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Running saved me today. Not for the first time. Sanity has been restored again, although it does always seem to be a temporary solution needing another fix soon enough.
But there were reasons for running happiness today. First, it’s the first day of my training programme for next year’s Edinburgh marathon. So in 25 weeks it will all be over. And taking a down period (admittedly, it’s relative, not absolute) after the last marathon was a good call by my (online) coach. I come down pretty hard after a big race like that, which has something to do with the amount of training that goes into it. I am back to being super-optimistic about my next race, helped by the fact that my paces are currently about where they were just before the last race, and this time it’s at the beginning, not end, of the training cycle. My long run this weekend was so much fun that I decided to do an extra couple of miles at the end. I think it was partly relief at not having to run through driving sleet and snow like the previous weekend.
And then today my new sandals arrived. What? Another pair of sandals? Let me explain. These ones are special (OK, they are all special in their own way, they are like your children, each has their good and… no, I’ll stop this analogy now.)
So what’s with the sandals anyway? It’s probably one of the oldest technologies we have. Strap something to your feet to protect them from the worst of the surfaces you will be running or walking on and away you go. Nowadays, with a bit more finesse perhaps because the materials available to us have improved over the last few thousand years. You might remember that I get all my sandals from Luna Sandals, partly because of the story behind them, but also because they are available in Europe, unlike the other running sandals which are available in the US (don’t say it too loudly, but a lot of them look very similar to each other). A runner colloquially known as Barefoot Ted participated in an ultramarathon race in Mexico with a tribe who live there and spend what even I would regard as a disproportionate amount of time running. They also run either barefoot or in homemade sandals, made from old car or truck tyres. So not exactly natural materials, but what they have to hand. Manuel Luna showed Ted how to make these sandals, and Ted turned this knowledge into a business based in Seattle, where all the sandals are now made.
I’m not going to get into all the reasons for running in something other than the trainers which most people use because I’m really not that bothered what other people do. I just know that I’m always happy when I’m out in my sandals and that’s enough. Plus I do get extra cheers and supports during a race, as well as sympathy from some of the people I’m running with. That in itself is worth a lot.
But let’s face it, the weather can be an issue. But perhaps not in the way you might expect. So here’s the ones I use throughout the year, depending on what’s happening outside.
After a couple of years in running only in sandals, these are my go-to ones – the leather top is super comfy and amazingly effective at dealing with sweaty feet on warm days when I’m running fast. And on most other days. The only thing they are not good at, in fact, is when it is properly wet.
For water, these are the business:
I can run through any amount of water and they will be dry a few minutes later from the combination of the heat from my feet, the circulating air and the pressure of foot on sandal with every step. The straps stay wet for longer, but I don’t even notice that as they’re just keeping the sandal nice and snug. And if you think I enjoy running in sandals generally, you should see me when there’s a puddle or stream I have to go through. Although I confess that I did go around the one that was about twenty metres long and several inches deep at the weekend.
Offload? Just need more grip. Like this:
These are going to come into their own when I finally crack the marathon next year and can move onto something else that’s longer and doesn’t involve quite so much asphalt.
And snow or ice? Meet the new sandals – which go back to the beginning and are made from a car tyre:
As you can see from the tread. They are heavier than my other sandals and I’m expecting these ones to last for a very very long time before I wear through them. Apart from cats taking a like to the straps and ripping sandals to bits, the only time I need to replace a pair of sandals is when I wear them down so there is nothing left in parts of the sole. My theory is that the Michelin car tyres these are made from are good for many thousand miles so, even though there is a difference between a circle rolling very fast on a car and me making contact on the ground 190 times a minute (yes, I know this, I find things to amuse myself with during long runs), I think they will last a lot longer than the other ones. And I like that the straps on these are leather – something new to experience. I’m planning on taking them for a spin this week to see how they feel.
And finally, the ones for wearing all summer long, but for walking in rather than running. Well, I would wear them all summer long if I were allowed to…
So whatever the conditions, I have the sandals for them. And I am so done with needing any more for a very long time!
Something less serious this week.
I am not, under any circumstances, going to write down my experiences over the last few months trying to get a vaguely functioning (my expectations have sunk that low) broadband service from our old provider which will remain nameless but rhymes with WalkWalk. Suffice it to say that we switched service on Christmas Eve and it now works. But WalkWalk deny any responsibility and are happy to assure me constantly that it wasn’t even their product I have been paying them for for years. There, I haven’t written about that.
