So then. August 2017… We’re deep into summer, the school holidays, flipping between the crashing emotional weight of ‘making the most’ of vacation time with the children, and trying to maintain some kind of routine, and possibly even get some work done—all against the backdrop of the classic British weather lottery (portentous gloom / sun / pouring rain / heavy cloud / howling wind / drizzle / more sun, all within a two hour slot).
Many of my running friends have been struggling a bit lately. In the various online running groups I’m belong to, most people seem to be a little tired and deflated. Running every day can be a bit of grinding down experience, and eight months into the year, energy is waning. Add to that the complexity of all the usual routines going out of the window, and suddenly regular running seems nigh on impossible.
So I’ve been pondering this on my runs this week. July was a good month for me—we went away to one of my favourite places in all the world, a campsite in Shropshire we know well, situated at the foot of some incredible hills and always stunningly beautiful, whatever the weather. For the first time I was brave enough to run more than a few miles in not-too-familiar territory, and my husband—infinitely better at reading maps than me—plotted me an awesome 10k. The fact that it was around Hazler and Ragleth Hills should possibly have tipped me off to the elevation involved, but it was amazing, and the combination of navigating a new route (from an OS map! Kudos!), and managing various terrains at a good speed felt like a real achievement.
So despite the changeable weather and the pressure which comes with all the children being home from school, July was good. A record number of miles for the month, and varied challenges of road, trail and fell running. But come Tuesday morning, 1st August, I was facing a blank sheet.
The next month will be another one with all the kids at home, so my usual peak running slots (like after the morning trip to drop the younger ones at school, or after a morning’s work, just before lunch) have evaporated with the summer sun. Unstructured days, camping trips and family visits combine to create an environment unconducive to routine behaviours and disciplines.
When routine breaks down, simply doing the essentials—which normally flow in a natural pattern—starts to come under pressure. I can feel a bit cornered. But equally, I don’t want to impose artificial constraints on a time which is a break for us all; a rare chance to go slowly, or to be spontaneous, unencumbered by the hamster wheel of schooldays.
So instead, I’m embracing the spontaneity. Rather than my usual pretty predictable and neat weekly pattern of 5 & 10k runs, mostly in the same mid morning slots, I’m seizing the chance to do things differently.
This week that’s meant: running alongside my daughter, who has *just* learned to ride her bike, in a hilarious urban obstacle course race, where I dash ahead to flag her over roads, or pull errant wheelie bins to one side, and then dash back to get her upright again when she bashes into a kerb.
It’s meant spotting an hour-window on a sunny day when everyone was fully occupied and happy, and allowing myself to grab it with both hands, and do seven miles with no agenda, other than a good long stretch out.
It’s meant getting all the family out for a ten mile cycle ride, and whilst they warmed up with hot chocolate at the half way mark, locking up my bike and doing a 5k on the same track. (Closest I’m likely to get to a triathalon, I think!)
It’s meant accepting gracious offers from my husband, and leaving him to handle the teatime melée, while I whizz around the block a couple of times, and then come back home to cook us something fabulous (containing vegetables which get cheered rather than booed) for a late supper.
It’s meant sometimes breaking all (well, most of) my rules, having a laaaazy day, and running later—you know, after putting up a tent or climbing a mountain. As long as my foundational principles are in place, like daily running, then everything else can flow around them.
I’m learning to roll with the punches, and celebrate the wins. Bedtimes are a bit later some days, breakfasts too; I’m letting myself—and everyone else—enjoy the freedom of the summer.
So, to keep running this month looks like leaning into the chaos a little—accepting that my ordered life is on hold until September, and I can enjoy discovering new ways to run every day.