The aim of this Blog is to paint a picture of the joy I get from running off road
Creating a Logo … first impressions
With Spring upon us I’ve decided now is the right time to freshen up my social media profile by adding a logo that I can use across all of my platforms for the foreseeable future.
I wanted to design a logo that would capture what I love about trail running, so, it needed to draw on the countryside, be distinctive and leave a recognizable image in the same way that a photograph does but instead of one location it would sum up any trail running adventure.
A great first impression creates a connection which, in turn, helps you “spread the word”, especially as a blogger.
My logo thought process was to imagine I’d never heard or seen of irunoffroad, therefore what would catch my eye when scrolling through social media. I started with a blank sheet and various images in my head.
I’ve portrayed the changing seasons with the different coloured leaves and the chunky natural green font is meant to be both earthy and suggest the calming mindfulness that you absorb while running outside. Locating the text below the trees broadens out the logo and in many ways makes it part of the landscape.
My aim was that the lettering is actually the path / trail / route to the joy you will experience. I wanted to get across the life affirming aspects that trail running give you. When you write in capitals it’s as if you are shouting and even though I would normally use lower case I feel like a logo should shout out at you !!
Finally, I wanted to portray roaming the trails with the freedom that only wide open spaces can give you. In many ways if you look at the trees long enough you can almost see then swaying in the breeze. Hopefully this image transports you out into the countryside while encouraging you to read further.
How to W.I.N. without coming 1st
The acronym W.I.N. stands for “What’s Important Now” and was originally coined by Lou Holtz an American football coach who related it to his players and their choices throughout the day. In a nutshell the concept is to focus 100% on what needs doing right now and not be distracted by other tasks. Naturally this philosophy can be applied to any walk of life but I’ve been exploring it more in terms of my running.
Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee, once famously said it wasn’t the winning that was important it was the taking part. Might I suggest that a series of small timely wins can contribute to a better performance. This process won’t necessarily place you first on a podium but it will mean you’ll have made decisions which have had a direct impact on your run.
Live in the moment, decide in the moment and choose your winning strategy. I’m a happy plodder when it comes to running but with this mindset I now have a much clearer vision of where and how my plodding will take me. I’ve tried to outline my thought process below which hopefully will give you food for thought.
At the beginning of the year, due to an injury, I used this process to work my way up from walking slowly through jogging and onto running. The WIN decisions being walk a mile, walk it in a certain time, walk further, walk quicker etc etc
How often have you found yourself in one place physically and another place mentally or emotionally. All your day to day decisions have outcomes and consequences so priorities need setting, running can have the same pattern and this will ensure that all of your thoughts and actions are aligned.
Some “What’s Important Now” decisions start before you’ve even left the house like your kit choices on clothing and trainers, as well as the route you’ll be running, these create a clear image in your mind of what’s ahead.
Long distance running is physically, emotionally and mentally challenging, especially off road when decisions about the terrain, conditions underfoot and the best pacing option need combining with your usual hydration and nutrition choices.
So, regular and timely “WIN” decisions really can contribute to both a better experience and result.
Naturally you will be confronted with both easy and hard choices like shall I run this hill or walk it but making the decision immediately gives you a strategy. These choices can be on assessing what will benefit you now or in the long term so again referring to the hill it might be worth walking now to save energy for later.
Since I came across this “What’s Important Now” approach I’ve found I feel more confident and in control because I’m shaping the rest of my run rather than being on autopilot, as it were. This reassessing process has also added to my motivation and positivity because I’m happy I’m on the right track.
Questions like which line to run through a wet or uneven section ? Shall I try to maintain my pace, slow down or speed up depending on the trail, have I drunk enough, do I need a gel, the list can be endless and this “WIN” approach won’t necessarily give you all of the answers but it will make you asses your decisions in a calmer way i.e. you are taking a moment to pause and contemplate what’s best right now. You are applying a mindful mindset.
Finally, once you’ve finished your run you can start to contemplate what’s next in you training, a recovery run maybe, this way you are planning ahead to “What’s Important Next”.
Thanks for reading and maybe try this decision making tool on your next run.
The AR 545 Food Bank run (from a brewery !!)
Question ? : How can your running community best help the less fortunate people in your local areas ?
