I wake up early on Good Friday and I have already decided that I am going to go running. Although, I’m not actually in the mood at the present time. Maybe I’ll run later? Where should I run? I’m thinking I want to do a long run but not fast, just enjoy a day out. An adventure run as I call them. I haven’t done one for ages. I drink cups of coffee and ponder upon ideas and options. 20 miles would be nice. Can I jog 20 miles slowly? My longest run this year is probably the 14 miler I did with Di and Mike Mattingly a few weeks back. I did do 40 miles of cycling too that day though.
Later on, an idea I like the sound of hits me.. I’ll get the bus to Romsey and run from there. I could run a 20 miler and do Ampfield woods, Braishfield and Slackstead. I always wanted to go back to explore Slackstead a bit more. I look at a map and work out a circular route. I know most of the route from cycling anyway. I have never run through Ampfield woods or around the Hillier Garden centre though. This was recommended to me by a couple of old ramblers I got chatting to at Baddesley Common. I say old, but they were probably only Septuagenarians. All the people around me seem to be getting younger nowadays!
I look at bus times and get my backpack ready. Spare socks, t-shirt, thermal vest, coat and extra shorts. Headphones for my music on the bus. Should I take a bottle of water on a 20 miler? Seems like a lot of weight to carry? I take it anyway, I can always bin it if I need to. I don’t have any food to pack though but then I remind myself it’s only a 20 miler! I stand at the bus stop donned in hat, coat and gloves. It’s nearly 11am already but it still feels cold. I go through the justification of my bus use. We are allowed to travel now. It doesn’t have to be essential but it does have to be minimal. 5 miles to Romsey seems ok to me as it’s the first public transport I’ve used this year! There are only two other passengers on the bus anyway and we are spread out as much as we can be. I have my headphones on and a playlist is playing from my phone. The sun is shining on the window and I can feel its warmth. I am really enjoying this journey. I feel very relaxed and at ease.
I decide to get off the bus at the top of the hill by Romsey cemetery. I walk down the hill and take off a pair of long shorts to reveal my running shorts underneath. My running backpack seems a bit full. I am a bit worried about getting cold and ill as I am still suffering with what I believe to be long covid. The heart specialist thinks that my heart is enlarged and it is what is causing me hours of chest pain. My lungs also suffer some days and I have a lot of phlegm on my chest and lungs. Some runs I struggle to relax my breathing and my lungs burn, other days I am fine. I am told not to run too much or too fast. I ignore the advice as I can’t see the point of just sitting around and waiting for the good days of health. I have had my heart MRI but am still awaiting results. My chest pains are less frequent at the moment and always seem worse at work in the cold weather. The warehouse never gets warm. Anyway, I have 24 hour heart rate monitoring next as they found an anomaly in my original ECG test. Enough about being ill. I am bored of it after 5 months! The main thing here, is that I keep my body warm.
I have decided to start my run at Tadburn meadows. There are a few people walking around and enjoying the good Friday sunshine. I still have my coat and gloves on though. I follow the river and run through the park. The path narrows. Walkers in front hear me coming and move aside for me to pass. I thank them all while smiling and saying my good mornings. Everyone seems responsive and in good spirits. Out in to the housing estate at Crampmoor and over the railway line, up the hill and I am at the Hunters pub. Straight on into Woodley and towards Abbotswood and Braishfield.
I did invite my mate Kevin Willsher to join me today but he had a 10k time trial to do. It would have been nice to have the company but I also love all the thoughts and ideas that pop up on these longer runs. I swear I could have invented a million things and written 50 books, if only I had the motivation and drive! Anyway, Kev smashed out a 10k PB. 34:40 was his time. This was achieved while I was still in bed drinking coffee and feeling unmotivated.
I’m getting close to Braishfield and the garden centre when I see a sign for a permissive path. I take the unknown path and end up running through the garden centre. The old(ish) lady from Baddesley common told me that there was a nice figure of 8 to run around the garden centre grounds. I didn’t do it all and somehow ended back up on the Braishfield road and near the Dog and Crook pub. I was going to do Ampfield woods first which is further down the lane but now it will be Braishfield first and then Slackstead and back through Ampfield woods if I can find the route back through.
