Pilgrim40 +7

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Me, approaching Hollingbourne on the North Downs Way. Credit @run_mama_kate 

“This time last week” has been ping-ponging around in my head for the past few days as my body and mind process the peculiar week of running I completed on Saturday afternoon, 12th August. Since that moment, when I touched the gate of Canterbury Cathedral I’ve sent the tracker back, reduced my intake of ibuprofen (more on that later), archived the hectic Facebook group, commuted and sat and slept in innumerable painful positions.

I’m not sure I’ve got the audience or compulsion to relive the whole week here on the blog, I documented each day on Strava and if you’d like to explore my painful summaries then here are the direct links:

  • Day 1 – Winchester to Farnham … Strava | 54.8km
  • Day 2 – Farnham to Dorking … Strava | 39.8km
  • Day 3 – Dorking to Sevenoaks (ish) … Strava | 30.9km
  • Day 4 – Sevenoaks to Rochester … Strava | 34.8km
  • Day 5 – Rochester to Wormshill … Strava | 31.9km
  • Day 6 – Wormshill to Canterbury … Strava | 42.4km

Total distance covered: 234.9km (would be +16km if we’d not had to cut short Day 3). Total ascent 4046m elapsed time (includes stops on Day 1, not on subsequent days) 30hrs 24mins.

The route followed the St. Swithun’s Way to Farnham and then the North Downs Way (NDW) to Harrietsham where I detoured to Wormshill. The following day we dropped back on to the North Downs Way to pick up the Canterbury branch. It did intersect with the assumed ‘Pilgrim’s Way’ but stuck to the waymarked National Trail. I will certainly complete the Dorking to Sevenoaks section at some point, probably next spring, having missed the final 16km due to some horrendous and borderline dangerous weather. I may also try and do the NDW Canterbury-Dover-Canterbury loop at some point too, just to scratch that itch.

 

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The OpenTracker trace of the route

 

Next week I’ll be seeing Liam Grimley at Elevate to understand the longer term implications of the run on my body which has taken a lot longer to deal with the overuse injuries I picked up than I expected (although I’ve hardly done all the right things since I took my Adizeros off last Saturday). I will say this, I’m annoyed with myself that I’ve ended up quite broken and unable to use (in the foreseeable future) the fitness that I earned on the trip. It is, however, nice to clear the running diary a little and focus on a sensible and managed recovery to be fit for Maverick Oxfordshire in October. I was aware that I used a lot of ibuprofen (never exceeding daily dosage) in the days of the run itself and am keen to give my renal system a break from that, but doing so has meant a lot of painful walking and offloading/overcompensating making the recovery a bit demoralising.

I would add one thing, and that’s a simple observation that it wasn’t quite as much ‘fun’ as I was expecting. I’d had in my mind the thought that it would be difficult to start each day and there would be some logistical gripes (there were) but I had expected to be able to find myself scooting along thinking ‘isn’t England pretty’ and ‘aren’t I lucky to be able to do this?’ Whilst those thoughts do indeed find their way into one’s self conscious, they are mere mayflies in comparison to the more persistent droning of ‘when is this stoney bit coming to an end?’ ‘my ankles are actually on fire’ and ‘those mixed nuts are rattling around a lot in my rucksack’. There is much of the NDW that is on tree covered ridges and the sweeping escapement views are transient until the Kent sections, although much of it is beautiful and familiar it was only really the Rochester to Canterbury parts that stood out – the weather was just too gloomy and miserable in the Surrey sections. In many ways the day did feel like a job that needed to be done and in running with other people you spend a lot of time zoning in to their conversation – particularly when it becomes the best way to deal with the overwhelming distance and discomfort. Ask me again in P40 +70 days and I’m probably going to be in a miserable winter mood and reflecting much much more positively on what is still, a highly memorable and self-fulfilling week of running.

I suppose that’s it, for a short while. Probably about time I posted some work stuff too. Running did at least strengthen a few thoughts there, if nothing else.

Official thanks: Accommodation, I was supported with bag drops and overnight stays at Mecure Winchester Wessex, Hogs Back Hotel Farnham, Bovey Cottage (Betchworth) Dorking, Best Western Donnington Manor Sevenoaks, Golden Lion Wetherspoon Rochester. I was tracked by OpenTracking thanks to James Thurlow and Rob Marriot, I used SiS electrolyte and caffeine gels, Adidas Adizero 3 shoes and ran in a mix of Bjorn Borg and Adidas kit.

Personal thanks: Jo & Theo, Mum, Dad, Richard, Vicki and their families, Anita and David. Wise heads and motivation: Martin Yelling, Darren Cornish, Anna Smith-James. Finally, the essential support runners: Jon Brombley, David Blackman, Mark Norris, Matt Andrews, Vicky Cooper, Kate Pitts, Richard, Vicky and Beryl Gibbard, Master Prowle and Mark Thomas.

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