The answer that’s sweeping the country in 2023 is a food bank run. As it stands over 350 running clubs will participate during February in a planned and coordinated response that has at it’s heart Fareham RC in Hampshire. I joined the Absolute Running 545 group from nearby Gosport the night after FRC ran theirs and it’s safe to say the initiative was a great success with our two clubs and many more posting their events on the shared facebook page. Below is a selection of the donations from the AR 545 group.
In 2018 Fareham ran their first food bank run and then in 2022 they took it to another level with the original driving force Sarah D and other club members joining forces along with Runr, our local fitness and lifestyle brand, to create an unstoppable force for good by enrolling running clubs up and down the country to join in.
Due to the current cost of living crisis well over two million food parcels a year are delivered throughout the UK, with every item being donated.
The post Christmas month of February was highlighted as both a low point in donations and a highpoint in demand, the 350 clubs that have got involved which could easily mean over 10,000 runners will contribute. Put another way, that’s the running community exercising on various chilly evenings but being warmed through and through in the knowledge that they were making a difference.
The thinking behind a food bank run is simple and effective. Running clubs contact their local food bank, organise a date, identify which supplies the bank requires, plan a route and deliver it. Naturally when your local bank isn’t that local then transporting the donations might be required rather than taking them in person.
The AR 545 version of these acts of kindness involved the Gosport Basics food bank, donations loaded into Nick (the 545 main man) Carters “run bus” and a run out and back to Alver Lake from a brewery. That’s right I said a brewery and more specifically the Fallen Acorn Brewery Co. that hosts the 5.45 pm Wednesday social runs.
Now, I know what you’re thinking what could be better than being involved in a great cause and running from a brewery (with access to the bar on our return) surely the only missing element would be food, well, they had that covered too. The food offering invite had been given to Pertersfield’s Earth to Oven guys who were on hand with their mobile catering unit.
The night began with me chatting to Nick and dropping off my bag of donations, soon after I saw Rob Piggott, one of our local race organisers at Believe and Achieve who’d joined as a new member that day. I’d say there were forty to fifty runners assembled for the 5.44 pm photo. The social nature of the run means everyone finds their own pace which makes the session all inclusive.
I chattered with Dayle Morgan and Rob P amongst others as we set off in the fading light and then I settled into a steady pace with Leanna for the remainder of the 5K. As we approach the end of February it’s encouraging to see the evenings gradually becoming lighter. I have to admit I wasn’t 100% sure where we ran but Alver Lake came and went along with the cycle path and Gosport KFC !! The chat centered around what a great idea the Food Bank donations were, as well as the usual running topics.
Upon our return the Earth to Oven guys were already serving the quicker runners with their locally sourced seasonal street food. I queued up for my food outside and a cider inside then joined everyone in the brewery. Nick commented that the Food Bank was “over the moon” with the donations and then with two of the club members having imminent birthdays a round of “Happy Birthday” rang out amongst the huge vats of beer.
I chatted with Nick and Kim then joined Dayle on his pub bench, yes, pub benches inside the brewery !! After chatting with Rachel, Jim and Steph there was just time for a quick chat with Claire T-G (one of the birthday girls) as she offered around cup cakes and told us she’d be running in Malta that weekend as part of her celebrations.
So, an eventful evening with food bank offerings at the heart of it. I’m not saying that bags of food will solve everyone’s problems but it’s a great place to start. Well done again Sarah D from Fareham RC, the the volunteers that run the food banks, Runr, and the 545 runners, we have all played a part in making a difference.
To sum up my 545 visit I’d quote the ever inspiring Heather Small …
“What have you done today to make you feel proud”
P.S. It was great to see the BBC giving coverage to the food bank movement too. Follow the food bank link to read more.
Thanks for reading
A Coastal trail run with the beach and sunset for company
Choosing where and when you run may come down to practicalities like the weather, friends availability or family commitments but try to make some time for a purely emotional choice, every now and then.
I’m lucky enough to only live a fifteenth minute drive from the coast and a twenty five minutes drive inland to the South Downs Way (SDW). Coastal trails may not always get the kudos their countryside cousins enjoy but todays Solent sunset was breath taking. Hampshire has so much to offer, it might be Winter but get outdoors and you’ll be rewarded.
