After a wonderful Christmas with a house full of people, I took the opportunity to drive my folks back to their place in their car. This meant that I was about ten miles from home and could enjoy the sunny day by running back across the South Downs. Sunny day, yes, but somewhat chilly too, with the car registering temperatures between one and three degrees only.
Glancing over my shoulder as I set out, I could see the sea… though I clearly didn’t notice that huge sign in my picture!
From the top of the hill above Woodingdean I could see the half-way point at Ditchling Beacon, on the horizon, though I wouldn’t reach there for another hour.
I ran down into Falmer, across the A27 and up the other side past the University sports centre.
It’s surprising how undulating the path is as it passes St Mary’s Farm and then crosses a series of small hills & valleys as it makes it’s way up toward Ditchling Beacon.
Eventually I reached the top of the ridge and looked back towards Woodingdean and on towards Burgess Hill… noting the difference in colour temperature and that the shadow of the hill already stretched past Ditchling village. I celebrated reaching the half-way point by stuffing my mouth with dried mango and continued pushing for home.
As I ran down the steep Beacon path I absent-mindedly started thinking how much of a bad idea it would be to slip over and twist an ankle here… wearing only enough to keep me warm whilst running and with the temperature approaching freezing. As if to make the point that you get whatever you focus on, I then slid over painfully on the steep and slippery surface, grazing my hip and knee through my running longs!
Fortunately the damage was only superficial and I continued onward… focusing on far more pleasant thoughts! It was an easy run down into a sleepy Ditchling and up the other side onto Lodge Hill… though unfortunately I misjudged the height of the top bar of a stile and thwacked my knee on it with the sound of a cricket ball connecting with a bat. Followed by a loud OUCH!
By the time I reached Oldlands Mill, the light was starting to fade from the sky, but I could still see that the path was 90% watery mud. This is the homeward stretch so I just splashed on through, slip-sliding around in an effort to remain vertical and noting the chilly temperature of the ice-fringed puddles as the water flooded through my shoes and socks at each step!
Dusk was fast approaching when I finally dragged myself into the warmth of the house for a cold shower and hot cup of tea. The run was just over 10 miles and I completed it in 1.55, so the average was a shade over 5 mph. It was a really invigorating way to mark the end of of a lovely family Christmas!