QE Parkrun – Running through the countyside

qeqeSaturday 9 a.m. used to be no different to 8 or 10 a.m. until parkruns appeared. A parkrun is just that, a run in a park, there isn’t the pressure of a race number and it really is all inclusive.

Last week myself, Paul and Nikki had planned to visit Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP), starting with the QE parkrun and then carrying on along the South Downs Way for some extra training.

This post is a thank you to the volunteers that hosted the event and a description of our experience which I’d thoroughly recommend. Parkrun tourism has become quite a feature of the 5K revolution so I hope this wets your appetite for a visit !!

QECP was originally planted in the 1930’s and the forested rolling terrain extends for quite a considerable area. The predominantly beech trees are managed by the Forestry Commission and the whole area sits within the wider South Downs National Park.

With BBQ’s, picnic areas, adventure playgrounds and an assault course, for “older children”, why limit yourself to just running the 5K, take the family and make a morning of it.

With a visitors centre full of local information and a café you really are spoilt !!

qeHave I wet your appetite yet ??

Once I’d mentioned on social media that we were visiting QECP I had tweets from both Dwayne and Paul, who are local running friends of mine and are part of the team that volunteers.

As we gathered for the pre run address we were told to expect gravel paths, trails and grass which was music to my ears. Joanne also joined us for one of Paul’s photo opportunities. Running through all that nature has to offer is such a privilege and a joy. The trees sway with the chilly breeze, there’s occasional bird song and you are breathing in clean crisp air.

The course is a two loop route with some challenging elevation but nothing that can’t be walked with a purposeful stride or run depending on your level of fitness. We were ushered slightly further up the first gravel hill so as to reach the official start point.

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Runners of all ages, abilities and motivations stood like coiled springs ready for the 9 a.m. start. Quite a few canine companions we wagging their tails in anticipation and we were off !!

The adrenaline soon kicked in as we climbed this first hill, conversations we quickly replaced with the huffing and puffing of the task at hand. This first hill didn’t last too long and naturally following the premise that what goes up must come down we were guided to quite a long downhill section.

Luckily the weather has been dry so a fair amount of caution could be thrown to the wind as we plummeted down the grassy slope. Turning right at the bottom of the hill you are presented with a combination chalk and grass to run on, as you make your way back to the start, and the end of the first smaller lap.

Climbing the original hill is now more taxing as you start from the bottom and follow the trail for longer up to the 3K marker. That said, you have the benefit of the marshals and well wishers at this half way point to spur you on.

Hills are a great training exercise so my advice would be to treat them as just that. Repeat after me … “hills are good for my running”. Down land areas break up some of the forest so as to give you views through the trees and maybe even a deer if you are lucky.

Once past the 3K mark you benefit from a more gradual drop in elevation and then you are back to the chalk and grass. Through 4K its a case of mustering what you have left and concentrating on your breathing.

This is the home straight as you approach the tokens and barcode finish, you’ll be emptying the tank from this point.

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So, this parkrun in the beautiful countryside comes highly recommended, throw in some hills and you have an all round workout for the body and mind. As an introduction to trail running the QE parkrun is an excellent starting point and scores highly on my wellbeing chart.

You may not come away with a personal best but you’ll be rewarded with a morning running through nature and pondering just how soon you’ll be returning.

Thanks, as always, must go the volunteers who make this, and every other parkrun work.

Enjoy your running …. Roger

Could you run an Ultra in 2019 ? Some confidence building tips

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In simple terms an ultra is a distance run that’s longer than a marathon. That said, I personally wouldn’t class the 27.2 miles I ran for the 3 Forts challenge or the 27.5 for the Purbeck marathon as these are trail running marathons which do contain some flexibility in their race titles. “Generally speaking” 50K i.e. 31 miles would be considered an ultra race (in my humble opinion).

My background isn’t extensive but two 50K’s, one 33 mile, one 35 mile and Race to the King (RTTK) 53 mile double marathon means I feel I’ve had enough experience to offer some thoughts on the topic.

The reason I entitled this blog as a confidence building read was so that once you’ve considered the various aspects of running beyond a marathon then I guarantee you’ll have a broader understanding of what you’re getting yourself into.

Whether you choose to continue or not is another matter but I’d definitely recommend it.

So, here are 5 trains of thought for you to consider…..

Are you committed ?

This may sound an obvious question but there’s a lot to consider before you take on your first ultra and commitment is probably the key.

It’s time consuming – the extra running miles, the planning and the extra kit washes !!

Are you ready to push your body beyond your comfort zone – both mentally and physically, and finally it can be anti-social with early long run starts and early nights to maximise your sleep recovery time.

When I say committed I’d say more specifically committed to “your” race plan. Don’t be swayed by other runners because they will have a separate agenda. My first ultra was the New Forest 50K which was three laps of just over ten miles and Steve Way lapped me on my second and his third lap. Yes he was ten miles ahead of me !! (England International).

