Monday, 31 January 2011

....and ....I’m ....spent

Summary time! Let the cringing commence!

True, perhaps, but it would be remiss to wrap this up without some reflection.

For me, Janathon has been equally invigorating, and exhausting. From the initial trepidation of logging and blogging, the dread of watching Jenks and Auswomble bunging on the miles in that first crazy fortnight, and finally the enduring battle to honour the efforts of Janathoners everywhere, to keep it on, and make it good.

I’ve become increasingly grateful for many things, but particularly: the sense of community, the applications of technology, the joy of geography, and ultimately, the arrival of February.

But three things stand out above all else, which have continued to amaze, inspire and encourage.

First, that this carcass of mine has gone the distance. I expected some degree of dilapidation, but it’s hung together, and I’m hugely relieved. To put this into perspective, this is seven and a half times further than I ran in December, and the last time I last ran for six days in a row was 1993. I hadn’t planned on reaching half the mileage I ended up with, and good health should never be taken for granted.

Second, that runners of all abilities, with very different demands on their time and efforts, have risen to the challenge, and motivated one another with their blogs, comments and daily miles. Personal goals have been set and smashed, and I’ve watched people with plans foiled by illness, injury and loss, simply pick themselves up, set new targets, and go on to reach them. When I’ve felt least like hitting the trails, or most like just going round the block, it’s the thought of these achievements that have produced the miles.

Thirdly, that my wife puts up with all this. She doesn’t necessarily understand why I choose to set these targets, or why I feel compelled to exceed them (how could she, when I don’t?), but she understands that it’s important to me. She’s lived with a month of stinky running gear, prolonged absences and late nights, and my limited ability to focus on much else than the next run, or the last blog. I love you Rabbit.

As much as it would have been nice to finish with a mammoth run, thankfully I did that yesterday, and tonight’s run had a pleasant irony instead. On the 4th of January I printed a map of an eight and a half mile tarmac loop and stuck it on my wall. I’d intended to run it that night, and to continue with five to ten miles on weekdays, and a bit more at weekends. However, seeing myself in the top three, the game changed, the route never got a look in, and I beasted myself on ten and fifteen milers instead.

In order to hit the magic 450, yesterday’s efforts left just eight and a bit miles to go, and the discarded route was finally unpinned and studied. Perfect. For the first time in January I left the pack at home. No bottle, no phone, no iPod, no map: just the route in my head, and some ground to cover. It felt good.

Running clockwise left a gradual descent for the final mile and a half. Kicking hard on the home straight was such a luxury, I felt alive, and optimistic. I hope that Janathon becomes for many people the foundation stone of a year of activity. I'm glad to have been a part of it.

Thanks to Cathy and Sean for setting it up, and roping me in respectively. To the dozen or so local runners that have joined me, and to all those that have jogged, logged and blogged alongside.

I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible in London, on the 12th. I’ll be the sleepy looking one in the corner.

: )

Today: 8.6 miles, 1:04 hrs, 1204 cals
January: 450.3 miles, 65:05 hrs, 61025 cals (that's 263 Cadbury's Twirls I owe myself)

Sunday, 30 January 2011

End Game

Yesterday, Javed and I discussed my final targets for Janathon. It seems a little late in the day to be working out what to do next, but Janathon Plans A, B and C all went out the window weeks ago, and with two days left, three possibilities remained:

A. Do very little. I’ve cleared 400 miles, I’ve exceeded all my expectations. Let recovery begin.
B. Do a “reasonable” amount. Back off the mileage a bit, but not so much as to look like I’m resting on any laurels, taking the mickey, or whatever.
C. Keep it on. Set a target, make it happen.

In the process of discussing this, we also weighed up some potential targets, if option C were chosen:

434 miles – equivalent to exactly 14 miles every day in January. Tidy.
438 miles – equivalent to 700km. A nice round figure (in metric at least).
444 miles – equivalent to nothing much, but a good looking number.
450 miles – beautiful, but realistically ridiculous. Too much, too late.

I realised by late afternoon that our discussion had rendered Options A and B obsolete.
With 416.5 miles already banked, I’d need to average over 9 miles today, and tomorrow. Potentially less than I’ve done up until now, but would I be content with hitting the lowest of those targets, if the opportunity was there to do more? I was sure the bigger numbers remained possible, though a month ago I wouldn’t have believed I’d be sat here writing this.

But....  I want some time at home, I need some more sleep, I have a long trail run in the diary for next week, and frankly, the tanks are pretty empty.
Anti-Janathon Public Notice
So last night, I considered today’s run. I figured the least I should do was enough to keep my options open. Thinking back to last weekend’s long ‘un, I decided on a quick train journey to Alton, then a run home on the St Swithuns Way: no short cuts, no bail outs. I could get home with much of the day left, or tack some more miles on the end, depending on how I felt. I printed a map, prepared my waistpack and set out my clothes.

I awoke feeling ropey. Ablutions, clothes, breakfast, run to the train station, no turning back. From Alton station, map in hand, I pointed myself northeast, and followed residential roads to pick up the trail at Eggar School, which coincidentally hosted my first LDWA hundred mile walk in 2009. Another half mile of familiar track, then new ground, knowing that in a hour’s time I’d be recognising the trails once again, from the outrun of last weekend’s big loop.

The going was thankfully good, with an overnight frost and bright morning allowing steady progress. Rough, hard trails might be slow going, but a firm footing saves precious effort. Two steps forward, no steps back.

As the sun continued to rise, the wind dropped, and soon enough, I found myself covering old ground. The trail became hillier as I neared Farnham, and I faced my first choice, to either head north for home and bank thirteen miles, or open the box....

Private driveway to Wayne Manor
I turned south, towards Farnham station. I could link to the start of the North Downs way, and that little swerve alone should be worth another three miles. I ran on.
A mile later, I figured I could keep heading up this road, jump onto the footpath at Compton Way, and probably add another half mile, of good running. I ran on.

Soon after, and I was on trails that formed my regular loop, south of Farnham. Having been on my feet for over two and a half hours, I was already pushing the mileage, out of liquids, and with one big decision approaching. A left turn would head home, and a right turn would commit me to at least another hour of running, but a chance to hit 450 miles.


My thirteen miler became a twenty five. I feel like I’m joyriding in someone else’s body.

Today: 25.1 miles, 3:34 hrs, 3474 cals
January: 441.7 miles, 64:01 hrs, 59821 cals

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Lord Wandsworth Loop

I look at maps with an inquisitive mind. As habits go, it’s probably not as infuriating for other people as leaving the lids off things, or playing music loudly on the train; but now and again, I might blurt out an oblique observation that’ll have my nearest and dearest rolling their eyes in despair.

