Five months between blinks

BIG man Daren is ever-present in our thoughts and our conversations so, although I’ve not run with him since September (can that be so?), it seemed like we’d only seen each other yesterday.

We met at Jack & Jill windmills (we call it ‘Upstairs’, for obvious reasons… huh?) which this morning was as windswept as a windswept thing, with a powerful South-South-Westerly blowing straight down the car park!  So much so that I actually changed into my muddy runners IN my car, which is pretty-much unheard of!

We followed our normal 10km circuit, which took in Pycombe, Wolstonbury Hill, the ‘Downstairs’ car park at Clayton Rec, and the Tank Tracks, which we goaded ourselves to the top of without stopping.    At the top we had our cobwebs blasted away by the wind, before running back down to Jack & Jill.

I note that our 1.14 time for the 6.2 miles was slightly slower than September, but averaging 5mph with a couple of serious hills to contend with (not to mention 5-months of conversation to catch up on) is not at all bad going.

As ever, a thoroughly enjoyable run!

A return to Downland running

This time last week, BIG man Daren & I were returning from the Alps, where we completed the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) in 4 days and 20 hours.  This is fast compared to the numerous walkers who take a luxurious 11 days over the route, but nigh on 4 days longer than the winner of this years UTMB race!

There is an account of our trip on this site on the page menu above with pictures and a narrative for those who are interested.

Since returning, neither Daren nor I had run anywhere, so this morning was designed to get back into the swing of things and though we had thought we might do a vertical 1000m odyssey of cross stitch along the scarp face of the Downs, in the event we opted for a shorter route.

We met at Jack & Jill and headed down across Pyecombe golf course to the village.  From here the route to Wolstenbury Hill rises (though not by comparison to the Alps!) and we made good time.

The hill down again is steeper and eventually took us down to Clayton, where we followed Underhill Lane to the bottom of the tank tracks.  This is a steep hill in anyone’s books and we ran bottom to top without stopping (as usual) possibly gaining an admiring glance from a couple of runners coming down the hill past us.

The final mile is downhill back to Jack & Jill and we reached the end of 6.2 miles (it’s a perfect 10km route) in 1.12.  5.2mph is not fast, but as usual we had a great time and after a couple of weeks, er… ‘off’, it was great to be back running again!

Alpacam ahoy!

It is a BEAUTIFUL day outside and I am in the process of taking the morning off, if for no other reason than to allow Kim to enjoy it vicariously when she gets back from work!

Bearing in mind that I had to scrape the ice of my windscreen this morning, meeting Daren at Jack & Jill at 8am wearing shorts may have seemed a little crazy… I certainly felt that way as I was putting my runners on.

But the run and the sun soon put paid to any chilly feelings, whilst the company would have put paid to some serious blues had I not already been feeling great!  I don’t know why it is, but I always end up laughing, whooping and generally celebrating life when I run with the BIG man.  He’s amazing!

We took our normal route (as if the last time we ran wasn’t a couple of months ago!) down to Pyecombe and up to Wolstonbury and as we neared the top we came upon a strange thing indeed.  A flock of sheep with one token Alpaca riding shotgun, following a Freelander and followed by a couple of strange shepherd types, including a lady with a sheepdog on a lead… that was clearly scared of the sheep!  I’m surely making it all up?

We paused on the top to admire the view before ambling down past the flock and down, up, down to Clayton… via a very muddy stretch of track!

After a nano-moment of indecision at Clayton (involving a very small collision) we made for the tank tracks and despite neither of us feeling on brilliant form, ran bottom to top without stopping… although I did collect a fascinating, convoluted flint stone on the way up that is now sunning itself in the garden!

We ambled back to the cars completing 6.38 miles in 1.12, an average of 5.3mph or 11.29 minutes per mile… although before we ascended the tank tracks we had averaged more than 6mph despite the route up Wolstonbury.  Not so very unfit for a pair of occasional runners!

And now I just have time to grab a sandwich in the garden (where the temperature in the shade is currently 20 degrees, yay!), before I get on with my work!  Happy Foster!

Message for Daren


Dai and I set the world to rights today with a bottle of Merlot over lunch and a relaxed stroll along Brighton seafront on a gloriously sunny day. 

If anyone is wondering why the English have a reputation for talking about the weather, last week was gorgeous, there were floods on Saturday, two inches of snow on Sunday and we were back supping Earl Grey tea in a beach cafe today… go figure.