Steve then proceeded to add another lap by running in the opposite direction and offering words of encouragement to the rest of the field. Ultra runners are very community based.

Absorb yourself in the challenge that you’ve set yourself but at the same time don’t become an “ultra bore” with no other conversation !! I may have been guilty of that in the past ha ha 🙂

Conversely a sense of humour is absolutely essential, after all you are attempting something pretty crazy !!

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Are you prepared to rethink your training ?

I took a good look at how I trained for marathons and then partly through trial and error and partly through advice I incorporated a number of new strategies.

Getting used to running slower, walking uphill, eating on the go, foam rolling, double day running and increasing flexibility all played a part in my preparation. However, one aspect that I hadn’t originally considered was cross training.

I used to commute to work on my bike with the sole intention of getting there as quickly as possible. If I’m ultra training I use the twenty minutes cycle time there and back to loosen up my legs, flush out the stiffness and maximise the fact that my bike is supporting my weight rather than my stiff joints. Walking and swimming are equally useful for cross training benefits.

Most ultras are through the countryside so if you are moving up from road marathons then there’s a whole new skill set to embrace. Trails, hills, gates, streams, cows, sheep etc etc.

The map below shows the 31 miles I ran December 2017, what it doesn’t show is the shingle. In many ways the shingle was just as energy sapping as hills. The route was flat but if you hadn’t been aware of the beach sections you’d have been cursing the race organiser !!

Train for the terrain.

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Research your Race

Study the profile of your race and, if at all possible, train on the course or at least train on similar local profile, this will mean that on race day there are no surprises. Trust me after a number of hours you switch to automatic pilot and that’s when you need to trust in your preparation.

I’d run probably 46 of the 53 RTTK miles previously so I was psychologically and physically ready for what awaited me around very corner. Conversely with The Ox ultra being 35 miles in Wiltshire, I’d never stepped foot on the course, but I’d trained for both the number of hills and 90% of the elevation by analysing the profile.

Training with other runners who are also entered in your ultra is a great way to swop accumulated knowledge. They may well have spotted something you haven’t.

The distance between feed stations and what they offer is equally important. In short do your homework, it’s an investment in the day that will really pay off.

Even if the race website doesn’t state what will be on offer it’s important to consider what you’ll carry and what you can pick up. The reality can also bite you, in that the further down the field you are, the greater the potential for limited feed stations increases.

If in doubt email the race organiser.

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Practicalities

How will you get there and how will you get back, you “will” be tired. I arrived at Winchester train station five minutes too late for the hourly train back to Fareham after 12 hours of running the RTTK. This meant I sat on the platform for 55 minutes waiting for the next one !!

There are numerous articles on training mileage and food, both of which can vary depending on you as a person so I’d just say try out a few before deciding on what suits you. Other bloggers are a great source for this as well as running magazines/ the internet.

Double day training suited me i.e. a long Sunday run 18/19 miles and then 5/6 on a Sunday. Doing this on alternative weeks meant a steady run in-between too.

Then, most importantly, once you’ve decided on your kit, food and drink, train with them as if it was the race, thus eliminating any issues ahead of the big day.

The very fact that you will be on the go for longer also means sun tan lotion and light weight jackets need to be considered. This all cumulated in me buying a proper pack so that I could easily carry whatever I wanted including soft flasks for my liquids (eco friendly and less bulky).

After all if a jobs worth doing its worth doing well. I got last years colours and the cost was considerably less so they don’t have to cost a fortune !!

One more thought, take your fully charged mobile with you. You might not even take it out of its case but if you go off course, injure yourself or just need some motivation then help is only a swipe away.

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On the day

Be the best you can be at the start line. What I mean by this is hopefully you won’t be carrying any niggles. Pre physio and pre race massage may cost you financially but they’re worth their weight in gold when you hear people talking about their “issues” before you’ve even started running.

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Set a realistic time that compliments your training and not a time you are dreaming of. For your first ultra I’d simply concentrate on finishing. This may sound negative but seeing as you are entering uncharted territory it’s always best starting conservatively.

Use any uphill walking as an opportunity to take on fluids, go over your race plan in your head, eat and why not text your loved ones just to let them know you are surviving, (It can be a long day for them too !!)

I found counting down aid stations broke the race into a number of smaller races. Landmarks and distance markers can be points to concentrate on too. For example the first time I reached 30 miles it gave me a huge rush of adrenaline. Conversely, when I reached 40 in RTTK that was a signal there was a half marathon left to run.

Finally, prepare yourself for a range of emotions. You’ll have spent a lot of time training but life can throw up any number of twists and turns. Expect the unexpected !! Self doubt can be managed but be prepared to “have a word with yourself” when everything doesn’t go quite to plan.

