Course profile

Course profile
What lies in wait on 2nd July - The 110k course profile

Saturday, 2 April 2016

(Almost) a marathon on the oldest trail of all

Another week away to visit family saw me running on the Ridgeway again. The last time I was here was back at the end of October and I was looking forward to revisiting the path for what I thought would be a nice easy 5 hour run after my recent outings in the far hillier Lake District.

Described as Britains oldest road, the Ridgeway has been in use for at least 5000 years as a trading route. Running along the edge of high hills which afforded both easier, drier travelling and gave a view of potential attacks it travels for 87 miles from Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon. Luckily, in this modern age I don't have to worry about potential attacks, but I was kind of hoping for some easier and drier travelling. Sounds good!

That's one big field! 
Mostly, I got my wish. I say mostly, because I hadn't reckoned on the wind. I'm used to running in windy weather back home in the Lakes, but at least there the topography means that unless you're right on the tops there are lots of hills and valleys to break the wind up. No such luck on the Ridgeway. Not only does it stick resolutely to the escarpment edge, but the high side is largely made up of vast arable fields with only the occasional scraggy tree to get in the way. I really noticed the lack of drystone walls as well, a popular windbreak in the Lake District ...

So the beginnings of storm Katie continuously blasted my right had side for the first half of my run, only changing when I turned round for the return journey and the left got a go.

Definitely no excuse for walking here ...
I did get the wished for easier conditions underfoot, but even this had unexpected difficulties. When I run at home there are often steep hills to get up, or particularly rough areas of ground to get across. These provide a good excuse to walk for a while, giving me a break from running and an ideal time for a snack and a drink. With nothing like this on the Ridgeway I was left with no option but to keep plugging away for my whole time out, making special stops for food or drink which always felt like I needed to get going again.

Actually, it was quite good to practice this continuous movement. I've read of people who only train in hilly areas having difficulty just keeping going for long periods, but it was still surprisingly hard work.
The fantastically atmospheric entrance to Wayland's Smithy
Overall, I enjoyed the change of scenery along with the chance to revisit some of the neolithic sites dotted along the route such as Wayland's Smithy. It's this capacity of trail running to take you places on days when you wouldn't necessarily chose to go for a walk that can make it so addictive.

In the end, those easier conditions paid off and I was pleased to smash my personal furthest run by covering 24 miles - nigh on a marathon. With the return to the Lake District and those rough, hilly paths this is a distance record I expect to stand for while!

No comments:

Post a Comment