I think the excitement about schools reopening and some unseasonal September weather may have weakened my resolve. Yesterday I found myself running twelve times around Bristol Downs after succumbing to Bristol Military Fit’s latest member challenge. I clearly need to work on my ability to say no and my ability to walk away without worrying that I have caused offence …the latter will not be happening this week because today I find myself unable to walk anywhere.

We have to hand it to our BMF instructor/franchise owner/super god for cooking up these challenges, but I am noting that the common denominator is always pain. Take yesterday for instance, Lee pulled out of his own ultra-too-many-miles trek so that he could watch us suffer; this man is selfless.

Previous challenges have involved steep hills, an accumulation of miles on successive days (‘The Accumulator’ said in an X Factor voice) and a muddy park run to start off the Bank Holiday weekend- I rest my point about suffering.

The latest challenge was named – unpolitically ‘The Last Man Standing’ (naturally, because of our considerable collective BMF upper body strength, there was push back from us gals but we don’t like to fuss, although Lee may tell you otherwise). On paper it didn’t sound too difficult. For six hours, on the hour, every hour, participants needed to run 4.4, 3 or 2.2 miles, the choice was our’s. Lee initially offered a 12 hour and a 6 hour option (Fool). Unsurprisingly, the 12 hour competition was cancelled because of our ‘bad attitude’ (sic).

Looking back I can not believe that I was so willing to take part. I think it was BMF idle chat about, ‘anybody being able to walk 4.4 miles in an hour’, and the option to drop from 4 to 3 or 2 miles. ‘I have run marathons,’ I reasoned (have I told you this? You must tune in to the podcast series I am planning, ‘Marathon Bories’). The thought of sitting on a deck chair eating snacks with fellow BMFers between laps, was enough to turn my head and let me take the King’s shilling.

Admittedly, yesterday I did feel excited about the run, but this was probably because it gave me an excuse to go food shopping on the way home from work and fill my rucksack with unhealthy healthy snacks that you can only legitimately purchase if you show the ‘I’m a marathoner’ loyalty card. I love a protein bar, I love energy gels. Some would say I am a fifty-something lycra freak for all the wrong reasons; I have no time to argue my case for I am already distracted by a jar of peanut butter.

So yesterday saw me gathering in glorious September sunshine around a BMF gazebo (love you and your branding, Bear) with 20 other BMF nutters. Lee had advised us to bring a deck chair and picnic mats and I was to realise later in the morning that between laps, as we sat snaffling our snacks down from the safe distance of our own deck chair – too tired to talk to each other – that from a distance we must have presented as the most unsociable picnic gathering ever.

By Lap 5, the only use for a deck chair was for runners to elevate their legs against as they lay groaning and cramping on the floor. Lee was LOVING it. ‘I knew this would test you,’ he grinned, ‘it’s the rest in between the laps that messes with your head. Great training!’

The first couple of laps, while not painless, did at least earn us a decent rest time. In fact on lap 2, I felt so rested that I totally overcooked (technical running term) the first mile so that by mile 3 and 4 I was breathing through gritted teeth. Other Bristol runners had come out for their usual Saturday bimble and were looking very spritely, which didn’t help. By lap 3 I felt that we should be wearing a sign telling these spritely runners that we were slowly working our way to a marathon distance. ‘Do not amble across our path with your arthritic dog for by now we only have one gear and our brake pads have gone’.

Back at the gazebo, food envy was starting to kick in. I found myself looking enviously at a seasoned ultra runner who produces a honey-filled pitta. Mini cheddars? Genius provider of salt. I am relieved to see a sharing pack of jelly babies doing the rounds. I realise that I should have rethought breakfast and broken it down into ‘fun sized’ bites – I ate mine far too early.

By lap five I am contemplating dropping to the 3 or even 2 mile option, but Lee throws some water in my direction as I complete the first loop of this lap and tells me that I will be able to walk for 5 minutes, run for 10, quicker than I am currently running. Harsh, but it turns out to be good advice. Irritatingly, two of my running companions are getting stronger every lap – good news as they are running an ultra on October 10 (hence their inside knowledge about honey pitta sandwiches). Even the two seasoned BMFers – who admit to never running more than a half marathon before (mere children) and were out on the sherbets the night before – are whooping my lardy backside. In contrast, my feet are cramping badly inside my trainers, I take them off during the last rest break (my trainers, not my feet) but want to cry when I realise I will need to put them back on again for I have no inner Zola Budd to channel. I do some yoga stretches; this helps, but doesn’t mute my blisters.

Anyway reader, good news. We all make it round because we do not want to let Bristol BMF down. (Legends, we are smashing it again). Lee awards us special medals crafted in the shape of the loop of the Downs that we have just run (I cannot actually look at the medal for I never want to see or run this loop ever again, but it would be churlish to mention this to Lee at the awards ceremony).
We pose for a group photo and Lee is feeling so proud of us that he does not even complain that we have turned up without our BMF blue, red and green vests. We were kneeling for this photo and it took some time to bend our aching joints into this position; I have a sneaky feeling that Lee did this so that he could film us trying to get back onto our feet again to limp to our cars. He is a social media fiend so we will find out soon, no doubt.

Anyway 26.4 miles in the bag. This is great news because I note with terror that all the running events I entered before lock down are now either running virtually or are actually talking place this Autumn. I am through the lockdown honeymoon period, but at least we now know that honey will assist future running.

I have offered to run a leg of my friend’s virtual London Marathon with her (I say offer, but really I had no choice once she had turned my head with talk of her running snack stash) . Even then my work is not done, for we still have a lot of money to raise for the Sue Ryder charity in my sister’s memorial half marathon on October 10 https://www. justgiving.com/fundraising/ricco2 (#justsaying). We should really have been running the Royal London Parks Half Marathon for Sue Ryder but as this has now been postponed until 2021 we are running around Cheltenham instead. The Tourist Board are thrilled about this incoming Covid-secure lycra-clad bubble of runners and have been greatly reassured to hear that I have selflessly offered to run some distance from the others at the back of the pack.

You may spot me running, I will be the one taking a rest every four miles, filling my face with jelly babies and secretly hoping that Bear may abseil down from a helicopter at some point en route and tell me that I am officially a ‘legend’.

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