It’s been a rainy few days, though I think that we got away lightly compared to the rest of the country. Even so, my run today had a way higher proportion of splash footfalls to thud ones than normal. And inevitably with a fluid top layer, the mud was slippery!
I stuck to my simple local route and realising how wet and muddy it was going to be, adopted an approach of direct assault on every puddle or mud bath I encountered. Within minutes my trainers were wet through and my tights were plastered in mud… it was glorious!
Slip-sliding around always tests the core stability muscles and today more so than most, though I’m glad to report that I managed to stay right-side up for the duration.
The weather was largely overcast so the photos were more subdued than normal, but I did manage to find some vivid green moss.
The magical path runs along the shallow crest of a hill and is thus normally dry, but today it was waterlogged so I can only imagine the state of the normally muddy path lower down the rise!
Ditchling Common was strangely no wetter than normal but the weir from the pond at the bottom was flowing strongly. I decided to pause on the path back towards Burgess Hill rather than splash a nice couple wading through the liquid mud in the opposite direction.
Overall I was coated in mud right up to the middle of my back so upon returning I headed straight for the outside tap where I rinsed the worst of it off my tights, trainers and socks before I even bothered to try to take them off. I then hand washed them to lessen the mud content before putting them anywhere near the washing machine!
So 5.2 miles in 53 minutes gives an average of 5.88mph that doesn’t seem bad for all the sliding that was going on.
Tomorrow is the shortest day, although at only 4 seconds longer today comes a pretty close joint-second. With dark clouds and heavy rain it sure does feel like winter is about to start. Which is what made it a perfect day for a hilarious run with Daren!
We met ‘upstairs’ at Jack and Jill, laughing at even the notion of running when there was enough water on the roads to kayak comfortably. Perfect weather for clean trainers!
It felt cold to start with, especially with the rain biting at our faces, but soon laughter warmed us up as we dropped down past a difficult green on the golf course.
The path towards Pyecombe was a small stream and there was little point trying to keep our trainers dry… we just waded on through!
The path out from Pyecombe was probably less muddy than normal since it had been washed right down to the hard chalk layer. Moreover, when we reached the point that is normally thick deep mud, someone had tarmacked it over since our last visit. Odd.
We made good time up Wolstonbury but chose not to stand on the top to admire the (absent) view on account of the needling rain. The steep grassy decent was always going to more interesting in this weather but we both managed to stay upright… with the help of some girlie squeals and aerobatic body movements.
A subsequent steep incline led to more squeals and one moment that almost undid me… my uphill foot was secure in a hollow while my downhill foot slipped inexorably away.
The end of that path as we approach Clayton is always a mud bath, even in the middle of summer, but today it seemed somehow easier. Probably because we weren’t trying to avoid it in any way… we just waded right through the middle.
Eventually we came to the hard hill. The ‘tank tracks’ take the scarp slope of the South Downs head on and require every ounce of resilience to run from bottom to top… neither would have made it alone today but together we managed to triumph.
And then we were back in the deserted car park, stripping off sodden clothes while the rain did it’s best to soak our dry ones.
6.3 miles in 1;14 works out to 5.1 mph, which is actually a little faster than normal… you were right Daren!
My trainers have resumed their dirty state but I’m now brimming with positivity ahead of the approaching winter!
It was tricky getting into my trainers this morning… they were set like concrete from last weekend. Eventually I prevailed, but not for the first time in recent weeks I made a mental note that I needed to wash them!
The sun was out in force and the weather mild, so despite the general wetness of the ground I headed out to do my local circuit. The ground was a mat of leaves from now empty trees and this seemed to be soaking up some of the water… but not much. Within five minutes of leaving the house I could feel a tell-tale dampness on the back of my calves, the splattered mud already soaking through my running tights.
On days like today there is little point trying to skirt around the mud… safer to go straight through. The West Woods were sodden and squelchy but beautiful in the dappled sun. At one point I caught up with a couple who were out walking… they stood well back from the path as I splattered through, enjoying the mud but only on the outside of their Wellingtons’!
The magical path was just that and I decided to continue on down it rather than turn left across the Common.
I crossed over my outbound route at the Royal Oak and ran down past the simplest and most elegant church I know around here.
