There are days when there is nowhere else you would rather be than outside. Those balmy summer evenings when the temperature is just perfect and you can enjoy a leisurely walk or a glass of wine sitting in the garden. A frosty morning in February is a different matter altogether. So I decided that I would write a post about my thought processes before, during and after going for a run on a February morning…
The alarm goes and bed is at peak coziness. My first thought is how I really deserve to stay in bed because life is hard and it is so nice and warm and I feel so happy right here. But, on the other hand, I think about how I promised myself I would go for a run this morning. This is where I go through the process of identifying any of what I call my PTQs…my permissions to quit. My back is a little bit stiff. That can be fixed by some pre-run yoga. It’s pretty frosty this morning. I am running on rough trails for the first half of the run so no danger of slipping and I can wear my Salomon Speedcross trainers with good grip. I try to come up with something else, anything that might justify staying in bed, but I feel good, no trace of a cold or any other illness so I get up and put on my running gear and do a few stretches to loosen my back.
At this point I try and think of a positive mantra. I tell myself that I am lucky, some day I may not be able to do this but today is not that day. Part of my brain starts to respond to that but that other part is saying ‘I would still rather be in bed, please go back and snuggle under the duvet.’ Over the years I have become very atuned to what I need to wear when running to stay at the right temperature and as I get quite hot I don’t wear too many layers to start with. That means that the first step out the door in winter is always accompanied by a gasp and probably a slight whining noise as I react to how cold it feels. I usually run without music but early morning can sometimes need help so I put in my earphones and the first song on my running playlist that plays on the shuffle setting is, appropriately enough, ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen. This makes me smile and I think, yes, I am frozen. Why do I do this?
We have had some stunning frosty sunny mornings recently but this is not one of them. It is frosty but dull and grey. I am still cold and moving pretty slowly. As I shuffle along I start to notice the frozen surface on some of the puddles and enjoy cracking the ice as I run through them. I smile for the second time this morning thinking of how childish I am. My slow pace slows further as I run along a public right of way across a ploughed field and I jump over and past the puddles feeling grateful for the frost that keeps the muddy ground slightly firmer.
This run has to be steady as I am building up my mileage again after a long time of not running consistently and I want to avoid any injuries. I enjoy not feeling any pressure to speed up. At just over a mile in, I turn down a long path through some fields and even though it looks so bleak there is something eerie and beautiful about the landscape. I try to take in the shapes and outlines of the silhouettes of the bare trees against the misty grey sky because in a few weeks the leaves should start to make an appearance again and this landscape will look very different.
After about 2.5 miles, I turn on to a road and where I will run along a footpath all the way down to the train station. Although the best bit of the run is over I am starting to feel really happy that I am outside in the fresh air. It has taken until this point for my longing to get back into bed to be outweighed by my enjoyment of being outside. Another 2 miles at a steady pace and I reach the train station feeling full of endorphins and ready to take on the day ahead.
I take time to congratulate myself on getting outside and enjoy the positive post-run feeling. I also think about how good breakfast and coffee will taste now after the fresh air and exercise. There is a saying that nothing worth having comes easy and pushing through your own reluctance to #GetOutside often makes for the highest of highs, the biggest of smiles and the most gratitude for being able to enjoy the outdoors. We beat you this time #snuggleinbed.
The TV show, The Only Way is Essex, has portrayed a caricature of Essex that obscures some of the great things about this county. For me, it was a pleasant surprise to discover the beauty of the countryside when my husband and I first decided to look for a house that was in the country but commutable to London (where we both work). As I mentioned in my first blog post, Let’s Get Ready to Ramble, I have loved exploring the public rights of way around where I live, including parts of the 81 mile, 130 km footpath called the Essex Way. However, the Essex Way is not the ‘only way’ in Essex. Every time I go out walking or running and can pass through fields and woods along marked trails and look out across the beautiful countryside I feel incredibly grateful but, being a lawyer, it made me wonder why and how I am lucky enough to have this right and who is responsible for maintaining all these routes?
According to The Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management, a public right of way “is not, strictly speaking, a path, but a right possessed by the public, to pass along linear routes over land at all times. Although the land may be owned by a private individual, the public have a legal right across that land along a specific route. The mode of transport allowed differs according to what type of public right of way it is. Public rights of way are all highways in law, but the term ‘public rights of way’ is generally used to cover more minor highways.”
Having read into it a bit more, there is quite a bit of relevant legislation that may not make for particularly exciting reading but deals with creation, maintenance and stopping up.
In Essex, according to the essexhighways.org website, there are over 6000km of public rights of way comprising footpaths, bridleways and byways and the statutory duty to maintain and protect the network of public rights of way sits with Essex County Council. I grew up in Northern Ireland which has comparatively few public rights of way (as access to land in Northern Ireland is more restricted than other parts of the UK) and so I don't think I will ever take it for granted or feel blasé about how many different routes I have to follow and explore. I feel very lucky to live in such a beautiful country where so much land is accessible and gives us so many opportunities to #GetOutside.