However, I, like most people, take my immediate surrounding for granted. Not necessarily the landscape, or the features, but more the names that these places are given. Once you’ve spent your formative years in a particular part of the world, place names become part of a geographical vocabulary, and retain very little of their original meaning.

For example, there is an agreeable town nearby, surrounded by mixed heath, good transport links etc, but my wife (who’s not from round these parts) had no intention of living, or even going there. When asked why, she replied “It’s the name... ‘Deepcut’...  like a deep cut... that’s horrible”. She screwed up her face, and I conceded the point, I’d just never thought of it that way.

This is much easier done with the objectivity of a stranger: I’m sure a hill called Brown Willy isn’t particularly funny if you live in North Devon, and if Brooklyn Beckham’s baby sister were to be conceived in Surrey rather than New York, the people of Leatherhead would see no harm in Dave and Vicky continuing the naming tradition.

Pip leads the way

Today’s run was led by Javed, in the company of Fiona, and Pip the Labrador. We were initially joined by Andy and Huw again, on one of their pre-marathon long runs from further afield. Javed once again took us from his home, and over windy fields towards the villages of Crondall, Well and Bentley. Some fresh growth underfoot highlighted the mild January we’ve experienced in the South, but last night’s frost had set the ground rock hard in most places, and broken it into chocolate sponge cake in others. Javed and Fi were great company as always, and the running was so much easier than yesterday, it felt good to be out in the morning, in crisp air, and gently ticking off another thirteen miles.

This morning’s far point was the rolling farmland estate owned and run by Lord Wandsworth College. This location also planted the seed of this blog, but the link is tenuous. Wandsworth himself created this school to teach farming skills to orphaned boys. Yet, the name “Lord Wandsworth College” on its own might conjure up a host of preconceptions.

Some might automatically associate the name with the urban density of south west London, others may focus on the title within, and assume this is a private school, for privileged children (and it might well be). I, as a local, always remembered it as “the school that wouldn’t play rugby against ours”. I've since learned that the college has nurtured ruugby internationals like Jonny Wilkinson, so had this not been the case, I may instead think of it as “the school that used to batter us”.
A clearly wandering mind today – which feels good.

Today: 13.2 miles, 2:03 hrs, 1830 cals
January: 416.6 miles, 60:26 hrs, 56347 cals

Just More

Two runs. Big target. Low motivation.

The first run was a work thing. Which sounds great, that I get to run around for work. And it is great, and I am grateful.... but it is work.

No matter how good the day, or the running, a line is drawn underneath that says "This is work, and you must run this way, and that way, you must stop and start, go backwards and forwards, take notes and pictures and carry many things". It's not like leaving your pens on the desk to disappear for a couple of hours.

The best bit about what I do is "running, jumping and climbing trees" (as Eddie Izzard would say) in lots of different places. The sharp edge of the sword is that these things are my hobbies, my passion, my release; and when you put work and play next to each other, play doesn't taste as good for a while.

The Mansfield Office

Today's worky run was to make sure a race route linked up, to think about where all the fun stuff can be placed, and consider how to waymark, and marshal it. For Janathon's sake, I resolved to run as much as possible, and tapped away at the start/stop button on my watch, to record my dashings, in between note-takings, and head-scratchings.

After a few hours spent on foot at various speeds, a clean shirt, a cup of tea, and I was ready for the journey home. Friday night, rush hour, heading towards the M25. Perfect.

When I used to do this on a regular basis, I would change into running gear at the office, and start driving. I'd then let the traffic decide where and when I would get my Friday night run. Tonight, I made good progress as far south as Northampton, when the brake lights ahead suggested I look for something nearby.

Five minutes later, I was parked in Blisworth village, within fifty yards of a bridge over the Grand Union Canal, and trying to muster some enthusiasm to go for another run, within just a few hours of the last.

Getting out of a warm car when it's minus one outside, and your legs still feel jangly and detached is not an easy task. Today's "work-running" had drained me, and I wanted to be home with my wife. Still, that traffic was going to keep me on the road til past nine anyway, and if I just got another six miles, I'll have cracked four hundred miles in four weeks. It still felt lousy.

I set off along the towpath, heading south. I should have gone the other way. Blisworth Tunnel doesn't have a towpath, so walkers are sent over the top, to get instantly lost among useless bridleway signs. I never found the other end. Instead I ran over deep hoof pockets in a wide loop, guided by the glow of Northampton, to return to my start point.

A stone's throw from the car, I checked my watch, and I was still a mile and a half short. Turning back onto the towpath, north this time, I decided to run a mile out, then back, to clear my target. In the time it took to run that mile, I'd already convinced myself that I would do a bit more, and tacked another mile onto the end, doubling up to eight and a half by the time I took my shoes off, and a million percent happier for it.
"Tacking a bit onto the end" has become a Janathon theme. If I were to add all those bits up, it might add up to a marathon. However, all of those extra bits together weren't as much of a struggle as leaving the car this evening for just six miles. I must remember this.

"Just" is hard. "More" is easy.

Today: 16.2 miles, 2:26 hrs, 2055 cals
January: 403.4 miles, 58:23 hrs, 54517 cals

Friday, 28 January 2011

Sherwood Pinery

I'm in the Midlands. I checked. Looking at the map, there is England all over the place, plenty above and below, and a similar amount left and right.

Yet strangely (or so I've always thought), I'm officially in the East Midlands, but when I look at a map, I'm actually about five miles east of the middle. Doesn'tt that make this the Middle Midlands?

It's 150 miles from Chester to Skegness as the crow flies, so I reckon there should be about fifty miles of West Midlands (maybe Chester to Buxton), fifty miles of East Midlands (maybe Newton-on-Trent to Skegness), with roughly fifty miles of Actual Midlands in the middle?

I digress.

So I'm in this neck of the woods planning an adventure sports/trail running event for April. For the newest of the "Notorious Night Run" series, I've spent the day at the venue of the third in the trilogy, the "Legends of Sherwood".

Sherwood Pines is the bit of Sherwood Forest that the Foresty Commission own (for now). It's not got the "Sherwood Forest TM" stamp owned by the patch of woods which surrounds the Major Oak, but this area has proven connections to medieval England that are much less tenuous.

It's also got some great trails, and some really mixed forest - both of which will be key to my event. Where the Mighty Deerstalker has mountains and river crossings, and the Horseplay has horsejumps and a movie set, Legends of Sherwood has real darkness throughout, and some proper scary forest. And men in tights.