I walked for over a mile on flat terrain in the middle of the Imber Ultra on Salisbury Plain and I even stopped for a cut of tea. I stopped and drank it while I gathered my thoughts.

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Another runner stopped and walked with me for a while so that he could offer some motivational word which I thought was fantastic !! He didn’t need to stop, he just took it upon himself. The irony of this was that about ten miles later I caught him up which meant I could repeat the favour !!

Equally, I’m not ashamed to say I’ve shed a few tears of joy when 30 miles appeared in my first 50K and 50 miles appeared on my garmin in RTTK. A little embarrassing but totally understandable.

So, listen to any advice given, be a sponge and soak it up because distance running isn’t an exact science its a learning experience and a bloody great experience at that.

In summary, if you run slower, eat more and prepare there’s no knowing how far you can go !!

I’ve got my eye on Race to the King again this June, happy ultra running.

Roger

 

 

 

 

 

Maximise your Wellbeing, Go for a Run !!

 

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Ask yourself does this chap pictured above look stressed or anxious, is he thinking about an important meeting that’s looming at work, is he thinking about the impact Brexit might make on the mortgage rate ….. “NO”, he’s beaming with self esteem.

That chap is me and I’ve just finished the Isle of Wight marathon. My mood has been uplifted, I’ve been living in the moment ever since I boarded the catamaran that crossed the Solent and I’ve just spent 4 & 3/4 hours enjoying myself.

Maximise your wellbeing !!

Running helps me in so many different ways but I’ll cover the “BIG 5” below.

If it helps me …………. there’s no reason why it can’t help YOU.

  • Make a regular payment into the Bank of Me

We spent so much time governed by work timetables, family timetables and quite frankly life timetables that its really important to make some time for yourself. I’m not saying days or weeks just positive short bursts of “Me time” and that’s were my running comes in.

Plan this time around work and family but make sure it becomes a regular slot that everyone is aware of. This way ironically you have included it in your timetable.

I’m also convinced that I’m a better me on my return which benefits my family as well as me.

  • Get Outside

The timetables that dictate so much of our waking hours mean we stay in similar surroundings for long periods. The office, the house, commuting on the train etc etc these locations support why you are there and that’s why I find it so important to relocate outdoors.

Running along a riverbank with sheep to your left and a stream to your right just fills you with positivity and reminds you how valuable a change of scenery is.

  • Give yourself a Self Esteem target

Ok, when I say a target I don’t mean one that will add to your stress I mean one that makes you feel good about yourself. This might be a time for the distance you are running because that will reinforce you are getting fitter, which in turn, improves how you feel about yourself.

However, you could decide on making it to the top of a hill without walking, running for a certain amount of time or quite simply just breathing in the fresh air and feeling alive.

  • Your cumulative Feel Good factor

Once you’ve returned from your run you’ll feel energised, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and you’re much more likely to make healthier food choices. Instead of grabbing a chocolate biscuit it’s much more likely you’ll decide on an apple instead.

With less stress and anxiety I find I don’t crave comfort food, in fact I’m making positive healthy choices to complement my running. Why undo the good work you’ve just achieved.

That cumulative effect will also take you through the night because you are physically tired which makes for a better nights sleep with less pre sleep pondering on what’s happened through the day or what’s ahead of you tomorrow.

  • The Most important step of you run is the first one out of your Front Door

Running is part of my life and has been for thirty years. My mood changes from the minute I know I’m going out and carries on hours after I’ve got back. Running relaxes me mentally even if it challenges me physically.

Whether I’m running on my own or with others I take in my surroundings, I try to absorb the feeling of running through the countryside. The sights and sounds of nature calm you and refresh you.

The time I spend running is quality time, it’s “My time”.

Why not make it “Your Time” or “Our Time” by including your partner or kids.

Happy Running

Roger

Unilite Head Torch Sport-H1 Review

Image-56As the nights draw in why restrict your running to poorly maintained and badly lit pavements. Running with a head torch means you can mix up your exercise by combining pavements and off road paths, it really is a whole new experience !!

Following a conversation with Unilite Lisa I was very pleased to be given the opportunity to receive and write about their popular neon coloured model. I was also delighted to receive a draw string bag and flask.

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In summary the Unilite Neon Sport-H1, has a 175 lumens beam that’s more than sufficient for everyday use, it’s light, affordable, comfortable to wear and only needs one AA battery. The adjustable headband has plenty of scope for all sized heads and when the strong housing is combined with water resistance then you’ve just about got everything covered. Oh, and it comes in a choice of funky colours !!

When I say funky, that’s neon pink, green, blue and yellow 🙂

The Sensible section

At this point I’d like to say that wearing a head torch for the first time can take some getting used to, so I’d recommend practising in semi lit environments first.

I’d also suggest running slower initially because both balance and self awareness are effected due to there being far fewer points of reference. That said, you soon adapt !!

