In the past few days a northerly air-stream has brought the temperature down, and the dawn light this morning revealed a slight dusting of snow in the roof tops – a rare occurrence in the English Midlands in recent years. The ground temperature was still too high to allow the snow to settle. Midmorning, there was another flurry of soggy snow flakes but then sun came out and the temperature rose a degree or two. I was busy doing various odd and ends about the house, and daylight was fading rapidly by the time I got ready to go for a run. I decided that it would be best to follow the fairly open path beside the River Trent to make the most of the last glimmer of sunset reflected off light cloud above and the water beside me, rather than risk tripping over tree roots in the evening gloom on my more usual woodland route.
The open river bank path exposed me to the wind which had swung to the west and strengthened. Any gain in temperature due to the replacement of Arctic air from the north with Atlantic air from the west was negated by the increased wind chill factor. I was wearing light-weight shorts but also a long sleeve top and gloves, so with the wind at my left shoulder on the long reach of the river as it flows northeast from Clifton village to Wilford, I felt comfortable but invigorated. It was tempting to increase the pace, but bearing in mind my recent muscle problems, I restrained myself to a gently fluctuating pace ranging from about 6min per Km to 5 min per Km (for a 100 metre or so at a time). There was no trace of discomfort from my right calf.
As I passed a clump of trees just before reaching the point where Fairham Brook joins the Trent, I was subjected to scrutiny by a predatory owl. He swooped down silently from behind me, but clearly recognized I was far too big a morsel for supper, and wheeled away over the river. At Fairham Brook I turned for home. Now the chilly wind was on my right cheek and I realised that I was starting to wheeze. I have not yet adopted the habit of using my salbutamol inhaler regularly when I run, but it was the exacerbation of my asthma by cold air last winter that led to the need for anti-asthma medication for the first time in my life. So today’s run was a valuable reminder that this winter I should use my inhaler before running whenever the temperature is low.
My distance today was only a little over 6Km and peak pace was no faster than my estimate of my current marathon pace, but it was a good session. There was no trace of pain in my calf; I learned a little more about managing my asthma. I celebrate the fact that as I approach the twilight years of late middle age, I can still enjoy running in the countryside. But I have a wistful awareness that the carefree days when I could run, play football or climb mountains without concern for my body are now well behind me. In those long-gone days I had many mild problems – congenitally twisted toes; inflammatory arthritis; mild asthma – but those problems were a trivial nuisance that never amounted to anything disabling. I am certainly glad that I never let concern for these minor infirmities become a reason to wrap myself in cotton wool. Even now I think that I am likely to remain healthiest by maintaining a fairly demanding training schedule. I just need to learn the difference between the incidental twinges that are part of growing old and a significant muscle tear such as I suffered a few weeks ago.