Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Endure 12/50

        So, i'm on facebook one Thursday evening or was it a Wednesday? Anyway, Barbara says she has a place going for a 12 hour race. I hesitate at first and then ask for the place. Straight away she replies that it's mine. I am running a 12 hour race and it was free. Yippee!
   I give myself a bit of reflection time to think about what I have just done. I have just entered myself for a 12 hour race in a couple of days time. I did a 50K trail race the previous weekend which was so hilly and I have Fort William marathon the following weekend! Plus, I have never tried running for 12 hours before.

     A little bit about the event: It's called the Endure 12/50. This is because there are various options. You can run 50k, 50 miles, 12 hours solo or 12 hours as a relay team. The course is 5 mile loops around Beale park near Pangbourne/Lower Basildon or if you really don't know where this is, let's just call it Reading. I wasn't quite sure how these 5 mile loops worked but I would find out soon enough. The race started at 7pm and finished at 7am. I had a lot to prepare for.

    What do you take on a 12 hour run? I was really skint but could afford my train fare and had to buy a headtorch as headtorches only seem to last a few months on my sweaty head before they go faulty. I went into Blacks in town and bought a Petzl headtorch which was reduced to £25. Certainly not top of the range but it would do. Next, off to poundland to buy spare batteries, plus more batteries for a handheld torch I was taking as a backup. I was also carrying a sleeping bag around with me. I probably looked like I was going camping and I was proved right when the guy in Blacks asked where I was camping. I said I was doing a 12 hour run and he just looked at me kind of weird like I had just asked him for all of the money from the till.

   I had also shopped on Friday night for Salted Pretzels, salted peanuts, and made some Peanut butter sandwiches and an ultra runners best friend - Coca cola :) I then packed for all weathers: Suntan lotion, sunglasses, hat, raincoat, long sleeved t-shirts, Lordshill vest, Shorts, gloves etc..
The sleeping bag was only a last minute decision. Even though I had planned to run for 12 hours, you never knew if you were going to pick up an injury or DNF. My brain does work on certain days :)

     I jumped on the train to Reading, changed to another and got off at Pangbourne. I walked the wrong way from the station for a little while until I decided to check Google maps on my phone. I then walked about a mile and a half in the right direction and came to Beale park. I spoke to Barbara while I sat on a hay bale. Barbara and Ian arrived and we collected our numbers. I was then introduced to many runners and supporters from Eastleigh running club. They let me hang out there with them and put my stuff there as I didn't bother with a tent. I then saw Danny White from our club who was doing the 50k and Lewis Chalk from Stubbington. I was also looking out for my friend Carla who I didn't see until we were in the starting grid. There was a bit of a delay and we got off about 10 minutes late I think but it didn't matter. Nobody seemed that bothered. It was quite a nice, relaxed atmosphere with lots of people laughing and joking.

         I ran the first 5 mile loop with Carla and we chatted the whole way round. I met Carla through a JDRF running group as we were both fundraisers for the charity. Carla still does every run for JDRF and her daughter who is a type 1 diabetes sufferer. You can find a link to her fb page here:

Anyway, we got talking and I think I talked her into doing Bramley 20 this year and this is where we met for the first time. That is the farthest she has ever run. Now she was doing a 12 hour run! She'd hadn't even run a marathon before. After the first 5 mile loop I ran on and Carla said she was going to see her husband before he left.
My plan was to do 2 x 5 mile loops at a time and then take on some food and fluid even though I was running with a hydration pack. I wasn't sure if this was a good idea to begin with as you had water stations on the way around the 5 mile loop. On the first and second loops I also got chatting to different Eastleigh runners who were doing the relay. On the second lap I was chatting to a guy from Hardley roadrunners named Steve. Actually, he was chatting to me but I couldn't concentrate too much as I needed the toilet so badly (and not just a wee). I had to stop off mid loop and go behind some trees. I had my toilet roll and just as well as the Lordshill vest doesn't have sleeves (old joke ;).

     It was a lovely sunny day as you can see from the above photo. The course was a windy 5 miler on trails and road. You were running on grass and then gravel track, road and then more grass paths with the river Thames on your left with barges and a few ducks and swans. Very pretty. You couldn't get lost as there were marshals, water stations, signposts etc.. We ran over a springy bridge, back on grassy paths and then into part of the country park with a few little monuments to stare at. Another road, a dark wooded area and then a little climb which I would use as an excuse to walk later on and then more woodland and then very uneven bumpy ground caused by 4x4's. It was nice to see Lewis Chalk and Danny White whizzing past me a couple of times. Lewis won the 50k in a crazy time of 3 hours 20! Faster than my road marathon

    After being cheered in by a big group of Hedge-end runners I came to the end of my second loop. I stopped and refilled my water bottles and added electrolyte tablets and ate a few salty pretzels. It was pretty humid and I was sweating a lot and losing a lot of salt. There was no sign of Carla and I thought she may not be running much and only doing about 20 miles the whole time. In fact, I didn't see her again for the whole race! I must have scared her off..

