Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Let there be light!

It's been a fair old while since anything's been posted on this blog. I'd like to say that doesn't directly correlate with the amount of running that we've all been doing, but that's just not true. It's a tough task, getting home from work in the dark and motivating yourself to go running round the city streets (where the light is). Indeed, it's a far cry from the heady days of summer when we would frolick along the riverbank or across the open fields, communing with nature and topping up the tan. To make matters worse, the yielding, cushioned surface of Mother Earth has been replaced with monotonous miles of asphalt, grinding knees and ankles to a fine powder of bone and cartilage (similar to the contents of a Wall's sausage).

But fear not! The solstice approaches and as I'm sure my astronomical colleagues know, the shortest day of the year has neither the earliest sunset or the latest dawn. In fact, the sunsets are already getting later. Today it was light at 4pm for the first time in about 2 months. It won't be long before we can once again set forth upon journeys of discovery around County Durham. I can hardly wait!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

There's only darkness at the end of this one...

My most ambitious run yet took me from my flat in Newcastle along the Tyne towards the coast. I'd seen on the map that there was a foot tunnel under the Tyne, so aimed at turning back via that. After passing though some quite horrible industrial landscapes, in which I came across a few drug dealing kids and a 12 year old girl smoking a joint with her mother, finding the tunnel was quite a welcome sight. The following video was taken by my good self while running through the tunnel. The sounds of screaming are those of a group of chavs, going about their drink and drug fuelled mating rituals. Emerging on the other side and heading east, my run of discovery yielded still more wondrous observations. I got lost in an area of contaminated land and having already been running for two hours, wasn't in the mood. Eventually I found my way out and plodded to Tesco and bought three steak and kidney pies and ate them all outside the shop to the horror of the onlooking clientele.

Third time lucky?

Well, sadly not. With the dark nights drawing in and sports matches dominating the weekend it's tough to motivate yourself for another featureless slog through the orange-lit streets of durham. Currently, Matt has the cold from hell, Gareth has just recovered from and ankle strain, and I'm battling with the less ammusing type of IBS (Illiotibial Band Syndrome) for which I was reccomended some deep tissue massage - sounds painful. Anyway, enough of the excuses, here are this week's totals.

RunnerMilesRoutesTotal Miles

Hugh29.7Route 3, Route 9, Route 10
Gareth29.8Route 7, Route 11, Route 1279.5

Kudos to Gareth this week for his gruelling 16+ mile run around Tyneside. However, the astute reader may have noticed that in the three weeks since the totaliser started, none of us has completed the full 84 miles we'll need to do in three days to complete the challenge. I'm starting to get worried.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Carlsberg don't do shoes...

A while back I blogged of my trainer-based pilgrimage to the venerable Start Fitness. Recently I received their newsletter - a veritable Aladin's cave of desirable running accoutrements. Among the many precious items on offer I spied the Inov8 Mud Claw 270 Trail Shoe.

These are quite probably the most vicious, trailgrindingly, turfchewingly, gravelspittingly indestructible trainers I've ever seen. I envision the traction they afford as the equivalent of strapping a pair of Challenger II tanks to the soles of my feet. Plus they have a name contrived to inspire fear in all who behold them. All I know is, they will be mine. Oh yes, they will be mine.


As you know the challenge was set to run Hadrian's Wall in three days. The route is to take us along the wall path, which generally tracks the present remains of the wall and milecastles. In planning the route one must then ask oneself, 'How do I effectively break 137 odd kilometers (I can't work in miles) into three manageable blocks?' The trivial answer is that you can't, assuming we're unable to handle the distance. This is in all honesty a distinct possibility, but one which we must refuse to consider. The non-trivial answer is that you have to know a bit more about the terrain and facilities available along the way. For this reason I bought 'Hadrian's Wall Path', a Cicerone Guide. I have used these Cicerone guides before for routes in the Alps and they have always been very good - indeed indispensable- so I knew I was probably getting the best, and most honest advice I could find, as far as the nature of the route is concerned (I am sure that if they knew we were running it their advice may be somewhat different...) The guide is good because it breaks the route up into 31 chunks, ranging from 2 to 10km. I marked the legs on my AA road-map of the North East, and jotted down the cumulative distance along the way. It is obvious that we need to average approximately 45km a day. This is a hell of a distance. It is obvious that the route over the hills in the mid-section should be shorter than the average, and the easy bits along the flat banks of the Tyne, and flat approach from the Carlise to Bowness-on-Salway could then be longer. It made sense to start by considering the more difficult mid-section because this section is the only one bounded by the need for accommodation out in the wilds (the night before our first day will be spent at my flat, so we can get a nice early start. The end of the last day we'll have beds in a hospital). There was then almost no choice but to start at Chollerford and end at Gilsland. This gives us a distance of 38km that day. The first day starts at Wallsend and thus will punish us with 48km. The last, a crippling 51km.

