Of Running Stitch

Strangely, despite the severity of the run today, the reference to running stich is not passing comment on our dubious fitness levels, but rather on our poor needlework skills.

After a typically lengthy absence, it was an honour today to run with The BIG Man, fresh from his travels and travails.

The BIG man’s plan was somewhat crazy, especially bearing in mind that he was sporting something of a hangover and I was suffering from sleep deprivation… having gone to bed around 2am and gotten up again at 6am, on a Sunday, I ask you. We were to run along the Downs, taking each consecutive path between the top and the bottom… my expectation was that we probably wouldn’t get too far!

In order to run up the Tank Tracks, we started by running down the hill from Jack & Jill to Clayton and along the road… nice start, especially as we arrived at a mutually agreeable pace that is generally referred to as Slow. The pace suited us well on the inevitable first climb and we managed admirably… just as well as we had a spectator watching us towards the top in the form of a friendly competitor of mine, Paul Hopwood. Not that we could stop to chat for fear of breaking our resolve.

In retrospect we could have gone straight back down the adjacent bostal from there, but instead we ran along the top to the more vertical path that drops down to the bottom of the Ditchling Beacon road. Cliff ran up and down this steep track countless times (I think to emulate the height of Everest) in order to gain the sponsorship money to go on Operation Raleigh all those years ago.

We ran along Underhill Lane and back up my favourite Beacon track which wends its way up slightly further down the hill from the climbing road. Two hills didn’t seem quite enough, so we ran down the next bostal to Westmeston and back up through the top of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee V… I seem to vaguely recall that there had been plans to plant trees to form another letter next to it (R for Regina or A for Albert?), but she sadly died in the intervening period… although the validity of my source is forgotten so this may be totally spurious!

As every good needle-worker knows, what we had done to this point could be considered to be running-stitch and not the most stable of sewing styles. Bravado (or maybe memories of needlework class at Woodingdean Primary School) therefore made me suggest that we did cross-stitch, zagging our outbound zigs on the return leg and creating a much stronger, er… well, let’s not try to take the analogy too far, huh?

Thankfully the BIG man, he sayeth (words to the effect of) No, which let me off the hook from my rather stupid suggestion. Instead, we ran gently back along the top, via the trig point at Ditchling Beacon, to Jack and Jill again.

Back at the cars Daren made one tiny error, mentioning that we had completed 9.75 miles… too close for me not to want to complete the other quarter-mile. He gracefully agreed (quite frankly, this is blatant writer’s licence) and we ran back off up the hill, returning a few minutes later having completed the requisite distance… in some ways it was a neat knot to complete our needlework class.

So, ten pretty arduous miles in 2.10, an unsurprisingly slow 4.6mph, and one of the most enjoyable runs in ages… in between all our laughing and whooping, of course!

Back to the Bronze Age

A couple of weeks back I went to Plumpton Agricultural College where the Principle, Des Lambert, gave members of BHBPA a guided tour of the facility.  It was a really interesting evening, which started by him driving us up onto the Downs in a LandRover to show us the college from above.  Once up there he gave us a fascinating history lesson of the area, which included pointing out where there had been a Bronze Age settlement.  He also regaled us with tales of a couple of the interesting characters who are often to be found walking up on the Downs.

So my task today, after the second ‘no-run’ Sunday in a month last weekend (more about that later), was to find said settlement starting from my folks place.

I had envisaged it as a fairly straightforward run with a diversion, but when I reached the top of Woodingdean I decided to try running along the new path that follows the Falmer Road to, er… Falmer.

Once over the A27 bridge and through the other half of the village I passed Cliff’s old place (the house, incidentally used to be old and full of character/s, but now sadly has the appearance of a new-build) and then noticed a path opposite, which I followed up to the Uni sports pavilion.  From here I took the path towards Blackcap, but dropped off to the left at the top of Waterpit Hill.  [Yes, Cliff, I’m looking at the map!]  This goes down and then up steeply to my goal.

There’s not much to see (the people are all long gone, for starters), but it’s a beautiful tract of land with a wooded valley winding down the hill.  And amazingly, one of the people that Des mentioned, Michael, who was out for a walk.  He was the kind of charming and interesting gentlemen, like Des himself, whom one could have happily chatted to all day, so I at least paused to chat for a short time… while he gallantly prevented one of his dogs from eating me!

The land eventually rejoins the South Downs Way but not where I expected it to, so I’m glad I didn’t stick to my original plan!  From there I took a wander up to the next wood to see if I could see the remnants of an old house Des had mentioned… alas no joy though.