It was weird but I was feeling very tired early on and the legs were cramping. I had put my headtorch on at the end of my third loop (15 miles). It was getting dark but I was quite confident that I knew the course quite well now. I spoke to one Welsh guy who was carrying some beer and was going to sit by the music bus bar thing. A campervan with lights playing music and offering free Lucozade. "So" he says "How do you train for a 12 hour race?". I just kind of looked at him blankly as I didn't even know the answer to this. " I think you just have to enter and hope for the best, mate". He laughed and walked off while I kept on plodding.
Just before it got dark I saw a girl passing me but she didn't get very far as she twisted her ankle with about a mile of the loop to go. I asked if she was ok. She said she was but was holding back the tears. I offered to walk back with her but she said she'd be fine. I left her and carried on. This part of the course was very rugged and you really did have to be careful. I didn't like this part of the course too much and dreaded its arrival every time.
I was now running on my own a lot in the dark and was starting to feel negative. I wasn't running well at all. Only 20 miles in and I was walking parts of the course already.

    So, mile 20 was terrible and I was thinking about quitting at first and then I just told myself that i'd have a nap for an hour and see if that helped. I sat on the grass in the dark eating my peanut butter sandwich while I listened to many others moan about their suffering. I wasn't alone by the sound of it. I must have sat there for a good 25-30 minutes and then decided to try and get going again. Even if I started with a walk it would be a start in the right direction and I would be getting mileage in regardless.
 The bus was playing "Baba O'Reilly" by "The Who" and there were fairy lights glowing in the woods. I watched as mice and a shrew ran across in front of me on the grassy paths in the light of my headtorch. Moths flew into me from time to time as well. It was still very humid though. Even during the early hours of the morning I was still sweating lots. 

      Mile 30 or lap 6 came and I was feeling a bit weird. I sat down again and took off my headtorch. I had been running with a headtorch for hours now and my vision was going a bit crazy and distorted plus I hadn't slept since 6am the previous day. I bought a cup of tea and some crisps. Just as well I bought some food as there was no free food apart from energy gels. My legs were feeling fine now. They were feeling much better than they had done at 20 miles! I changed socks and t-shirt at mile 30 so that made me feel much better mentally and feeling fresher.
As I was starting loop 35-40 I spoke to Lydia from Eastleigh running club. She was doing the 50 mile race and was on her last lap. She was 10 miles ahead of me! She said she was going to walk most of it and I walked/ran the whole loop with her while we chatted. This really lifted my spirits and I was feeling more positive and in a much better place. Everyone cheered as she came in and before I started my next loop she came over tearful saying that she was the first woman in the 50 mile race. I gave her a hug and congratulated her. What an amazing achievement. She had won the 50k race the previous year beating all the men and a lead time of 7 minutes! Incredible. 12 hour solo next year Lydia! ;)

        I was feeling so much better and decided to get going. I was going to do 50 miles at least. 2 more laps Dean, you can do it! I got chatting to this other guy who said I was looking pretty fresh. I felt pretty good too. It was getting lighter and I could switch my headtorch off now. His name was Graham. He was also 10 miles ahead of me. As we spoke we worked out that we might be able to do another 3 laps (15 miles) if we ran this lap faster with few walk breaks. We pushed on, chatted and gave each other the confidence and energy to get round. It started to rain pretty heavy now so after mile 45 I grabbed my rain coat. Soon as we neared the magic bus I was feeling a bit dizzy and sick and told Graham I was going to walk for a bit and he could run on if he wanted. We walked with a good pace until I said the dizziness had passed. It was nice to have the rain cooling me down. We just had to get this 5 mile loop done before 7am. If you did, you were entitled to another loop (if you wanted it). I was thinking 50 was enough as I walked but then I felt okay as we got running again and the deadline was back on. He was working out our times/mileage etc.. by this time I couldn't even say my own name let alone do simple mathematics. People were asking me how many laps I had done and I would just look at my watch and say 45 miles. I really didn't have the brain capacity for such simple

                                                       (Follow the glowsticks!)

