So there we have it, it’s done, over, finished, complete.
After 4 months of pavement pounding, running to a plan, looking at my watch more than the road and, if I’m honest, a final 4 weeks of not enjoying running at all…the Bournemouth Marathon is now behind me. In years to come, when I look back at my medals, I’ll marvel that I was once able to run 26.2 miles and I’ll revel in all that was good about the experience, but for now I’m just glad to see the back of it so I can go back to running for fun!
And what is the best way to enjoy running? By adding mud, rocks, hills, mud, fog, rain, mud, cows and of course mud. It’s trail running time again!
With that in mind I’d treated myself to a pair of Salomon Speedcross 3 trail shoes to enjoy as soon as marathon legs allowed, which was today. A proper review will follow (there’s a been a few changes to my original Speedcross and I’m not yet convinced for the better, but it’s not fair to review after just one run) but the only question is whether they will be awesome shoes or just plain brilliant ones.
When I was a child my mum could never understand why the instant I put on new shoes I had to go outside and play football in them, just to scuff them up a bit. Whether school shoes or trainers, they needed to look old as soon as possible and she would despair at paying for new shoes which I ‘ruined’ the same day. She would have had a fit if she had seen me today, purposely picking out every muddy puddle, rocky ascent and leaf littered path on Leckhampton Hill, but that’s exactly what these shoes are made for!
It felt great to be out in the countryside again. Leckhampton Hill is 5 minutes and a lifetime away from the centre of Cheltenham. After months of running from home it was such a delicious treat to be running from a car park straight in to nature.
Shrouded in view obscuring fog and low cloud, rain drifting in to my face, cold and breathless…I was in running heaven today. As I approached the first inconvenient gate on my route a fellow runner coming the other way held it open for me. We exchanged a knowing grin and the rain dripping off his face just added to his smile. I ran on past a stand of grazing cattle which I didn’t see till I was among them. They ignored me, but I didn’t take that personally. I climbed to the highest point of the hill and one of my favourite places in the whole world, before heading down again at breakneck speed.
I found a walking pole by the viewpoint, an expensive one with a personalised monogram on the handle, and after some deliberation decided to take it down with me to see if I could trace the owner. I figured I hadn’t passed anyone so the owner was either in front of me or long gone. Sure enough, half a mile on I came across a group of soggy ramblers who looked like they’d spent the whole day out in the murk. I’ve never received such a reception as when I asked if someone had dropped their pole, you’d think I was giving them their life savings back, but their gratitude put an even bigger smile on my face as I struck out for home. (I wish I’d thought to get a photo of the woman and her pole!)
The last mile or so of this route is my favourite bit of running I’ve discovered so far. Coming off the hill sharply then in to a gentle woodland descent, the noisy rain falling in those big tree-formed drops, the damp trail offering grip I could trust no matter how hard I pushed and cornered. I burst out of the trees and back in to the carpark all too soon, but with a grin from ear to ear.
I have no idea how far I ran today, or how fast. I didn’t wear a watch, have a pace in mind or even know the route when I set off. I ran for fun, and for the next few months at least that’s how things are going to stay!