As I lay on the floor of the now-battered elevator carriage, looking up at the fiery carnage far above, my faithful butler took the opportunity to quote my absent father.
“Why do we fall, Gaz?” he paused in his rhethoric. “….So we can pull ourselves up again.”
He, and my father before him, were both right. Firstly, the GazCave was still intact, and I still had a chance to make a difference. Secondly, I was highly delusional and fabricating a plagiarised fantasy in lieu of the reality.
Aside from a rather wonderful session at the gym on Christmas Day, during which I was literally the only soul inhabiting the place (and therefore free to belt out my songs as loud as I fancied whilst I ran), I don’t think my running log will show I ran at any other time during December. And if it does, not really very much.
I can’t really say why either. The cliché might be that I had a hectic social calendar leading up to the festive period, and I was drowning in work before the office closed down. But neither would be true. I survived a rather lacklustre office party without alcohol, and I seem to recall perhaps two or three evenings of meeting up with friends. And the office is rarely stressful enough to spill itself over into the realms of overtime.
No, I feel that the truth is likely much more straightforward. I had fallen off the wagon, strayed from the path, spent more time quoting clichés than going to the gym.
Throughout December, I was acutely aware of this fact, and yet felt powerless to do anything about it. Every night after work, there would seem to be one of those great reasons to stay tucked up in the house (“It’s a half moon and I need to cut my nails!”), and before you know it, Christmas turns up, and the very day when you are allowed to do less than nothing is the one day that I could genuinely say to myself that I had the time.
I forget now what my running time was, but it was something like 30 minutes at a mediocre pace. About as average as my Christmas was this year, to be frank.
And then it took another two weeks until tonight that I managed to twist my arm into going back again.
In this instance, the short sharp jolt kicking me back onto my feet and onto a treadmill was not the destruction of stately Reynolds Manor by the private army of an undead supervillian, but a belt notch.
You see, through the joys of running for the past few months, I’d been able to tighten my trouser belt up by one notch. A major coup for me personally, and one of those physical things that reminded me that what I was doing had some consequence and some benefit.
This evening, I got home from work and suddenly noticed that I had now been cramming my waist into an uncomfortably tight belt. Releasing the clasp made me sigh, and I could feel my belly relax and expand in its new-found, belt-free world of elasticated waistbands which was my tartan loungewear trousers. Hopping on the bathroom scales showed a festive increase of 2 pounds.
At that moment, my house had been torched to a cinder and I had flung myself down the old elevator.
It was time to exact my revenge.
Hopping onto the treadmill tonight was a nerve-racking affair. Even with the relatively fresh memory of getting through a 30 minute run a week or two ago, I had the horrible feeling I may last half as long. It had been a tiring week of early mornings and late nights, and I had decided to dose myself up with a power-shake of protein, oats and dextrose, as well as carry a bottle of Lucozade Sport for the run itself.
I am humble enough to admit that all of the potions and solutions coursing through my body were likely responsible for my survival of a 40 minute, 7.5km run this evening. My mind was certainly trying to dissuade me from continuing after the 15 minute mark.
I was, in truth, trying to complete my Week 11 / Day 3 run with Woman, which is in fact a 40 minute run, 1 minute walk, and final 10 minute blast. But, come the 40 minute mark, I was genuinely fatigued, and there was nothing that was going to get me back to a running pace once I slowed down for my walk. But I was happy with 40 minutes, considering my misbehaviour.
It’s now more or less five months until the race. Taking today as the benchmark – 40 minutes equating to 7.5km, it’s quite obvious that I need a 30% improvement to reach my race pace goal.
As is my nature, I’ve cooked up a spreadsheet showing what I need to do, what speed and what time, and it looks like I’m going to have my work cut out for me to get race-ready by May.
To summarise a screen full of numbers, I’m currently running comfortably (or at least without collapsing in a heap) at 9.5kph for anything up to an hour. Obviously, a simple sum tells you that 10km isn’t clocked up within an hour. Running for 50 minutes nets you 7.92km.
Instead of running for longer, which I won’t be planning on doing for the race, I plan to run for 50mins, slowly increasing my pace from 9.5kph by 0.1kph each session, three times a week, until I hit 10km. In the 2nd week of March, I’ll be running 12kph and clocking 10km in 50mins. Then, I’ll keep creeping up the practice of increasing the pace. By week 2 of April I’ll be hitting 10km in just under 45 minutes. Pushing it all the way up to the first week in May (body allowing), I’ll be touching 10km in 40 minutes. My original estimation of 43 minutes, which I submitted to the race organisers, will be achieved in the last week of April.
So, it all sounds wonderfully theoretical and perfect. But we’ll see how it goes. My theory is that by only increasing my pace by a total of 0.3kph over a week should mean that my body naturally improves and never feels too pushed.
And so maybe, just maybe, I can save this city from itself. I’m not the runner that Stoke on Trent deserves, but the one that it needs.