When I mentioned earlier that I intended to wash my trainers, I have envisaged doing so whilst my feet were not in them. But here in front of me the path had vanished under water and I had no option but to splash on through.
Now I was back onto paths that I used to frequent when I lived in my old house and soon enough I was running past it again… pleased to see that there was a sports car in the drive once more, even if the garden has been generally overgrown since I left.
A few minutes on the tarmac and I was home again, peeling off wet gear and finishing off the task of washing my trainers.
6.75 miles in 1:11 gives an average speed of 5.7 mph and a few pretty photos to boot (in reverse order for some reason!).
We went to an awesome party at Clive & Nats last night, with an excellent live band and lots of interesting folk to chat to.
If there was a Mens’ Sussex Fitness Party League, then Clive and Nat would consistently be at the top… both in terms of quality and quantity. Meanwhile I can count the number of parties we’ve held recently on no hands at all!
After such an excellent evening this morning was flat and grey and I had little inclination to run. However, I know that in order to be able to have the occasional run like last weekend, whilst also keeping this blog trickling along, I need to keep my running going.
So I reluctantly climbed aboard the magic carpet machine, dialled in 7mph and set off in the general direction of the cheese plant.
One hour later, having covered, er… 7 miles (but strangely not yet reached the aforementioned plant) I went outside to stretch and cool down. By that time the sun had come out and it was relatively mild… just as well as I was standing there steaming in shorts and shoes only!
So a good tempo run and a few more words to the wise: all worthwhile stuff, reluctant or otherwise.
I’ve had a brilliant week! One of the myriad challenging books that I’ve read recently suggested that there are just two critical measures that we employ when we are assessing how good something was (for examples my week or someone’s life): the high point and the ending.
So despite last week containing a sludge of stress and frustration, the duel high points of spending Thursday evening chatting with some really engaging Brighton Business School students and spending Friday working with the amazing Terbell PostGrad students, allied to the week-ending run I have just completed, make for a really positive memory overall.
The air temperature outside had an Arctic feel to it this morning as I ran off down the road and I quickly resolved to keep the route short. Inevitably though, as with life, when we get interested in something and delve a little deeper it can draw us in and we suddenly find ourselves doing things that we could not have hoped for.
I ran down Ockley Lane and out through copious quantities of icy wet mud to Oldlands Mill, which had clearly turned its back to the low sun.
The view to the South was beguiling, but I still had in mind to follow a relatively short route.
Anticipating that I might not come back this way, I ran down Lodge Hill (I normally only run up it) and thus saw the village of Ditchling from a different angle for a change.
I felt a little guilty as I ran down the high street leaving a trail of watery mud on the neat pavement. I could see it in my peripheral vision, flying through the air from my slowly whirling trainers.
Although it had not been my intention, I found myself on the path to the Beacon, ignoring the junctions which would have led me home more directly. And then I was running up the Beacon itself.
A series of comments this week had been spinning around in my head and I suddenly decided to try an odd experiment. Daren had mentioned that his tactics for getting up the Tank Tracks (a path which approaches the task of getting up the steep scarp slope by simply going straight up it) is to innocently ask me to explain something complex at the bottom and let me distract him with my reply until we reach the top. With this in mind I turned on the video camera and extemporised for the duration of the hill.
The result is difficult to watch because of the fast moving scenery and also hard to understand through the heavy breathing, but I enclose it here for in case it’s of random interest.
And then I was on the top of the Downs chatting to a couple whose young children were occupying the highest point in Sussex… the top of the concrete trig point on the top of Ditchling Beacon.
Ahead of me I now had the task of running home, but I smiled as I enjoyed the initial down hill section. My homeward route was going to be through the marvellous mud of the wonderful Weald… seemingly one part icy water to one part earth in places today… and this started before I had even reached Sporting Cars of Brighton at the bottom of the hill.
This route (especially at this time of year) is not for those who like to keep their shoes clean. It has gloriously beautiful views…
… but the soundtrack is consistently splashy…
… and at times you have to have faith that your feet are still attached.
There was even one hill that looked to be a wide and curving lawn, but was in fact pockets of water disguised by tufts of grass, all the way to the top.
Eventually I returned via Ditchling Common and back home, my woollen Thurlo socks being the only thing that stood between my feet and frostbite.
Just over 10.6 miles in 1:57 is an average of 5.45mph… a glorious end to an excellent week!