Night lights come in all shapes and sizes so in many ways the right head torch for one person may not be the best one for someone else. Naturally brighter lights tend to be heavier and more costly but ask yourself, do you want to light up the path ahead of you or the valley the path runs through ?

A link to the Unilite website description is HERE but what I’d like to offer are my observations on my recent five mile run.

Head torch running really can be both safe and exciting.

The Fun section – Lets go for a run !!!

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My running commentary starts as I ran down Titchfield Hill under the bright streetlights and along the freshly tarmacked pavement (no head torch required).

I then took a 90 degree left hand turn along a completely unlit path that’s both quite narrow and has no lighting whatsoever.

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Now, at this point of the blog I dabbled with adding some photos but I decided this almost defeats the object as the flash would have given a false impression.

The head torch gave me a good spread of light from right to left and a surprisingly long sight of around the seventy metres that’s claimed. From previous experience you often have to adjust the angle of your light, depending on your location and the terrain.

The 45 degree scope that this torch offers means you can concentrate on the immediate four metres in front of you. Being able to adjust your light to your surroundings gives you a real sense of being in control.

One point to note is that if you tilt it too much then all you’ll see is the first two meters, which, on the one hand doesn’t give you long to react and on the other hand your breath can cloud your vision on a cold day, which can be quite off putting. That’s not Unilite’s fault, that’s head torches in general !!

It’s quite liberating running at largely the same pace as you would normally while passing through an area that would have otherwise been off limits.

Once I’d finished this section of my run I was then confronted with a mixture of car headlights and only occasional street lights. Being able to adjust the beam downwards makes it safer for you and the motorists in that you aren’t shining your light straight at them but you still have great vision.

The next obstacle that your head torch helps with is the combinations of a grass verge and the pavement. Yes you would probably see the grass and tarmac changing with the street lights but you’ll see it a lot earlier and in much more detail with your own personal light source.

Ultimately if you have confidence in where you are striding then you can maintain your pace and feel comfortable that you aren’t going to fall. Once back onto the main road I chose to switch my head torch off but that’s the flexibility you have. There’s no need to stop it’s just a flick of a switch with this unit.

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Fast forward another mile or so and I turned off on the southerly section of the map above. This area is predominantly field tracks and a very rough farm road that has uneven concrete so it would be idea as a testing ground. Let the real Unilite fun commence !!

I know from experience that around the first corner of this lane there’s a large pothole. The Unilite beam gave me a reassuring illumination of this hazard and I’m sure that even if I didn’t know it was there I’d have picked up on it with plenty of time.

As I’ve said your senses do start to work overtime when you have limited light but it certainly makes for quite a buzz as your anticipation levels, as well as adrenaline, are heightened. This was demonstrated a mere 500 metres further along the path.

I thought I could hear voices which can be a little unnerving when you can’t see where they’re coming from !! Yes, I jumped and made a weird noise when two other runners passed me, coming from the other direction, at quite a speed.

Now, whether they eat more carrots than your average person or they know this farm road so well that they felt comfortable running in the dark, I don’t know, but they obviously saw me because they’d already moved onto the other side of the road.

That’s the beauty of a good head torch, people see you !!

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As I weaved my way along the farm road it struck me that I’d been wearing my Unilite head torch for nearly forty minutes and I’d hardly felt I had it on. The lightweight nature of this torch also lends itself to being carried and then used, as and when you need it.

With your eyesight focused on a particular beam of light it’s funny how small details become more noticeable. With the wind having picked up there was a swishing of the trees and as I approached the main road it almost looked like it was raining leaves.

Returning back to the roads near the house I tilted my Unilite torch down but it still picked up the dark green refuse bins and the dropped curves that lie in wait between the street lights on any road !!

Stay bright, be seen and experience a new way to run when you wear a Unilite head torch. I’ve run with mine three times now and love it.

4lightsOne final thought, if you haven’t come up with any “bright” ideas for Christmas presents or you’re still “in the dark” about what to get the runner in your family then look no further than this great accessory.

One final, final, thought, when you get back home and the front door opens, remember not to shine your light in their welcoming faces !!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this write up my blog can be voted for in the UK Blog Awards. Just follow this LINK , scroll down to iruoffroad and click the heart to vote.

Thanks for reading.

Roger

Naming your Blog

This post follows the process I went through when naming my blog. It took a lot longer than I anticipated but after three and a half years it still represents who and what I’m all about. Hopefully it will help other potential bloggers.

So, you’ve decided to go public with your passion, to tell the world how much you love your chosen subject.

How can you attract people to read your great content ? You’ll need a great name.

I considered both practical and emotional reasons but ultimately a simple solution emerged from an unexpected source.