I run through Braishfield with great memories of my first ever race. The 5 mile beer race. I decide to turn left and do some of the race route in reverse. I’m not sticking to my planned route and I’m adding on extra miles maybe. I am really enjoy my run though as the memories come flooding back. Almost a decade ago I stood under a line of trees, in an attempt to shelter from the rain at the start of the race. I remember feeling so nervous. My first ever race. Could I complete 5 miles? I heard there was a hill too!
My friend Steph from work drove me here and got me into running. We ran together during the race but I found I had to leave her as we got to “the hill” which was just a railway bridge. I was running up this road in reverse and realised that I was so lost in my own thoughts that I had already ran over the railway bridge and didn’t even realise it.
I finished that 5 miler in a time of 42.12. I was beaten by then unbeknownst to me… running legend Derek Goodchild of Lordshill Road Runners. I think he was just a sprightly V60 in those days. In fact, he shares my Dad’s birthday and is a year older than him.
I think I did the 5 mile beer race 3 times over the years. The second time I raced it, I was a Lordshiller myself and obviously got an easy course PB. Myself and Mike Mattingly just stood around at the Beer tent happily taking everyone’s unwanted Beer and Cake tokens. I think Mike was more focused on the latter while I got as drunk as I could on London Pride.
Another year, I sat in blistering heat while Andy Griggs sat there with 3 tankards complaining that there was no competition and wanted his money back. He had beaten second place Ben Pitman by over 2 minutes. I also got to hang out with my heroes like Dan Campion and his family. Rob Benham who I ran it with one year and many others from the Lordshill family. I used to love sitting in that field, getting drunk and watching runner’s faces change when they had sprinted to the field and then realised they sprinted too soon and had a long way to run around that field yet. Kind of evil I know but great entertainment all the same. I was one of those runners 10 years ago.
I get to the Braishfield pond and decide to take off my coat and gloves. I am actually sweating a bit now. I’ve only done 4 miles. I remind myself that this run isn’t about pace. It is an adventure run. I take a few photos and sit down on a bench with a view of the pond and ducks. Not long after, a cyclist joins on an adjacent bench. We get chatting about routes and where we are going. He shares my hatred for irresponsible dog walkers and dog crap. He’s from Winchester and is meeting a friend at the church in Little Somborne for Coffee and sandwiches. His friend is taking the sandwiches, but he says he’s running late and has forgot to bring the coffee. Despite his tardiness, he doesn’t seem in a rush to head off as we continue chatting.
I then decide to get going and wish him a great day as I run off towards Slackstead. It’s a lovely, quiet long country lane. There are no cars, just a flat road and fields either side. The run feels hypnotic and calming. I stop at Lower Slackstead and find a footpath. Should I take it? Could possibly be the Ampfield woods path? After a while, I make my mind up and deicide that I am really enjoying the quiet roads. So now I will run to Hursley. This means that I will not be using my return bus ticket from Romsey. Looks like I will be running home. I’m glad I have brought the water now as there are no shops for a long time.
For some reason I think I am going to come out at Ashley. The roads look similar. I have done so many roads around Hampshire that I often get them mixed up. I am never lost though. I realise where I am when I get to a junction and realise I have a massive hill to run up. I take more photos and look around. I haven’t seen a single soul since I left the cyclist at Braishfield. I can hear my footfalls up the hill and an increase in the speed and sound of my breathing. My head is down and as I listen for the intermittent calls of a woodpecker who is drumming away somewhere in the background. I am now being told off! My mind flashes back to another memory. I am hill training at the sports centre and the person shouting at me is another running legend. “How are you supposed to get any oxygen in your lungs if your head is down there?” It’s Roger Bradley. This moment has stuck with me for the past 9 or 10 years. Every time my form falters uphill his voice enters my head and I can see the Sporting view pub in the background. Head up, shoulders back.