"Red. Difficult. Are these trails for you?"
Ohhh yes.
So after today's meetings, I snuck back into the forest to make the most of its mountain bikes trails on foot. I do this quite regularly, as my job can take me all over the country, and running mounatin bike routes at night is normally a pretty fun way to spend a couple of hours. The trails are well waymarked, well maintained, almost always bring you back to the start. You don't need to know the area, or even take a map (though a few emergency supplies are a smart idea)

I've ridden Sherwood Pines's "Kitchener Trail" Red route a few times, and have run nearly all the trails in the forest (including the deer paths and guerilla tracks) during my initial survey for the Legends event, but running it in one hit was superb. From my stealthy parking spot I gained swift access to the forest, and following the Red to the visitor centre, included a quick lap of the "Family Trail" Green route to make up the miles, before returning to the car on the Red.

My sole and welcome company in the forest tonight were hundreds of fallow deer. Not the reddy-brown-with-white-bits fallow deer you see in parks and calendars, but the mostly-grey-with-almost-black-sides fallow deer that you can't see unless you're travelling fast, deep in the woods. They might not look as pretty, but seeing the owners of forty pairs of shining eyes can look pretty amazing.

Today: 13.6 miles, 1:52 hrs, 1906 cals
January: 387.2 miles, 55:57 hrs, 52462 cals

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Station to station

An adventure racer friend of mine sent me a link to a DIY animation that takes the mickey out of ultra-runners, and Ironman tri-athletes. It was clearly created by someone with firsthand knowledge of ultra-runners, and the ability to identify the most entertaining (embarrassing) elements of their behaviour. I suspect it was written by my wife.

It included the notion that ultra-runners take futile rail journeys to the middle of nowhere, just to run back. Which made me laugh out loud, since this is obviously true, but I didn’t think many people (ie. except me) did this.

So tonight, I decided to do the opposite; donned road shoes and a vague sense of direction, and set off to run past five railway stations, using roadside pavements only, without catching any trains.

Two-and-a-bit miles to my first destination: Aldershot Station. Since I’ve run here twice already in Janathon, I opted for a slightly different route again, and while working out which way to go, I decided to spice things up by adding a couple of extra micro-challenges to tonight’s mission. I considered that I should complete the whole thing as a pure loop, containing no criss-crossing, overlapping, or doublebacking at all (even little ones). Oh yeah, and that I would have to cross the railway at each station. Simple huh?

On from Aldershot, north through the old military town, to pick up the mile and a half long Queens Avenue, over the Basingstoke Canal, into North Camp, over the bypass, and at five and bit miles, North Camp Station.

A strange little one this. Tucked away at the end of a string of lakes, and sitting at a lower level than the surrounding roads, it’s easily missed. It doesn’t run into London like most stations nearby, but instead is on a direct line to Gatwick Airport. Occasionally you can drive past and see po-faced ex-holidaymakers in shorts and sandals damply loading cases into wet cars.

South east for barely half a mile, and Ash Vale Station is ticked off the list. Equally hard to spot, Ash Vale sits almost thirty feet above road level, beside a bridge that carries the tracks over the B3411, it’s easier to spot the carpark, always overflowing with commuter vehicles.

Turning south, crossing back over the canal, over a small hill, and it's Ash Station, complete with level crossing. The reputation of this crossing for causing rush-hour mayhem reaches almost as far as the queues.

Maybe eight miles in and just the final station to clear. Back over the bypass, then through the suburbs of southern Aldershot, past my brother’s place, to brush past Weybourne (bizarrely pronounced Webbon) via Badshot Lea. And here’s where I realise the payback on my earlier decision. Passing momentarily within a mile of home, the limited choice of pavements between here, Farnham Station, and home again leaves me no option than to cross the tracks at the station, heading in the wrong direction, box round, then back into Farnham, and then up over the top of Folly Hill. Very good for Janathon mileage, not very good for the legs.

Well, the legs survived for another day, and another run. Tonight's route probably wasn't as engaging as some of the recent trail loops, or as satisfying as the occasional “train out, run back” that inspired it in the first place. But if was fairly fast going through the mid-section, and I can hold my head up in the company of normal runners as having done a normal run, and not some ultra-nonsense.

Providing, that is, they’re the kind of normal runners that go out on a Wednesday evening, run past a bunch of railway stations, making up the rules (and therefore the distance) as they go.

Today: 16.6 miles, 2:06 hrs, 2317 cals
January: 373.6 miles, 54:04 hrs, 50556 cals

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Hole in the Wall

Winter wall
In spring 2009 I said farewell to the company car, the daily suit and tie, and the two hundred mile commute. I left behind working trips to the Middle East. I parted company with targets and bonuses and quarterly reviews.

I gained perspective, a certain amount of freedom, and a much greater desire to go to work each Monday morning. And... a bombproof little video camera, courtesy of a very generous whip-round from my ex-colleagues.

I’m not the most technically minded person. I'm practically a luddite, and to be honest, this is where I’m comfortable. I become happy with a level of technology, and stick with that. My laptop, Garmin, iPod, and this swanky little video camera must all despair of my limited abilities.

So in summer last year, I went running with the intention of shooting some video, and trying to make something watchable. I chose a reasonable out-and-back that took me from my front step, a few miles out, and a few miles back. I figured it had some aesthetically okay bits, and the turning point was a throwback to my youth that always made me smile.

 “The Wall” is a term some runners use, referring to a point in a marathon where the body only wants to stop. I’ve heard different mantras and mottos intended to get people through this psycho/physiological barricade. Strangely, it wasn’t until I was thinking of a name for this video that I saw the metaphor. It seems that in this case, they might be right: the Wall does indeed have a Hole in it.

 I’ve moved since I made this. The Hole in the Wall run is no longer an out-and-back from my front step. But since I wanted to share this video, this evening I composed a loop that would take me back there, and through it again.

Running solo tonight, armed with underutilised phone, overused headtorch, and the ubiquitous water bottle, I felt good, ran fast, and rounded the distance up to fifteen miles. The trails were soft, the rain was cooling, and the Hole in the Wall felt bigger than I remember. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that February is almost here.

Perhaps going through the Wall is like everything else; it gets easier with practice.

Today: 15.2 miles, 1:57 hrs, 2126 cals
January: 357.0 miles, 51:58 hrs, 48239 cals

Get into the groove ii. "The Forgotten Loop"

What a revelation last night's run turned out to be.

Tom and I set off from a dark carpark at around half past eight, heading in a clockwise direction. Within a hundred yards of leaving tarmac we were slipping around in claggy mud, descending from the railway lines between chainlink fences through a small industrial park. In my head, I tried to remember whether this was the reason for not wanting to go anti-clockwise: this wouldn't have been the best way to finish a run.

Keeping map and compass in hand to negotiate a dozen or so field crossings in the dark, the going was mostly good. Small pockets of woodland were firm underfoot, and deep in oak leaves, and the occasional patches of heavy mud were mostly restricted to the gates and stiles.

