Cleats of Clayton

T’was the week before Christmas and all through the snow, the crazies were running shouting YEE, HA and HO; wearing bright lime green trainers or twee Santa hats, they dashed through the snow like a herd of mad cats.

It was a whole day since my previous run, so I felt quite privileged to be out in the snow again, this time in the company of Dai & Daren.  Kim had very kindly lent me her car, which I was pleased about as the side roads at both ends were still white and slippery… no place for the big fat tyres on my rear-wheel drive car.

Dai was sporting his latest pair of off-road runners, complete with incisive cleats… it was quite amazing to see the difference in footprints between our shoes and his… ours were imprints in the snow, his were clear cuts into the ice below.

We set off from Clayton Rec along Underhill Lane and up the tank tracks, the snow making progress heavier-going than normal, which is saying something of that hill!

We turned right at the top and ran down towards Jack & Jill, admiring the bleak views to our left.

The snow was glorious to run on though and we took the South Downs Way down past the golf course and into Pyecombe, glad that we can always be bothered to get out and run, no matter what it looks like outside.  From Pyecombe we followed our normal track all the way to the top of Wolstonbury Hill.

Once on the top we realised the bite in the wind and huddled like kittens in the lee of the trig point.

The steep-steep hill down was a mass of whoops and laughter, Dai showing us how much faster cleated shoes get to the bottom… or maybe he just has a greater sense of gravity.  Either way, his feet hardly seemed to touch the ground.

Further down we saw how brilliant the valley we always thought would be brilliant for sledging really was, which was clearly brilliant.  Although, alas, we didn’t have a sledge to rub between us.

Back at Clayton Rec we ran around the football pitch in order to reach the 6-mile mark… and then had to chase Dai as he raised our 6 miles to 10km by running around again!

So 10 brilliant kilometres,  circa 6.25 miles, 1.18… 4.8mph.  Mind you, we did laugh a lot!

A week difference in colour

There have been days when I have gotten back from running completely frozen at the extremities and this was the expectation I had of today.  Looking at the photo below you can probably see why.

As much as anything it is amazing how the colour temperature changed between these photos and the ones last week, even though there was little difference in air temperature, both being in the low plus numbers.

From the comfort of a warm chair, reading, I thought I would go for a quick blast around through the woods and come back before my feet dropped off from cold, but it was so delightful running on the crunchy snow that, having crossed the Common, I headed for Ditchling.

Ten minutes into the run my foot went through thin ice into an ice cold puddle, up to my ankle… that certainly woke me up!  Although inadvertent, it was an excellent test of my trusty Thurlo woollen socks and remarkably, the socks warmed back up really quickly and I felt no ill-effect bar the initial shock.

Ten minutes later my path coincided with another runner, also heading towards Ditchling and those of you who have read my musings for a while will know how much I value these fortuitous encounters.  As on previous occasions, the runner, whose name turned out to be Adrian, was happy for me to tag along.

One of the reasons that I love running is that it’s a solitary pass-time which gives the brain time to ruminate whilst you focus on the relatively simple task of putting one foot in front of the other.  Another reason that I love it is for chance meetings such as this.

Experience has shown that other solitary people are generally pretty fascinating to chat to.   Running also provides a great low pressure framework within which to chat, allowing anything from an occasional word or observation right through to a continuous discussion.

This was towards the latter end and so immersed was I in the conversation that the run seemed effortless and I certainly didn’t notice the temperature.

We ran through the farms to Ditchling, down East End Lane and up past Sporting Cars to Underhill Lane.  Here the pull to run up the Beacon was strong for me, but I was enjoying the company so much that I gladly turned right along the lane instead.

We passed the Ditchling Beacon road, which was closed to traffic for obvious reasons and continued on, turning right to run into Keymer.

At the junction we turned right and then left onto the footpath and across the fields to Lodge Hill, and thence up to Oldlands Mill.

From there it was a lovely run down to Ockley Lane and back along Folders Lane towards where Adrian lives.

From where we parted it was an easy run back through the houses to home.

10.95 miles took me 1.52, 5.85mph and I returned feeling invigorated and with surprisingly warm fingers and toes, such that I stood outside for a while to stretch.

My thanks to Adrian for making the run so much more interesting… I hope that we get to run together again in the future.


Happiness is a clean car, so I was more than a little unhappy when I realised my car was sitting outside, rather than tucked up in the garage, utterly filthy when I had a visitor on Friday.  More so, as the kind of people who notice these things and think anything of them (like me), tend to reverse park into unfamiliar spaces… which is what he did.

This meant that the key task yesterday was to wash the cars, which I spent most of the afternoon doing, happy as a sand boy… finishing when it was too dark to clearly make out the readings on the tyre pressure gauge!  I was very glad that it was quite a pleasant day, although even today there are lumps of snow that still haven’t melted so it can’t really have been that warm!

I expected to wake up this morning suffering from these exertions but it was too beautiful a morning to notice.  I sat reading my current non-work book for a while, which is this year’s Booker Prize winner, Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question… Kim bought it some time ago and I had made all sorts of excuses not to read it, but it’s actually very enjoyable.

