I’d got the idea of running the Worcestershire loop from Kate, a friend from club who had devised the route and posted it on Strava. The route was a 32 mile circular starting and finishing at her parents house in Bromsgrove. I lived a couple of miles away so starting and finishing from mine would come in slightly longer at 35 miles. As normal, the plan was to take it steady; walk the hills whilst gently running the flat and downhill sections. I uploaded the route from Strava to my watch and managed to persuade a couple of friends from club; Nick and Colin to join me. Selling them the distance was the easy part – persuading them to join me for a 5am start would prove to be slightly trickier. There’s something magical about starting a run at sunrise and being in complete isolation in the middle of the countryside – a feeling I like to share with others as much as possible!
The alarm was set for 4am giving me enough time to shower, have some breakfast and get my kit together – all without waking the boys up – result! As normal for my long runs, I’d fuel myself with 500ml of Tailwind, 500ml of water and a selection of chocolate bars and Haribo as back-up.
Colin arrived promptly at 5am and we headed off to meet Nick en-route. Conditions were perfect with clear blue skies and a slight chill in the air given the time of morning.
The first couple of miles were familiar, passing through Sanders Park to Timberhonger Lane – a regular route of mine with some challenging inclines. After a mile or so, we turned off the tarmac and followed the public footpath signs through fields and farmland. Conditions underfoot were perfect, the conversation was flowing and the miles just ticked by.
By mile 6 we found ourselves navigating through some farmland whereby the route markers weren’t clear. I was relying on my watch for navigation; a top down ‘follow the black dot’ system which is great for heading in the general direction or when the trails are obvious but not so great when it gets a bit more complicated. As a result we took the wrong side of a fence and ended up trespassing on farmland – an honest mistake which was greeted with profanities and abuse from the farmer, who at this stage was hanging out his window! From his reaction we half expected him to grab his shotgun! Despite his overreaction, we apologised, got back on track and continued on route towards a secluded wooded section which climbed up then meandered through the Worcestershire countryside.
The next couple of miles were stunning trails though woodland, fields and farm tracks. The kind of trails where you can just get lost in the moment, take in the surroundings and you find yourself making steady progress.
By mile 11 we crossed the busy Stourbridge Road and joined the public footpath across some farmland. The route Kate took was directly through the middle of the field, which I would imagine at the time of year she did it wasn’t covered in crops. However, we were greeted with freshly sowed crops and no path to follow despite it being a public right of way. Stomping through the crops didn’t sit right so we took a diversion down a farm track to try and find an alternative route. Frustratingly, the path led to a farm with no entry signs so we retraced our steps and had no choice but to carefully make our way across numerous fields – following the public right of way signs. It was slow progress for the next couple of miles.
We eventually left the farmlands and headed towards Clent which proved to be the toughest climbs of the day; covering approximately 1000ft of elevation gain. With clear skies still, the views across Worcestershire and Birmingham were spectacular and lifted the spirits as we made our way over the hills towards the other side of Clent. This was also the half way stage of the run and the hardest sections in terms of elevation behind us.
The next 5 miles were pretty uneventful but the trails were well kept and we made good progress.
Approaching Chaddesley Corbett we found ourselves heading across a field with a solitary horse at the other end of the field. For those that know me, I don’t particularly do livestock but I’m especially cautious around horses. I find them unpredictable and give them a wide birth. If that means adding an extra mile or so onto a route, then so be it.
It clocked us straight away and with it’s inquisitive nature started heading towards us. Shamelessly, I hid behind Colin and Nick before clambering over a fence to safety. It turned out to be rather friendly, if a little too friendly and was definitely interested in whatever treats Colin had in his backpack!
By mile 28 we had reached a milestone for Nick – he’d completed his longest ever run and despite the odd blister was moving well.
The last few miles back into Bromsgrove were back on familiar ground and surprisingly the legs felt strong. I’d been suffering with an enflamed Achilles leading up to this run but I’d put this down to my new trail shoes – Inov-8 TerraUltras which despite being a fantastic shoe, are zero drop. I’d decided to go back to my tried-and-tested Xtalon Ultra 260’s given the distance and it proved to be the right choice. In truth, running an ultra with an enflamed Achilles is never a good idea but I’m my own worst enemy sometimes and once a seed is planted, I struggle to back out – whatever the reason. Maybe one day I’ll learn. Maybe.
Arriving home, we’d covered 35.5 miles covering 3,120ft of elevation. It took us just shy of 7.5 hours and was a brilliant morning on the trails. I’m glad that I got to share the experience with Nick and Colin – both great guys and great company.
So what’s next?
First and foremost I need to get on top of the Achilles before it escalates into something more serious. That might mean a few weeks off running, rest, stretches and potentially physio but it’s the sensible decision.
I’ve got over 2 months until Lakes in a Day, (which in all honesty I still don’t think will get the go-ahead) but if it does I need to be ready, on the start line fighting fit if I want to do it justice. My weight is still a concern, I know that if I lost a stone it would improve my running but my weight continues to fluctuate and I can never sustain the good progress that I make. That’s a focus – and potentially a whole new blog!
But for now, I’ll rest up and use this time to concentrate on strength and core work – something that I continue to neglect. Every cloud and all that…