Week 6 was so damp and gloomy it felt as if I'd wandered into a Dickens novel; driving over the suicide bridge, the whole of London had just disappeared in the mist and the heath was so eery and deserted I wouldn't have been surprised to bump into The Woman in White, (though she was Wilkie Collins' creation). Week 6 Runs 1 and 2 were fine but I limped through the final 25-minute run having got cramp 5 minutes in. I was really disappointed and wondered if I should repeat it - until I realised that week 7 is all 25-minute runs anyway.
After a freezing but sunny rest day, Sunday dawned damp and gloomy again. Before going for my run I picked up 65 bagels from the bakery in Finsbury Park - a lot for one woman to eat for breakfast I know - even if she is burning a few more calories - but yesterday was my birthday. To counteract the feeling that it marked the inevitable start of decline and decreptitude (only partially mitigated by free bus travel) I had decided to celebrate by having all my friends over for bloody Marys and bagels.
But first there was the small matter of a 25-minute run followed by a quick dip in the Ladies' Pond (current temperature 11.5C and falling).
In the past I've only ever been a summer swimmer at the Ladies' Pond, lounging in a grassy meadow crowded with sunbathing girls and women, before swimming in the chilly brown water fringed with iris and bullrushes, where kingfishers fly overhead and herons balance on one leg among the rushes. This year, I simply decided not to stop when the summer ended, which is why I'm now swimming through fallen oak leaves, watched by mandarin ducks, coots and the odd seagull.
The women who swim here thoughout the year are an amazing group, many in there 60s, 70s and 80s. One day back in September when the water was still a balmy 16C and I doubted my ability to continue much longer, I noticed a pair of trainers under a bench - from one a prosthetic leg was sticking up. That certainly put me in my place.
So now Laura's 5-minute warm-up walk takes me to the pond, where I drop off my bag before going off on my run, making it back feeling warm enough to think that a swim in very cold water is not such a bad idea after all. My goal was to keep running and swimming until my birthday but I'm hooked now and can't imagine stopping. I find that it makes the running easier knowing there is an even greater challenge awaiting me at the end of it.
Of course it's getting colder now. One of the stalwart winter swimmers told me that the only time she reneged on getting into the water was the wintry day when she arrived to see a woman emerging from a hole in the ice. Not to be put off she went into the changing room and put on her swimsuit but by the time she came out a couple of minutes later the hole had frozen over. She decided to give it a miss that day. And so will I.