Having the route sorted, with each day now given a distance, I am starting to feel far more apprehensive. As Hugh said, we're really going to have to get those miles run in the mean time. This is going to need serious training.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Oh, how the worm has turned...

It's been a sorry week for the Hadrian's Wall challenge totaliser. What with colds, tendon strains and weekends away, the mileages are looking pretty meagre.

RunnerMilesRoutesTotal Miles

Hugh15.9Route 5, Route 8
Gareth16.0Route 7 (x2)49.7

So, it seems that Matt may be on a crusade for redemption (although I don't have his official routes or distances yet he assures me he's done about 18 miles). In the meantime Gareth and I need to pull ourselves together, those miles aren't going to run themselves!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

It seems that my love of running has finally got the better of me. Yesterday while running I experienced an intense burning sensation on the side of my knee. I've had a bad knee for about 7 years after an injury I got playing rugby, but I've never experienced this before. A quick check on the internet suggests that I may have developed Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Disturbingly, this is caused by a tendon rubbing against the bone in the knee.

This highlights the need to effectively warm-up, warm-down and cross-train, in order to strengthen and protect joints from the repeated shocks which running involves. However, it does not mean that I'm running too much, as several people I know have suggested, merely that I'm being too cavalier about the strains I'm placing on myself.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Day of Reckoning

A week in running is a long time, and it just so happens that it's been exactly one week since I issued the totaliser challenge of 40 miles per week to my fellow runners. So, without further ado it's time for the scores on the doors...

RunnerMilesRoutesTotal Miles

Hugh41.0Route 1, Route 3, Route 4, Route 5, Route 6
Gareth33.7Route 4, Route 7 (x2), Route 633.7

All the columns are pretty self explanatory with the exception of Routes. You can click on each route to get the map of that route, in case you'd like to try it yourself. I'm also thinking of including an Excuse column for Matt. Comments welcome. Over and out.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Oi! Nutter!

With no major running events going on this blog's been a little quiet of late, and since Matt seems too busy to contribute I thought I'd take up the slack with a little 'philosphical' musing.

Whenever I tell somebody about the Hadrian's wall challenge, their first reaction is usually along the lines of "You guys must be [insert approprite expletive] mental!". What they don't seem to realise is that running is actually great fun. Granted, when you first start there is the pain issue, but as long as you don't hideously over-stretch your capabilites (too often) you soon find that you can happily keep going for as long as you want. There's something uplifting about the freedom of being able to just throw on a pair of shoes and head off for a couple of hours. You can just explore wherever you want. I've lived in Durham for nearly 7 years now, but since I've started running this year I've discovered at least fifty incredible places I'd never seen before, most of which can't be reached by road.

You also experience the natural world and the changing seasons in a way that's just not possible when you're haring along in a car. As an example, the other day I was running alongside the river Wear in the evening and a mist began to form on the shadowed valley wall. Gradually, a low ground mist began forming in a depression on the other side of the valley. Then something I've never seen before happened. Rather than expanding across the ground and joining up, the mist on the valley side threw out tendrils of vapour (fast enough that I could see them moving, even though the air was perfectly still) which snaked down to the mist on the other side of the valley, forming an arch of fog, which I then ran through. It wasn't a case of light and shadow forming the impression of structure on a uniform fog because when I ran under it it actually looked like an arch from all angles. I doubt if something like that could have formed near a city or road, because the air would not be still enough and the shape would be blown away. I guess I could have walked out there instead of running, but running lets me get further and see more things in the small amount of spare time that I have.

If you haven't stopped reading by now, you're probably thinking "Okay, recreational running is one think but 85 miles in three days?!". Well, for a start, we're doing it for charity (not just some macho impulse) and also for the challenge. As Kennedy said "We choose to...do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win". Now, while I'm not comparing our three day run to putting a man on the moon, the motivations are similar. Part of what makes us human is the need to become more than we are, to set and achieve new goals, and if they were easy then it wouldn't be worthwhile. So next time somebody tells you they're doing something difficult, or punishing, or challenging, maybe you should ask "Why aren't I?".

Right. Enough of the pretentious stuff, back to reality. Gareth told me the other day that he'd found a marathon training plan that required 40 miles of running per week (hopefully he'll blog it soon). I reckon I'm doing at least that, but the other guys seem to be slacking a little and I don't want to be carrying their stiffening corpses over the Pennines when they can't hack it. As a training incentive, I'm starting a totaliser, which will hopefully shame my compatriots into meeting the demands of the training regime. It should be pointed out that we are also three quarters of a rowing crew and have to fit that in as well. However for the purposes of this blog, only running miles will be counted - gym time is not admissible! Distances should be calculated using the Google Maps Pedometer and our respective totals will be posted every Thursday, starting from next Thursday. Get running guys.