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More mud, vicar?

December 28, 2012

Hefty mud splatters from my run

According to a recent episode of QI, our idealised image of a white Christmas comes from Charles Dickens, who experienced several white Christmases in his youth, which he incorporated into his novels, and which filtered through into the public’s wider consciousness. We might have had very different expectations of Christmas had Dickens suffered through this unseasonably warm and wet season.

On finishing work, having battled off the coughs and colds that had been circulating the office, naturally I immediately succumbed. I knew that if I rested and took early Lemsip-based action I might prevent the lurgy from moving to my chest. Since this coincided with a period of Christmas indulgence and prolonged rain, it wasn’t as if I was missing prime running conditions.

Slowly my condition improved, and by Boxing Day I was desperate to get out for a run. I wasn’t – and am not yet – better, but a short run was best for striking the balance between rest and being driven insane by inactivity.

The rain hadn’t relented, though. And while wedges of the UK were on severe flood alert and at least one person on my Twitter feed had been evacuated from their home for Christmas, London was just looking sodden. I wanted to run on paths rather than roads, so fished out the trail shoes I bought a couple of years ago for running the rural paths of Oxfordshire (and shortly before I moved to London).

Most running shoes are fundamentally similar. They’re highly flexible, with varying degrees of cushioning around the heel; most have straight-forward lacing systems; they’re lightweight and with a mesh upper. My Salomon trail shoes are quite different from my other shoes – they’re sturdy, relatively inflexible, Goretex-lined; they have an easy-lace system that simultaneously removes the need to tie a knot in the lace and the ability to tighten them properly.

Because I haven’t run in the trail shoes that much, I’d forgotten how they affect my gait. They force me to adopt a shorter stride, and consequently work my legs differently. Where it takes a hard run to give me any muscular stiffness the next day, an easy six miles in mud and over grass could be felt in my thighs for the next 24 hours. Of course, the slightly different resistance of the running surface (saturated grass) and the (successful) attempt at staying upright through the quagmire that was the towpath probably played their part, too.

The next day, enthused by being able to run through muddy, water-logged terrain without getting trench-foot (or cold and wet feet), I headed off for a slightly longer, hillier, equally muddy run up the Woodland Walk between Finsbury Park and Highgate. And that was when I remembered the other thing that’s a bit different about my trail shoes…

… they’re a bit narrow at the toe, so I always end up with blisters on my outer toes… (I was going to write ‘little toes’, but that sounds a bit self-pitying – as in ‘my poor little toes’ – although I suspect it might not have been read like that. Until, obviously, I’d pointed this out. In which case, the absurdity of ‘little toes’ has been raised in prominence and the next person to use the phrase is likely to sound a bit self-indulgent…)

With sore little toes, it looks like my next few runs will be in my normal shoes, which may mean restricting myself to pavements – and the congestion, stops and starts at various roads, and inevitably less scenic surroundings that involves.

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