Meon Valley Half marathon training

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Preparing for¬†a half marathon wouldn’t normally mean running the same 13.1 miles a week before the race but¬†this group run was too good an opportunity to miss. Today’s hosts were again Second Wind Running’s¬†Phil and¬†Teresa and as the photo above shows there was quite a gathering of runners. Regulars to these runs Paul, Ros and Dean were joined by a number of ultra Pompey Joggers and two other local runners.

As we set off from the Meon Hall Phil¬†gave a brief outline of the course as well as relating it to the marathon that’s on the same day. Out of the runners present the majority were running the marathon but they had chosen today to recce the 7 miles of the route back to the race finish, as this is the same for both races. The pace was brisk initially, especially considering the Pompey group had already run 6 miles but nature took its course as we joined the South Downs Way and started running up Old Winchester Hill.

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The path from the photo above then skirts around the base of Old Winchester hill (OWH) and leads up a steep incline which is quite taxing but runnable with a short stride. The bigger than normal group meant we had some different conversations about races already run and events that we were looking forward to. Needless to say the view across the valley towards Beacon Hill was worth the effort and with the recent mild weather (we are almost in November !!) there was very little mud to contend with so as we dropped down the other side of OWH the pace continued.

dscf4956Not long after this photo we arrived at Meon Springs which is a fishing location that has a very handy water tap in the car park so this made for an ideal “pit stop”. Ian from the Joggers introduced himself as a fellow twitter runner and we both agreed that off road running offers you challenging routes but with the rewards of the scenery. Our next test was a long gradual country road that had quite a steep incline but with the promise of sweets and drink¬†that¬†my first photo showed.

At times the larger group did spilt up but¬†Phil’s extra pace always meant he could run on ahead and get us to re group.

meon2The unseasonal 13 degrees from today meant I was over dressed with a t shirt and HH so I took off my t shirt and did think to myself I now looked like a football referee ūüôā The route snaked its way through more country lanes and across fields before we came across a very grand country wedding that was being set up. Marquees, VIP parking, staff parking and us sweaty runners passing by. We ran along the edge of one field that went on for quite some time but were then rewarded with a straight tree lined road that lead us back towards Meonstoke.

The usual banter between¬†Paul Coates and everyone else meant the miles were soon clocked up and finally, after a short walk for a lady on her beautifully groomed horse,¬†we headed downhill along a¬†colourful trail of Autumn leaves¬†towards the Meon¬†Hall. Yes that’s a good mile and a half that’s downhill or flat !!

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Both the full and half marathons are sold out and I believe there’s a waiting list in operation. The success of these types of countryside runs are down to the location and the planning that goes into them. Second Wind Running’s Phil & Teresa are runners who design races for runners. I have no doubt next weekends event will be a great success.

“Train-ing” : 16 miles

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Todays early weather was chilly but with the promise of some Autumn sunshine later. My route was to include large sections of old railway track which would mean a scenic and straight path ahead, with very few distractions on my long steady run.

Within a¬†mile and a half of running from home the Deviation Line¬†was the first disused section of railway track¬†which is¬†just off Highlands Road in Fareham. The going underfoot was quite dry for this time of year and¬†when gaps in the trees appeared you could see the sun breaking through and a shimmer coming off the dew on the fields. As I was heading for Wickham¬†along Mayles Lane I couldn’t resist a quick chat with two of the locals ūüôā

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After a bit of horsing around I pressed on, only to be distracted a mile or so later for a photo of this field with the hay bails being covered up for later use, probably by the horses.

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There are many benefits from long runs on your own, mental strength, self confidence, time to think and having the opportunity to stop when ever you want.¬†Wickham’s old railway line stretches onwards to West Meon and there are many reminders of the past with both red brick and metal bridges. Wickham church came into view between the ironwork of one of these bridges.

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The old railway line has been renamed the Meon Valley trail in recent years and a large investment has gone into improving the drainage.What hasn’t changed¬†is the tunnel effect that the overhanging trees create and at this time of year the effect is magnified with the range of Autumn colours. Today was one of those days that I could have carried on running forever !! Peaceful and a visual treat ūüôā

Running under one of the red brick bridges I was struck that the arch looked like a picture frame so I couldn’t resist another photo. Bridges are also great for shouting out random words to hear it echo, or is that just me being childish ?? Yes it is ūüôā

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With so many views to take in the miles passed without me hardly noticing and at just past 8  I had a quick chat with a cyclist and started on my way back. If one photo sums up the colours from today it was the next one.

