A (Cam)bridge too far?

Birthdays are great. Not that I had mine recently – July seems to be filled with everyone else’s. Trouble is, you can’t really go out with a couple of mates celebrating a birthday and totally not drink, can you? So, with my schedule suggesting I run eight miles on Saturday, getting drunk on Friday night in Cambridge and then getting up for my longest run was providing a conflict of interests. Surely I could have a good balance?

I woke in the morning thinking two things: 1. What a blinding night that was, and 2. I feel like crap. (Actually, there was a third thought: Did we really sing in the taxi for the whole way back? But I won’t go into that!) So, I had a decision: do I try and run my scheduled miles late today, or postpone it until Sunday, thus messing up my schedule for next week? I’m due in London in the afternoon for more celebrations, so there’s a chance I could be in the same situation tomorrow!

They say to listen to your body, and today it was my legs calling the shots. “We’re fine,” they told me. “Yeah, we ache a bit, but don’t worry about us, we’re much better now so let’s go.” Brain didn’t really know what day of the week it was. Stomach just said, “Ughh.” Before I knew it, legs were carrying me downstairs for breakfast.

Despite nearly being sick several times during my stretching exercises, shaking quite a bit, my legs were raring to go and promising that it’d be alright once I get going. The treadmill was laughing in the corner, so I decided to shun it and get some fresh air instead. Dark clouds flew overhead, daring me to start running just far enough from home so I wouldn’t turn back. This did not look a good idea.

First mile was painful. I realised that my legs had been a bit over confident in their status report, and weren’t quite as fresh as I’d hoped. I started down my usual route – on cycle tracks, a bit of grass, the odd small hill- and then something strange happened: my legs really did take over.

I didn’t have a clue where I should go for eight miles, only that it might be good to go four and then back again in reverse. So my legs just kept me going on and on. And on. And on. Same road, just pounding away, left foot after right. My mind just wandered off into some other place, only vaguely aware of what I was doing. Past the pub that seems a long way even to drive. Up that long hill. Running on the path by the road as cars zoom past just inches away. It probably wasn’t the best of routes, but my legs couldn’t stop! They had a job to do and were on one. I came up to the big roundabout – where the hell were they taking me? – and still I carried on. I found some grass – thank goodness – and kept on going as the lorries rushed past. In the end, I simply ran out of somewhere suitable to run on! That was my cue to turn around after 3.75 miles along a single road.

So the long road back. The upward slopes were tough, but I was determined. My legs knew they had some extra distance to do if I were to reach my eight, so I did a few detours to eat up some more mileage. I even picked up a golf ball I found as I ran past the back of the golf course (and later wondered if there was a frustrated golfer who might still be looking for it. Ooops.) Two miles left and it was looking good. Soft, forgiving grass under my feet, plenty of drink left in my bottle, and a good pace. I was cheating the hangover – nothing could stop me!

And then it pissed down. Not just a small shower – a full-on drenching. The kind of cloud burst where if you’re driving and you see an idiot in shorts running, completely soaked you laugh and are sooo glad you’re not him. But – you know what? I loved it! I didn’t care; I was winning against the odds, and was smiling as the rain crashed down, cooling my tiring limbs. Too late, clouds – you were just making me stronger. Embarrassed by their failure, the clouds soon drifted on, searching for another victim, and the sun came out to see me home.

As I slowly walked home after my wristband said 8.00, my stomach still felt sick. My legs had done their job but were like ten tonnes around my ankles. My white shirt was see-through with rain, spilt drink and sweat.

I felt fantastic.

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