While contemplating my latest jog I decided to consolidate Wednesdays 5K with one more before moving up to five miles. So the challenge was to maximise around 32/33 minutes as my mobility returns after a fall. The late afternoon decision was an easy one, yes, I was off to see the sunset. I parked at Hill Head then mapped an out and back 1.55 miles to make a 5K route below the Chilling cliffs.
The beach offers a softer surface, with less impact on your body, but in many ways you are working harder to achieve the same distance. The reduced stress on my ankles, knees and hips was apparent almost immediately, so I knew I’d made the right choice, but the motivation for my seaside session was emotional rather than technical.
Why is a coastal run so rewarding ? Setting off at 4pm I knew I’d be treated to both views of the Isle of Wight and the sun disappearing below the horizon. I don’t mind admitting I was feeling the same glow of warmth inside me as I was witnessing before me.
The sunset was due at 4.36 so I’d already arrived in golden hour, complete with the orange glow shimmering on the sea like a “yellow brick road” layered onto the Solent. My running shadow was still with me for the time being but the sun was sinking fast, I decided to take a quick video to try and capture the beautiful light and colours that nature was displaying. This clip is 40 seconds long and no matter how much I try to paint a picture with my words, it’s a snapshot to cherish as a memory.
There’s a rhythm to the sea as the waves ebb and flow, a rhythm that hasn’t changed for thousands of years. Perhaps this expected and predictable feature is what relaxes us and lifts our mood. I’ve read that this experience is called blue therapy. There were a number of walkers out along my route as I headed towards the Solent Breezes caravan sites and it’s safe to say we were all enjoying our free blue therapy.
In many ways your physical activity matches the waves rhythm, your breathing almost seems to match the lapping motion of the salt water, it’s like your running is connecting you to the sea. This might sound a bit pretentious but feeling part of your surroundings can be emotional and empowering. Granted the tide was out but I still felt the waters energy.
I’m sure the years of happy beach memories were being rethought somewhere in the back of my mind and who hasn’t left a trip to the coast without a smile a sense of positivity. Today wasn’t about sun tan lotion and ice cream, it was barely above freezing, but the cold heightened your senses and you appreciate the fact that you made an effort to enrich your afternoon.
My pace was relatively slow and naturally the crunching of the shingle and the sinking feeling of the sand didn’t lend itself to speed but I’m not at that point in my recovery to even worry about what my garmin says. I’ve walked numerous times through January and added various daily stretches in a bid to add flexibility and movement to resolve a fall five weeks ago.
I appreciate five weeks is no time to be injured, and I did have physio but as it was on the back of other previous niggles. I enjoyed the fruits of my efforts even more on this wintery Saturday afternoon. Ultimately I guess the work that you put into your training results in having opportunities like today.
I will definitely return, in weeks to come, to add the strength and endurance training that beach running offers but for the moment I’ve simply enjoyed the salt flavoured breeze and my mindfulness / wellbeing cup being topped up with sea water !!
Thanks for reading
Don’t take your running for granted. Make the most of it
Over the years I have to admit I’ve taken my running for granted. It’s always been there, all you need to do is lace up your trainers and off you go. Call up some friends, agree the time and place then enjoy a physical, social and sensory couple of hours. If you read no further than this opening paragraph, enjoy your running, embrace it, make the most of it but never take it for granted.
Over the last year I’ve had a string of injuries, interruptions and frustrations that have meant inconsistent training. That last sentence isn’t meant to sound like I’m looking for sympathy, naturally there are thousands of people who would love to exercise but it’s beyond them. I simply have to wait for strains to heal and try to manage my commitments better.
However, when running has been a part of your weekly life for over thirty years these inactive spells become more frustrating with each occurrence. We don’t have to run, no one is telling us to, we simply have a desire and a need to run. In many ways when you aren’t running it’s a case of changing your goals rather than giving up on them.
After falling and injuring back muscles four weeks ago I’ve progressed with physio, mobility stretching and lots of walking. With it being January I’ve also stopped drinking alcohol for a month and tried to increase my water intake, after all, if I’m missing out on burning 200/300 calories an hour, these will be positive steps while biding my time until a return to full fitness.
Clearly when you’re sidelined there’s an element of FOMO, yes, the fear of missing out but along with the running highs that our chosen hobby gives us there are so many elements that we don’t consider while we are fit and well.
