Winter Festive Frolic, 18.5 miles & a Fire Engine !!

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On a chilly November morning I headed for Staunton Park and the surrounding Forest of Bere and Havant Thicket. Our hosts were On the Whistle and their brand of running which is to map out a lap, 4.6 miles on this occasion, and then you simply run it as often as you like with a 6 hour limit. One lap still gets a medal, 3 laps = half marathon, 6 = a marathon and then you are into ultra running. Today I had 4 laps & 18.4 miles in mind through the lovely Forestry Commission land as a stepping stone towards more.

Upon arrival I soon bumped into Richard Hill, Paul Jeffrey (blogger http://paul-jeffrey.com/) , Brian and Richard from work, Paul Coates (fellow Crusader), Cat Underwood Team MND and Kiernan, one of the 3 organisers who was in an “Elf” outfit. We assembled for the pre race safety brief close by to the HQ/ aid station. With the laps being 4.6 miles only one aid/feed station is required and naturally it was the hub of everything that was going on, food, drink, kit bags etc etc .

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The beauty of a race with laps is that it appeals to a really wide cross section of the running community. The second feature of On the Whistle running is that the lap has sections where you pass each other in opposite directions which is great for motivating each other !!

Once we’d got underway the conditions underfoot were pretty good, compacted paths and very little mud while still running through wooded areas and open heathland, the perfect combination really. Paul and I settled into a steady nine and a half minute miles pace that would mean he could carry on for 2 or 3 laps after me. With the exception of a rant from Victoria, another blogger http://mrsbridgewater.blogspot.co.uk/  about a dog owner, all was unfolding in front of us, Autumn colours, a bright and crisp day, oh, and a fire engine !! Yes you are reading that correctly !! Not what we were expecting. Naturally with Paul previously being in the fire service there was quite a lot of banter between him and them. It also caused quite a bit of interest with the ladies 🙂

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Apparently there are heath fires in the Summer and this was a training exercise. Paul took control of the situation and then we pressed on. The route had a cheeky short hill just before the end of the first lap and then we were retracing our steps. Both Paul and I are always keen to encourage others so there were high 5’s and motivational comments a plenty. We saw Paul, Brian and Richard along the straight section before the course turned left and took a large circular path back to that point again i.e. a lollypop.

By the end of the second lap we took advantage of the two portaloos which wasn’t significant on its own but was to Brian who was just behind us and had to wait, sorry Brian.

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We saw Richard Hill running well and I think it’s fair to say everyone that we saw was in good spirits. By now it was noticeable the temperature was started to drop on the third lap and by the fourth Paul pulled away from me and I settled into a steadier pace. After a couple of more miles Paul was heading back towards me so I took a quick photo and wished him well. He’s a quiet, retiring type as you can see 🙂

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On arriving back at the HQ I told Kiernan I was done, the medal was a classic Christmas jumper (see below) !! Not too long after Brian finished the 18.4 miles and even though Paul Jeffrey carried on he joined in the photo. Richard arrived not long after only to top up his drink and set off again. Paul Jeffrey ran 28 miles, Richard Hill (7th overall), Paul Coates (8th overall) and Richard Law (10th overall) ran 32 miles each, great effort lads.

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All in all a great days Autumnal running with everyone achieving their goals. Love the medal !! A very successful year for On the Whistle, well done Kiernan, Claire & Del.If you enjoyed reading my blog please vote for it here http://therunningawards.com/vote/109/110#vote Just scroll down through Community, Blog and vote irunoffroad. Many thanks.

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Take a break & come back fired up

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I’ve taken a weekend off from running ….  (I can hear people screeching like the seagull in the photo) 🙂 The opportunity came up to pop down to Devon for a catch up with my brother and folks so I took it.

The irony of not running is that I have come back home fired up to start again. My runs generally combine the countryside and coast so when a walk along the beach was suggested I was happy to revisit the best beach in the country, Woolacombe. A bracing November stroll into bright sunshine made for the perfect Autumn walk. You could almost taste the salt on your lips as the spray came off the sea breeze.

dscf5006We were walking to the headland and a café I have heard of but never visited in all the years we have been connected with North Devon. The sound of the waves lapping on the miles of golden sand were calming and therapeutic in equal measures, “me” I just wanted to run !! As we walked I soaked up the scenery and “fresh” air knowing that this battery charging weekend was only confirming what we all know, I can’t wait to get my trainers on.

dscf5007As my brother and I drank our cups of tea and chatted about a whole host of topics we could have been anywhere in the world, I find being by the sea gives you that feeling. The walk back also had the added bonus of the late afternoon sun slowly sinking down behind the headland.

