Aches, pains and utter joy - my old mate Oslo would be proud
PUBLISHED: 15:07 27 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:07 27 August 2020
A week on and my charity challenge run already feels like it’s history.
That’s what it often feels like for many a runner, or anyone who has focused their minds and prepared themselves over weeks and months to take on a feat they know will test them. After the initial high of completion, the inevitable anti-climax starts to rear its ugly head. That’s why when, having said never again during the hard preparation or the actual event, just a few days later we start to think about the next challenge.
My charity challenge this year was meant to be back in May, having planned to run Hadrian’s Wall for the third time to commemorate what would have been my late dog Oslo’s 15th birthday (Anything for Oslo). However, that was not to be, what with lock down and all the restrictions.
Nevertheless, I always knew I would complete a challenge of sorts before the end of 2020 and whilst not wanting to do it once into the Autumn months and the loss of daylight hours, my other half, Steph, said I’d better hurry up and make up my mind. Making up my mind was one thing, but having had a chest infection during May and June, then going down with tonsilitis at the end of July, things weren’t looking good. There was no weeks and months of planning, but I did manage to get about six weeks of reasonable mileage in (65/80 miles per week) along with two 20-plus mile runs in with Karen Grapes, who always said she would do the challenge with me.
In truth, though, it was all going to come down to running off memory – having done enough very long runs throughout my running life.
Once into August it really was time to make up my mind what the challenge was going to be. Peddars Way has an historical story just like Hadrian’s Wall, but was running the length of this old Roman footpath a big enough challenge to justify raising money for good causes? In my own mind it wasn’t. Certainly not when you compare it to the 84-plus miles of Hadrian’s Wall and the really tough terrain which goes with it. What about the Norfolk Coastal footpath someone suggested? I had done that before, albeit finishing at Cromer back then. Then it dawned on me that Peddars Way actually finishes at the Coastal Footpath, so why not do both, so the plan was hatched 12 days prior to actually starting it. I sent away for a booklet which has pages of small maps and directions to follow – it really is a must for those who may want to follow either one of these paths, especially during the latter stages of the coastal footpath and the newer section which has now been added from Cromer to Hopton.
Day one saw us cover 37.5 miles in temperatures which went up to 28C on the road and I am sure much higher when running along the tracks with hedgerows either side. As every mile ticked off it seemed like we were always going up another hill, but we just kept our heads down whilst constantly moving forward, stopping to cool ourselves down in the ford where the river Nar overspills onto the road at Castle Acre.
Day two saw us back where we left off the previous day and whilst we had it in our heads that it was around nine miles to the end of Peddars Way, we took a wrong turn with less than half-mile to go and had to make a U-turn and head back, adding extra mileage. Let’s just say the signs can be confusing. It was no real big deal and just a case of then running the 2.5 miles up to Hunstanton to pick up the start of what is the Norfolk Coastal Footpath. But this was hard as we were running into what felt like a brick wall of gale force winds.
Everything was saying, ‘we are already on the footpath so just turn around and head in the direction of Hopton’, but it just would not have felt right. When we did eventually get to the start, it was lovely turning around again and running with the wind on our backs for the majority of the way and taking in the stunning views. The only downside was that we had to be finished by 3pm as I had to get back to Norwich for the track meet I had organised with triathlete Joe Skipper and Clive Poyner (plus others) – in truth another couple of hours out on the path would have been ideal to eat into the miles. But we still bashed out 30 miles for the day and a total of 67.53 miles for the two days finishing in Burnham Overy Staithe.
Day three started with a new support team and runners including Mark Armstrong, whilst taking in more beautiful scenery as we passed through Holkham, Wells, Blakeney and the dreaded four-mile shingle bank at Cley. We then hit the long climbs through Sheringham, which also meant Beeston Bump, before heading down to Cromer, Overstrand and finishing the day’s stage at Trimingham with just over 35 miles completed and 102.66 in total.
I must just mention this was very nearly the end of the run for me – whilst looking down at my watch waiting for it to hit 35 miles, literally at 34.99, my left hamstring, which I had been struggling with from the start, gave way as I stepped off a kerb, hitting the tarmac pretty hard, cutting my shoulder and head in the process. Mark Thorpe, who was running beside me, looked down in horror asking if I was okay, but as quickly as I went down I was up again and fuelled with adrenaline I just said, ‘keep going – I am from a family of speedways riders and I am fine’. In truth, it did hurt and I saw stars for a bit, but certainly did not want him or the others to worry. Not the best way to end the day, of course, but now we had only one more day to go and whilst the run was due to be 130 miles, it was now quite obviously going to be more.
I certainly ached much more when getting out of bed at 4.30am on Sunday morning prior to making our way out to Trimingham with Ady and Sarah Jay for support and my good friend Jason Wright, who was going to run the final leg with us. Aches and pains or not, though, I was determined to enjoy every mile. The weather was much cooler and the directions were certainly more difficult to find at times, and we ended up running along the hard-going sandy beaches for too long at times. Slowly, but very surely, we kept getting closer to our destination whilst also meeting further friends on route. The real highlight for me was seeing my son Ross with his partner Beth and my granddaughter Layla at Winterton. Norfolk ultra-running guru Carmine De Grandis had also joined us and was on hand to lend us all plenty of really good advice.
After navigating our way through Great Yarmouth and Gorleston, it was back down on the beach for the final stretch which had a bit of a sting in the tail what with having to climb over all the groins and then huge boulders on the beach, before the final climb which saw us run along the top of the cliff to the finish which simply said, “the end of the Norfolk Coast Path.”
We had run 137 miles in total and to date have raised just over £2,500 for various charities. We really are so very grateful to all those people who kindly made donations, but I also must say a huge thank you as well to Craig and Tracey Bowen Jones, Deborah Rumsby, Simon Bales, the Whiting family, Natalie Pannel and her dogs, the Jones family, Pat Brightman, Ros and Jack Wright and of course to Karen Grapes, who was an awesome running partner.
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