      Lydia and other Eastleigh runners cheered us as we came in from my 10th lap and Graham's 12th. We didn't stop and we just kept on going. We had made the deadline with about 15 minutes to spare. It didn't matter how long we took now as we would get our distances. 55 miles for me and 65 miles for him. We even had time to facetime his drunken friends and chat while I ate pretzels. Some sheep seemed to appear from nowhere on the last loop and now there was no-one in sight. Were we the last ones left on the course?
Turns out we weren't, but almost. 55 miles done and I felt okay and not even tired. I spoke to all the other runners left and we congratulated each other. I bought a cheeseburger and waited for Lydia and Danny to collect their awards. Danny came 3rd in the 50K and was looking fresh every time he lapped me.

     Still no sign of Carla the lightweight. I thought i'd check the results anyway and there she was on the live results. I had to do a double take. She came 10th with 50 miles! Wow, what an amazing woman. She was so scared about running 20 miles at Bramley in February and now she had ran 50 miles!!! Awesome Carla. I went away with a big smile on my face and really happy for her. I was also glad I did that extra loop. Haha. She almost put me to shame there.

    Ok, it was 8.30am and I had been awake for 26 and a half hours. I now had over a mile to walk to the train station to catch a replacement bus to Tilehurst and then a train to Reading and another train to Southampton followed by a 3 mile taxi ride. I probably wouldn't get home until about 2pm.

      I was walking through Beale park to the exit when two of the awesome lady volunteers asked where I was going. They ended up giving me a lift all the way to Reading and we chatted about running. They were really lovely and I said i'd come and visit them at their local parkrun one day in Reading. I was bragging about my new 50 parkruns t-shirts until they had both told me that they had done about 250 each. Doh!
I was home by midday, very hungry and very tired but with an indescribable feeling of awesomeness. :D  Yes, I would probably do it again. It would be so much better to get more of our running club there though. I think it's only about £35 to enter as well!

Very warm feet and a blister at the end but a lovely medal and a warm smile.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Ham & Lyme 50K

                                         (At the registration area in Ham Hill Country park)

            There's a lot to say about this race but i'll try and keep it as brief as I can.
First of all, I wasn't sure about entering. I wanted to do a 100K race but then I was having trouble trying to find any accommodation close to the race and then I saw the course profile and the crazy amount of elevation that the route had. Sadly though, the 50K had already sold out and is limited to 100 runners.
I messaged the race director who I had heard of as I had read his book previously in the year and could really relate with his story. You should give it a read, it's called "Everything will work out in the long run" and is by Dave Urwin and can be purchased from this website... Albion running.

    Anyway, Dave said he may be able to squeeze me into the 50K event if I didn't need the coach back to the start at Ham hill. He even helped out with places for me to stay. I felt bad about hassling him but he was always so nice and willing to help. Finding accommodation anywhere was almost impossible though. Even Yeovil was fully booked! In the end I was just looking at google maps and typing in name places to google for pubs and B&B's that may not be on I randomly emailed a few places and left it at that. This race looked like it wasn't going to happen because of its location and the fact that I don't drive and have to rely on public transport.

                                (North Sub-Hamdon, what a lovely little, peaceful hamlet)

      I was surprised to get an email back confirming that I had somewhere to stay for 2 nights in a place called North sub-hamdon. I think it was a mile to walk to the start from here maybe? Anyway, I say yes and then realised that I only wanted to do the 50K. I messaged Dave again and paid for the 50K and then I got an email for the B&B saying that they can't do Friday night and only Saturday night but I could stay at another B&B on the Friday and they had already sorted it out for me. Now, I felt bad as I had to email back and say that I only wanted the Friday night but thank you for sorting that out for me. I then emailed the other B&B to confirm my stay. Eventually all was good! All I had to do now was work out my journey there and back. The race starts in Ham hill country park in Somerset (Somewhere outside of Yeovil) and finished in Lyme Regis in Dorset. Because the race was on a Saturday, public transport would be possible.... just about.

              (I gave myself a brief tour of North sub-hamdon before heading to the pub to carb load)

       I finally managed to work out some travel arrangements and took half a day off work to do so. I would get a return train ticket to Axminster but get off at Yeovil Junction. Walk along a really dangerous main road with no paths for 2 miles and then get on a number 81 bus. The driver seemed to know everyone on the bus, except for me of course. The driver said he would shout out when I was at my destination. I was chatting away to some local skateboarders on the bus for the journey. They seemed quite new to it but could tell how passionate they were about it. We exchanged different skateboarding stories and then it was time to get off.
  I got to my B&B which was a farmhouse with a heated pool and a lovely couple who made me feel very welcome. They were so nice in fact that they offered to cook me breakfast at 7am, even though breakfast didn't officially start until 7.30am and then they offered to drive me up to the start of my race! These people were amazing and i'm hoping to send them a thank you card and stay there again for the race next year too. Yes! I'm doing it again!. What race? I hear you say.

