In England’s Green & Pleasant Land

IMG_0928The reason¬†I like to run in the countryside¬†is that many of the¬†trails and footpaths have been there for¬†decades and¬†maybe even¬†centuries. The modern world has devised motorways and dual carriageways which¬†leaves these narrow rural rights of way largely forgotten. However, that’s the very reason why as trail runners we love to discover where they lead. As a bonus the¬†trails inevitably give you great views and a connection to nature while running through it. These sights and sounds would have been¬†enjoyed by countless people over the ages and it’s why I feel compelled to revisit whenever I can.

If any piece of literature ever summed up our Great British countryside it would have to be the patriotic poem by William Blake, “And did those feet in ancient time” which was later developed into the hymn Jerusalem. Yes, we run England’s mountains green and fight the mental fight in England’s green and pleasant land.

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  • And did those feet in ancient time, Walk upon England’s mountains green: And was the holy Lamb of God, On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
  • And did the Countenance Divine, Shine forth upon our clouded hills? And was Jerusalem built here, Among these dark Satanic Mills?
  • Bring me my Bow of burning gold; Bring me my Arrows of desire: Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold! Bring me my Chariot of fire!
    I will not cease from Mental Fight, Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand: Till we have built Jerusalem, In England’s green & pleasant Land.

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The “Views from my Shoes”, (Saucony Peregrines to be specific). Ok, so sitting down might not have been the most sensible angle to take this photo but¬†it’s the weekend so why not¬†do something silly !!

Today’s temperatures still meant¬†I could see my breath in front of me, now and then,¬†but as the sun came out and cast it’s shadows,¬†these are the signs that Spring is upon us. I ran on the outskirts of Fareham out towards Knowle and beyond. The steady 6.6 miles weren’t that fast but today summed up the enjoyment I get from running off road.

At this time of year if your trail running takes you into the woods there’s a good chance you will come across bluebells, lots of bluebells !!¬†I’m sure this blue carpet, which only covers the ground for a few weeks, has been something to look forward to since William Blake’s time. Run for fitness, run for fun, just make sure you get out and run ūüôā

Fareham’s First parkrun !!

Fareham parkrun has arrived, with the venue being Cams Hall estate and the course being an out and back route along the Fareham Creek Trail . For anyone thinking about running this event the car parking is only a short distance away in the Lysses car park (70p an hour).

Naturally with today being the first running of this event it attracted both local runners, parkrun enthusiasts looking to add a new venue to their list and “first timers”. Armed with my barcode I bumping into fellow Fareham Crusader Nikki Yeo (fresh from last weeks Paris marathon) and Martin de Wied¬†in the car park, there must have been¬†25 or so Crusaders attending as we gathered near the Cams Mill pub¬†for a photo. The nature of parkrunning also mean quite a few “junior” runners were there too.

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Parkruns are reliant on volunteers and¬†driven by¬†people who want to give the community a¬†chance to improve their fitness. Julie Salt and her team (including Crusaders Sarah Moulding and Tracey Morrison)¬†deserve¬†great¬†credit for¬†the smooth running of this event¬†which, I’m sure, will go from strength to strength. The volunteers also included Alison who I talk to¬†on twitter, great to meet you ūüôā

A century ago, Cams Mill was an operational tidal mill.¬†It has recently been¬†recreated in the same style, including traditional features to ensure its history lives on, quite a setting. This sign also caught my eye, naturally it will only apply to a select few runners ūüôā

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As the start area filled up (219 ran today) I spotted Stubbington Green runners Andy, Simon, John & Jayne. I also spotted club vests from a number of areas quite a long way out of our local area. With the  starting line being close to the pub this meant there was a good 350 metres or so of wider paths before the route joins the fairly narrow gravel trail. Naturally these 350 metres strung out the field and this worked well to avoid bunching.

DSCF4448There were a certain amount of puddles with some people skirting around them but the path is flat underneath so I personally go straight through the middle. With the early morning sunshine and birds singing in the bushes this all complimented the boats bobbing up and down on the creek¬†to make the 5K very scenic. Crusaders Mike Gilmour and Aaron Sutton¬†both passed me in the opposite direction’s top 15 after a mile or so but it was the¬†huge number of smiling faces¬†and shouts of encouragement¬†that summed up the parkrun spirit. An out and back route really makes an event “all inclusive” rather than the whippets disappearing into the distance.

The last 250 metres bring you in sight of the pub and the finish, I realised I ought to try for 25 minutes so I picked up the pace as if it was close to “last orders”. In the end I¬†clocked 25.19¬†and was pleasantly surprised this was good enough for 66th out of the 219. Just for the record a young lad got under 17 minutes to come first !!

The¬†patio area¬†outside the pub was soon full¬†of runners relaxing¬†and having¬†a drinks¬†while chatting about how successful the morning had been. So it was a well earned “Cheers” to the whole parkrun team and as¬†an Austrian film star once¬†said, “I’ll be back” !!

