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.