And what about those stiles! Tom found it hard to believe that I had no recollection of the sheer number of them we would have to overcome. Within a mile and a half he'd run out of fingers to count on, and in sections of the run, we found ourselves entering a trail section over a stile, and simply shining our headtorches ahead, spotting the next and heading for it. With each little hedge, fence and wall crossing to negotiate, despite some fast running where the opportunities arose, our our average pace wallowed at nine and a half minutes per mile.

But I was loving it. With clear skies above dispelling the threat of rain, and some solid navigation on-the-go buoying my confidence, I was amazed that I hadn't revisited this route before. Through the mid section, we started to loose the smooth fields, to be replaced by some ridge running, and sharp inclines, and by the final quarter we found ourselves either pushing hard uphill, or stretching our legs on the descents.

Maybe this was my reason for not coming back sooner? By the time we were within a mile of our finish point, I started to recognised half a dozen locations where I'd struggled to find my way, last time round. Memories of battling over the navigation within the first ten minutes came flooding back, as did the disappointment of having so much gradient change so early on. The first time I did this run, it had taken a lot more out of me than it had on this occasion, and the combination of getting lost, early hills and a million stiles had clearly been too much for me.

Not this time though.

In respect of yesterday's thoughts, it seems that our memories can indeed be selective, and perhaps we can all be too quick in forming our opinions. Perhaps instead, all running is good, and every route can be a favourite, providing you're in the right frame of mind to make the most of it. And if you're not? Come back in eighteen months when you've forgotten it, and run it the other way round, at night, with a mate.

Today: 11.0 miles, 1:41 hrs, 1412 cals
January: 341.8 miles, 50:01 hrs, 46113 cals

Monday, 24 January 2011

Get into the groove?

No, not Madonna on the iPod. More a train of thought...

For the first time in Janathon, I’m writing my blog before I go running. From a seed of an idea planted by MTB endurophile Gary T, I’ve found a map of a route I’ve run only once, and here I am, pre-visualising myself running it once again.

I ran this route in 2009 (or was it 2008?). Highlighted on a photocopied map, scribbled over with notes, and afterwards, stashed in a box, presumably for a day like today. I suspect from the notations that this route was a summer walk suggestion, lifted from a parish magazine or guidebook. Good walks often make great runs, and a number of my favourites begin their lives this way, before being adopted, amended, or as in this case, instantly forgotten.

My memory of this particular loop is almost totally absent, but I find it interesting that certain aspects have stuck. I know I ran it in daylight, but only because I remember driving away from the station car park afterwards. I also know it was summer, because I recall pausing early-on to adjust my waistpack, which was loaded with over a litre of water, and rubbing on my shirtless back.

Plank bridge (photo by Tom)

I also have the vaguest recollection of a mental note that I made afterwards, but tantalisingly, I remember two distinct options. It was either “Best run in a clockwise direction”, or possibly, “Avoid in winter”. Needless to say, I’ll be running clockwise tonight, hoping that it wasn’t the latter.

And it’s uncertainties like this which are the nub of today’s thoughts. Sometimes, I can remember intricacies of a route, almost footstep by footstep, even if I’m a hundred miles away. Others can be recalled only whilst I’m running them, so I know which way to turn, but only as I arrive at each junction. Some leave almost no trace at all.

Does a route become memorable because it was particularly good (or bad)?

Is it more memorable if the runner needs to concentrate throughout – on navigation, or pace?

Is it then possible that the best routes might be the most forgetable?

Many runners talk of moments of being “in the groove” or “zoning out”, and often, the ability to do this for lengths of time can be the measure of a good run, and often an indication of running well. Some runners crave this feeling, and hence only ever run the same routes, at the same pace, at the same time of day to help the autopilot engage. Whether it’s the “Saturday morning loop”, or the “Wet weather circuit”, we all wear our little grooves into our normal routes, into which we can habitually slot ourselves and slip away.

I prefer to combine these grooves with a little adventure. For me, familiarity is a comfort, but the unfamiliar is a passion. Above all, I appreciate the balance: routes, seasons, terrain, people. I may not remember them all, but I remember how much better they can make me feel.  


Sunday, 23 January 2011

When fighting a Bear...

" don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the Bear's tired."

GV going Grizzly
This is the proverb behind a mantra that might flit through my head on a long run, a tough climb - or in the case of Janathon, any waking moment.

Sometimes the Bear is the guy in front, sometimes it's the trail, sometimes it's just your own weaknesses wanting to get the better of you. You must fight, and hope that the Bear tires first, but there is another option (and this bit is the mantra):

Be the Bear

I have others:

"This too, shall pass" - True for good and bad.
"Reel it in" - Courtesy of Tom, refering to the finish.
"It'll all be okay in the end" - (so if it's not okay, it's not the end)

Some might suggest that these same mantras could be applied to life, but if I were relying on these to get me through each day, I think a bit of life re-assessment might be more useful. Or a good hobby. How about running? Hmmm... within reason perhaps.

The St Swithuns/North Downs Loop
"Thank you for editing carefully" (tee hee)

This morning I set out to connect a series of routes I've run for a number of years, with the addition of a new bit near the start to join the dots. If Janathon is responsible for one thing, it's the exponential increase of footpaths, bridleways and open common that I can now incorporate into routes of more than ten miles.

The plan was to be out for about four hours, and complete a wide loop stretching from Bentley (as featured in TV's "The Village") in the west (on the St Swithuns Way) to Puttenham Common in the east (on the North Downs Way).

The highlights were too many to mention, but the general feel of the run was superb from start to finish.

The trails are firmer today than they have been most of January, and with bridlepaths so choppy at the moment, an effort to use the footpath alternatives paid off. This eastern-most section of St Swithuns Way will make an excellent summer run with it's tarmac interludes, worth a train journey to Winchester to do the whole thing, or broken into halves from Alton.

It was also wonderful to keep moving between the familiar, and unfamiliar. Stringing together sections of  routes I knew with strange links, I kept map in hand until almost the end. Being able to repeatedly look up and think "Wow, I'm here" was uplifting throughout. The iPod never got a look in.

Checking if 4B were home
With all the self-enforced running that Janathon has meant to me, days like this are a huge relief. Like many runners, the process of putting one foot in front of the other while the mind wanders, can be a significant way of dealing with stress, strain, anxiety, and all the negativity that life can produce. On occasions when I don't want to run, I find the route planning therapuetic; and I can often choose whether or not to run in company, depending on my mood.

One of the key Janathon challenges for me has been the removal of a degree of choice. I no longer choose whether to run, I can only choose how. And that in itself, has added to, rather than subtracted from my worries. Much of the running I've done this month has reminded me of the cigarettes I used to smoke. Constantly thinking about the next one creates anxiety, and the relief of each fix is shortlived, after which the anxiety returns, placed on top of an in-tray of other issues unresolved.