Practicalities

  • Will your name work in terms of an email or a url address ? irunoffroad@hotmail.com   etc etc
  • If you branch out into branding what will it look like on a t-shirt ? Too short ? Too long ? Just right 🙂

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  • Has your newly thought up name already been thought up by someone else ? Consult namecheck , mine hadn’t and that was a great relief !!
  • Will your name have longevity ? From my point of view my next name will be  iwalkoffroad but that’s a few years off yet !!
  • Don’t limit your audience – the “i” can be read as me, Roger, or the person who embraces the whole concept and lifestyle that I’m writing about #irunoffroad
  • Look at other bloggers who write about your subject and see if any of their names spark a thought with you ?

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  • Will you still like this name in five years time ? It’s 3 1/2 years and I still love mine.
  • Don’t think small !! Shoot for the stars 🙂 Choose a name that you could see above a shop door or on the side of a delivery van.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of being too current or too trendy, I considered a few options along these lines and did use the “i” to make it feel contemporary i.e. ipad, ipod even if that might not be apparent immediately.
  • Slightly off topic but take some time to choose the photo that complements your blog home page. Mine has a classic South Downs Way photo with a trail that wets your appetite (see the photo at the top of this post).
  • A memorable name is often a simple name, irunoffroad does what it says on the tin !! I run off road …. its as simple as that 🙂 Having said that I did bump into a friend recently and he said what’s you blog called again ?? “I hate running” ho ho ho !!

So, after weeks of thought and with three blog posts written I had a chat with my teenage daughter.

She said, Dad, are you overthinking this ? , give me one phrase that sums up what you do ? , my reply …..

“i run off road” , it fitted all of the criteria already mentioned. Genius.

Good luck with finding your perfect Blog name.

If  you’ve enjoyed reading this post I’ve been nominated in the UK Blog Awards Sports and Fitness category. The voting closes just before Christmas and the link is here, VOTE

Thanks for reading and maybe voting !!

Roger

Why I run off road : Old Winchester Hill

owhIf one photograph sums up why I run off road then its this one. I chose it to be the banner for my blog three and a half years ago and it still remains there. This stunning view of the Meon Valley and the South Downs Way (SDW) trail takes you on a rollercoaster of physical and mental effort as well as giving you an emotional experience which calls you back, like an addiction.

In practical terms I ran up and down Old Winchester hill (OWH) three times with almost 1,000 feet of elevation. This Strava link shows you the gps and hopefully my blog will give you a sense of what running through the countryside on a bright and brisk November morning means to me.

Running isn’t just my hobby, it’s my passion and a huge part of who I am. Just lacing up your trainers improves your mood and does wonders for your mental health and self esteem.

Setting off from Meonstoke I joined the Meon Valley trail via one of the many bridges that cross over it, what with it being an old railway line.

owh2The fallen brown, yellow, orange and gold leaves all combined into a carpet of colour along the corridor of trees. The temperature was about 7 degrees which meant the day had a bright and crisp feel to it, in other words, a perfect November running morning.

With only half a mile run I caught my first glimpse of Old Winchester Hill, the surrounding fields and the hedge line that marks the route up it. After a mile the South Downs Way signposts both confirm I’m in my happy place and serve as a reminder that the path ahead will need some concentration.

For the Centurion Running racers who run the whole 100 miles of the South Downs Way this is 13 miles from Winchester and 87 to Eastbourne !!

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Over the years people often ask “what do you think about while you’re running”, well, very little is the answer !! That’s the whole point of my running. Get out there and soak up the countryside. Secondly, at this time of year, there’s mud, tree roots and the camber of the trail to concentrate on.

The technical side of navigating November trails comes with practise but having said that it’s a case of taking them at your own pace. A training run is just that, training for a race or for future running, so pace isn’t as high on your off road priority.

owh5Some tree roots stand out more than others !! , some are cunningly hidden under leaves, !! but all of them can be managed with practise and care.

On colder days the air that you breath seems to energise you that little bit more than usual. Naturally, breathing in big lungful’s makes a difference and maybe its because you are out of town but if it could be bottled, there’d be a fortune to be made.

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When running these hills I wouldn’t be without my SKINS compression socks and shorts. I’ve blogged about the socks before and I’ll blog about the shorts after my longer run next week.

As the trail starts to ramp up you find your stride shortens and your lungs are working harder, in short, you are challenging yourself and it feels great (ok it hurts a bit too). The satisfaction of pitting yourself against natural obstacles and winning becomes a powerful lure. It’s you versus mother nature and its so easy to access.

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As the climb continues it’s also worth pointing out that some of the challenges are man made. The electric fence to my right clearly needs avoiding.

By now I was about two thirds up the hill and was presented with two options. Firstly, skirt around the base of the main hill and run up the steepest section or carry on climbing steadily along the rooted path up to the trig point. I chose the later knowing I’d save the steepest climb for last.

Reaching the top of OWH naturally you are rewarded with the views in all directions but I also felt a sense of history in that the Meon Valley view would largely have been the same for hundreds of years and knowing this elevated position was once used as an Iron Age hill fort.

