Tag Archives: cotswold

Cotswold Wah-haay

On Saturday night, 21st July, Darryl Carter jogged into the car park next to Painswick Library. He was 55 miles into his attempt to set a new record for the fastest completion of the Cotswold Way. I was to pace him, with another runner, Austin Blackburn through the remaining 47 miles north to . We also had a fresh support driver, Scott Garrett.

The official record, 22 hours, 23 minutes, was set in May 1994 by Frank Thomas, and an unofficial record of 21:29 had also been set. While we’d waited for Darryl, Dan Martin, the support driver for the first section, filled us in on how things had gone so far. Darryl had set out with a 18.5 hour target: he was clearly not on course to do it that fast, but it still looked like he could beat the record.

He’d received excellent support from Mark Palmer, who paced him along all of the first 55 miles, Peter Cusick, who ran the first 30 miles with him, and several other runners who accompanied him early on.

My legs were still a little under par from the South Downs Way 100, three weeks earlier and Darryl is a very strong runner who has won several ultras in the last few years: I wondered who would be pacing whom. I put these worries out of my mind, glad that we were finally setting off (we had arrived in what turned out to be very good time). Overnight runs feel like an adventure to me, and being part of a record attempt is very exciting, so I was in high spirits.

I don’t think I could give a blow by blow account of our run, and it would be very repetitive if I did. The trail never seems to ‘settle down’, there’s always another hill to climb or descend, a field or open down to cross, or a pretty village to pass through. Considering the ‘summer’ we’d been having, there wasn’t that much mud to cope with. The weather had turned only a few days before and, although it had got a bit hot during Saturday, conditions were conducive to a record attempt.

Austin and I complemented each other well. He lives near the trail, had ‘recced’ most of it, and is a good map reader: he was our ‘trail blazer’, running a few yards ahead and sussing the route. I stuck to Darryl’s shoulder or behind him if there wasn’t the space. I felt it was important for Darryl’s morale to not be trailing at the back of the pack. We carried Darryl’s supplies and encouraged him to keep eating; I kept up as much chatter as I thought he could manage, as a means of distracting him from the fatigue (and because I’m a gobshite).

We had ‘aid stations’ arranged at roughly 7 mile intervals. Scott met us at each one, and we replenished our supplies and ate a little, then tried to move on quite quickly before we seized up!

It was lovely to see the Cotswolds again when it got light. It’s a lot less mentally taxing running in the light even without scenery to lift your spirits. We were still cautiously confident that we could beat the record: Darryl and Austin thought we were heading for 21+ hours; I thought more like 20+.

Once we hit the last aid station, in Broadway, it looked fairly certain that we would comfortably beat 21 hours, although, unless we could suddenly up our speed to a decent half marathon pace, we weren’t going to beat 20! The last climb up to Broadway Tower was long and gentle. I suspect Darryl would have preferred a shorter, sharp climb so he could ‘get it over with’: he wasn’t running even fairly shallow gradients by this stage.

The small ‘diversion’ of the path over to Dover’s Hill seemed a little cruel to our addled minds and tired legs, but it was an excellent viewpoint, the last of the many we’d ran over and a worthwhile farewell to the edge of the escarpment we’d followed for so many miles, before we dropped down to the finish in Chipping Campden.

We turned into High Street, Chipping Campden and heard cheers from Darryl’s supporters. His girlfriend, Yve and his parents were there, together with our driver, Scott, Austin’s wife and son, and Paul Thomas (Grade 2 (c) Timekeeper and the Oxon AA Endurance Officials Secretary) and his wife, who had 2 stopwatches each – very official. Darryl though he might cry and/or throw up when we finished, although in the end he just looked ecstatic, as we all did. His time was 20:36:48.

L-R Me, Austin Blackburn, Darryl Carter, Scott Garrett.

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Pain in the Rain

I had a 20 miler around the lanes with my friend Matt this morning. The weather was wet and breezy, and my legs got pretty sore by the end.

Rule #5 and #9 obeyed!