Your focus and health are greatly improved when active but conversely your mind, immune system and mood can be negatively effected when you aren’t, this can then contribute to a reduction in your “get up and go”. This sluggish feeling inevitably makes us unhappy, stressed and grumpy. The next phase that follows this could well be a loss of self esteem and even confidence, both of which, could eventually trigger depression.
Our sleeping habits can be effected due to us not having used up our energy through the day. Rest is necessary for life generally as well as recovering from sporting activities. Getting into bed knowing you’ve been out that day or you have a run planned for the morning means you finish off that evening happy.
Even the very basics of running help you with your heart and lungs working hard to supply extra oxygen to your muscles. We need to try and hold onto this triple benefit if possible.
So, while we are trying to cope with a lack of serotonin and endorphins, consider ways to apply yourself rather than dwell on being disappointed, it’s better to try and channel your efforts with good habits.
In recent weeks I haven’t run so instead I’ve walked most days. You still breath in that stimulating fresh air and have a sense of achievement by getting a sweat on. Walking might be slower than running but it’s still helping your metabolism, burning calories and provides a cumulative motivation. Being determined and following it through works the same regardless of whether you are running at speed or walking steadily.
I’ve noticed that even in smaller doses the effort you put in is rewarded by rejuvenating your spirit. I’ve reached my 4 m.p.h. target and today I jogged two miles.
Twenty two minutes of jogging brought me huge satisfaction and ought to pave the way to my measured return. As an incentive I’m holding off wearing my new road shoes until I jog 5K which should be fairly soon now.
As part of my positive approach I also spectated at Stubbington 10K so that meant I felt part of our local running community. Seeing lots of familiar faces meant I left with a big smile on my face from joining in, with clapping and words of encouragement.
I’ve been watching adventure videos on youtube to inspire me and from this I intend to try and combine some camping and running in 2023. This added dimension wouldn’t necessarily have crossed my mind if I hadn’t been sidelined and looking for motivation. I particularly like Loyd Purvis with his Run 4 Adventure, Paul Coates videos (a good friend of mine) and the Film My Run channel with Steve Cousins.
For this running and outdoor footage don’t sit on the couch, exercise while you watch, so as to feel part of that running community spirit. While viewing you can stretch, bend, twist and add strength exercises like squats and knee lifts, depending on what has stopped you running.
In summary, don’t take your running for granted, in many ways running is a lifestyle that provides you with endless benefits. Once you’ve bought your kit then it’s essentially free (well almost) and remember the physical and mental activity that you engage in today will stand you in good stead for tomorrow, whether tomorrow is twenty four hours away or ten years away.
Keep it going, use it or loose it and when life gets in the way of your running, take a step back and consider your options, reassess what you can control and get back on track.
Thanks for reading, enjoy your running in 2023.
2023 Dry January – 31 days alcohol free
January is the prefect time to give your health a well earned boost, the Christmas excess has passed and quite frankly I’ve been snacking between meals too. Enough is enough !!
31 alcohol free days will give your body time to reset and more importantly kick start a weight loss plan as we head towards Spring and Summer. Added bonuses like increased concentration, saving some money and a sense of achievement will all fuel the motivation.
Combining drinking more water will also add to the benefits, so all in all, that ought to mean more energy and better sleep too. Naturally at the end of your working week the prospect of a few drinks to unwind will be tempting but in previous years I’ve managed to go into March before my first pint.
If water sounds boring then there’s always squash and while I’m looking for healthy gains then green tea will reduce the caffeine too.
One final benefit is that alcohol can be an irritant to your stomach so there ought to be a reduction in symptoms of reflux where the stomach acid burns your throat.
Don’t get me wrong I’m no saint but all of these positive impacts can then be combined with your five a day fruit and veg for a fantastic January detox. I have to say I’d be happy not to see any chocolate or sweet deserts for some time !!
Good luck to anyone else joining in, the results will be worth it. I’ll keep a weekly update of my progress.
Thanks for reading
A great advice video for older runners, as well as my thoughts too
The phrase “age is just a number” may well mean you don’t approach your training any differently from a psychological point of view but as we age the physical side inevitably catches up. So, maybe the answer is coupling this “glass half full” mindset with the right physical regime to then let us enjoy our running for as long as possible.
I have been guilty of some bad habits in recent years and as we look towards 2023 I thought I’d share my thoughts, especially after watching this excellent video from James Dunne, that really hit home this point now that I’ve reached 60.