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So in summary, if you run week after week, my thought for the day would be take a weekend off once in a while and it will confirm just how much your running means to you.

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Meon Valley Half

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The Meon Valley is a beautiful part of Hampshire, set in the South Downs national park, with rolling hills and a network of trails for us to run. Second Wind Running’s Phil and Teresa are well respected race directors and today they had both a half and full marathon on offer.

The omens for a good day were mounting up what with the fine weather and me bagging the second to last car parking space in the tarmac car park. The temperature was a balmy 2.5 degrees when I arrived and frost was clear to see in the hedgerows that weren’t in the sun. I arrived a little early for the half so that I could wish my marathon friends good luck with their earlier start. Paul, Dave, Kate, Kiernan, Nikki and Dean were all in good spirits.

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I chatted with my friend Ros from Gosport RR just before Phil’s 10am race brief which was the usual combination of humour and facts. He warned everyone that race signs had been tampered with the previous day but as of an hour earlier they were in tact. The Meon Hall made for an excellent HQ what with plenty of space, catering and even heating !!

Knowing that the trail narrows quite quickly once we joined the South Downs Way (SDW) I started further forward than I normally would so it was no surprise that Terry Arnott from Gosport RR passed me at about half a mile in with a “morning” and that was the last of him that I saw (he came 10th !! – great running). Conditions meant I started with gloves but these soon came off. The trail was very good underfoot so we could pay most of our attention on the tree roots that the Autumn leaves were potentially hiding.

The winding gradual climb up the lower reaches of Old Winchester hill saw me making reasonable progress ahead of the steep climb. I decided to walk this section as the majority of the other runners were. As we headed away from the hill a group of walkers seemed surprised to see us running but to their credit they encouraged us as we passed them. Crossing the road I saw Paul Jeffrey and his crew, they’d made signs of encouragement like, “well done random stranger” nice one Paul.

During an enjoyable downhill section towards Meon Springs I was first made aware of a fellow Fareham Crusader running behind me. Alan White and I then swopped positions from that 4 miles, or so, right until the end. The sun was quite low in the sky so it was noticeable that your vision was occasionally marred, but hey, sun in November, I wasn’t complaining.

By about six miles we had a long and steep county lane to negotiate and I managed to run the vast majority of it. These small victories can give you a huge mental boost. The temperature certainly warranted my long sleeve helly whenever we reached the higher ground of the downs. Again the right kit choice can have a psychological boost to your mood. The section up to the 8 mile drinks station included a couple of cheeky short hills and then we turned right onto a track that’s on the edge of a large wide open field. I distinctly remember this trail from last years marathon because I was really suffering.

It’s at points like this in a race that you simply have to rely on your training, block out the pain and almost move into auto pilot, knowing it doesn’t last for ever. Joining the road and heading left back towards Meonstoke meant the 10 mile mark appeared on my garmin “deep joy”.

At this point course knowledge is a wonderful asset, I knew the worst was over and it was a case of hanging on. I pondered how close Alan was to me but seeing as he is quicker than me I fully expected his tall shadow to appear sooner or later !! With about a mile and  a quarter to go we were treated to a downhill section but as before the leaves needed respect what with the hidden potential dangers. Here, I became aware of heavy breathing behind me. Was it a crazed axe man, was it the leader from the marathon ? no it was the tall shadow I was expecting. We exchanged a few words of support and pressed on towards the last 300m that was around the football pitch.

I made my play as we entered the field and knew immediately I’d done the wrong thing as a stabbing pain in my calf shouted “you silly old bugger what are you doing going quicker in the last point one of a 13.1 mile race” That tall shadow eased by and I followed Alan in by about 50 metres. On the positive side, today took me through 700 miles in 2016. The 1,000 miles may be a step too far after time missed in the Summer but I’ll keep at it !!

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I shook Alan’s hand, had a chat with Phil the organiser to thank him for a great race and just had time to shout encouragement to my friend Ros as I she was finishing and I was leaving. Also before leaving I had an interesting chat with the Xmiles chap about nutrition.

A great race in beautiful surroundings. This is why I run off road. The results are in and I came 90th out of 188. I hope to add a photo of me and Phil here but seeing as it was on his phone he’s probably celebrating a great days racing.

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RTTK 2017 “entered” : 53 miles

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Last year I pondered for quite some time whether to enter the RTTK and I regretted it when I didn’t. So in 2017 this double marathon along the South Downs Way will be my main focus. I have run the majority of the 53 mile route over the years so the challenge will be to string those runs all together. It’s fully supported so that’s food, drink and medical help if required, all I have to do is run 🙂

I’m super excited at the prospect of running and blogging the RTTK !!

Slindon to Winchester

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