I dabbled with proper mountain running when I lived in Scotland. Ben Nevis, Paps of Jura, Goatfell, Loch Lochy. That sort of thing. One of my strongest memories of this period was the Slioch hill race, a 12-mile dash up and down a Munro and its top. It is brutal: two to three (or four) hours of punishment. The fellows preparing for the race lined up idly and when the time came to depart, it appeared the only muscle the throng had stretched was their tongues. We ran. Up, along, down. We survived.
Stretching? What need is there for such a triviality?
Stretching is bad for you. Stretching antagonises. Stretching makes the stretcher dwell, even obsess, on that blighted area of injury. You lie awake thinking, thinking, thinking about that godforsaken body part. Your dark, lonely thoughts magnify the tweak into an I’ll-never-run-again disaster. The policy of quietly ignoring a niggle or ache should not be underestimated.
Yet, here I am nursing an irritating niggle behind a knee. The advice, inevitably? Stretch.
This is easier said than done. Stretching is harder than running. I would rather run for an hour in the rain, in the cold, in the dark, than stretch for an hour in the warm and comfortable.
But, it seems the one hour run in the rain, cold and dark will not happen without the one hour of stretching. I am two weeks into an eight-week holiday – sorry, I am a teacher – and I run the risk of losing a summer of running if I do not stretch and rest.
Only an idiot would persist with running.
Unfortunately, I am that idiot.