The North Downs Run is an 30k event with a justifiable reputation for being well organised, well supported and good sweaty fun. The 2018 running was no exception.; but it is also accepted to be a tough one. This is not only because it often seems to coincide with hot temperatures and the start time inevitably means that the running takes place at the time of day usually reserved for “mad dogs and Englishmen” – it also goes up and down a fair bit.
Desperately clinging to the comfort of some shade at the start of the race with Adventure Daughter, it was clear that the distance running adage of start slowly and then go slower was the only way we were getting around this today. And so that’s what we did. Tagging along behind an obvious veteran running a metronome pace we traversed woodland, planted fields, fields with great biodiversity and occasional rural roads we reached the halfway point in good shape. At halfway was just one example of the great water and jelly baby stations along the route, supported by lots of cheerful volunteers.
We pressed on across fields, passing the Cock Inn where the crowd usually found at this point must have been distracted by the England display at football World Cup and up the infamous cricket pitch hill (in the picture).
We finished in just under 5 hours.
My thanks to the organisers Istead and Ifield Harriers and to everyone who volunteered to make this day happen. I know there were another 500 plus runners but you made it feel like you were there just for us.
Photo Credit - thanks to Dawn Granger Photography www.dawngrangerphotography.co.uk/
There’s something strange about doing an activity like open water swimming as a mass participation event when it has so many attractions on a small scale. Last weekend, 9 June, we took part in the Great North Swim at Lake Windermere. It is reputed to be the largest open water swim event in the UK, and judging from the number of people we saw having quiet swims on their own in high tarns the next day, a number of people felt a need to restore balance.
It was a great day! Weather was kind, water was relatively warm, organisation was excellent, people were friendly, participants enjoyed a shared experience. From the “Hands up if it’s your first Great Swim” during the warm up it was clear that lots were in fact first timers like us. Adventure daughter swims a lot; I had built up to this day over several months, going from coughing and spluttering trying to remember how the breathing bit works to a confidence that I could cover the distance in a pool. The transition to open water can be daunting. No lanes – no boundaries also means it looks a long way, you can’t touch the bottom or the sides, and the water moves about on its own. But taking part in the event made the transition fun and safe. The build up to the day is intended to encourage more activity. There is a difference between floating on your back for a few minutes at the seaside and purposefully setting out to swim a mile, but both have their merits.
I suspect we’re hooked now – longer distance or the swim-run next year?
The river cruise element of my 60at60 was intended to be a multi day boating trip down a river, driving the boat and making stop offs as the mood took us. Something many people enjoy every year, but which have been a first for me. Add this to the point that given a selection of outdoor activities I would set a low priority for boat trips. For me they are usually a means to an end, or a compromise on a family holiday in exchange for also doing more interesting things. Therefor I put this event in the challenge category while others would have seen it as a straight pleasure, presumably leading to the misnomer "Pleasure Boats".
The hire of the boat was duly booked and the event scheduled to take place in late May, when life intervened. Jane, my wife, has been waiting for a hip replacement for several months and was firmly scheduled for mid June, but the date of the surgery was changed and brought forward. There was no choice really between missing the boat trip or declining the operation slot, so this trip became the third Jane has had to cancel due to the wayward hip. Jane now takes the view that any forward booking of trips is just a fruitless and expensive exercise, best avoided. I guess we may become more spontaneous for a while.
So that we would not be cheated of a boat trip, the adventure daughter arranged for us to take an excursion on a barge at Cambridge run by Camboats www.camboats.co.uk/ and organised by the Cambridge Museum of Technology www.museumoftechnology.com/ which is currently closed for lottery funded upgrading, giving its curators the opportunity to #getoutside.
The journey went into Cambridge and then back out into the countryside with lots of wildlife and expert commentary on the history of the locality, from medieval trade fares to the technological phenomenon that is the present day local economy of Cambridge. That this history included a fair slice of dealing with municipal rubbish and sewage was bonus for me. Looking forward to a return visit when the work is finished and the museum is reopened.