Readers of Daren’s blog will be familiar with the way that he taunts us with pictures of glamorous beaches and idyllic sunsets, so back at ya Daren!

Windblown eyes

After running on Friday morning and the torrential rain of Saturday night, I didn’t feel a burning desire to go out running yesterday morning.  Which has made me feel slightly guilty, as part of the reason for running is so that I have something to write about.  No run: no blog.

But I had a cunning plan.  This morning I called up Cliff to see if he wanted to run… maybe do a re-run of the route we ran a week or so back.  Now, if you know Cliff you’ll probably be somewhat amazed at the fact that he wasn’t really keen to run today, no thank-you. 

Over the last ten or twelve years I have employed thousands of freelance staff and one of the things that you quickly get used to is the excuses as to why they cannot turn up on time.  Or at all.  Or even why it is that you can’t see them with your own eyes at the place where they say they are.  People often call me cynical, but I’m rarely surprised by excuses.

Which makes Cliff’s excuse of, and I quote, ‘windswept eyes’ all the more amazing: I’ve just not heard it before: it’s an original. 

Sadly, Cliff is not prone to exaggeration, so if he has windswept eyes, there are probably salt stains extending past his ears and onto to the expanse of his shoulders.  Saxo is probably considering sponsorship, or negotiating extraction rights.  As the reason for the windblown eyes begins to unfold in front of you, I should like you to ponder what Cliff, the man who has climbed the tallest mountains (yes, including Everest) on each of the seven continents, means when he says the weather was ‘so bad’.

The Jurassic Coast Challengeis held on the Dorset coast path and consists of a marathon on Friday, a marathon on Saturday and a marathon on Sunday.  I still remember how I felt after my one flat Berlin marathon, so you’ll excuse me if the prospect of running one the following day and one the day after that does not fill me with desire.  Let alone on a path that is as steep at the path across Beachy Head but twice the height and never-ending.

But for people like Cliff and Pete, numbers one and two on Daren’s fit list, there is no challenge in that.  Oh no!  Fortunately Votwo, the organisers, also cater for crazy people like this by holding a race called the Oner… essentially the opportunity to run all three marathons back to back, through Saturday night and into Sunday morning.

Cliff, Pete and their friend Kevin duly started the Oner at 7pm on Saturday night.  But they had only managed to reach the first checkpoint, some 8 or 9 miles, before the organisers pulled the race.  Cliff said that they were out in the worst part of the storm and that the weather was ‘so bad’ that they were just slipping everywhere in the mud while being inundated with sheets of water.  In the pitch dark. 

Not that that had daunted them.  This is a training run for a serious race (it has it’s own Wikipedia entry!) later in the year and I have no doubt whatsoever that they would have continued, given the chance.  But after a night in the backroom (beer cellar?) of a pub (beer seller?) the race was restarted at 5.30am.  In all, 20 of the original 35 starters decided to continue and whilst the race was shortened to make account for the missing hours, the day was still some 50 miles.

The race last year had 20 entrants in total and the word used by the organisers to denote people who retired is ‘broke’.  Starting a race at half past six in the evening, one can only imagine what ‘breaking’ at 1am or 3am the following morning feels like.  You’ve put six or nine hours into a race and you have to give up.  Gutted!  Only five runners finished.

But this weekend, with Kevin’s wife Lydia in support, our three intrepids (should that be extra-peds?) made surprisingly short work of the serious hills, glorious sunshine and stiff wind, coming in joint 8th or 9th (results not yet available) in 11 hours.

So if Cliff is not keen to run because of windblown eyes, I understand.

The morning after the night before


Both Daren & Nick are friends with Jamie at The Half Moon in Warninglid, so it seemed only right and proper to go and sample the fare there last night.  Jamie has apparently transformed the place in the last year or so and it’s now a real, proper gastropub.  The food was totally delicious!  I had tender liver & crispy bacon with mash potato and shredded cabbage that would have won a competition in a sculpture contest – I ate every last scrap despite the fact that it was a rather large portion.  In fact, all six plates were virtually scraped clean!  And despite having a full-on meal for six with liberal quantities of wine, yummy sticky puddings and coffees, the bill was only £25 per head.

My only beef was the fact that of the range of great bitters that Jamie serves, he doesn’t currently have any Hepworths… I can see I’ll have to work on him!