One of the main drivers of my Janathon has been to get more out of it than simply mileage, or the raw challenge of running daily. I set myself targets within the challenge, figuring if I'm going to become "hooked" on running for a month, there ought to be some lasting positives.

A run like today's is one of those positives. A route I'd been thinking about for a number of years, run well, under unique circumstances. No Janathon, and there may never have been a St Swithuns/North Downs Loop - which revealed itself as twenty five miles of countryside so engaging that I feel completely reset.

Today, Janathon became the tiring man, and I became the Bear.

Today: 25.5 miles, 3:40 hrs, 3518 cals
January: 330.8 miles, 48:07 hrs, 44701 cals

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Club Class

A slightly early Saturday morning for me, particularly after my late run, and dinner last night. By eight o'clock I was at Javed's house in Odiham saying hello to a few Hart Road Runners club members I've not seen this year, and being happily hounded by happy hounds (either because they appreciate my doggish "eat-play-run-sleep" mentality.... or because I smell of cat).

Andy , Fiona, Huw, Andy, Javed
Maisy, Pippa
Javed's dogs, Maisy and Pippa, put in a fair few miles, and regularly join a run with a familiar group. Maisy's heavier coat and steadier pace means she fares better in cooler weather, whereas the younger Pip isn't averse to clearing the odd gate, or chasing an errant pheasant.

Once everyone arrived, Javed lead us out on a regular route of his. Within minutes from his door you can find yourself in wide open fields, separated by flinty (or often muddy) green lanes and farm tracks, and Javed can string together a route of almost any distance by adding or removing loops from key junctions.
Today we headed west initially, for what became a twelve mile excursion, and took turns to sharing the lead and bringing up the rear, happily chatting between us as we went.

Of the group, three of us are "dark-siders", in that we regularly sign up to ultra-marathons of thirty miles or more, plus an ultra-dabbler, a triathlon-dabbler, and a marathon-dabbler. The dogs favour ultra-duathlon events, in that they'll happily run for several hours at a time, but whenever the see water, they'll be swimming.

At this stage in my Janathon campaign, it's refreshing to be running with a good sized, mixed group. Not only is it great to chat to other runners about their plans for the year, but it's also a good reference for seeing how well (or not) I'm running after twenty two days straight. The body's definitely still feeling as good as it was two and a half weeks ago, which supports my plan to look after my joints from day one; but I'm itching to get a bit of rest & recovery, so I can start using some higher gears again. The bathroom scales suggest a noticeable drop in weight, and a reduced fat percentage since Janathon began, which means I should be well set for some faster long runs throughout spring, and fitting in all my suits for another year.

The run concluded with a social coffee, and runners departed for busy days of taxi-ing kids around and visiting family. Me? I have an appointment with a lazy lunch and a comfy sofa, plus a couple of hours of television I have no intention of staying awake for.....

Today: 12.2 miles, 1:55 hrs, 1391 cals
January: 305.3 miles, 44.39 hrs, 41183 cals

Deep mud and green sand

So the laptop appears to be holding up, so I'm blogging while the illusion is maintained.

Great run this evening. A few weeks ago I'd looked into a circular trail run starting from Tom's house in Godalming. Trouble was, I couldn't find any decent trails to get us back to his house. However, running along the Wey towing path a fortnight ago, I realised we could simply bolt the final part of that onto the loop, do a bit of mappery to get the ends to meet, and hey presto, a beautiful looking twelve and a bit mile run.

So tonight we ran it, in temperatures hovering either side of freezing.

Private - no access!
I have to say, the start wasn't particularly auspicious. We found some amazing running across a wooded hillside, but not on the trail we were looking for. An early glitch never bodes well, and by the time we found the place we should have been, and ominous sign warned that a key footbridge across Busbridge Lakes was closed. Just two miles in, and the route would have to be detoured. Thankfully, Tom suggested we go for it anyway.

Half a mile further along the trail, we started to run past remains of the old footbridge, and with the sound of running water coming from far beneath our feet, we came upon security fencing with signage stating "Private - no access". Since Tom and I are both quite private people, we figured this meant we could go ahead, so we squeezed past the barriers and tiptoed across the semi-constructed scaffolding that had been erected in the bridge's place. Fortune favours the brave.

Running continued, mostly using well worn, and incredibly muddy bridlepaths, south over Hydon Heath, and the highest point on the route, Hydon's Ball. Seizing the opportunity to guest-bag another trig point for my running buddy Pyro, we had a quick squint at the view, and starry sky above.

From this point we picked up the Greensand Way, which is predominantly very poorly waymarked bridlepath. We alternated between stop-starting with map and compass to determine which of many tree-littered micro-trails we should be taking, and slogging uphill in steep sided, hoof-poached gullies. I kept thinking how depressed somebody like me would be if they'd included any of these trails in a biking route...

Extreme Trig Hugging
The Greensand Way turned us north again, and the running finally picked up, as wooded trails became enclosed footpaths between level fields.

Edging towards Bramley we saw our third owl of the run, swooping ahead of us between the natural archway of beech trees, but kindly perching on a branch to our left, to let us have a better look at him. I don't think it's any coincidence that we saw no rabbits tonight.

Eventually Tom recognised our position as we honed in on Godalming, and picked up the pace. Including half a mile of faffing about at the beginning, we'd been out a little longer than planned, and our wives were beginning to wonder whether we were going to make it to dinner.

Tom and I are both running early tomorrow morning, in different places. As much as our wives support us in our foolhardy endeavours, with what they already put up with, we know better than to bug them for a lift home.

Today: 13.0 miles, 1:58 hrs, 1757 cals
January: 293.1 miles, 32.44 hrs, 36792 cals

Friday, 21 January 2011


Bad news today - so an early post from me.

I've not run yet, but am looking forward to a decent yomp on a new trail with Tom tonight.

But right now, I'm feeling very edgy about a core member of the Local Adventures team, that may hamper our Janathon chances.

The laptop is injured.

Earlier this afternoon, my Explorer went haywire with security warnings, something it's never done before. A call to IT support suggested a full backup and reformat would be required. Backup now complete, it'll have to limp through this weekend, before being collected by courier on Monday, and sent up north. I have reservations as to how well it'll operate until then, let alone what I'm going to do without it for three days, in a world of working from home, Janathon, and self assessment tax returns.

It would be typical of my relationship with technology, if 280 miles of legwork were to amount to nothing due to some internet virus crap.


On my command....unleash hill!

Getting through today's work day was a good feeling. Lots of "call me backs" logged with people who never call me back, and a clutch of emails hurled into the ether, and by seven thirty it felt like I'd been banging my head against a wall since breakfast.