                           (Dave gives us a great speech at the start to send us on our way)

       I pick up my race number along with a little card with my name and a photo on it. I open it, and it reads: "Many of life's failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up".  Followed by; "Dear Dean Jones, best wishes for the race! Albion running, Ham & Lyme 2015". I'm glad I didn't get this at the end of the race as I probably would have cried. it was the most wonderful thing and I was very touched by it. They were all handwritten as well which made it more personal too.

   I then bump into Mark Glanville who is a fellow running club buddy from Southampton. He was doing it with a friend. I think it was both their first time doing an ultra but knew Mark wouldn't have any problems as he later proved when he finished 6th in the 50K and his buddy finished 4th! Incredible stuff indeed. We chatted, I take a few pics and watched a bird of prey hover over the top of the hill. Dave soon gives his speech at the start and we are off. 9am on the dot. We ran a loop around the park and some cool looking stones which look ancient but I did my research in my B&B as I read a book about the history of Ham hill and its famous quarry and found out that they were finally finished in the year 2000 ;)

             (It's a bad pic of the stones, but felt a bit weird taking photos so early on in the race)

        The route from Ham hill to Lyme regis follows a 28 mile walkway called "The Liberty Trail" or so I thought anyway. There was a loop at the start to make up some extra mileage. We then headed into woodland. We were given written instructions, I had written down my own notes as well and I also had a gpx file on my garmin to follow. I knew the notes would stay in my hydration pack unless I got really lost and isolated from the other runners. After running on some trails we came to a nice downhill road section. I love downhill, so flew past people on the way down. The problem was that I didn't know where to go when I got to the bottom, so waited for the people behind to instruct me. I thought we just followed the yellow arrows but this wasn't to be the case as people were calling me and telling me I was going the wrong way. I was actually feeling a bit frustrated now and my watch wasn't programed how I liked it because of the gpx file. My watch was vibrating every couple of minutes and was recording in those horrible kilometres. Aaaaaargggggggh!!!!

                                       (Field after field with different views to take in)

       My frustration seemed to subside as I got lost with other people but between us we were able to work through it and solve these minor problems. I was using my gpx file which wasn't always on course for some reason and another read the written directions which seemed to work really well. (I think I will be running with them in my hand next year). We also looked out for Black and Yellow tape on trees, gates, stiles etc.. but these weren't always so obvious. In one field there were about 10 of us lost and we worked as a team by running to different areas of the field until someone had found the Black and Yellow tape. On one occasion, I had found the tape and was super pleased with myself as I called the rest of the runners over. I was having such a great adventure and meeting some wonderful people along the way. We joked and shared various running stories as we ran the wrong way through stinging nettles and got chased by cows.

                                                     (One of the earlier aid stations)

       I think we were lucky with the weather as I was really worried about the sun beating down upon me. I had got heat exhaustion on a couple of trail marathons before so was well prepared with suntan lotion, a hat, plenty of water and a flannel for my forehead if I needed it to get my temperature down.
It sure was humid and I was sweating an awful lot but the sun was obscured by clouds for a lot of my race. I was thinking about the aid stations where I could refuel and eat. I liked to use these as my milestones. I had brought my own food as they said the aid stations would be minimal. They lied though ;) There was everything you could ever want. Coke, squash, plenty of water to refill my bottles, cocktail sausages, watermelon, Jaffa cakes, malt loaf, jelly babies etc.. If this was the generation game, I would totally lose as there were so many food items but I can't remember many of them. Anyway, I was very impressed with what they had put on for us and the marshals were great and very helpful.

     ( I can't remember the names of any places but this was on the Liberty trail somewhere near a farm)

         I had written down names of places so I could try and work out where I was running to or from. This didn't really apply here though as there was very little road or road signs. There were few landmarks as well but the course was still incredible. It's quite difficult for me to describe really. I guess you just had to be there and experience it. You'll know what I mean when you do it next year though.
  I met a guy from Newton Abbot who I walked up a big hill with while we exchanged a story or too.
I ran with some guys who were running the 100k. That's to Lyme regis and then all the way back to Ham hill. Mental! I ran with this one guy from Chippenham. We seemed to stay together quite a lot and worked well as a team with directions etc.. He even waited for me at one of the aid stations as I ate pizza. He was doing the 100k, it was his first one and he wanted a sub 12 finish and I wanted a sub 6 finish for the 50K. It was safe to say that we had both underestimated the difficulty of this course and neither of us made our times. I now know this as no-one finished the 100k in under 12 hours! And the winning time on the 50k was 4 hours 46 and 48 secs.