I make the top of the hill and arrive at the castle wall when my phone rings. I don’t usually answer my phone when I am running but it could be the Heart specialist with some news of my results. It’s a mobile number but no name appears. It’s not the specialist. It’s my old friend Julian Molyneux who asks if I want to go skateboarding as he is in the area visiting his Dad. Julian used to live in Southampton but now lives in Lyme Regis. He has always been quite spontaneous too. Never any planning on his behalf. I am often busy when he visits as I always plan stuff if I can. I think we chat for 30 minutes and have a good catch up. Every now and then I look up and around as a pheasant squawk nearby. I tell him I have to go as I am getting cold now.
I put my phone away and think about my route ahead. I have a nice big downhill now but will be coming to a main road to get into Hursley. I shrug off the thoughts of the fast cars on the main road and blast the downhill but being aware that a car could be coming up on a blind bend. I can see the road but have found a footpath sign which heads towards the right. This must go to Hursley I am thinking. I climb the stile and run along and follow and narrow dirt path. It skirts around the outside of the field and then down to a wood and another stile. There is now a Hursley sign and a path beside the road. I feel pleased with my discovery and achievement.
I run into Hursley and think that I don’t want to run on the Ladwell road as it’s pretty dangerous. Although, I have run down the dual carriageway of the A337 at night before. Probably the scariest run ever. (Thanks to Google maps!). I’m up to my old tricks of adding mileage on. I decide to run up Port lane and towards Oliver’s Battery. Now I am reminded of the hardest part of the Winchester half marathon I did a few years back With Paddy Connors and Paul Carpentar. I pass the Oliver’s Battery sign but turn right across the fields which I know will take me towards Otterbourne. I will run home through Chandler’s ford that way.
I think I have only been this way once and was on my bike. I see a Private land sign but realise it is also a public right of way. A bit confusing for me. I get to Yew Hill nature reserve and enjoy the views and reap the rewards of the climb up to Oliver’s Battery now. Lots of green fields for miles. I now see a few people around. Ramblers, Dog walkers, families etc.. This bit looks popular but not too busy still. I see a man, his wife and kid come up from a gate to my left on the hill. I ask where is goes. He tells me and I decide to take it. It is downhill again but a lovely dark shaded run through dense woodland and overhanging trees. There are paths everywhere but I just pick one and keep running. It’s a lucky dip. I don’t quite come out where I thought I would but know where I am and decide to do another detour across Shawford down. Worse mistake ever! I wish I hadn’t bothered. Dogs running around everywhere. I am too scared to run. There are big dogs running loose and they look out of control. A pitball type dog runs up to me and starts sniffing me. I walk on slowly. Another dog jumps up on me and is very playful. Further down a dog growls at me and the owner explains that his dog is “just nervous”. I got bitten twice last year and twice the year before that. I am thinking about getting some pepper spray of something similar. How do I protect myself from these out of control dogs? I am starting to get really annoyed by them.
Anyway, I end up in Compton. I am getting hungry and I am also out of water now. I know there is a garage coming up, so I’m going to stop there. The place has had a big make over. It has a proper shop there now. You could probably do a weekly shop there. I put on my mask and buy more water, an energy bar and a banana. I sit by the river and eat my banana and get myself hydrated. I am about 18 miles in and feel ok. I could always get a bus from Chandler’s ford if I needed to or a bus from North Baddesley.
I run through some woods next to the garage. I don’t even know where they go to. What am I doing? I come to the end of the trail and end up on Poles lane. I know Poles lane is a busy, long road. It wasn’t actually that busy but it is very long and cars do drive fast. So I am running down the 2 -3 mile road and crossing accordingly due to blind corners and traffic. I know I am heading back to Hursley again and will have to take a left up to Chandler’s ford. I seem to be taking the really long way around. I get towards the end of Poles lane and discover a road I was looking for. I recognise the Victorian postbox (2nd edition) and see the sign for Silkstead. I then realised that I got Slackstead mixed up with Silkstead. The Silkstead trails will have to wait for another day now. Nevermind.
I find a field next to the road I want and run through it. I come to the end of the field. Do I turn left up the hill or right onto the main road? The main road looks too busy, must be left, right? Up the hill I go and wonder if this is a private estate ahead. There are big black gates but a little wooden gate to the side. I see a man cycling with his kid, so I make the decision to go in and run down the road. I follow the signs and turn left into a field. I just keep on following the “Public path” signs. Another field, which is a bit muddier. I turn right into a third field. I come to a gate and a road, the public path sign sends me left and up a hill. Where the hell am I? I seem to be heading in the wrong direction. Is it taking me back to Winchester? Will I end up in Alresford?