However, text messages had been good to me. By eight o'clock it looked like I'd managed to line up a bunch of great runs over the course of the next few days, and as I leafed through my Janathon maps, I realised I'd yet to run my "normal" loop. Tonight's run sorted - excellent!

Everybody looks old at the top
That meant lightweight shoes (since I knew I'd be ankledeep in water in at least one section) and a little headtorch (I tend to remember where I trip up), and the only thing I'd do different for Janathon, would be to run it the "other" way round. I know, crazy.

It also would mean that for once that I could laugh in the face of Old Man's Hill, by going from top to bottom. This hill is usually the penultimate proper climb on a loop that gets progressively hillier, as the body inevitably tires. It's an enclosed footpath squeezed between high closeboard fences, and whilst it's reasonably short, from almost any point on the climb it has the light-bending qualities of an optical illusion. Particularly running it at night, whenever you think it can't get any steeper, you look up from your thigh-burning purgatory, and the path is still rising up front of you! With only twenty yards ahead of you ever visible beneath overhanging branches, you would be forgiven for thinking that eventually you'll be running up a cliff face. I love taking the uninitiated up it - the incredulous looks as they breathlessly creak their way out of the top - simply priceless.

The second good hill I got to run down today is in a location called Bourne Woods, and I use the word location for good reason. It's a patch of hilly, coniferous forest that is frequently used by film crews for creating ancient battle scenes. Russell Crowe is a regular, since many scenes of both Gladiator and Robin Hood were filmed here. About eighteen months ago, running buddy James took a group from our club for a bimble through Bourne Woods, which included a wide-eyed tour of a convincing medieval village, overlooked by a convincing castle, under the watchful eye of a convincing hi-viz-wearing security guard.

The "wet bit" of the run was indeed very wet, along a section of green lane where 4x4s tear up and down to see who's passengers can feel sick first. The result is a mile of track comprised of a neverending series of randomly spaced pits and peaks. The pits are almost always wet at the bottom, and the peaks are often loose, where they've been chewed by the undercarriages of a thousand ego-friendly futility-vehicles. Running this section is excellent training for core and lower body strength, which means for non-trail runners it's a baptism of fire. With no two steps the same, it's a constant test of balance, traction and stamina, as every body part is engaged to overcome deep sand, deeper water, and constant ups and downs in between. Every time I've been lazy here, I've tripped or stumbled, and on every occasion, I've landed in water. I love it.

And those are the highlights.

Which is the thing I most love about routes with character. They're like an old sweater, the more times you use them, the better they feel.

Today: 13.1 miles, 1:52 hrs, 1841 cals
January: 280.0 miles, 40:46 hrs, 38035 cals

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Oh no, it's training again.

Commuter day again today, which meant another round of jumping on and off trains, from bleary o'clock in the morning until half past knackered at night. Still, it's a straightforward (phew - I almost wrote "easy" then), way of chucking on a bunch of miles, and running to catch a train is a great motivator.

Stop start running is also a sure-fire way to get plenty of room on a train. I take a change of clothes to wear in the office, but the stinkies go back on again for the run home. Nice.

The weather on the way out this morning was surprisingly chilly, with dozens of icy boobytraps, left by men in transits who've tried fixing water leaks by ramming tarmac into wet potholes.

A couple of miles of running with my 15lb (I weighed it) pack soon warmed me up however, and by the time I sat in a warm train I was glowing buckets.
Local Adventures Chocolate Deliveries
(castles a speciality)
~ ~ 

London was wonderful again. I'd love to have been able to capture the panorama from Waterloo Bridge. In every direction, the city was waking up: floodlights still shining against a tapestry of architecture, but with the stone and glass facades warmed by a lilac sky. Truly beautiful in every direction, from County Hall, the Savoy, and the twinkling embankments up close, to the hazy Houses of Parliament and dome of St Pauls beyond. What a place.

Then onto York once again, and the three mile stint to my client's office. Today, running along the River Ouse (Ooze?), I appeared to have just missed the flooding: the tarmac path was an inch deep in silt, and the playing fields all around still feet deep in floodwater.

A day in the office, meetings over-running again, and true to form, I left the building about three minutes after I should have done. Hotfooting to the station at an uncomfortably rapid pace, I was constantly tempted to just throw in the towel and pay a zillion pounds for a later train, but kept on it, and arrived in a record twenty one minutes. Whereupon I had to cling to a noticeboard, as sweat poured, legs trembled, and the overhead signs advised me that my train had been delayed for over thirty minutes. Hmmm.

A good plod across London again, and by the time I alighted at Farnham for the last leg of the journey, the moon was really going for it. Having left a headtorch at home, I decided I'd make the best of the moonlight, and my low-viz clothing, and headed home past Farnham Castle for a quick photo, and a stealthy bimble across the park, under a moon so bright you could count the rabbits.

Today: 15.1 miles, 2:06 hrs, 2062 cals
January: 266.9 miles, 38.53 hrs, 36194 cals

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

"This country is my canvas...."

"...I leave paint trails as I go. I'm painting a picture you can only see from outer space". According to Frank Turner, who was obviously dreaming up Janathon when he wrote it. I'm confident that this is the only rational explanation, because it's too much of a coincidence that the lyrics define my Janathon so far, and pretty much sum up my running, but also, when I'm running well, it's the perfect cadence for a compact trail runner like me (okay, so I so it's only 90bpm - but I do move both legs per beat).

Tonight, it never sounded better, running under a clear sky with a full moon, and never more pertinent:

It occurred to me today that if I overlaid all the routes I've run in the last eighteen days onto the same map, it would probably look a bit like Mr Messy, but with Mr Tickle's arms. Maybe about four arms actually, possibly with a few spare bits laying around.

I figured I might be able to connect a couple of those dismembered limbs to the Messy middle, which suits my OCD proclivities, and tonight's run was part of the process.

So I drove to Farnham Station with a heatproof-bag (explains why later) and caught a train to Guildford, from where I hopped onto the underwater Wey tow path heading south, until I reached the footbridge that marks the crossing point of the North Downs Way, whereupon I turned right.

Okay, so maybe I'll leave some for later
Run run run run run. Tonight I got completely lost. Not in a navigational sense, but in a consciousness sense. And it was great. Totally zoned out, mind wandering, as I just relaxed into miles of natural running. This is a familiar trail for me, and tonight it was running firm considering all the wet nonsense we've had. Oak leaves are finally piling on the ground, just starting to frost over, which seems a bit weird after two weeks of mildness, but I had nothing to grumble about. My feet felt like they were picking themselves up, I just had to keep putting them down again.