We are very lucky in Hampshire to have both the countryside and the coast on our doorstep.

strava2With the first hill under my belt I ran across the top and encountered some very hardy looking sheep. Two of the sheep were directly in my path and neither were moving. If I didn’t know better I’d say they were staring me out, so I ran around them. No sense in upsetting the locals 🙂

Oh yes, obstacles, I haven’t mentioned gates yet. You come across all sorts of shapes and sized gates and the curious thing is that they all open in slightly different ways. I distinctly remember running the North Devon marathon and holding up quite a few runners with not being able to open a gate. The best I could come up with was, “sorry I’m from Southampton” ha ha 🙂

Generally speaking if you pull the leaver to the left and check the latch, then you may proceed.

After a short narrow section of trail I arrived at the gate where the first photo of this blog is. Referencing the map above I was now in the 2.5 to 4.5 mile section of my run. This descent and subsequent ascent was completely different.

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The SDW is know for its chalk base and as I ran down the weather and frequent use has exposed the white chalk. It is quite rutted and again the challenge of negotiating the downhill needs as much concentration as the tree roots on the other side. On my return back up I knew my calves and thighs are being tested but I made steady progress.

This particular hill will always remind me of the Race to the King which is a double marathon that finishes in Winchester. On that day this hill was about 35 miles through the race and I walked every stride of it, so it’s always empowering to run it all in one go. This photo was on that hot June day.

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And so, my final challenge lay ahead, the steepest climb. On the map above if you look up from mile 5 you’ll see a 120 feet short and fierce climb. As I descended you actually need to plant your feet with purpose because otherwise you’d start running away with yourself !!

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Again this photo was from a sunnier day but you get the scale of the trail. It’s just a case of one foot in front of the other and try to spread out your effort. Your calves are burning, your thighs are burning and your lungs feel like they will bust out of your chest but that the thrill, the excitement, the adrenaline, that sense of “really” being alive !!

In life you have so many responsibilities, deadlines and expectations of you, sometimes its great just to test yourself purely for your physical and mental resilience. Take yourself out of your comfort zone and revel in your achievement.

You have more to give than you think you have and quite honestly if you need to take a short break or walk for a while then so what !!

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If the first photo from this blog sums up why I run off road then this one above comes a close second. I passed the signpost and smiled, running with other friends clearly adds a different dynamic to your day but sometimes its great to just soak it up on your own.

Old Winchester Hill and the South Downs Way are my favourite … location, location, location and running is great for your heart and soul.

Happy Running

Roger

UK BLOG Awards, Sports & Fitness

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I’m proud that my blog has been chosen along with 32 others in the UK Blog Awards Sports and Fitness category. If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog over the last three years then maybe you’d consider voting please.

Here’s the link … Vote Here

Clicking on this link will take you directly to the category and then all you need to do is page down to irunoffroad and click the heart icon. It’s as easy as that.

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Voting is open for the next six weeks and then a shortlist will be judged.

Once again, thank you for reading my blog.

Roger

Willpower for all Runners

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The term willpower is often associated with giving up the nice thinks in life ….. chocolate, crisps, alcohol etc. However, after a recent 5k run I contemplated what part willpower plays in my running. We all have it and we can all increase it, whether during a parkrun or a marathon.

Willpower choices confront you from the moment you wake. It’s Saturday morning and you’ve set your alarm clock for earlier than your working week but that’s ok because you’re going running. No snooze button, no turning over …. just get going !!

Your second choice would be what kind of run are you planning. Whether 5K or twenty miles, applying your willpower can make a huge difference.

The final choice, do I train on my own or with others ? Your willpower can be equally tested here, whether its trying to keep up with your training partners, a parkrun, a race or pushing yourself on your own.

Ok, so you are off and running …. you’ve shown drive, determination and self discipline to be here, let’s face it a lot of people are still at home in bed !!

Whether its race day or a training run not starting too quickly requires willpower, its so easy to get carried away but a measured start pays dividends every time.

As your run progresses, inevitably you’ll reach a point where self doubt becomes a factor. Shall I slow down ? Should I shorten my run ? Regardless of your ability you need to decide what your response will be and which tools you can call on.

We can probably pinpoint the moment the voices start asking these questions of us and its at that point were some previously prepared thoughts can really help.

I used as much willpower as I could muster at this Fareham parkrun. You can see its written all over my face ha ha !!!

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For the shorter distances were your lungs are starting to complain I try to recognise the discomfort and concentrate on the next 100 metres, focus on a point, maybe a lamppost maybe a tree. Once you’ve reached your focus point, set yourself another. During each 100 metres I try to concentrate on controlling my breathing and if that means running slightly slower for a short period, then that’s fine too.