                                               (Another climb, but not the biggest one)

         I was worried about how big the hills were but it didn't seem that bad for the first 15 miles to be honest, but things would soon change and despite this, my legs were already starting to ache. I had hardly eaten anything at the first aid station, which is very unlike me. I promised the guy I was running with at the time that I would fuel up when we got to the aid station at the Church. My calves were starting to cramp a bit too. Losing too much salt probably. He pointed to the crisps which I ate, followed by salted peanuts and pretzels while I refilled my water bottles and drank more coke. Coke is the best thing ever on ultras. As long as it's flat, which is was :)

                                (This awesome guy kept me going right until the end)

        I remember getting to this massive hill. It climbed and it climbed and my calves were saying No Dean, No. It was a gravel track or road and we knew at the top of this hill was another aid station at Lambert's castle. We saw a marshal at the top of the road but no aid station. She points us in a direction through the woods and encourages us to continue and says we are nearly there. It pretty much climbed twice as much and I was using my hands on my knees to propel myself up this mountain. Through a gate and then upon a grassy hill we had arrived. The marshal took my water bottles and offered to refill them. I even got one of them filled with orange squash, but could have had blackcurrant if I wanted to. I was overwhelmed with these acts of kindness.

                                          (An epic climb up towards Lambert's castle)

       After this I think we went onto a road and we had a nice little bit of downhill to enjoy. This didn't last long though as it climbed high again but the views were stunning and as we were promised, we were able to finally see the sea. This was an amazing thing to witness and take in. The next few miles I spoke to another runner who had just fallen down a rabbit hole, he was from Portishead and was telling me how he was going to get 4 cans of cider and sit in the sea at the finish. His vision had now become my dream too. I was already feeling the cold water on my burning feet. How nice it'll be to get these smelly shoes and socks off. I could even cool down those burning hamstrings.

                  (This dude was taking down our numbers, another dude refilled my bottles for me)

        The whole account of this may be a bit jumbled as I am remembering stuff as I type but so far I think it's all in order. Many off us had got lost a fair bit. Once, I followed some people through chest high stinging nettles, only to realise it was the wrong way and had to run back through them again. Another time was when we saw some runners running back towards us by a farm. We hadn't missed the turning by much though. Then, just before the last aid station which was manned by Dave's lovely parents, we ended up in a woodland bit and had to get down this really steep bank whilst holding onto a very rickety fence covered in barbed wire. I told everyone to be very careful as I knew a slip here would be quite painful. I'm blaming this on a farmer telling us to go that way. He must have be laughing all the way home.

                                                (We were soon able to the see the sea)

          Anyway, after spending a lovely time with the race director's parents. We had to cross this very busy road and I was kind of fearing for my life here as the traffic whizzed by but in a short space of time a marshal was able to direct us across the road without any of the cars doing 100mph. This is where someone says... "Well, we shouldn't get lost again now as we're nearly there". It didn't take long though. We ran through someone's garden which was part of the Jubilee trail (I hope) and while I was contemplating punching this punch bag in the garden that was hanging from someone's tree, everyone else had run on. I followed them and thought it best not to mess with other people's property. The hedges became really overgrown now and when I looked at my gpx it looked like we were off course. This became really evident as I was now nearly crawling under the bushes which turned out to be thorny ones and my hands were now bleeding. We continued anyway and turned right and soon enough we got back onto the course once again.

                                         (You could see hundreds of fields from here)

       So, I had been lost quite a few times. This really wasn't that unusual for me. Hence the name of my blog. I was now thinking that I was going to run somewhere between 30 and 35 miles. I really wasn't quite sure but I have done enough trail marathons and ultras to know that you should never take the distance as a given. I like to add on at least 5 miles for getting lost and the difficulty of trying to accurately measure the distance of a trail route.
I had just passed the 6 hour mark, so I wasn't getting my sub 6 today but it really didn't matter. I was nearly finished and I don't think anyone really cared about the route into Lyme regis as runners were just keen to finish. It was lovely to see crowds of people again as we had spent a lot of the day in fields and on isolated tracks. We finished by coming down a set of steps, which I now know was the wrong way but I just followed the others in front of me. I discovered this as I was cheering in other runners on the balcony of a pub with my well deserved pint of cold, refreshing cider.