Anyway, it will come as small surprise that the 7.30am gathering this morning was slightly more muted than normal!  But it was a beautiful, brisk morning and it didn’t take us too long to get over the edge of tiredness.  Once again it was a real pleasure running with Daren (his being slightly less fit than normal) as the pace was gloriously manageable and we could all chat contentedly without running out of steam.  The Bok would shoot off every so often like a springer spaniel, egging us to join in the fun, but was eventually reigned in to enjoy the gentle run & conversation.

We headed out to the Royal Oak and round the back of the (fast becoming monstrous) St Georges Retreat, out to Hundred Acre Lane, back across to Wellhouse Lane and returned alongside the railway.  The going was firm with muddy interludes and I managed to get called rude names when I, er… missed my step and splashed in a puddle.  Twice.  I felt particularly triumphant that Nick’s trainers looked as if they had actually seen some countryside!  Mine, of course, were still dirty from last autumn and were once again dripping with mud by the time we got back: so no change there then.

We ran for one hour twelve minutes, covered 7.25 miles at an average speed of just over 6mph and used sufficient of the calorie intake from last night to be able to woof down half-a-loaf-of-bread’s worth of toast with honey & peanut butter.

The big man cometh

We had a rare treat this morning when the big man came round to take me out for a peramble.  For those of you who don’t know him, Daren is the same kind of height as Cliff, Steve or Clive, but has (ladies, look away now) another couple of inches width on each shoulder and a chest to match.  Add this to the fact that the stripes on his new running top were designed to accentuate the shoulders of people of a smaller build like me and it was like running along with Judge Dredd ambling beside!  And for those unladylike females who are still reading, the answer to the question forming in your mind is probably yes… suffice to say that I had to run with a hat stuffed down my running tights so that I could hold my head up!

We all claim unfitness on occasion and it was Daren’s turn this morning, but I reckon that we’re pretty lucky as a group because we’re really quite fit compared to your, average, run-of-the-mill bloke.  For example, despite saying that it felt like he was running through gazpacho (he said it with such conviction that I can only conclude that he often trains in cold tomato soup), he still shrugged off a 50 minute run with ease.  Okay, he wasn’t bounding along like normal, but that was the only giveaway.

We took a leisurely route out to the Royal Oak, across to Wivelsfield and along through Hundred Acre Wood, chatting all the way and catching up on news… which always slows you down.  The ground was lovely, with most of the mud ruts trampled flat and the kind of give that you normally only get on a running track.  It was so lovely that at one point I decided to take a closer look (my foot slipped out from under me on a tree root and down I went) but I just bounced gently.  Despite having my camera with me, there was no sensational headline splash of Foster mud-monster to record… I know that Nick will be disappointed!

Even with the gazpacho, we completed about 5.25  miles in 52 minutes, giving a speed of just over 6mph: pretty good going considering it was a conversational run over a bowl of soup kind of morning.

Sunday morning escapade

I awoke from my dreams at 7.55am and whilst it was not the sunny morning I had envisaged, I was rearing to get my trainers on… after a very large expresso, of course. 

The sun was straining through light but wet clouds as I ran up the road and as it was also wet underfoot, I chose not to follow the mud-fest route that Daren, Nick and I often take.  I was in the mood to explore, happy to follow my nose and see what there was to see.  This took me to the south and east of the town where I discovered that the council was in the process of extending the path across an area where I had often wished there had been one.  That they had not completed the aforementioned became apparent as I ran around the boundary of first one large field, then another, a third and a fourth, in search of the exit. 

It had been lightly raining with big drops of warm water, but around this point there was a deluge, almost accentuating that I was going in the wrong direction. 

I eventually came to the boundary of the golf course where there was a gate of the locked variety and no clear route through the golfers playing in the rain.  I soldiered on finding a farm track heading in the right direction, but blocked by a farmyard with some impressive looking security gates on the other side.  I hedged around the boundary and came to a point where a low barbed wire fence and six feet of driveway stood between me and the route onward. 

I almost hope that the owners of the house did see me step over the fence because I can imagine them smiling as my shorts snagged a barb and I was left pinned to the fence for a few embarrassing moments until I figured out which way I had to pull the material to free myself. 

I ran onward, back up through the eastern side of the town, smiling back at the dog-walkers and on back to the house.  Here, a glance in the mirror confirmed that I was a sodden, bedraggled, mud covered monster.  No wonder they smiled at me!

Eight miles in one hour forty.  Not exactly speedy (Nick and I ran just over six miles in 55 minutes two weeks ago, although I did nearly throw up afterwards!) but passable for a wet Sunday morning escapade.

And the sun is now burning through the clouds.  Better late than never!