Twelve miles later I materialise close to Farnham Station, jump into the car, unzip the heatproof-bag, and insert into it a fine example of a Special Chow Mein, courtesy of the Tasty House Chinese Takeaway, in front of which I had parked. Nothing keeps you motivated like a kitchen about to close.

Joined up thinking - joined up running.

Today: 12.0 miles, 1:41 hrs, 1675 cals
January: 251.8 miles, 36:47 hrs, 34132 cals

Monday, 17 January 2011

Perfect Ten

I subscribe to the Billy Connolly school of meteorology/fashion:

"There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. Get yourself a sexy raincoat and live little!"

I also like to liberally paste the same principles over subjects like "the dark", "strange territory" and "unwelcoming terrain".

And so, this evening, I set off into a torrential downpour with a laminated section of map in one hand, compass in the other, and gert headtorch on ma heed. My goal? A ten mile(ish) loop of south west Farnham, following footpaths onto new ground, that the map suggested might be a little tricky to navigate at night.
Slightly damp underfoot

It started easy enough, with a little warm up along the top edge of Farnham Park, and on unmade roads I've run, and ridden my bike along before. Where tonight's route differed, was at a T junction in a minor lane, where I would normally turn left. This evening, while the rain limited visibility to maybe 30yds, I was going straight on, through an overgrown hedge, over the most rickety stile you could ever hope to break your neck on, into a vast and featureless grassy pasture, in the vain attempt of finding a distant fence crossing.

Now that the clouds had run out of cats and dogs, and had begun to rain old women and sticks, some canny mapology lead me straight to the fence crossing. The map revealed the line of the footpath followed a very slight depression, so all I had to do was splosh downhill, following the rainwater as it poured from the field. Another couple of stiles to negotiate, and the now enclosed footpath was becoming a torrent, scouring the gully clear of mud and leaves, and stirring up yellow silt from the sandstone beneath. Widened to meet the main A31, the slowing waters bulged into the near carriagway, where cars and trucks took turns to hurl it into the trees along the roadside. I decided not to hang about for the next one, and splashed my way across the tarmac to the comparative shelter of the driveway opposite.

Taking time to consult the map as water trickled from my nose in a steady stream, I considered that this evening's route may not have been best considered, given the weather. I realised I was about to cross the land belonging to a building called Willey Mill, which would indicate more water, and I recalled how this whole corridor of land was currently locked in a conservation row, during which it had been entitled "Farnham Water Meadows". Hmmmm.

Which this evening, turned out to be a quite accurate description. Once I'd negotiated the very un-waymarked Mill (if people worry about men in headtorches snooping around their expensive houses late at night, a few signposts might help), I crossed the mill race and overflow, set my compass, vaulted a four bar gate (there may have been a fifth underwater) and proceeded to ford a large field, disguised as a shallow lake, which stretched further than my headtorch could pick out in the rain. I figured I could always turn back now, but I was wet already, the ground underfoot was grippy enough, if a little damp, and whilst the water which surrounded me for hundreds of metres was all quite clearly flowing, it was doing so quite slowly. If I live long enough to have any, I shan't recommend this kind of activity to my kids, but I'm also unlikely to forget it.

With the water rising as far as my knees, and then gradually receding, I finally emerged onto visible land after crossing beneath the railway, through a concrete floored tunnel in which the photo above was taken. My route then rose to track level, and against the lights of Farnham in the distance, I could see islands of grass and hedge poking from a great string of black lakes, and the form of the river itself emerging and disappearing as the ground changed height.

My run continued, joined and rejoined by tonight's running partner, the Upper Wey river. Through Farnham, it raged under ornamental footbridges where children paddle in summer, and to the east in steeper ground, it enveloped the narrow riverside footpath, forcing me up into the ivy of the railway enbankment.

With memories of crappy runs washed away by the rising waters, I finished tonight's outing stood in a puddle outside my house, with a big grin on my face, rinsing my sexy running shoes.

Some days you train for the medals. Some days are the medals.

Today: 10.1 miles, 1:32 hrs, 1388 cals
January: 239.8 miles, 35.06 hrs, 32457 cals

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Planes, trains and automobiles

Today's run was much more like it. On paper, it was as dull as, well, paper; but in reality, it was the perfect tonic to yesterday's trial.

The route was made up on the go, from James's house in Fleet, with the intention of going for "about an hour", on "nothing too muddy". Between us we worked out whether to turn right or left as we went, and after setting out around Fleet Pond, we reached a tarmac cyclepath that took us along the permieter fence of Farnborough Airfield (sorry, Airport) towards Southwood Housing Estate (sorry, Village), and back into Fleet alongside the main Southampton-Waterloo train line. A bit more of Fleet pond, and a chunk of road to bring it above eight miles, and that was that. Simple.

So why so good then?

It was unplanned. After spending yesterday psyching myself out of a run, today I got up late, put my running gear on, and left the house. Perfect.

It was short. If I keep going at the rate I have been, I'm going to be sick of running by the time I reach February. The further I go, the more compelling it becomes to constantly find another twelve, or thirteen miles, or nip out on a weekend and be gone for hours. I decided today that I would run less than ten miles with some friends, and give some thought to how I might want to run the second half of Janathon.

GV and John at Fleet Pond (pic by James)
It was in company. As well as James, who was in fine form at the end of a fairly miley week, we were joined by another good friend, John, who was down for a quick visit from Caerphilly. John likes a run himself, and about an hour is just right for him at the moment. I might mention that John is a cyborg, as he lost his right leg at the knee a decade ago. He has since been a mountain bike guide in Canada, and a medal winning sprinter in Beijing, but these days his focus is "doctors' school", and running has become a pastime, rather than a job. Though it may surprise some people, the transition from a sprinter to recreational runner is as tricky for John as it is for anyone - it'll take a while for him to adjust to the distance. He'll be aiming for a 1:45 at the Fleet Half Marathon this year, but like most goals he sets himself, there's no reason to think he won't get it (unless he drinks too much the night before - he is a medical student after all).

In reflection on yesterday's crappy run, I suspect that part of my frustration was that I took some time out of my day to think about some routes I'd like to run, which only left me disappointed with the route I ended up doing. Undoubtedly the hardest part about this challenge for me is juggling the non-running time to include both blogging, and planning.

Following today's excursion, I decided that if I can I should try to make a couple of "long" runs that I'd discovered part of my Janathon, which would require me taking it a bit easier during the week. I have to resist the temptation to push on for another hundred-mile-week for the sake of it.

It'll be interesting to see how it continues - like many fellow Janathoners, this is all new ground for me. However, it feels good to start the second half looking forward to some great running over the next fortnight!

Today: 8.3 miles, 1:08 hrs, 1173 cals
January: 229.6 miles, 33.24 hrs, 31069 cals

Janathonus Horribilis

I wanted a great run today. Dry bouncy trails for miles and miles, with a pair of light shoes under me, and thirty miles worth of lemon squash on my back.

