Along the ridge, up the valley. Hexham!

Posted: 06/10/2013 in Laughingly Called Training, Running, Uncategorized
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OK, perhaps not the pithiest title I’ve ever come up with, but then today wasn’t a pithy run.

Today was a gut-bucket huge-a-thon monster of a run, or at least for me.

Let me explain, gentle reader, in three weeks it’s the Jedburgh Ultra Marathon – 38 miles of goodness with an added volcano thrown in for good measure (no, really).

Because that’s a bit of a tall ask for me, I figured there should be training. However, training isn’t one of my strong cards, so I’ve stuck with the good old “run a bit further, eh?” approach, it’s done me fair-to-middlin’ to date. Heck, I even went a bit wild and tried a spot of fartlek training the other week.

I’ve been thinking one last stupid-long run would be good before what I am laughingly going to refer to as “tapering” – the process whereby proper athletes recharge their batteries ahead of the big day. I intend to use my tapering to let my pseudo-muscles turn back to jelly, which I shall call “wibbling” rather than tapering.

Anyhow, in a scientifically driven process* I’d decided that Hexham was the place. About 16 miles and then back again for 32 miles-ish in total. That’s not bad, eh? No, that’s ridiculous – what on earth was I thinking? That’s a good ten miles over my current longest run, which is strictly bad news. Apparently.

Anyway, I wasn’t going to let a thing like sense get in my way, so out the door I headed at 10am. Rather than heading down to the River Tyne, then up somehow, I’d decided to head along the top of the hill that forms the south side of the valley, drop down at Stocksfield and then up to Hexham.

It was a good plan.

From the top of the hill, let’s call it the ridge, I could see down into the valleys on both sides – the sun was out, it was mint.


So, along the ridge and then down into what we’ll call the technical part of the course, as in there were some turns to take, and I could easily** go wrong.

And you know what, I only went (pretty much) the right way. Down to the train station at Stocksfield and onto the main road to Hexham – with the realisation that I’m a bit tired, and still have nine miles to go on the outward leg.

It’s a long and boring road – hang on, isn’t that a song? See how my mind wanders even thinking about it? No path for most of it, so I’m running along the white line at the edge of the road – thank goodness I had my RoadID with me in case I got squished.

To cut to the chase, I made it to Hexham, and headed to the Hexham Tans veggie cafe. And what I found might surprise you.


It was closed.

In a turn of events not dissimilar to other plans***, it had all gone a little wrong.

It turned out that pretty much all of Hexham was closed. I did eventually find the lovely Deli 4 that had Earl Grey and a vegan shortbread.

Small break over, and off I headed, employing my walk/run technique whereby I run when I feel like it and walk when I don’t. It’s not a bad approach, though as the run continues it tends to get a bit more walk and a bit less run.

I ran out of water just before Stocksfield, but figure I could get more in the little shop. Only it had shut – what kind of shop shuts early on a Sunday? Well, this one.

Seven miles to go and no water. Not a good position after 25 miles.

Oh, and the hill. The hill out of Stocksfield takes me back onto the top of the ridge. Best walk it then don’t want to sweat too much. For ages, it’s a biggie with a switchback.

Hang on, I’ve got an IsoGel – it’s like a regular gel but watered down, so you can take it without water. Eventually I hit the top, take the gel and feel a bit better.

Back along the ridge, down to Chopwell and home we go – ran back down the hill, which felt good.

In total, about six and a half hours – that means another three and a half for the extra six miles and the volcano. That should be OK?

Also, drop bags for the checkpoints – never used ’em before so I’ll have to figure out how they work and the figure out what to put in ’em.

*As in I know there’s a nice cafe there with veggie food.

**If there’s a right way and a wrong way, guess which way I’ll go? I’d be the last lemming, shouting “which way to the cliff?”.

***I was intending to discover cheese deposits on the moon, but it turns out I’m lactose intolerant. Tch.


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