The few remaining leaves on the lime trees in the street outside my bedroom window were shivering and the silver birch in the back garden were bending right over in the wind.
Pulling on a swimsuit felt ridiculous. As usual, I told myself that I didn't have to go for a swim at the end of my run if I didn't feel like it, I had only myself to please after all (even Laura would never know if I didn’t.) The problem with the outdoor swim (apart from the water being 8C and falling) is that it does involve a bit more gear. In September, when I started the plan, it was just a case of ripping off my clothes and diving in. Now it's so much colder, I need two swimming hats, gloves, swim shoes, thermals and a warm jumper, as well as underwear and a towel. It's all getting a bit weighty in my rucksack, so yesterday I decided to wear a bit more so I could carry a bit less.
I put on an M&S long-sleeved thermal top, an old moth-eaten cashmere sweater that my son was giving to Oxfam (how different from expensive merino Icebreakers could that be?) and a showerproof fleece that I wear for gardening and sailing. Strange that legs don’t seem to feel the cold – I’m still wearing the Tesco capris I bought in August – perhaps at last I have a reason to be grateful for thick ankles. As I set off I was really glad of the extra layers - I don’t run fast enough to work up a sweat, so who needs hi-tech wicking fabrics?
After my inadvertent overrun the day before (see How Obama got me lost in the woods) I decided I would try the accidentally-discovered longer route again. Except, of course, I couldn’t find it. Next time I’ll take bread crumbs – they worked for Hansel and Gretel , didn’t they? Er… I set off into the woods and found a bridge, but it was the wrong bridge, the Bird Bridge, never mind, I found the right one, the Viaduct, and then ran up the other side of the old duelling ground and found myself going up Kite Hill (great views of London, lethal, giant, buzzing kites in summer, and lots of whizzing tobogganers in winter) a bit daunting when I’ve plotted carefully for the last 8 weeks to avoid anything that goes uphill. Down the other side to the tennis courts, the bowling green and the café and it suddenly dawned on me that I’d just run from one end of the Heath to the other. If you’d told me I could do that eight weeks ago I’d probably have wet myself laughing. Then it was along the paths past the ponds and up the lane to the Ladies Pond for a quick dip. I knew didn’t have to go in, but I was pretty hot by then and why should the septuagenarian emerging from the water have all the fun?
I don’t usually care, or even notice, if people stare at me when I’m running, but yesterday I noticed quite a few walkers looking at me oddly. Was it the outfit? Sheer admiration? Or because I was singing ‘Tramps like us, baby we were born to run,’ at the top of my voice. Maybe they simply couldn’t believe that it was possible for a human being to run so slowly without actually keeling over.
Only two more runs to go. When I started Couch25k I thought I’d be happy with a 20-minute run three times a week. Back home, I worked out that I’d run 3.98k in about 38 minutes, give or take a minute or two faffing around with Bruce and my Blackberry.
Mo and Usain needn’t lose any sleep, but I am ecstatic.