I’ve attached the video from James and in many ways you could stop reading now. Why read on ? Well I’ve been running for over thirty years so if nothing else I have some experience to draw on, even if I haven’t got the expertise like James.
Naturally I’ve asked for his permission to include the video in my blog. This five minute production offers you a lesson in good habits that are worth their weight in gold. You might already incorporate his advice in your training but I know I took away changes for mine that will stand me in good stead.
For as long as I can remember my non running friends have pointed out that it’s quicker to catch the bus than run ten miles, that I’ll end up with bad knees or even that once you reach a certain age there’s no need to exercise. We take this kind of banter on the chin because running and exercise are lifestyle choices that undoubtedly make a difference to both our physical and mental health.
In short, we know that our future health has had its foundations laid and that the years of building blocks we’ve built up through exercise will pay dividends.
A recent men’s health forum MOT suggested the following figures. Eat your 5 a day of fruit and veg, be active 150 minutes a week, drink 14 or less units of alcohol a week and work on having a 36 inch or less waist line. Currently I tick all of these boxes but as we age it does become more challenging. Apologies for not having a similar ladies chart but you get the general idea.
What keeps us striving to improve or maintain our form over the years ? Naturally every race is a competition but ultimately you are always running against yourself. The general public has had Mr Motivator or Joe Wicks to keep them energised, in running it tends to be our fellow runners, being involved with the wider running community and personal goals.
In recent years I have definitely developed an old mans shuffle, sprinting is out due to blood pressure so consistency needs to be my watch word. The shuffle is partly due to the long distance trail running that I prefer as opposed to speedy 10K’s.
Do I factor in enough strength work ? No. Historically I’ve always had power in my legs and my quads go all the way back to living at the top of a hill in Devon which meant repeated elevation until I bought a moped at sixteen but now, more than ever, the strength work that I haven’t been paying attention to is finding me out injuries wise.
Secondly, once an injury has been resolved I’m guilty of trying to catch up too soon and guess what happens, without the necessary recovery and strength I get caught out again. This loop of frustration needs breaking.
With 2023 on the horizon my goals are clear, “use it or loose it”, strength, recovery and consistency plus some cross training for good measure. Watch the video, maybe twice and draw the inspiration that I have had to set the road / trails ahead of you for years to come. Make the most of your running, after all if you look after your legs, your legs will look after you.
Thanks for reading
LOTS of parkrun people (Fareham RC takeover)
LOTS of parkrun people, the abbreviation LOTS stands for Lee on the Solent which was the Hampshire venue for Fareham Running Clubs takeover of volunteering and supporting roles on September 17th. As a long standing member of FRC I popped down to the coast to offer my services on this bright crisp morning. The parkrun philosophy has always been inclusivity with everyone welcome, I’m sure that on the day we achieved that. Giving something back to your chosen sport is always satisfying so it’s a win -win.
Before I go any further I’d like to credit the official parkrun photographer from the day, Peter Soddard for the images in my blog. This was event 313 and had 418 finishers with 66 PB’s !!
On my arrival the scene was set for another coastal parkrun with views across to the Isle of Wight and the chatter of anticipation. I didn’t have a specific role assigned to me but as is often the case two opportunities presented themselves as the morning unfolded.
In amongst the gathered runners and walkers I spotted Paula Williams who was coordinating our club’s efforts to facilitate the fun. As with all parkruns the set up, funnel staff, timers, token takers, barcode scanners, marshals and coordinators were all in evidence as well as our club supplying numerous pacers. I think it’s a pretty good chance that the pacers would have contributed to many of the 66 PB’s.
I decided to make my way along the coast to see what part I could play. Within a hundred meters or so I stopped to chat with Sarah Macbeath. Her role was to marshal the cluster of small rocks that are just off the promenade. With a field of 400 + it was clear that the starting line would be some fifty or so people wide and that the folks at the front would want to merge onto the prom as quickly as possible.
With the prospect of hundreds of well intentioned runners charging straight for her I asked if she’d like another “rock marshal” on the grounds that doubling our forces would hopefully mean less chance of any accidents.