No, instead, how to run in winter.
I have learned that winter involves wet roads, frozen roads, patches of ice and generally very cold weather. Which can be a bit of an issue when you run in sandals.
This is the tread on my normal running sandals:
So not great on ice, and actually not great on wet roads either. I really need to get a new pair before my next race…
So I returned to my FiveFingers days (you know, those funny shoes with separate toe compartments) and got a pair which are waterproof. And still have minimal anything else. They’re warm, dry and I ran 17 miles in them yesterday and enjoyed the run, helped by the fact that it was sunny and the scenery gorgeous throughout. Unfortunately my watch decided it could no longer find any satellites through the clear skies after nine miles, but I was in such a good mood, I just ran on anyway and was more amused than anything. A few years ago it would have seemed like science fiction to have a watch that can somehow link into satellites and tell you your speed and distance. And people managed to run just fine without it.
But I did miss my sandals. They’re just too much fun to run in. I can’t help it, I just smile a lot when I’m trotting along in them. I’m still surprised at the odd looks I get when I run in town, it’s just so normal for me to run in them now. Each to their own…
And today it was not wet or icy, just cold. So I decided to try to crack the ‘how can I wear my sandals in winter’ question and put on a pair of toed socks and my other sandals with some more grip:
Warm feet, happy feet, happy runner. Now if those cars would just give me a slightly wider berth along the main road…
I did say it wouldn’t be serious this week. But it took my mind off of WalkWalk and allowed me to RunRun instead (sorry, couldn’t resist it). Out again tomorrow for another sock and sandal combo.
I divide Paulo Coelho’s (yes, him again) books into two categories. The weird ones and the not weird ones. The weird ones might possibly be autobiographical but then again maybe they aren’t but it’s not clear and I don’t know if it matters and sometimes I try to figure it out and sometimes I just read the book and don’t worry about. I’m in two minds as to which category The Witch of Portobello should come into but on balance would put it in the not-weird pile. I should also say that I read them all, it’s just that I spend some of them trying to work out how much, if any, of the story is what happened to him and how much is pure fiction. It probably doesn’t matter.
We had a lovely experience recently in Portobello. Once a year, the promenade by the beach (which, for me, is mainly important as being part of the Edinburgh marathon route) is given over to buskers and street performers. They include young children singing, bands, bagpipes (which drown out pretty much everything within a few hundred metres) and jugglers (one of whom was juggling with a sword slid down his throat!). It’s a wonderful idea and lovely to see a community and its guests enjoying the different talents of so many people while raising money (in many cases for charity, but also for sweets in some cases) at the same time. I particularly liked one band who were clearly having a lot of fun playing together, notwithstanding the piper upwind from them.
And then this weekend it was back to the beach – or beside the beach – for the first Scottish Half Marathon. Basically you get to choose between running a half marathon near Edinburgh on the Saturday with somewhere around 3,000 others, or on the Sunday in Newcastle with 50,000 – and Mo Farrah. I went for the smaller event. This was my first half marathon race (“race” is of course a loose term in that I was not in this to win it) and, despite in my heart of hearts knowing that I hadn’t quite trained enough – well, it was the summer holidays and it was too hot in Berlin to run more than once and by that time it was also getting dark which wasn’t such a great idea with hindsight – I thought I would go for it anyway and see if I could crack 1:30 (that’s one hour thirty by the way, not one minute thirty). I drank copious amounts of water and beetroot juice the days before and relied on the speed workouts I had done over the last couple of months, as well as the fact that on the day you can run faster for longer than you can in training. And then there was the issue with the turn. Honestly, I don’t get what happened or what didn’t happen but at the mile 7 marker my watch said we had done near enough 7 miles. At the mile 8 marker, my watch said we had done 8 1/4 miles, and then showed that consistent 1/4 mile difference right to the end. That’s pretty much two minutes difference in real money. I’ve asked the organisers the question. But you know what, maybe they did get something wrong, maybe they didn’t. It was a lovely day, a nice course, the spectators were encouraging and there was enough water along the course. What more do you want? Well, a t-shirt of course. It turns out I race to get t-shirts:
Everyone’s a winner. And despite the possible issue with the distance, I made it in under 1:30 – ten seconds under counts, OK?! And I ran in my favourite sandals (I always run in them, it’s way more fun).