                                                             (The finish at Lyme regis)

        So, I came into the finish with the guy from Chippenham who had kept me going to the end. The crowds were cheering us in as we ran with the coast on our right hand side. It was an amazing feeling as we came in and I was very relieved not to have entered the 100k like my buddy who had just got me here. I was exhausted here and he had to do it all again yet! Crazy. I thanked him and wished him the best of luck for his return journey.
I also remember watching the lead runner in the 100k coming back as we were still running to Lyme regis. He was barely sweating, he was smiling away and he was high fiving us all. That's ultra running for ya!

                                   (Sat with my feet in the sea drinking Minestrone soup)

     Dave greeted me as I finished and asked how the course was. In my current state, all I could say was "Hard". Probably not the most useful feedback he got that day. I got a magnificent medal, some very refreshing fizzy lemonade and the most amazing soup - Right, when I first read that we would get soup at the end of this race, my first thoughts were... Who the hell wants hot soup in the middle of summer after running 50K? It just didn't seem right. I asked for some soup and said that half a cup would do. (They were big cups). Like any long distance race, I didn't really know what I was doing with myself as I wondered around aimlessly in a daze.
In the end, I ended up sitting with my feet in the sea and drinking my soup. This soup was the best soup that I had ever had and was now gutted that I only got half a cup.

                                                   (Not too much over 31 miles in the end)

          I sat around for a bit and nearly went for a massage but got talked into going to the pub instead by the guy from Portishead who fell down the rabbit hole and David the guy from Barcelona who had lived in Ilfracombe for a long time. We drank cider and cheered the other runners who were finishing or turning around. It was then time for some chips which I ate on the number X31 to Axminster to everyone's annoyance and then a train to Salisbury and back to Southampton. What an adventurous day and a wonderful experience I had had. You just can't beat it.
Later on I found out that I had come 25th too, which was much better than I thought. I'll be back for my sub 6 next year.

                          (I even bought a couple of photos from the official photographers)

                                      (The photographers were friendly and encouraging too)

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Clarendon way.... Sort of

     I was supposed to go and skate a new ramp at my old works, so I had booked half a day off work but sadly the ramp was not finished. I could have cancelled the half day but thought there must be something else that i'd rather do than go to work! With a bit of planning I come up with the idea of running the Clarendon way, or at least, try to. I wrote down the names of places I should pass through on route and took an old guide book I have. It's not much of a guide book though, just sort of tells you about the history of the route with a few little maps.

     So I finished work at midday, cycled home, got my stuff ready and walked to the train station and caught the train to Salisbury. By 2pm I was in Salisbury at the cathedral. I was trying to work out where the official start of the Clarendon way was when I saw an RSPB tent. I went over and before I knew it 30 minutes had elapsed. I was luckily enough to watch the Peregrine falcons nesting on the cathedral during this time. They had telescopes outside for public viewing.
Anyway, I decided to start near the start of the Avon valley path in the end which is the far end of the cathedral. Off I ran towards the crowds of people in the city centre, where I took a right turn and realised I had turned right a street too soon. Great, wrong route already but it did mean less people. After nearly getting hit by a bus I ran through the arty subway of Milford.

                                                             (Salisbury Cathedral)

I had written down some milestones that would hopefully help me out:

Salisbury to Clarendon palace = 3 miles.
Clarendon palace to Broughton = 8 miles.
Broughton to Oliver's battery = 7.5 miles.
Oliver's battery to Winchester = 3.5 miles

So the route should only be 24 miles. It starts at Salisbury cathedral and ends at Winchester cathedral or vice versa.

    The Clarendon way signs were pretty much non-existent. I had done part of the Clarendon way before from Houghton to Salisbury and had been lost a few times then. I wasn't sure if I was going the right way at some points but then some things had looked familiar too. Luckily it was the right way and I was soon running through a field on the way to Clarendon palace.
It was pretty warm and I was sweating so much already, even though it looked like it could rain. I stopped at the top of Clarendon palace to take a photo at the viewing point where you could still see the cathedral from 3 miles away. Further on up at the top of this climb was the old ruin of Clarendon palace and last time I was here there were Llamas here, but not today.

