I could feel the walls of the house rattling. The house sighed as though tired at the effort of trying to ignore the wind. I looked outside and noticed the early crocus lying on their sides. I wasn’t sure if they had given in or we’re just lying low until the worst has passed. The trees in the distance were dancing as if participating in their own silent disco. Except the world wasn’t silent, it was howling. A personification of the Christmas Carol ‘In the bleak mid winter’. The sound was raw, guttural and I could put it off no longer, I had to go out in it.
After stepping out of the world last week, it was time to step back into it. The closer I get to the race, the less I can afford the luxury of wallowing in self pity. To have a realistic chance of getting to the start line, I have to get my big girl pants on. The plan this week was to start the sessions. Even if I didn’t execute them perfectly, I could at least try.
I stepped out of the front door, locked it and set my course decisively towards the sea. Storm Ciara made her presence known immediately. The wind whirled and swirled around me, pushing me in the back and playfully taking my feet out from under me.
I put my head down determinedly and shortened my stride to try and negate the effects of the wind. Each time I tried to take a breath it was tantalisingly wafted and then whipped away from me. Making it much harder to pick up any kind of speed and often I was reduced to walking just to try and catch a breath.
My hat was also whipped from my head, along with my headphones. The fastest I moved all session was chasing the hat down the street, much to the amusement of a family driving past.
I turned away from the more sheltered residential area towards the coast proper and into the direction of the storm. it was like trying to run into a brick wall. I adopted a position akin to someone trying to push a car up a hill for a few minutes until I gave in and turned around to try another avenue.
This happened every time I tried to turn back to the South. Moving in ever decreasing circles until I eventually ended back at the front door. I was windswept, boiling, knackered and unfulfilled, but at least I’d done it.
The forecast for the next day was much better. So it proved to be, with a good brick bike into run session. A lessened breeze made progress easier and this time the run felt like a run. The better weather continued and I managed to stack up a good weights session outdoors and time on the bike indoors.
The rumours of a further storm turned into reality into Saturday. G and I planned once again to head over to Woolacombe dunes, not entirely sure what would greet us. A friend had posted pictures earlier in the week showing the devastation Ciara had caused. The eroded dunes and deposited flotsam across the whole beach was extensive.
Many parkruns had already fallen foul of storm Dennis but the organisation team at Woolacombe had vowed never to cancel the event as long as they were runners willing to run. The volunteers are bloody marvellous and had already inspected the course prior to us leaving for the 30 minute drive. ‘It’s on’ they declared, so we got in the car and made our way there, making sure we’d packed a full change of clothes for afterwards.
Runs like these always have the potential to be epic. The kind you talk about for years afterwards until take on myth status. So it was with a few nerves but also massive excitement we pulled onto the car park on the side of the cliff above the beach. It was raining quite hard and blowing a hooly. But not quite as bad as I’d expected.
It was unseasonably warm, so short sleeves and capri tights were enough, but I borrowed G’s beanie as there was no way in hell I’d keep a baseball cap on my head and I certainly didn’t fancy fartlek training chasing it around the dunes.
I set off for a mile or two warm up before parkrun. It was tough going into the wind and I had to resort to walking through some of the stronger gusts. It was going to be a re-run of earlier in the week, only this time with better scenery.
Well, I loved it. The wind pushed and pulled, sometimes accelerator often brick wall. The National Trust had been proactive in rebuilding the sand path down to the beach, a wonderful touch to allow the run to carry on.
All around sand was dancing. Often into the back of my calves which felt a bit like getting a pat off a pin cushion. It stung a lot, and stopped prolonged dilly dallying. Nevertheless, I did stop and stand in the wind. It was invigorating and made me feel alive.
The tide was heading in and I heeded the advice of the marshal to get across the beach before high tide. I didn’t quite manage to keep my feet dry, getting caught out by a sneaky wave driven inland by the wind. The approach to the dune climb was slightly different due to the proximity to the sea. Here the worst of the rubbish collected. It was heartbreaking to see so much plastic. I noticed the marshal had a half filled carrier bag so I stopped to pick up as much as I could hold and deposited it with her. She told me she had picked up a bag per day that week and hadn’t even dented it.
I climbed the dune and turned back into the wind, this time accompanied by driving rain. But I didn’t care, I was alive and in the moment and sometimes in life that is all you can ask for.
G was waiting for me at the finish, pleased with his own run despite ongoing knee issues. We headed back to the car, happy for the prospect of dry clothes and hot coffee.