There seemed to be a plethora of possible titles for my entry today, amongst them ‘Harmless Barbie Lost Her Head-ing Too’ (I’ll see if I can get a picture at some point, then you’ll understand!) and ‘Beyond the Edge of the Known Universe’. Let me set the scene though: I didn’t feel like running, it was raining outside, my stomach was ready to eat breakfast, I was happy sitting reading about deforestation in China etc. But weighed against that was the need to write… and hence the need to run… allied to the fact that my gear is truly BRILLIANT. Out I went.
I couldn’t decide whether I was in the mood for a long or a short run, but I topped my water bottle up just in case. It quickly became apparent that water was going to be in abundance, with the brooks and streams pretty much filled to overflowing. This meant that it was also rather muddy… oh boy, is that ever the understatement of the year!
I quickly got into my stride, heading straight through most of the mud except where there was a more obvious firm line. One of the things that you quickly learn when you first drive a car off-road is that you have to slow down and this was no exception… trying to avoid a mudbath at the last minute was not an option given the general lack of traction, so it was often safer to go straight through!
I headed out to the Royal Oak and then decided to go a different way. It seems strange to me sitting here now why I always seem to do this on rainy days! I ran into Wivelsfield and up Slugwash Lane and then turned right where Nick and I normally cut across. Rather than going back down to Wivelsfield though, I headed East with the view of finding a path that goes South further across. I didn’t find it though and ended up running around a big WET field before passing the place I had come in. With the dull, overcast sky, I had managed to lose my direction in the process and now headed North by mistake, into a tract of woodland that could more appropriately have been called WaterWood.
The marked path was basically a small river, so I had no choice but to plough on through it. Splish Splash Splosh! It is very strange how the heart is heaviest when you think you’re going in the wrong direction but you’ve come too far to turn around: out of the whole run, it was only here that I actually registered that it was raining.
Eventually, after more trees, more water and some beautiful, but distant country houses, I emerged back onto Slugwash Lane, although I was sufficiently disorientated that I didn’t realise it. Faced with the choice of which way to go on this unfamiliar road I did what many of my other friends might have done… I chose the up-hill direction. Training is training, after all.
I finally realised where I was when I came to the junction with Lewes Road, to the East of Haywards Heath… and off the top of my map (no, I didn’t have it with me, silly!). The quick way home might have been to turn round and head back down Slugwash Lane to Wivelsfield, but instead I turned towards Haywards Heath and then, some way along the road, made a right turn into Colwell Lane which was marked as unsuitable for motor vehicles.
It seemed okay to me as I ran down the tarmac but then the tarmac ceased and I soon came to understand what the sign meant. Unsuitable? HA! This was the muddiest lane I have run on this whole winter! Oh, how I wish the Bok had been here with his freshly laundered trainers! I could almost have paddled my kayak in places, it was that wet. On and on and on it went and anyone hiding in the undergrowth as I passed (and they would have been hiding, believe me) would have heard the mud-covered monster laughing out loud as he sploshed through the worst of it.
Eventually the tarmac resumed and I emerged onto Fox Hill, passed the pub (very tempting to stop, but they used to have a policy of not allowing muddy boots and I know I would have not even have made it to the door) and headed back into the country in the general direction of Burgess Hill.
Some records are not destined to stand for long and I quickly found that, on reflection, Colwell Lane was not the muddiest of them all. This bridleway really was hilarious and I ended up with one main consideration… not losing my trainers! In places the water & mud was up to my ankles, but on I went. Finally, when it had been assured of it’s place as the new record holder, it morphed into Theobalds Lane, and the ancient tarmac with its plethora of axle-breaking puddles served the useful purpose of washing the mud off my trainers… once again, where was the Bok when I really needed him!
There are two reasonably direct ways back home from this place, one of which has thick mud in the middle of summer, so I opted for the other, even though it was a little dull running on the road.
So, my little run had taken me some 10.2 miles in one hour 45 minutes and whilst the speed of 5.8mph is not outstanding, I think it can hold its muddy head up with pride given the fantastical conditions. As can my gear… my Rono soft underlayer, Gore jacket and iQ beanie, all from Run in Hove (actually), really do help make every day a fair weather runner’s day!