   Still not sure of the route, I went straight on, instead of left. I followed the perimeter of a field for a while and then it seemed to go on forever until I saw a clearing in the woods. At least I could get my bearings there as I thought I had gone the wrong way. Nothing was looking at all familiar here.
  I came to a road and tried to study my guide book but it was pretty useless and then I tried google maps on my phone but it just showed a field and nothing else. There was a sign saying private property on the road and then a Land Rover went by me. I decided to run left in the same direction and thought that this should get me back on course.
As I started running up the hill the red lights of the Land rover lit up. The driver had stopped. Oh dear, I thought, he is not going to be happy with me.

                                                 (Viewing point at Clarendon palace)

     "You need to be on the grass paths, this road is private property" said the man as I approached his vehicle. I explained that I had taken the wrong turn and was trying to get on the Clarendon way. He told me I had run a fair way off course and offered me a lift. My instincts were to refuse as I liked to get the extra miles in, but I didn't want to annoy him or seem ungrateful, plus I was on his private land. We drove for about a mile and he told me he was a farmer and often put some of the Clarendon signs up as no-one else bothers but some people kick the signs off or break them for some reason. On the way I pointed out a few buzzards to him, but he didn't seem as interested in them as I did. He told me he had walked the Clarendon way himself once as well. He turned out to be a really nice guy and dropped me off at his farmhouse where the Clarendon way path continued.

                                 (Somewhere after Pitton on the way to Winterslow)

     After some fields with beautiful scenery, I came into the village of Pitton. I had got lost here before but this bit was easier to navigate from this way. There were signs, and I managed to follow them! Again the route climbs and then more fields and then yet another climb towards Winterslow. I got to West Winterslow and was lost again. I had looped around a field until I found the right way. Again, no signs. I then recognised where I was and not too long after I realised that on my previous walk here, I had gone the wrong way without even realising it.

It now started to rain and I was actually getting cold. I took shelter under a tree and put on my rain coat. I was quite well organised really, just no good with directions. I then came into Middle Winterslow and passed the village shop. I was fine for food and fluids so far, so didn't bother stopping off.

                                  (West Winterslow, just after the rain had stopped)

It seemed like ages until I reached Buckholt farm where I saw a hare and managed to walk stealthily until I was within 4ft away until he turned, noticed me and sped off like Usian bolt, but faster. That is probably the closest I will ever get to a hare I reckon. Anyway, I made it to Buckholt farm but didn't bother going into the village to explore as I was a good 11 miles or so in already. I was supposed to be at Broughton by now. I remembered Broughton from the big hill I had to climb before but this time I was doing it the other way around. I was looking forward to running down those steep hills in the woods.

   I ran down them excitedly knowing that I would soon be in Broughton. Was there a shop in Broughton? I was starting to get low on fluids now and the sun was now out and shining brightly in between the trees of the dark woods as I raced downhill. Then onto a road to a T-junction and hello Broughton. Should have been 11 miles here but it was closer to 14. Oh well, not problem. I was more worried about time rather than miles. As long as I made it to Winchester train station before it got dark I would be happy.

                       (Can't remember where this is but the photos are all in order if that helps)

          Broughton to Houghton was up next and I had done this before. No chance of getting lost along this section, it was easy and pretty straight forward. Lots of open land and a gravel trail. It was really hot now though. Off came the coat and t-shirt and then I applied suntan lotion and enjoyed the cool breeze as I ran topless along the ridge in pure isolation. There was no-one around for miles.

I was soon in Houghton. I hadn't been any further than this on the Clarendon way, so it was going to be even more of an adventure now. King somborne was my next milestone. There I was hoping to get more fluids as I was sweating a lot and nearly out of water. I wanted coca cola though. I needed the sugar and my hamstrings were really aching now. I swear I was a lot fitter last summer!

                                                  (On the way to Houghton. Where is everyone?)

     I didn't realise that the Clarendon way and the Testway crossed paths! How many times had I been on this part of the testway? Lots. I had run, cycled and walked past this crossroads and never knew that the Clarendon way went through it. The lower part of Houghton was beautiful too. There was a nice walkway of bridges going over the river Test. There was also a Eastern European family swimming in that part of the Test. It looked lovely and very inviting. The daddy of the family said it was still very cold though but his kids seemed to be enjoying it. Wow, some other people on the Clarendon way! It really is strange that you hardly see anyone apart from in the villages. The Testway is pretty much the same too. I guess I wouldn't like it if I saw too many people anyway. That's part of the attraction for me I think. When you do meet someone, you often end up stopping and chatting about your journeys and share your experiences and knowledge.