Once you’ve dealt with that moment of feeling out of control a wave of confidence will sweep over you. Running is meant to be challenging but being prepared for the self doubt with a positive strategy can be very empowering. Combine willpower and acknowledging how much you want to reach your goals, for a winning formula.

That burning feeling of lactic acid isn’t going to go away but talking yourself through it rather than talking yourself out of it will see you through. Resist the temptation to slow down for as long as you can, I sometimes try a shorter but quicker stride. Practice this positive thought process of not giving in.

Ultimately this short term discomfort will be rewarded with the time on your watch.

Willpower for marathon training is a different matter. Naturally you are running for considerably longer so its all about spreading your effort in the most realistic and practical manner.

I practise staying positive when running uphill, short burst of walking vigorously for ten strides and then running again can work wonders for your mind set.

Your training will take you most of the way to twenty miles, its the last 6.2 that need willpower. You’ve reached the famous “Wall”, you need a plan to avoid the famous bonk. Break it down, one 10K, two parkruns etc. Remind yourself of what you’re doing, I think its still only 1% of the worlds population that have run a marathon.

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Giving your willpower a helping hand by having kept hydrated and energised will add to your mental fortitude. Having the confidence that you “can do it” goes a long way and quite simply “I’m bloody going to do it” helps too. Get fired up, dig deep and as 20 miles become 21,22,23 its surprising how empowering your willpower feels.

I’m quite happy to admit that I get emotional towards the end of a long run. You’ve answered those negative thoughts and that buzz will prepare you for the next time. Positive reinforcement is a huge weapon to have in your armoury.

These thoughts are based on my running experiences and my emotions, both come together in the phrase “your legs achieve what your mind believes”.

I recently read that willpower is the capacity to override an unwanted thought. In sporting terms its replacing negative thoughts with positive strategies.

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This photo is of 401 marathons Ben, half way up Butser Hill waiting for other runners to catch up. If anyone epitomises willpower it’s Ben and it was inspiring to meet him.

While training your legs and lungs make some time to work on your willpower.

Your New Years running resolutions might have been tested but you are stronger than you think.

This is your year.

Roger #irunoffroad

 

 

Running 5k the Parkrun way

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Five kilometres / 5,000 meters / 3.1 miles, however you look at it this distance will now forever be associated with parkrun .

Fareham’s Cams Hall estate had a cold and crisp feeling to it but when combined with the Autumn sunshine and the waters edge track, it makes for a great location.

With 342 people eagerly awaiting the standard nine a.m. start I observed the multi-coloured assembly of people in their running/walking attire. I pondered what do these weekly events mean to people.

To Mo Farah it’s a 13 minute romp, however, with the average Fareham parkrun time being 30.20 this shows what an all inclusive fitness phenomenon parkrun has become and ………… it’s free !!

Now, it’s worth saying at this point that I’ve only done 16 parkruns, however, I’ve been running for thirty years and I can honestly say the fact that no one has a race number pinned to their chest “really” does make a huge difference. Taking away the pressurised feel of a race means you can run/walk or jog at its purest form. You are running for you, whatever your goals are.

An unbelievable 1,803,378 people had participated in parkrun ahead of this Saturday, that’s in the UK – not Fareham !! 🙂

 

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What also makes parkrun unique is the army of volunteers and the core teams within this. Setting up, marshalling, token sorting, result publishing and packing up … it all takes time, effort and dedication. These volunteers are the ultimate reason for parkruns success.

I bumped into numerous local club runners, some who I see on the trails and some who I haven’t seen for ages. There were people from work and complete family groups who’s kids I’d never met before.

The course quickly skirts Fareham creek and runs parallel with the golf course. Another enjoyable feature is that it’s an out and back route so you get the chance to say hello or well done to potentially every single person taking part !! The track is fairly narrow so be warned as the fast boys come back towards you at quite a rate 🙂

After the initial rush of blood I found my pace and eased off slightly. Three miles need pacing just the same as a marathon !! Set off too fast and you’ll regret it. As we passed the boats bobbing up and down in the creek my first mile was 7.55 and I had Martin and Debbie that I know as markers ahead.

The pace meant my lungs were certainly being worked harder than normal and as I passed Alison marshalling at half way I knew I’d need to maintain this effort. The motivation of numerous shout outs, given and received, can’t be underestimated and even though the second mile dipped a little I geared myself up for the final push. In the end I was just outside my pace but regardless of this I had a big smile on my face.

I generally run my marathons at a 9/10/11 minute pace so a time of 25.06 was quite pleasing (8 minute miles) and so was my 85th position. Talking with Dave and Amy that I know, below, we all agreed Fareham is a great location and the 9 a.m. start sets you up for a productive day.

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So, in summary, to all my running readers we know parkrun is a great community event and its worth making time to pop along more often, I know I will.

