Running 13 The Hard Way

1 09 2016

LsFmtz

When a friend asked if if I was up for doing a half marathon on the South Downs at the end of August, I instantly agreed, quickly registered and then forgot all about it. Running on the South Downs, for me, is pure pleasure so it didn’t take much persuading. What I had failed to notice was that I would still be on holiday in Cornwall the day before, leaving me almost no chance of getting to the 9am start in Clayton, West Sussex.

A silly idea entered my head. We were booked onto the overnight Megabus from Penzance to London , arriving Victoria Coach station at 7.30am. If I could get a train before 8am, I might just make the start.

The coach arrived to pick us up half an hour late and by the time we reached Plymouth, the driver apologised to us with “we’re running an hour late”. I was on the verge of messaging my friend to say I wouldn’t make it but deep down I was hoping that maybe the coach could make up time. Miraculously, as the Sun was rising over London and to applause from the passengers, the driver announced that he had managed to pick up time. We’d be arriving just 17 minutes late! He even apologised but added, “I’ve done my best”! Brilliant.

I can’t say it was the best warm up I’ve ever done but I managed to get to the start , 25 minutes late and start the run. This is where the name of the run starts to have meaning.

The first kilometre starts from Underhill Lane and is a steep ascent to the South Downs Way climbing about 140m. From there it is a beautiful run along the SDW, past Ditchling Beacon and on to Housedean Farm at the halfway point. Coming back is gruelling with the less steep but longer climb back onto high ground. I ran with my friend Paul and both of us found it a struggle in places, especially in the heat but the pain was more than compensated for by fantastic views to the North and some excellent half way sugary nibbles, including Jaffa cakes, water melon and cupfulls of coke.

 

Some great photos of the event can be seen here.

As a running experience I can’t ask for a better location. The organisation and friendly atmosphere made it really fun – I’d do it again next year but I hear there’s talk of 30 the Hard way! Maybe.

13 The Hard Way was organised by Sussex Trail Events

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St. Michael’s Way, Cornwall.

30 08 2016

One of the many walks we do in Cornwall is a short and very pretty coastal path from Carbis Bay to Lelant. When the tide is low, you can walk back on the huge expanse of sand at Porth Kidney. This year was memorable for watching Gannets diving into the sea in huge numbers.

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Looking across PorthKidney beach to Carbis Bay and St Ives.

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Looking down over Porth Kidney near Lelant. Godrevy Lighthouse in the distance.

It feels such a familiar area that I rarely look at a map but after one such walk, I noticed a QR code on a footpath sign. I pointed my mobile at it which then linked to  http://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/  It listed 3 walks, one of which I hadn’t tried before with some interesting info about the area, including a reference to St. Michael’s Way. This is a 12 mile, coast to coast pilgrim path that is believed to have been used by pilgrims travelling from Ireland on their way to the Cathedral of St James in Santiago de Compostela, North West Spain.

Well I’d been looking for a challenging and scenic run but this was right our doorstep! I travelled to Penzance and along to St Michael’s Mount where the trail begins. The path splits at the start and rejoins, then  follows a single path to Lelant. I have to say it was such a fabulous run. In terms of a challenge it is more than your average half marathon and I think all but the most hardy fell runner will need to walk at some point but I was able to run most of it and take in the views. I would strongly advise taking an OS map because the route’s scallop symbol isn’t always visible and you’re left guessing the route – as I did on occasion. There was a comic moment when, having passed a couple of walkers, I passed them again a few miles later, going in the same direction. They had got lost and taken a more direct route but it didn’t take long to pass them for the 3rd time! One of the high points on the route, literally, is the Knill Monument. You get a superb view of St. Ives, Carbis Bay, Hayle and Godrevy Lighthouse to the North, with equally great views to the South coast.

I didn’t take many photos as I wanted to enjoy the run rather than keep starting and stopping but I allowed myself a breather after an hour or so. Here’s St Michael’s Mount in the distance. It’s possible to tale an alternative route from Marazion so next year it would be fun to try an out-and-back run – almost a full marathon at 25 miles.

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Balsdean

13 12 2015

A few years ago when I had really caught the running bug, a friend suggested I try the Brighton Trailblazer, a 10km trail run near Woodingdean in Brighton. I vividly remember the outgoing 2 or 3  miles with the fantastic views looking out towards Lewes. It starts with a gentle downhill with time to look around and take in the stunning landscape.  That’s the bit I remember most and then, of course,  the harsh uphill known as Snake climb to the finish. What I didn’t realise was that the mid section ran through a secluded valley that was once home to a hamlet called Balsdean.

 

Balsdean, near Brighton.

Balsdean near Brighton: Photo by Bill Hunt

 

 

Fortunately, my renewed interest in running on the South Downs took me back to the same area.  I love studying a map and picking out new routes  so I set off from Preston Park towards Rottingdean via Hollingbury golf course, Moulsecoomb, Bevendean and Woodingdean. I ended up running down Snake climb, the opposite way  I’d done before. Being a descent, rather than a gruelling uphill, you get to see so much more. The trail runs along the side of a valley and down into the heart of Balsdean.  There’s a small visible clue to the hamlet in the form of a derelict farm building – you can just make it out in the image above – but everything else was demolished after the hamlet had been used for target practice by the army during WW2. This blog by David Cuthbertson, is particularly informative about Balsdean before and during the war.

From Balsdean, a track leads to Rottingdean, past a water pumping station. To get a better feel for the area, take a look at this collection of photos by BrightonDJ on Flickr that really captures the isolation and beauty of the valley.

As I searched for more information about this intriguing area, I came across a map on  Ernest blog. I recognised the map of Balsdean immediately but the accompanying article features the Brighton based band Grasscut who released   1 inch/1/2 mile in 2012,  a collection of tracks inspired by a walk around the Balsdean area. I clicked on the map which links to Curlews.








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