Unfortunately, it never happened.

Today was my toughest Janathon day since the motivational pot-hole that is Day Two. Undoubtedly the miles are all adding up, and whilst the legs remain thankfully niggle-free, they're not quite the indominatable  springs I'm used to having underneath me. My brain is tiring too. I've planned and run more new routes in the last fortnight than I have in a year, and the mapwork is taking its toll.

Like many Janathoners, I've already covered more distance than I expected to reach in the whole month, but now that I'm in it, I feel somewhat obligated to keep pushing on, and while the body is able, the mind had better keep up.

But by this evening I had no plan, and no motivation to leave the house. Only one thing for it, the dreaded tarmac out-and-back. If you've simply got to log the miles, and you barely feel like stepping out the door, there is only one guaranteed way to ensure you go the distance - and it's brutal. Run directly away from your house in as straight a line as you can, and keep going until you've done half the miles, and only then, turn back. Ideally, you'll have told someone at home when you'll be back, and suddenly, running is the only option.

So this is what I did tonight. Over the hill, northeast on the uninspiring A325, from Heath End past Aldershot, North Camp (also not known as "South Farnborough Village"), Farnborough, Frimley, and towards Camberley. Other than a quick shimmy to negotiate the A331 crossing, wide pavements and streetlights all the way, and worryingly, a mostly imperceptible descent for almost all the outward leg.

Reaching my intended turning spot of seven and a half miles, I looked around for a landmark to photogrpah, and saw nothing but high closeboard fences on both sides of the road, so decided to press on to reach something of note. At eight miles I arrived at a Toby Carvey. Not spectacular, but good enough. It was then that I remembered I hadn't brought my phone with me, so no photo after all. Bugger.

So I turned around, restarted the GPS, and set off retracing my steps. I switched on the iPod to help pass the homeward miles, and got my head down.

Twenty minutes later, I realised the return section was going to be tough, as I now had the incline against me, and strong headwind. I'd not noticed the wind before, and I calculated with dread that this meant I'd probably been running with a tailwind all the way out. Head down further, iPod louder, nothing left but to will the miles behind me.

Thirteen miles in I was woken from my private purgatory by a violent freezing sensation shooting up the back of my legs, a sudden tightness in my right hamstring, and a vocal tirade from a hatchback full of teenage louts. Pulling up with my crampy leg, I realised I'd been hit by the contents of a flying milkshake, courtesy Farnborough's 24hr litter dispenser, the McDonalds Drive-Thru.

As always, a quick sense-check was followed by the thoughts of "I hope their brakes fail", or the more combative "How far is it to the next red light?", settling to the inevitable "Where I can wash this crap off?". This is not the first time I've been the target of an edible projectile while running at night, though last time I was hit by a bottle of Oasis, bottle and all. And people wonder why I sometimes leave the hi-viz at home...
So I walked, then jogged on to the nearest wet gully, gave my legs a rinse before I congealed, gathered my thoughts, and resumed my crappy run.

Getting home, my knees felt like mince. The constant forward lean had really worked my patella tendons, and courtesy of the milkshake nonsense, I was super stressed, and more tired than I've felt all month.

Now hours later, the cruelest irony of all is that I'm really craving a milkshake.

Today: 16.0 miles, 2:06 hrs, 2275 cals
January: 221.3 miles, 32:25 hrs, 29896 cals

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Straight Outta Compton...

..."another crazy ass jogga" as MC Ren from NWA used to say.

At least, I think that's what he used to say. I fondly remember NWA being the first hip hop group to promote running as a recreational activity, hence the name, short for "No Walking Allowed". I still don't know what all the fuss was about...

Anyway... tonight's run began , in fact, along the edges of Compton, and then Moor Park, Surrey. Home of some of the most desirable homes you could hope to find in one place. And an interesting "place" it is too, as it's neither a village, town or hamlet, since it has no shops, no pubs, post office, schools or amenities of any kind. Not even footpaths or streetlights. It feels instead like a drive-thru housing estate, but where each house has a few acres of land and an automatic gate. I'm sure the residents' association would object to such a comparison, but since they probably can't see the next house from inside their own, "residents" probably outnumber "neighbours" ten to one. My, how the other 0.2% live.

But.. what a great run!

New trails again this evening, leaving the house via a regular exit route, to cross under the A31 (via a large, and peculiarly inhabited roundabout), and towards the valley of the North Wey, the start of the North Downs, and the Greensand Ridge.

The first new turn took me via an enclosed footpath over recently rebuilt land. The gravel and sand has been stripped out of the hillside to leave a hole, which has later been landfilled, turfed, and had a footpath randomly re-established over the top. I wonder whether they're someday going to have to come back, move the landfill to one side and get more gravel out.

The route then joined the North Downs Way for a few hundred metres, but at the first opportunity jinked south, to allow me to make a debut assault on Crooksbury Hill.

Crooksbury Hill is 163m high, which is a mere fourteen storeys nearer the sun than my house (and a little shorter than the top of the hill I live on). However, it's a prominent landmark to the south, clearly visible from my office window. Between my house, and it, is the North Wey valley, and that meant a few miles into tonight's run, I had a hundred metre ascent to deal with.

But deal with it I did, and what a view was waiting for me. In honour of Pyro, I took a photo of the trig point at SU878459 (I'm sure he'll allow a "guest bag" for his regular blog), and then dropped from the top to cross Crooksbury Common on heavily poached bridlepaths, before heading towards Tilford village via some very underused (and therefore hidden) footpaths.

Crooksbury Hill Trig Point - for Pyro

Heading back towards home by reversing one of my more frequent routes, I tacked a mile or two onto the end by "butterflying" my final approach, and on completion, gave myself three pats on the back.

The first - for getting through another Janathon week of jogging, logging and blogging. Tough enough.
The second - for breaking two hundred miles in a month. Another PB (as far as I can remember).
The third - for following a 101 mile week, with a 104 mile week. Less of a personal goal, more of a personal "dare". Stubborn can be silly.

- A bit of a rambly blog this evening, but I make no apologies - a rambly mind is a Friday night treat.

Finally, for the week:

Congratulations to all Janathoners that are still going for it. I know many haven't been able to maintain the running, and some have lapsed on the odd blog. But, wherever I've looked, no one's given up.

There are those whose Janathons have been derailed by injury, family crisis, or simply more important demands on their time, but they've all come back, to run, swim, cycle and swing on trapezes, or to just turn on the laptop and post their thoughts.

Keep it up. This stuff is good.

Today: 14.1 miles, 1:58 hrs, 1945 cals
January: 205.3 miles, 30.19 hrs, 27621 cals