If you have a sharp eye you will see in the photo below there are two of us pointing in the opposite direction to the rest of humanity !! Sarah’s fair hair and placard can be spotted with the “40” on its reverse. The phrase “Caution Rocks” was written on the sign, a phrase that we both shouted out along with “Mind the rocks” and for my part I decided that the volume of my safety advice was the best bet.
Within less than a minute a good proportion of the field had passed us by and we both agreed it had been quite exhilarating. No one tripped, no one ran into us and there were numerous “Thank you Marshals” so all in all it was job done. Top marks Sarah.
With the drama of the start behind me I chatted with a few of our club members who were manning the finish funnel and also the photographer from our local paper, The News. Here’s a selection of our club volunteers below with Mel, Rebecca and Co. then me, far left. These volunteers were centered around the funnel, however, we had guys up and down the length of the course.
I chatted with Ed and Mick Macenri who I haven’t seen in a long time and Mick mentioned his wife Liz was one of the pacers. The nature of this parkrun is an out and back route along the prom so as the guys got into their positions I looked around for my next contribution.
I didn’t have to look a lot further than my “Caution Rocks” pal Sarah as she was safeguarding one of the large litter bins, as, by the time the parkrunners have returned along the Prom these black bins do merge into the background and would present a painful experience with a collision.
So, yes you guessed it, I progressed from “Mind the Rocks” to “Mind the bin” it doesn’t get much more rock & roll than this but at the same time safety first has to be the answer for a successful event.
The funny thing about spectating / supporting / marshalling is that hundreds of people pass you with flashes of coloured kit, comments shouted out and to be honest it can be a bit of a blur !! I shouted encouragement as well as mind the bin to everyone that passed and name checked as many people as I could.
I think the first person I saw at the sharp end of the parkrun was Phil from our running club who is running the London marathon for charity. He will be wearing a large foam star and is hoping to break the Guinness world record time for a fancy dress marathon star. Through the morning I saw Mike, Simon and Andy, all friends that I’ve known for twenty five years or so from my Stubbington Green runner days. Added to this there were Gosport RR /Bayside Tri & 545 runners like Hayley and Lee, Fareham runners like Trevor and Chris. Well done everyone.
With the nature of people running past you and you only seeing them at the last minute I was pleased to see Emma Noyce from Gosport RR after she’d finished. She shouted “Hi” mid run but I wanted to congratulate her on her British Empire Medal. Emma is a keen open water swimmer, as well as runner, so we were on her patch by the sea. Congratulations Emma on your award.
In summary there were numerous positive comments on social media praising our clubs involvement so it was hats off to Paula for coordinating and a round of applause to all Fareham Running Club volunteers. Oh, and apparently there were a number of cakes donated too from the club, but sadly I had to leave before sampling any.
For my part it was great to see so many running friends and I thoroughly enjoyed helping out.
The phenonium that is parkrun continues to thrive, inspire and motivate both our local community and across the country. Octobers parkwalk will bring even more people into the fold. Exercise truly is a common denominator, we arrive from all walks of life and we leave glowing with the physical and emotional benefits. Your legs are empty but your heart is full.
Chipping in to volunteer is well worth it.
Thanks for reading, Roger
Put your best foot forward & run !!
The definition of “putting your best foot forward” is to embark on an undertaking with as much effort and determination as possible. Saturdays heat meant my half marathon training run had strategic effort rather than maximum but the determination was set to max. Since starting this blog I’ve run a second Saturday 13.1 mile run so I’ll incorporate a few more thoughts.
We all go through different phases with our running and I’d like to try and explain why I believe I’m excited for the future. It’s inevitable that my running expectations are different now, at sixty, than they were when I was fifty, however, seeing as I’m only six weeks into this decade I’m keen to make the most of it.
I finally seem to have shaken off a number of niggles and with my newly found orthotics providing the foundation for increased mileage (literally) I can start to relive the joys of going out for a descent amount of time. My last endurance race was December 2019’s Portsmouth Coastal marathon, at last I feel like I can prepare for my next challenge.
The plan was to run 6.5 miles from Meonstock to Holden Farm and visit the newly established Cadence Cafe. The temperatures were in the balmy low to mid twenties but thankfully the cloud cover and sections of wooded areas meant I wasn’t too much at the mercy of this current heatwave.
The out and back nature of this run meant a 400 feet climb out of Exton but naturally the prospect of a lovely downhill finish. The theme for the day was to build on the last two weekends ten milers with a view to this being a springboard for the rest of the Summer and a launching pad for the Autumn.