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A testament to this great trail is that I saw runners, bike riders, walkers, horse riders, squirrels and birds. The trail had however saved its best for last, the wind picked up at around mile 10 before I left the track and this meant I was treated to the leaves falling around me as if they were tica tape at some kind of celebration. Nature was a marvellous host and I loved my run today, 16.3 miles in 2.34 was just fine by me.

Meon Valley Recce : 15 miles of smiles

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I like to run, I like running¬†more when¬†it’s in a beautiful location and¬†I like running even more, when it’s with friends. Today was just one of those memorable days when the October sun shone and we had 15 miles of local countryside to enjoy.¬†If I made this statement to most people they wouldn’t see it as fun but that’s why they¬†should try¬†to¬†#getoutdoors. The benefits are both physical and physiological. The smiles on everyone’s faces (even on the hills) were plain to see. (Thanks to Ros for the photo)

Phil and Teresa from Second Wind Running were our hosts on a recce run for their half/ full marathon on November 6th and this even included sweets and drink hidden in hedgerows. We all met at the East Meon village hall and were off just after 10am. Todays group was made up of Phil & Teresa plus Crusaders Paul & Nikki, Ros from Gosport RR, Dean from pompey and 4 more runners for us to get to know from different clubs that included Mike from Stubbington Green and Mark all the way from the New Forest. The aim of the day was an all inclusive pace which lent its self to some photo and chatting opportunities. The photos suggest it was all hills but naturally you go down what you have just come up !!

We were soon on the South Downs Way heading for the¬†hills above the Meon church. This section of the run is quite technical in that there are narrow¬†tracks with barbed wire, electric fences either side of a six feet wide path that’s on a camber and then¬†the steep run up to the top through two fields. These fields can have either sheep or cows, today they had both !!

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dscf4897Needless to say we walked past the cows especially seeing as a few of our group aren’t too keen on them (they¬†are big !!).¬†Once past the cows we were treated to the panoramic view across the valley.

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Pressing on¬†through a number of fields and tracks we had to navigate an over grown section¬†where Phil¬†used a branch to flatten the nettles and brambles (compression socks came in handy here). Phil¬†pointed out where the feed stations would be on the day and there were running discussion as well as some cheeky banter that’s also part of any good group run. Everyone was running well considering their recent long races.

The next landmarks on our route were the narrow steep and rutted ascent up towards the back of Butser and then after a couple more miles of trails we approached Harvesting Lane which is a tarmac climb up to the top of the Downs.

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Two tough hills but you just know that they are building up your strength and ultimately they were “so steep” you just had to laugh. We regrouped at the top simply to take¬†in the views that todays bright and clear weather had rewarded us with. Great views were made to be shared. We carried on along the SDW tracks heading back towards the Sustainability Centre (SC). Paul, Ros, Nikki and Dean were pleased to see the SC sign !!

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The final two miles were hard work for me but the encouragement of my mates got me through. I have included more photos than usual this week simply to try and get across how beautiful the route is. One final photo is that of the Isle of White in the distance, some 20 miles away on the horizon !!

I’m not ready for the full marathon yet but I’ll definitely be there for the Half. Thanks to Phil and Teresa for organising today.¬†A¬†great day with the sun, scenery, humour and hills¬†#getoutdoors.

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Solent Half : Running in the New Forest

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Solent Half marathon is part of the Hampshire Road Running League (HRRL) and it’s also located in the beautiful New Forest. A good proportion of the race¬†weaves its way through Forestry Commission land as well as providing views across to the Isle of Wight. So, as stepping stones races to fitness go, it’s a very scenic¬†one.¬†I realised today that there’s still lots more work and miles to be done but at the same time¬†being in a lovely location and sharing it with people you know is very enjoyable #getoutdoors !!

I decided not to take my camera on the run so it’s mainly words today. My fellow Crusaders and I met up in the sports hall along with about 500 runners from our local area. I haven’t seen some of the team for a while so it was good to catch up and say hello. I had a quick word with club mates Debbie, Katherine, Trevor, Mel, Paula, Karin, Phil, Ian, Andy & Amanda as well as Alun Hanford from Hedge End Runners who know.