Then I struck for home again, this time running down towards Balmer Farm.  In the midst of the farm was a lone signpost propped up against the wall and though I was fairly certain that it was pointing in the wrong direction, I followed it across towards Falmer to save myself having to run alongside the busy A27.  The downside was that it crossed a deep valley and by the time I reached the top of the other side, near the sports pavilion, I was pooped.  And on the wrong side of a barbed wire fence… so the sign was definitely not correct.

I ate some jelly babies and made my way down into Falmer before retracing my steps back along the Falmer Road path, returning to my folks’ place in 2.17.  Allowing for maybe 10 minutes split between talking to Michael and searching for an absent house, I covered the 10.9 miles at an average pace of 5.15mph.  Pitiful pace, but a really wonderful run!

I mentioned that there was a reason for my absence from these pages last weekend.  You can find it at www.EnglandGardenGang.org.  It may sound a bit crazy, but it’s worth a thought!  Enjoy!

Over and out…

… as in, the run was over and I was out for the count.

I met Mark up at Jack & Jill yesterday morning for our 14 mile circuit and though it felt like an early start, it was late enough to bump into Maria coming back from a later than normal 8-mile run!

We set out on good form but I didn’t get too far up the hill before my energy levels started to wane.  I seriously doubted that I would go the distance, even though I wasn’t quite ready to give up at that point.

Mark has a simple strategy for keeping me going… he asks me to explain something to him.  In this case it was the barmy idea that I alluded to last week, the explanation for which carried me about four miles… you can tell that Mark has tremendous patience!

By this time we were running down towards the A27 so it seemed churlish to bail out there, especially as we overtook a couple of cyclists on the lump and raced to get to the bottom of the next hill before them.  We reached the half-way turn (just ahead of the cyclists, by dint of the narrowness of the path) at 1.10, meaning that we had averaged 6 mph.

The return leg, by comparison, took us 1.30 and although I was guilty of a couple of lame-excuse pauses along the way, the real delays were due to a couple of people we stopped to chat to.

First there was a guy with a £3,500++ Cervelo R5 that even I could appreciate… what an amazing looking bicycle, and SO light!  We weren’t the only ones ogling, as another half a dozen people also stopped while we were standing there talking to him… he was waiting for his cycling buddy to catch him up Ditchling Beacon, which he eventually did!

Second was Gary, another of the people Mark has met running along the Downs over the years (I’m also one of them, if you remember).  This conversation continued long enough that I watched a girl on a horse approach, mosey past and continue plodding up and along the crest of the hill… long enough that it was hard work to start running again!

We ran the final mile or so to the cars, ending with time elapsed of 2.40 for our 14 miles, average 5.25mph (although the return leg actually averaged 4.66mph against 6mph outbound, due to the  various conversations).  Mark probably has a better sense of the running time, but it was way better that I had expected bearing in mind my initial energy levels.

I returned home and collapsed into a chair in the garden, falling asleep for long enough to get tan-lines on my legs.  I then stumbled lightheadedly through the shower and fell into bed where I stayed, comatose, for another four hours… even then I belonged to the sofa for the rest of the evening!

All of which pales by comparison to Pete & Cliff, whose weekend race was over 103 miles in distance and 13,500 feet in combined ascent along the South Downs Way.  It took them 29.5 hours to complete… I’d need to sleep for a fortnight after that!

Respect!  Over and out!

Early start Sunday

I was planning to help my folks move some flotsam & jetsam and since it was likely to be another warm day, I went to bed early (after an energetic day cutting grass and polishing my car) and got up at 6am.  This meant I was out running by seven and down at their place shortly after ten.

It was a glorious day and already warm at 7am and I was surprised that I had a good flow of energy as I ran off down the road.

Alas, the energy only lasted about 2 minutes and I then had to work hard to keep myself moving.  All the vague inclines felt like major hills and even the downhills offered little respite.

I ran down to Wivelsfield Station, along to the London Road and all the way down past Hassocks to a predetermined place that I know is the five mile marker.

And then I ran back again.  Fortunately an idea was forming in my crazy mind on the way back so the miles went more easily, despite the fact that the return leg took exactly the same time as the outbound.

So ten miles in 1.36, 6.25 mph… and one crazy idea, yet to be unveiled.

The rest of the morning was lifting & carrying stuff around the house & garden and to the tip and it’s little surprise that I had an hour of sleep this afternoon!