icy wind blowing and treacherous ground underfoot– how is that for motivation when next you come up with excuses for not doing what you have to do?
After that I put my head up and picked up the pace. I finished the run strong. It was a good run. It was like running on a white highway. The weather notwithstanding, I thoroughly enjoyed myself out there today. In a heartbeat I would do it again.