For the last 29 days I’ve been doing a running challenge called Marcothon. Briefly, it started when one person decided to run every day in November. The next year his wife decided to run every day in December. Since then, it has gathered momentum and is now a firm fixture in the running calendar.
Two years ago I decided not to try it as due to my asthma, I wasn’t sure if I could run every day through winter. I went for an 80 mile month instead, and at the time this was my biggest ever mileage.
Last year, as a more experienced runner and knowing my asthma a bit better, I reluctantly threw in the towel after my run on Day 17, coughing, spluttering and knowing it had been really stupid to go out feeling so ill. The next day my peak flow had dropped by nearly 50%, I had the death rattle so much feared by asthmatics, and it was straight off to the doctors where I was diagnosed with the second chest infection of the winter. There would be two more to follow that one.
This year, despite practising like mad for a solo concert late in the month and attempting to save my legs for an ultramarathon on New Year’s Day, I find myself still in the hunt after Day 29. Even more unbelievably, despite feeling plenty of warning tickly throats, so far (touch wood) I haven’t succumbed to a lurgy. And yes, I did just touch my head with my hand.
The lasting reflection I will take from Marcothon is how noticeable even small changes can be.
Due to time constraints, a lot of my runs have been along the same route at a very similar time of day.
I run along an old railway track next to a small stream that has moved from a trickle to a raging torrent during Storm Desmond, and now back again. At the height of the storm it was truly frightening running next to it – the path is normally a good distance from the water, but as the rain continued to fall, the power and strength of the water rushing by was hypnotic and I felt myself being drawn towards it. I saw how near the water was to the bridges I ran over, and the force the bridges had to withstand.
I’ve noticed how the niggles move around my body. Something that one day has felt quite worrying has completely gone the next day. The outside of my right knee, then underneath my left knee. And then a worrying lump on the outside of the really bad ankle.
I felt dangerously tired on a couple of days, even early in the evening. My legs were fine but I struggled to keep my eyes open. I made it home without even remembering these runs, but I know I must have done them because Strava tells me I did.
I’ve run early in the morning, late at night, whatever I could squeeze in.
The weather has changed drastically, from being utterly soaked from the moment I locked the front door to the moment I returned three hours later, to picking my way neatly along frozen footpaths a few days later, to running in a vest in the middle of December at a distinctly northerly latitude.
My longest run was several laps of my local forest. I hadn’t been particularly looking forward to it, but I needed the miles and the hills so off I went. I was amazed at how different each lap was. I only met a couple of people during my run, but each time round I noticed extra marks in the mud next to the distinctive marks of my new Terraclaws. Bike tyre trails, a buggy, horseshoes, wellies, more and more paw prints.
I watched as the trees bent and twisted in the wild, biting winds. Every time I run down that particular path I am amazed the trees still stand after each storm, and yet they do. They shed leaves, and lose the odd branch, but otherwise they stand firm while the chaos blows around them.
There have been other, bigger changes as well.
At the start of the month I rather nervously went out on a date.
A few days later, said date and subsequent second date having gone quite well, we were out in the hills, running in the dark with snow, wind and hail battering us and agreeing this was quite a good way to spend our time. First thing on Christmas morning, we ran 8 rather chilly miles round the forest, laughing, joking, busting our lungs on the hills I could run (safe to say there were less of these than usual after running every day!) and eating sweets on the others, before heading our separate ways for prior work and family arrangements.
I can’t quite believe where the month went, it has been hectic beyond belief. I started the month desperately willing the year to finally come to an end so that I could put it behind me and start again with a new one.
But now there are just two runs left before the bells ring tomorrow night, and once again another fresh start is just around the corner.