We set off in bright sunlight and within the first few miles were running along classic New Forest narrow roads with views that extended far off to¬†the left¬†and¬†right due to there being so few trees.¬†At around¬†4 miles I saw Mike¬†Daley also from Hedge End but on this occasion he’d ridden down to see the race. I was resigned to somewhere between 8.30 and 9 minute¬†miles today so I just settled in and watched the miles tick over. I¬†also watched¬†four donkeys that were standing by the side of the road,¬†they weren’t in the slightest bit bothered about us. The nature of the New Forest is that it’s free to roam for ponies, horses and donkeys.

By mile nine we had a great view of the Isle of White which was a lot closer than I’d imagined it would¬†be. By mile ten we¬†had a fairly steep hill and it was here that I ran past Hayley Sparshott from Gosport Road Runners. We have talked on twitter a number of times so it was great to say hello. We encouraged each other up¬†until about¬†eleven and a half and then Hayley disappeared into the distance.

I started getting cramp just before mile twelve¬†so the moral of the story is … “more miles are needed” not that I didn’t know that already but sometimes you need a kick up the bum !! As a final reminder the race timer clicked past 2 hours with me about 100 metres from the end “harsh” !! However, all in all,¬†the¬†run has focused my thoughts for the coming weeks. Chatting with Hayley after, we both agreed it had been a testing day.

Great¬†times from all our¬†Crusaders, Alun from Hedge End ran a really good 1.27 and Graham Hoskins (Verity Runners) who I bumped into¬†once I’d finished ran a really good 1.33 All in all a¬†very scenic location with a tough last three miles that made for a good training run for me.¬†Nice water bottle too, more practical than a medal !!

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Ordnance Survey visit #getoutdoors

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This week I was lucky enough to be invited to the Ordnance Survey (OS) HQ for a tour of their mapping facility and to¬†find out more¬†about their campaign to get people outdoors. Myself and other “outdoor” bloggers have been seen encouraging people to do just¬†that so it was interesting to hear their thoughts as well.

We followed a surveyor outside the building to see how he mapped the area “on foot” and then we heard that their airplanes cover a third of the UK every year taking photos with their 196 mega pixel camera !! The images are then combined (some in 3D) and processed along with inputs from the cartographers to arrive at the final product of their OS paper maps or the OS Maps download which¬†is your digital guide to the countryside. As well as the OS having a twitter account they now also have an OS Leisure account too that’s used to¬†support their #getoutdoors campaign.

We had an interesting and informative few hours with the OS guys and what really struck a cord with me was the slide they showed us listing the benefits of #getoutside.

Exposure to more sunlight hours, fresh air, the sights and sounds of the countryside, exercise – whether it be walking, running, cycling etc. The satisfaction of knowing you have made a positive impact on your health as well as probably meeting new friends while you are out. As a spin off once your feel healthier you will probably eat healthier so it’s a positive spiral. When you realise weight loss and stress reduction are natural spin offs then it’s a win/win.

As runners we take most of the above for granted because it’s our hobby, our sport, so keep spreading the word “Running Bloggers”. Live to run, run to live lower !!!

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My Sunday run was a steady 9 miles with the Solent Half marathon in mind next week. The Solent run is all tarmac rather than off road but it follows a very scenic route through the New Forest so that’s why I chose to run it.

The training run I followed today had a similar combination of tarmac rather than trails but if you choose your roads you can still have views to inspire you while you run. The changing colours of Autumn were very evident today, not to mention the conkers and falling leaves. I did 9.4 miles today and because I’m a trail runner at heart I saw no need to run 9.5 or 10 just to round it up ….. ha, ha ….. I can hear other runners saying “no” you have to round up ūüôā ok, it’s a personal choice thing.

In summary, it’s just great to be #outdoors.

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Hants Running Blogs

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I have decided to set up a twitter account for fellow Hampshire Running bloggers so that we can share posts and there be a quick easy place for people to go to read them. In the 4 hours since it started 16 people have followed, so a good start ūüôā

I hope this will grow as fellow runners post their blogs. If it doesn’t it’s not the end of the world. I think it’s worth a go. Watch this space !!!! Thanks