I pass a massive house and up another big hill. I follow the road and the sign tells me to turn left onto another trail and then a road. I see an elderly lady (Octogenarian?) and ask her where I am. We get talking for ages. She is local and we look around and share the peace and beauty of the place. She tells me the history of the estate and the landowners. Will this place be gone in 5 years time? It would be a shame for sure. She tells me she had a fall in the winter and is a bit weary and cautious ever since. I am impressed with her mileage as she often walks to Hursley and back. “Are the cows out in the fields?” she enquires. “Yes” I say. Although there is only a few at a distance and they are shading under a tree. I am not keen on the cows when there is a lot of them and they try to pick up speed and charge at you. I tell her they were fine and I felt no threat. “Where am I going?” I ask. She tells me that I will come out at Otterbourne Waterworks. This information makes me happy. She asks me where I am going. She thinks it’s a long way. I decide not to tell her that I started in Romsey. It seems so far away and so long ago. I smile and wish her a good day. She says it was lovely to meet me. I run off smiling wishing that there were more people like her in this world.
Yay. I’m on the main Otterbourne road. I run under the subway and I am soon running into Chandler’s ford. I used to work in Chandler’s ford so I know that I only have 10k to get home now. I had just ran that downhill to the station. My 21st mile was run at 7.38 pace per mile. I remember my legs aching a bit at 14 miles when I got to Hursley but now they feel fine again. Some may call it a second wind.
I decide to sit down and take a little rest. I need to take on more water. The sun is pretty warm now and my cap is soaked with sweat. I sit on a raised drain cover and eat my energy bar on the cycle paths of Chandler’s ford. I am doing calculations now. I will be home at 27.5 miles. Or I could do 26.3 and walk the rest?I get up and stretch a bit. My legs have stiffened up. I try and loosen them. There is still that option of the bus at North Baddesley I think. I run gingerly but the legs soon start to loosen again. I remember all my commutes back from work to home. I am on the route now and I remember how much uphill there is. Even though this side of Hampshire is really flat. Living in Cornwall, Devon and Wales had made me realise this.
I have been running harder and faster towards the end. I remind myself that this is an adventure run again but I seem to want to run faster and harder anyway. I am still keen to run sub 8’s per mile. It would be impressive if I hadn’t stopped so much. In fact, I am really impressed with my own stupidity. 23 miles in and a parkrun to go until my first marathon of the year. I am just coming out of the climb of Valley park and into North Baddesley. Another hill coming up. This time I ignore Roger Bradley and keep my head down. I now have the worst running form. I am kicking my own calves again. My back hurts like hell. I didn’t even use the spare socks, t-shirt, long shorts. Thermal vest? It kind of reminds me of the time I cycled a 1000 miles and packed some books to read. I was way too tired to read after 100k a day..lol. I remember leaving a copy of J.D Salinger’s “Catcher in the rye” in my first hotel room and leaving other books at each hotel room afterwards. It’s weird what memories and thoughts come into mind on these long solo runs. I never get bored or lonely. Although I’m not sure it does any favours for my sanity and well being.
I may as well make it up to 28 miles. I’ll do Balmoral road. Nice downhill. I am definitely stopping at 28 miles! I am really tired and super achy now. I guess I could get 29 miles if I ran through the Ordnance survey though? Luckily I arrived home and quit at 29 miles. I couldn’t tell you why I wanted to carry on running despite the pain and suffering. To be fair, I felt pretty decent for one of my long runs. I could have done 35 miles that day. Was it that I haven’t had any alcohol for over 5 months plus being Vegan? Who knows. Let’s just say, it was a good (Fri) day.
The first thing I did was go to Tesco and buy a can of coke and a Vegan ice-cream. Then followed 4 vegi samosas and whatever was in the cupboard. I had done 29 miles. It was an adventure run and I loved it. 6 hours had elapsed. I didn’t really get lost, although I didn’t know where I was at times. Hampshire is a wonderful place. Go and explore it.x