But before the morning had totally expired, I kitted up and got out running.

Mindful as ever of Cliff’s attention span, I’ll try to bring as much brevity to the description of my route as I can, but he’ll have to give me some leeway as it was slightly tortuous… I suppose he could always ignore the words and go to the pictures below.

I ran out of town on the Keymer Road, turning right to Oldlands Mill, left towards Ditchling then right, which took me to the back of Keymer.  I ran through Keymer and Hassocks on the main road then took the path left before the railway bridge.  This took me to Clayton, up to the windmills (the car park is open again, by the way) and across to Ditchling Beacon.

En route I stopped to admire the parascenders floating effortlessly on the steady breeze… I think the collective name must be a school of parascenders, as the van at Ditchling Beacon  said Learn to Parascend on the side.

I don’t often run down Westmeston Bostall, possibly because most times when I do, I end up running back up the steep path as a test of my resilience.  I was thinking about this as I ran down to the gate at the bottom, where there were a couple of cyclists starting the trek up.

It was a classic piece of grandstanding, but I turned around and ran back up, drawing comments of ‘you must be mad’ from both them and from the couple walking down the steep section further up.  Once at the top I ran back along and down the Bostall again, with the cyclists asking if I was planning to do it a second time as I passed them again, half way down.

I was tempted, but time was getting along so I demurred and instead ran along Underhill Lane and back to Sporting Cars in Ditchling passing Westmeston Place en route.  Here I ran up East End Lane and took the path through all the chicken farms back to Ditchling Common.  Then, cutting the corner off, I ran down through the new Folders Farm housing estate, through Folders Lane and back to base.

Photos for Cliff

The weather that had been glorious had turned sour by the time I got back, but it was still a really fun run.  14.4 miles in 2.42 and though 5.3mph is not anything to write home about, I don’t (yet, at least) feel particularly tired from it.

Fun run

After my timing error the other week, Daren was careful to reiterate 8.30am to me when we spoke yesterday. So when he called at 8.30am this morning, I really thought he was playing a prank… fortunately he was just running a few minutes late.

We had agreed to meet at Clayton Rec again, and decided that, as a variation on our current favoured route, we would go & tackle the tank tracks first rather than at the end.  This was a good idea, most especially as additional energy was required to overcome the constant foot slippage in the muddy topsoil.  Running up this hill without stopping is a real test of resilience, even for us, er, seasoned runners (HA!) so it was with self-congratulatory cheers that we arrived at the top!

It was then slightly strange, running down towards Jack & Jill, knowing that this wasn’t the end of the run… I would have even missed the left turn that the South Downs Way makes had Daren not remembered.

Once through Pyecombe village we ran up and on to Wolstenbury Hill, Daren keeping my mind off the hill itself as he started to introduce the thinking behind a stunning business idea.  It’s always hard to convey how much fun we have on our runs, but this photo, taken at the top, might give you some idea.

Then it was down, down, down the other (steeper) side, which was fortunately not as slippery as we had feared.  After some slippery paths lower down and some mildly muddy bits, we emerged back at Clayton Rec.

Alas, with the cars in sight, Daren’s GPS watch piped up to say that we’d not quite covered 6 miles, so we had a quick run around the football pitches to make up the distance… adding a quick sprint for good measure.

Our 6 miles had taken us 1.15, 4.8mph, but quite acceptable given the hills tackled (both up and down need to taken easy in this weather… unless your name is Dai Thomas, of course) and the amount of conversation shared.

And that was that, except that I suddenly had the urge to do a little more.  So leaving Daren changing his shoes, I headed for the windmills and the track to Ditchling Beacon.

You can see from the photo above that it was a murky old day and where I had felt warm all the time we were talking while we ran, I now felt the chill coming through the layers onto my chest.

Visibility was pretty limited, but twice as I ran to the Beacon and twice running back, the colour temperature suddenly rose as the sun tried to break through and the landscape around me went from black and white to colour… motivating a HUGE smile from me each time.

At the Beacon I called Cliff, on the off-chance that he had decided to run along this way from his start point in Lewes… alas he had gone south and was somewhere on the top of Beddingham Hill.

I ran back through the murk and thought I would take this picture to give a sense of what I was running through.

To be fair, this was around behind Jack & Jill and was the only proper snow that I had come across.  It was fun running through it but it does give a sense of both the temperature and the mist.

Back down the steep hill to the car, but a glance at my watch showed that I had a few minutes before I had run a whole hour, so I did a second loop of the playing field to make the time up.

5.25 miles in 1 hour, er 5.25mph… quicker than earlier as I only had one hill to go up/down and probably because my distance wasn’t verified by a satellite!

Overall 11.25 miles in 2.15, pretty much bang on 5mph.  GREAT morning!


I think that it’s well worth mentioning that Kim’s daughter Karen graduated from University of Westminster with a BA Hons in Contemporary Media Practice and we attended her ‘Graduand’ ceremony last week.

She has long had a great eye for photographic composition and although she has become a first class photographer, her love is Art Directing where she is already making a name for herself.

Of course she’ll kill me for the grainy photo above!

You can find a selection of her work at and she has a series of shows coming up in the New Year in Central London.