I set a new Personal Worst time on one of my favourite running routes this week. A grand total of 34 minutes and 26 seconds to run just over one mile down the lane to the mill pond and one much longer mile back up again.
Now don’t get me wrong. My Personal Best for the same route isn’t that impressive. It’s a shade under the 30-minute mark.
I am such a slow runner that I once suffered the humilation of being overtaken by a man who was walking. Although in my defence he was (a) very tall (b) in a hurry and (c) on the inside track of a sharp bend near Clapham High Street.
I seem to average one mile every 11 minutes, which is almost certainly outside Olympic qualifying time, but as fast as my asthmatic lungs and hockey-player legs will carry me.
So my Personal Worst was something of an achievement: to go even slower than my already-slow norm was quite exceptional, I thought.
The run had already started badly. I had set out on a different route, a three-mile circuit on a tarmacked lane, but was forced to turn back by black ice (a comedy moment where I thought: “Isn’t that black ic-aaagghhh?” as I started to slide along).
So I retreated and started again on the route down to the lake. This lane is mostly mud and stones, so less likely to freeze. The lane winds its way past woods and fields, through ornate iron gates and white wooden ones, until it reaches a picture postcard village (known in my household as the Land of Plenty). On I trot, across the Victorian brick path of the churchyard, past the ancient yew, on through the meadow and down to the mill pond where usually a Great Crested Grebe celebrates my arrival with a dive.
Sometimes I can run quite freely down the hill, really stretching my legs. This time my legs felt like lead blocks, even on the downhill stretch, the wind felt biting, and I was two minutes behind my average by the time I hit the lake. The Great Crested Grebe was nowhere to be seen.
My normal slow plod back up the hill was possibly not all that much slower than normal. My spectacularly slow speed was recorded as ever on the stopwatch where it will stay, frozen in time, until I next set out.
I’m still celebrating though. As someone perhaps unhealthily obsessed with my “stats” on everything, to achieve a Personal Worst is better than doing something entirely average.
And more to the point, I was out there. Sometimes everything comes together in running – mood, music, body and weather – and it’s sheer joy. Other times it’s sheer slog and every step feels like one too many. But every time the gear and the shoes go on it’s a triumph in itself, over inertia, over laziness, over the incessant call of the sofa.
This morning, the sun is shining and the wind blowing so fiercely that all the crows are lined up round the top of the oak tree behind the house like Christmas decorations, beaks to the wind, swaying, hanging on for dear life. It’s the perfect morning for a run and I’m too tired to go.
So I’ll celebrate my Personal Worst, add it to my stats chart, and just try to make sure I beat it next time.