The push to the Kent Coastal Marathon in September has begun. 🙂

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Keep Pushing

After my easy run on Monday, I ran around my favourite Castle Combe run yesterday, running on my limit, which meant fighting the aches and tightness still left over from Sunday. I was blessed once more with lovely late afternoon sun and enjoyed every minute despite the discomfort.

Today a had a nice, chatty 7 around the lanes with Geoff, in glorious sunshine once more.

I still like my idea of doing the Hastings Half on Sunday, as I’m staying in Hythe over the weekend, so I’ll probably run gently until then. Doing the Hastings will give me another gauge for my training.

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Recovery Run (Yeah, Right)

Actually, recovery runs are more like “training benefit maximisation” runs, as far as I can see. It makes sense: you’re going to get more growth and conditioning going on in those muscles if you stress them some more after a major training session, but if you go overboard, you’ll hurt yourself or get run down. Yesterday’s Grizzly was a major London training session for me, which just happened to be an exhilarating hoot into the bargain. Today I had time for a little recovery run around my favourite circuit around Castle Combe (see A Change is as Good).

It was another lovely day, and I was out right at the end of it, so it went from a bit warm for the clothing I was wearing to a bit chilly in an hour! It was a privilege to be out in such glorious scenery once again: I had flashes of peach haze in my eyes as I ran past trees with the low sun behind them and I saw a lovely sunset over the trees later on.

My enjoyment was jarred a little by some pieces of very clean, recently dropped litter, which I collected as I ran. I suspect it was one party who didn’t have much respect for the beautiful, almost litter free woods they were walking through.

My calves stung and I huffed more than usual on the climbs, but that’s pretty much as I would expect after yesterday. That doesn’t matter: I’m still smiling thinking about my run a few hours on.

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Spring Loaded!

More superb weather today.

Having commented yesterday that my work sometimes allows me to sneak an ad hoc run in, today presented me with just such an opportunity. I’ve stopped in Cold Aston for a run several times during my working days: it’s only a couple of miles from the A40 and A429, and the Macmillan Way between there and Hazleton is easy to follow and runnable in all weathers, yet also scenic and suitably challenging because of the climbs.

Today I didn’t quite have the time to get all the way to Hazleton, but I did manage an extra climb up the valley-side before I turned around. I took it gently after yesterday’s exertions and drank in the glorious scenery. I covered 6-7 miles overall.

I also snuck in a second run with Geoff when I got home; a rather flatter 7 miles.

I feel like the training is starting to pay off. I’ve got a lot in this week, so if I don’t get out for a big one this weekend, it’ll be okay.

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Spring Has Sprung

It’s been a good training week so far.

I had a day off training on Monday: there wasn’t much choice as I had a long day’s work, although a rest after the Terminator was welcome. Many of you will know that I’m a self-employed, ‘same day’ courier. I often wake up not knowing what the day will bring: on Monday I ended up driving to Merseyside via Leicester, then getting back well into the evening. My work often allows me to get a decent run in when I’d still be in the office if I had a ‘normal’ job, which makes up for those days when I can’t run.

On Tuesday I did 7 miles, with a couple of fartlek sprints thrown in.

Spring seemed to arrive yesterday, and I had late job booked, so I had a lovely, gentle 15-mile run around the lanes in the morning, which took me into some beautiful southern Cotswold countryside. The sun shone and everything was right with the world!

When I finished today, the morning’s mist had long gone and the sun shone once again. I wanted a challenge, and so opted to run 3.5 miles out to my favourite run, a 5 mile, mostly off-road, pretty hilly circuit of the environs of Castle Combe, then back home the same way after the circuit. The challenge was self imposed: I attacked all the hills until my calves burned and my lungs ached, and even diverted over a couple of unnecessary ones! I was pushing myself, but still enjoyed those glorious Cotswold vistas

I’m out in the van first thing tomorrow, and Fridays are often busy, so who knows what the day will bring and whether I’ll get a run in! I’ll make sure I’ve got some running gear and a selection of maps in the van, so, wherever I am, I can take advantage if the opportunity arises and it looks like my work’s finished for the day.

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