                                                      (The river test at Houghton)

          The bloody route climbs again, but when you get to the top, you can see for miles. Field after field and lots of houses. I decided to put my vest back on as the backpack was rubbing and making my back a bit sore with all the lovely sweat.
Some nice downhill into King Somborne was to follow where I manage to find a shop and buy some drinks and food and chill out on a bench for 10 minutes so I can stop sweating for a bit. This little rest was definitely needed and I was half tempted to visit the pub across the road but again, time was the issue here. After King Somborne... guess what? It climbs again. This time through a field with poppies and skylarks singing as loudly and contently as they possibly could. It was wonderful to be amongst it.

                                      ( The poppies just past King Somborne)

         It was then onto Parnholt woods which had the most stunning views of all. You looked down across the fields, ran in the fields of long grass through narrow pathways and then you climbed again to take in the view and could again see for miles around. This then went onto Farley mount. There were quite a few people here, probably the most i'd seen all day. I ran through various fields and opened and closed many gates until I came to a sign. Clarendon way straight on. The problem was that the sign was in between two paths. A cycle route and the wooded path. I choose the wooded path into Crab wood and then West wood. I spoke to a runner and he didn't know the Clarendon way but said I could get to Winchester pretty much from any route I took. Then came a woman who also asked us for directions for the car park. Seems like I wasn't the only person getting lost today.

                                                 (Somewhere near Parnholt woods)

      I continued straight on and then came to a road. There was a bridle way straight ahead. In my experience, these are usually bad things and often lead you nowhere in particular. Usually angry barking dogs or face high stinging nettles. I could also see a road sign but it was facing the away from me. I walked up to it and read it from the other side and it said "Sparsholt". I was definitely lost again. I tried to google maps my location and then decided to run/walk down the main road towards the way I had kind of come from or where I thought the other road would lead to. My legs were feeling very tired now and I was already 22 miles in.

                                            (Whoops! Wrong way again)

         I got to a crossroads and again looked at google maps. No sign of the signs for the Clarendon way. I just followed the road sign for Winchester. I ran on and a friendly group of cyclists passed me and said hello. I then came to another crossroads with Clarendon way signs. One pointed left and one pointed towards the way I had just come from. Which one was the right way to Oliver's battery though? I tried to make sense of this. If I went left I was pretty sure I would be heading towards Sparsholt again and if I went back the way I came where would I go as there were no more signs?
    Just then a lady was running by and I asked her. She said Oliver's battery was right but I showed her the Clarendon way signs and she seemed as confused as me. "Right is definitely Oliver's battery but straight on will take you to Winchester" she said. She was pretty hot too, so she was bound to be right.

                                                         (Towards King Somborne)

       I decided to head towards Winchester. Ok, I had been defeated. I was no longer running the Clarendon way but was still loving it even if I was a little tired by now.
Later when I checked a website map of the Clarendon way the lady was right. I should have gone right. The sign wasn't making any sense! How annoying. Before long though, I knew where I was in Winchester and was running down Romsey road past Hillier's, the prison and the hospital. This was all downhill now and I was loving it. I couldn't remember the last time I had run a mile on a nice road surface. No thinking involved. Just switch off and blast. No thinking about where to place each foot with every step. This was a much welcomed change.

                                                        (Winchester Cathedral)

       Well, I had made it. 28.5 miles. Only an extra 4.5 miles in the end and it was still light and before 8pm. I sat there until stopped sweating. Changed my socks, t-shirt, put on some clean shorts and sprayed myself with deodorant. It was then time to walk to the Wetherspoons for a nice pint of coke, then a pint of Cider and a chicken burger with chips. Then the train back to Southampton where I ended up going for more beers, watching a band play and getting home at 2.30am. I then had 4 hours sleep and went to work with a hangover. What an adventure though! Can't wait to do it again but maybe walk it from Winchester to Salisbury and take some decent photos as these pics really don't do it justice.

                                                   (Cheer up Dean Jones)

    Another thing I remember is running on a narrow path next to a horse racing course although I can't remember where this was. But it was very memorable because I was running among so many Meadow brown butterflies. I have never seen so many butterflies in such a short space of time. I reckon there were at least 500 within a quarter of a mile of this race track! Totally surreal and unbelievable.

Next up, the Avon Valley Path which runs from Salisbury to Christchurch. It is 34 miles long and starts in Wiltshire, goes into Hampshire and finishes in Dorset. 3 counties in one run! I tired it last summer but of course, got lost and ended in Ringwood with 36 miles already done. I have recently bought a decent map though ;)