Monday, 21 November 2011

Evening Star

Evening Star was the name of my brothers favourite Hornby train when we were kids.   It's amazing (to me) what I end up thinking about when I'm out running but that was one of many topics covered yesterday and I decided to dedicate this post to that little train.  Apparently you can still buy them, that, to quote a mate of mine 'so uncool it's cool'.

Yesterday was one of those days where I could have easily sat around all day being  lazy.  Grey, cold and fog isn't normally a weather combination that inspires me rush out the door.  Especially when a nice brisket of beef is slowly cooking in the oven.  Very late on in the afternoon the sun did eventually break through and grey, cold and foggy became, cold, bright and almost crisp.  I had planned a 7-8 miler as a 'short' long run.  Given that it was so late in the day I decided to run down to the river, along the sea wall and steer clear of the main road into the village.  That route and the desire to avoid the main road makes an out and back route the only easy option, so thats what I did.  As I left home I could see the sun going down and it was a really deep red.  Some of the route I'd planned was due west but by the time I would have got to that section the sun would have dipped down below the horizon.  So I decided to run out across the fields and meander down to the water and enjoy the sun.  As I ran along the mist rolled gently across the fields and into the distance. I got to a section of reclaimed salt marsh and as the mist rolled across it gently it looked like those abandoned and untouched First World War trenches you sometimes see in northern France.  After a mile or so I reached the sea wall and headed off towards Marconi Sailing Club.
The east coast at this time of year is full of wading birds which I assume are off somewhere warmer for the winter.  There were hundreds of them zipping about in the mud pecking away purposefully refuelling.
The route to Marconi is handy as the end of the sea wall is almost exactly two miles from my door.  I dropped down into the sailing club dinghy park and headed up Stansgate Road.  In my first year of running I used to call it F-ing Stansgate as it always seemed to go on for miles and miles.  I thought the light was fading fast but as I came out into one of the less enclosed sections I was hit with one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen in years. The sky was still deep red and with the mist drifting across the fields was reflected a sea of pinks and reds.  I tried to take a photo on my phone but just came up with another reason to get a newer one!
I ran on for another mile or so before turning back. I don't really enjoy out and back routes but they are quite useful at times and I'm really glad thats what I did last night. The changes in light and mood were spectacular. As I reached the sailing club and water again I decided it was time to bring out the head torch again.  The river was mirror flat and apart from the noise of a little motor boat and the birds it was completely silent.  Reaching the edge of the village exactly 7 mins 19 seconds later (I love my garmin) I was distracted by the wash of the motor boat crashing onto the beach.  Somewhat strangely I felt the sudden urge to stop and as I turned back to the footpath I realised I was about to collide with the barrier that stops people riding along the sea wall.  Perhaps I need to pay a bit more attention in the dark. With only a mile left I looked up to see a really bright star over to the South East. At first I thought it was a plane, or perhaps a planet before concluding that it was an evening star. And that's why I ended up thinking about my brothers train set.        

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Cabbage anyone

For anyone out there (I wonder if there is anyone) that has not tried a trail race - give it a go.  It really is great fun and from what I've seen so far pretty relaxed.  Perhaps its just a really good excuse to get out and run or in some cases walk.  You do have to learn a few new skills like running and reading at the same time but for me that is part of the fun.
When you sign in you get given a list of course instructions, there are no maps involved!  You decide when you're ready, then just tell the organisers and off you trot.  There's a load of codes to help keep the instructions concise. For example FP = footpath, EB = Earth bridge (a new one for me tonight) and LHFE = left hand field edge.  But you don't have to remember them just read them carefully.

I have to admit I was a bit nervous about tonight's race.  I aways seem to get a few butterflies before any kind of event but  I think the darkness and potential to get properly lost added to that today.  Once underway I managed to find the first turning off the road I started to settle down a bit and was reassured by the sight of a couple of walkers doing the same course.  Running off road with just a head torch does need concentration and although I've run loads of times at night, I have never noticed how much your other senses kick in.  That sounds a bit cliche but it seems to be true.  My outstanding memory of the first of three, Blind Mice was the noise and smell caused by running flat out through a cabbage field.  Or were they sprouts?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Simple things

I am lucky to do a job that enables me to get out and run during my lunch breaks.  There’s nothing better than being able to get out for a few miles to clear away any cobwebs or frustrations that have built up in the morning.  This morning was one of ‘those’ mornings where nothing seemed simple and everything felt like it was raising my blood pressure.  So on went the trainers and off I went with a colleague for nice gentle 3.5 miles around the nicer parts of town.  Its amazing things feel so much better after just 30 odd minute of fresh air and some autumnal sunshine. The afternoon was a breeze and much more productive. 

I’m really looking forward to a trail run tomorrow evening which is part of the Springfield Striders ‘Three Blind Mice’ series.  This will be my third trail race and since its going to be very dark it will be another chance to use the new head torch.  It will be interesting to see how close I can get to the 5.5 miles planned course.  

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Heads up

I wonder how many other people have been inspired to start a blog by a new head torch?  To be honest its not just down to the head torch, but after running with one for the first time on Thursday night, I feel like it's opened up a new seam of running experiences.  

Living in rural Essex I normally hate it when the clocks go back.  Midweek running is suddenly restricted to pounding the pavements around Maldon after work or cramming in a quick run at lunchtime.  After reading about people running off-road with head torches I decided to stump up the grand sum of £38 and give it a try. 

Thursday night was the test run. I thought I'd try one of my favourite 4 mile routes taking me out across the local golf course and then along a few trails before popping out back in the town.  

I was a bit worried about how much I would be able to see, but even on the 'economy' setting it was absolutely fine.  Running through a leafy bit proved the most challenging as there was very little definition between the trail and the surrounding undergrowth.  Overall a very successful run. I am sure my little torch and I will spending some quality time together over the next few months. 

A few weeks back I had a chat with my sister and brother in-law about running a marathon together.  When I say together I mean running all on the same day at our own pace and meeting up at the finish.  So we've all signed up for the  Milton Keynes marathon on 29 April 2012.  I need to get some miles under my belt before the serious training starts in the New Year and I thought the head torch would give me an excuse to get off the pavements into the countryside.