RunUltra March 2016, Top 10 !!

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Many thanks to RunUltra for selecting my¬†Imber Ultra review as being in their Top 10 for March 2016.¬†It’s always great to have fellow runners acknowledge your writing efforts. Their website has many other such race reviews as well as an extensive calendar of events. Click on¬†the first link for their home page and the second link for the¬†top¬†10 reviews. Secondly, well done to Jeff and Howard who also figured in the shortlist ūüôā

QE Spring Half #running community

Seeing as¬†my recent¬†cough hadn’t 100% cleared up I decided that 13.1 miles done properly would be a safer bet than the marathon, as it turned out 1,800 feet of elevation was more than enough for me at this stage so, yes, being sensible does pay off !!

I arrived early enough to see the marathon start as I wanted to catch up with a¬†few Twitter friends who were running. It’s not often you¬†get to¬†chat with a GB Ultra runner but that’s how¬†down to earth¬†Jo Meek is. I had met Jo once before at a Q&A talk that she was giving and I think it was fair to say she was one of todays favourites. Secondly, Terry Arnott from Gosport RR is someone that I chat to on twitter but hadn’t met until today, great to meet your Terry, unfortunately he too had moved down to the half¬†due to similar¬†germs as mine. I¬†talked with Trevor¬†Kettle from Fareham Crusaders, wished him good luck for the marathon and¬†they were off !!¬†Unfortunately I didn’t get to see¬†Phil Hall who was sweeping the marathon, next time !!

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Above : Phil Hoy giving the marathon race briefing & Jo Meek already in her stride !!

The beauty of our running community is that these kind of events bring out¬†runners and¬†support crews¬†alike. Jason Kinge and his assistant from Body Fusion were attending for “pre and post” race massage. I’ve known Jason for¬†a few years now and would recommend his services¬†for both injuries and sports massages. His skills and banter make him a perfect choice.¬†Naturally the running community¬†also needs organisers so it was great to see Phil¬† & Teressa from Second Wind running (SWR), todays hosts. As the Half was approaching I¬†also saw¬†Ros Clarke who’s recently joined Gosport RR and was running with some other ladies from their club.

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The Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP) weather was ideal for running and the route was a twisting & turning helter skelter of hills and trails, in short, all the good stuff.

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Phil Hoy once again talked us through our race brief and as the hooter started us off we went straight uphill and this set the tempo for the rest of the run. The going underfoot was “mucky” rather than boggy and we were lucky that it had been dry recently as this area of the South Downs can be slippy on the exposed chalky trails when the rain has washed away the surface mud. So all in all it was good to run on. The first two miles were largely uphill which both spread out the field and made me realise that I would have to pace myself today as my breathing was quite shallow.

Ironically my last race was a 33 miler were I made a point of running slower, today was in effect a half marathon at not much more than ultra pace. That said this didn’t make it any less enjoyable. The reward for more “up’s than down” was a long downhill to the¬†first feed station at 4.5 miles but¬†this was followed almost¬†immediately by a steep section that just had to be walked.¬†Walking “with purpose” can be quite effective and I would employ this tactic again ūüôā

The 200 strong field was quite spread out now and running through the woods with the sun glinting through the trees and the birds chirping away just reminded me why I love to run in the countryside. After a section of the South Downs Way we were descending towards another event that Phil had mentioned. A mountain bike race was also being held in QECP and the route crossed directly in front of us. A simple but effective whistle blow meant I was off again after a short stop.

The trails varied in width, camber and state as we progressed onto the 9 mile water station. I¬†didn’t recognise the next mile or two but we were never in any doubt where to run what with orange¬†dissolvable spray paint, orange ticker tape and direction arrows. Praise must go to SWR as this must have taken a lot of time and effort. Talking of effort once I saw a familiar style that enters the park from the Staunton Way I knew where I was again and started to try and push what I had left in the last mile and a half or so.

Approaching the finish I could hear Jason shouting out my name and I crossed the line knowing that I had spread out my energy and couldn’t have done a lot more. I was pleased to find out I placed 101st out of 198. A very welcome chilli con carne awaited us and as I eat it Simone Newton waved as she ran past. “Sorry” Simone I didn’t see you, us men can’t do two things at once ūüôā I thanked Phil for a great race¬†and picked up a SWR T Shirt. I spotted Terry and congratulated him on his 17th place¬†then 15 or so minutes¬†later I watched ¬†Jo Meek sprint¬†through the finish line in a time of 3.22 for¬†the marathon and¬†1st place !!

After a post race massage I had to get going so apologies to Ros and Trevor who I missed finishing, while I was having¬†it, and thanks to¬†everyone in our local running community that made today such an enjoyable event.¬†We run, we smile, it’s as simple as that ūüôā

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