Secondly, to the wider blogging community if you’ve heard about parkrun but haven’t ventured along ….. as a famous clothes manufacturer says #justdoit !! The benefits aren’t just physical, there’s a whole new community waiting to welcome you.

Find a parkrun near you with this map UK events

Thanks for reading

Roger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IOW Marathon

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The weather forecast for the Isle of Wight marathon promised wind and heavy rain but as it turned out fortune favoured the brave with the warnings only being accurate up to an hour before the start – thank goodness for that !!

Ryde Harriers were hosting the 62nd running of this event which promised an undulating course (1,450 feet) as you can see from the graphic above. The route combined quiet country lanes, a section of old railway track, occasional sea views and some busier roads.

My marathon running buddy Paul Coates and I had chosen this race for its location and we weren’t disappointed.

We drove to Southampton, with both the windscreen wipes and our imaginations working overtime as to what lay ahead.

iow1Boarding the Red Jet high speed catamaran bound for West Cowes the view out of the window felt more like a car wash than a ferry !! The £17 return for the 25 minutes each way meant our international experience was about to start #ferry #sailing #abroad !!

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Once on firm ground we jumped on a bus that took us up the hill heading out of Cowes to the IOW Community Club which had changing rooms, a variety of facilities and lots of like minded people.

iow3With three quarters of an hour left before the 11.30am start the rain (which had been forecast until 1pm) had virtually stopped. Gathered on the start line there was a noticeable sense of relief that the elements had been kind to us !!

Now, with no idea where we were running I’ll try my best to describe the 4 & 3/4 hours I was out on the course.

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Paul, is much quicker than me so, after some banter and video with his GoPro he headed off in front of me after about 2.5 miles, just as the rain reappeared.

After 4 miles of a steady 9/10 minute pace I developed a curious tightness in my “right buttock” !!! (expect the unexpected on a marathon)

Stopping to stretch wasn’t a problem and in the scheme of things I only wasted a couple of minutes even with three short loosening up attempts. If anything it was more embarrassing at such an early stage of the race.

All sorted, errrr “no” – ha ha, next my big toe started rubbing, only a mile later !! So, it was off with my trainer and a quick inspection. By mile 6, with hardly any swearing at all, (kind of), I was back into my pace and running happy….. Quite a buzz.

What I’d like to mention here is how enthusiastic the marshals, locals and the Harriers on their push bikes and in their cars were. Motivational comments are always welcome in a marathon 🙂

I passed a signpost to the West Wight Alpacas farm near Wellow and then one advertising Alpaca Jumpers, you don’t see that every day. Glorious sea views appeared at about mile 9 as we were on the outskirts of Yarmouth then next, as I headed back inland, I was surprised to be guided off road at about 11 miles. This turned out to be the old Yarmouth railway line and a brief let up from the tarmac.

The railway station has been converted into a restaurant and it was full of supporters, “again”.

Half way was marked with the 4th feed station, fresh oranges and flat coke … “spot on”. I was on course for about 4.40 at this stage but was aware of the 300 feet elevation between miles 22 and 25 as well as the numerous smaller hills we’d already negotiated. Location wise we weren’t that far from the Needles but heading back up towards Cowes.

The weather was cloudy by now and the temperature was starting to drop but I benefiting from the steady early pace. I overtook a few runners between 15 and 21 miles and started using the sponges that were on offer between the feed stations.

Time wise I was around 10.20 mile pace and revelling in the IOW peace and quiet, apart from the vintage buses that rattled by occasionally. To be fair I was largely on automatic pilot for an hour or so and that’s exactly what I enjoy. The tap tap of your trainers, the mile markers passing you by and the knowledge that you are “reasonably” in control.

As promised the three miles between 22 and 25 heading towards Northwood were quite challenging, but I do like a good hill. Using a run walk strategy when needed, again I overtook a couple of runners. Sometimes not knowing a course can be a benefit because you simply manage what’s around the next corner and you aren’t planning ahead at all.

It’s definitely worth a slow jog on hills rather than the easier option of walking, straight away. I read a phrase the other week that applied to those last miles, “There’s comfort in your discomfort” and that’s very much the case when you know you only have a parkrun’s distance left.

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As I crossed the finish line in 4.42 I was pleased with my run and were I am in my training. Completing a training run marathon was very satisfying. Your run is just that, your run, it doesn’t always have to be about speed !!

Paul had finished earlier in 4.06 which is testament to the athlete that he is considering he ran 3 marathons over last weekend in Cornwall. As the ferry docked we were asked to disembark and thanked for travelling with Red Funnel.

I felt a bit light headed on the trip back home because it dawned on me I hadn’t eaten since breakfast time and according to my watch I’d burned 3,812 calories. Thankfully I knew a large chicken roast dinner was waiting for me at home.

Thanks again to Ryde Harriers and Paul for a great day out. The Isle of White is certainly worth a visit whether as a tourist or a runner.