As I limbered up outside the Meonstock village hall a smartly turned out, senior gentleman, walked passed and recalled that when he was in the army, stationed in London, they would run in Regents Park. I guess he lived locally and that park would have reminded him of the green pastures of home. As I set off on my run I pondered to myself now that my form is returning I have the fortune and opportunity to add to my running memories.
Fitness is often looked upon as a given, by others, but you have to work at it and if you don’t it takes some time to regain it. The beauty of this ebb and flow is that the journey back to fitness and endurance gives you an upward spiral of motivation, because, by definition you are out longer doing what makes you happy.
I can listen to and observe the world around me, the chance conversations with strangers, the changing landscape of the seasons and the knowledge that you are propelling yourself forward, under your own steam while reaping both the physical and emotional benefits. Another less obvious benefit is that as your confidence grows you relax more, you enjoy it more and when these two traits combine your mind starts to fully appreciate your progress. Pace isn’t a factor just let, it’s all about time on your feet.
The rising challenge that is Beacon Hill gave me my first reminder of both the heat and my fitness. The droplets of sweat that were running off my forehead and the need for occasional walks could have been regarded as negatives but the warmth of the sun on my back and the fact that the next time I run up this hill I’ll walk fewer times, all added to my cup half full mindset.
Reaching the trig point I turned and took a photo of the gate that marks the end of the climb, a symbolic wodden structure that you pass through when you’ve scaled your first objective. The remaining miles out to Holden Farm gave me wild flowers of many colours and a number of brief encounters with mountain bikers, walkers and a horse rider.
Once arriving at the farm I ventured round to the cafe. A selection of picnic tables and bike stands made for an inviting area with the functional but also quite stylish unit that had been open for business since 9 a.m. The manicured grass, a sprinkling of customers and the trees swaying in the light breeze all gave a sense of relaxation and calm. I mentioned I’d seen the cafe on Instagram and it only seemed fitting that I took a couple of photos to mark my visit. Naturally the first was the shot at the beginning of my blog, below is my sugar rush !! The cola and sweet jam on granary toast both hit the mark as my turn around pit stop. The funky blue benches with the Cadence logo showed the thought these guys have put into their project. Refreshed and replenished I bid my farewells and set off just as more people were arriving. It’s worth noting here payments are card only.
As I set off on the return 6.5 miles it struck me that the cafe and Holden Farm are almost spot on half way between Winchester and Exton / Meonstock so which ever way you are travelling it’s worth a visit.
I was met with a refreshing breeze as I set off again on the home leg of my South Downs run. Now, stopping mid run can sometimes be a physiological mistake but I do believe my recent hilly runs had set me up well for the remaining miles. Confidence and self belief are fantastic motivators and even though I incorporated a couple of strategic walking sections I’m a firm believer that walking with purpose can be just as constructive as a slow jog.
Life as well as running can be judged on benchmarks so it was great to see ten miles appear on my watch and know I had a good downhill section ahead, after all I’d earned these free miles from the efforts earlier in the morning.
As I approached my car I concluded that considering the heat I still had some more energy in the tank but I’d hold that back for next time. I’m a firm believer that you can draw on your past but the prospect of looking forward with anticipation gave me a buzz for the rest of the day and it was my first thought on Sunday morning.
Running has always given me satisfaction, knowing I can hopefully keep going to horizons further in the distance is exciting. As I mentioned it’s been a week since I started this blog so I’ll breifly add a couple more thoughts. My second Saturday was also a 13.1 mile run, this time up the Meon Valley trail, from Wickham to the Meonstock village shop and back. The shaded old railway line was perfect as there’s lots of tree cover from the heat. Both runs have averaged 11.5 minute miles which might sound slow but I’m thankful to be moving up the mileage and the positivity and motivation that comes from a second two and a half hour run far outweighs the need for speed.
In many ways I find distance running starts after the first hour, it’s a phycological time which generally means I’ve settled into a rhythm. The out and back nature of my run inevitably means that’s a two hour run once you’ve returned. All in all a long positive weekend run gives you the joy of looking forward to your mid week shorter efforts and the prospect of what’s to come !!
If you have been struggling with your form or motivation, hang in there, the good times will return.
Thanks for reading, Roger.