Burning Calves And Exploding Lungs

Every year I tell myself that this is it. This is the year I’m going to start training before the winter season comes and I’ll be super fit and running up the hills when winter finally hits. There has not been a year gone by where I have stuck to this and cursed myself later in the year when halfway into a two-hour walk-in with sweat pouring off me and my legs feeling like they’ve run a marathon already. This year will be different….I think!

Euan and I, a long-term climbing partner and good mate have recently moved into a new flat in the south side of Glasgow and have promised each other that we will push the other to continue to train, with the hope that this will give us the motivation and psyche to keep it up. With the winter season fast approaching, Euan came up with the disgusting idea of doing some hill running. Now, neither of us are big into our running, only doing the odd 10km here and there to keep some level of fitness up when there’s really nothing else to do, so when Euan mentioned the concept of ‘real’ hill running, I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do less. And with this, the idea was cast aside, damning it as madness and torturous.

Wednesday 7a.m. I’m abruptly woken by the removal of the covers and a freshly made coffee thrust under my nose to force me from my bed. In my zombie like daze, I hear Euan rabble words like running, fitness and hills. None of it computes and I try to return to bed as I’m taunted and my manhood is questioned. This reminds me that I’d jokingly entertained the idea of a hill run the previous night and minutes later the next thing I know, we’re in the car, running shoes on and me wondering what the hell I’m doing. The coffee starts to kick in and my brain starts to decipher what’s going on. We are on the way to Dumgoyne for a run to attempt to gain some vital hill fitness for the upcoming winter season.

As we arrive at the car park of the Glengoyne distillery at the foot of the hill I’m dreading it. I’m not a fan of even walking up hills, let alone running up them. Through several yawn-broken sentences I tell Euan of the hatred I have for him at this moment but realise he’s having none of it and that I have no choice. We’re already committed.

Stretches done, stopwatch started, my legs begin to move and we start up the track from the road. We cross the stile and the gradient increases, the path turning to trodden-in steps and the lungs starting to feel heavy. The pace becomes slow as the intake of oxygen is insufficient to feed my burning calves tackling the steepest section of the climb. We’re nearly there. My mouth becomes more like the air intake of a jet engine as it sucks in as much air as possible, attempting to keep myself moving. We break over the false summit and get our first glimpse of the trig-point that marks the true finish. I tell myself to keep moving as my vision starts to tunnel, focusing only on the final goal. The calves are on fire and my lungs are ready to explode as I stop the watch and collapse onto the summit.

“26:32” it reads. We’re delighted, more at the victory than at the time itself. Taking in the view we finally catch our breaths and return our heart rates to a more human level as we start the walk down.

Me and Euan. Exhausted but motivated!

Me and Euan. Exhausted but motivated!

It’s only in the car on the return journey that we get the natural high from success. That pride you get from having committed, taken the right decision to get out of bed and pushed yourself when so many others would have rolled over and silenced the alarm. I could feel the psyche growing as we talked about the difference this could make to our fitness, how much easier a heavy pack would feel on a walk-in if we just kept the dedication up and refused to quit.

We’d not even reached home before already deciding we were coming back to do it again.

Next time, we would be faster…