Running isn’t my Hobby, it’s my Passion



The aim of this Blog is to hopefully paint a picture of the enjoyment I get from running off road. Weekend updates. Inspired by the countryside.

2015 : Arun River, South Downs Trail, Barnstaple and Meon Valley Marathons

     2016 : Imber Ultra 33 miles, QE Spring Half Marathon,  Wickham Whistler 21 miles, The Ox Ultra 36 miles, Woodland Challenge Half marathon, Meon Valley Half marathon, Winter Frolic 18 miles

2017 : QE Spring Marathon, 3 Forts Challenge 27.2 miles, Race to the King Double Marathon June 24th, Purbeck Marathon

“Your legs achieve what your mind believes” pcm2014b

 Me in my element !!

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Being a Guest Blogger

DSC00726Over the last couple of months I’ve twice been asked to contribute a piece about my running experiences and I’m both pleased and proud to have been asked. All my blogs have the underlying aim of promoting trail running so I’ve enjoyed contributing to both the runr clothing brands #irunbecause with a blog entitled Why I chose the trails and recently on the Winchester Bloggers website with Running the Winchester Ways

The nature of a long run through the country also lends itself to occasional photos. Keeping a look out for interesting examples of what you may come across certainly adds to your thought process as the miles tick by. The right photo can really add depth to your narrative.

The Winchester Bloggers request was a great example of not only covering a lovely part of the world but being able to step back in time and research some of the history that laid behind the route I took. So many trails lay undiscovered by the general public and it’s a real privilege to not only run them, but to promote them.

As a blogger I think its great to widen your horizons by reading about other peoples passions and how they express themselves. I looked at food, drink and lifestyle posts on the Winchester site. We can all learn off each other 🙂

Keep on blogging and maybe have a read of my two posts above !!

Thanks

Gosport Golden 24 – support

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The Gosport Golden 24 is a new event that started on Saturday 12 noon and finished Sunday 12 noon today. The basic idea was to use the measured Golden mile that’s already an established race and simply invite runners to contribute both miles and money to charity. The coastal tarmac route is a scenic mile of Stokes Bay, close to Gosport itself and also offers great views of the Isle of White. As this photo suggests some runners were more tired than others 🙂

Clothing sales had generated the majority of sponsorship before the event even started with the funds going to Depression Friends and the Brathay trust ….. “GG24”

When I arrived at 8am for an hours recovery run after last weekends Purbeck marathon all I had to do was add my name to the ever growing list. A variety of local club running vests were in evidence and it wasn’t long before I bumped into Johnny that I’d met at and Absolute Running 5.45 evening. Unfortunately the reason I struck up a conversation was because Johnny had clearly injured himself.

If Johnny did need rescuing we were in the right palace !!

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As we walk/jogged while Johnny and I were talking both Shane and Roman from the Endurance Hub came into view so it was a hello and good morning to them and then I set off running again. Naturally with the route being a mile out and back you saw people on a regular basis. Ben Jarvis from Gosport Road Runners (GRR) was the next person I recognised, Ben did last weeks Purbeck marathon and when we talked later he’d run a 50K yesterday too.

By now the sailors were getting their yachts organised for racing out on the water and the junior run was being organised too. It was at this point I saw Lee Rhodes from Bayside Tri club who use Stokes Bay for their open water swimming but today he was a supportive parent.

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The friendly nature of this low key event certainly came through with numerous “well done” and “morning” comments. As I came to the end of my hour I could see quite a few runners gathered at the start/finish HQ tent. I signed for my mileage and almost immediately saw Paul Pickford (Blue top), Fareham Crusaders new men’s captain for the 2017/8 season. We only had a quick chat as Paul was just about to set off running but there was still time for a couple of photos with Shaun and Ronan (Blue caps) & Ben (thumbs up).

DSC00669DSC00668DSC00670By all accounts there’d been a great response from runners attending on the Saturday and into the night. As I left more people were arriving so all in all the event sounds like its been a huge success. The number of a thousand miles had been mentioned as the target for the 24 hours, I may have only contributed a small amount to this but I felt part of the great effort everyone made.

Well done to the three organisers Terry, Steve and Rob for harnessing the community spirit that our local runners possess. If the event is repeated in 2018 I’ll be back for a much longer run 🙂

Running Awards Best Blog 2018

 

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The voting for Best Blog has opened. I would be very grateful if you would consider voting.

Just follow this vote link ……  Vote 

The Publications & Online category then has a Blog section, just scroll down to irunoffroad & vote. You do have to register if you haven’t voted before but it doesn’t take long and you won’t be pestered with lots of spam emails.

Thanks & enjoy your running

Roger

Purbeck Marathon #tough #scenic

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The Purbeck marathon has it all … narrow technical trails with mud and stones to negotiate, coastal hills (with amazing views) and inland hills (with amazing views). The 26.7 miles were a tad longer than a standard marathon but that’s trail running for you 🙂

My running buddy Paul and I travelled down to Dorset to find a sleepy Swanage. Our first sight was the sea lapping up against the beach and the second was the promise of the rolling hills that we’d driven past being our challenge for the day. Registration was at the foot of our first hill and as we made our way up to the start the scenic views had begun before the race had !!

DSC00639Today we were joined by fellow Fareham Crusaders Dave, Kate, Nikki and Thom as well as Dean from Pompey Joggers and Ben from Gosport Runners.

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The sun was shining on a perfect early Autumn morning and after our race briefing I couldn’t resist a photo with the official starter. My pre race anticipation was slightly tempered with knowing I haven’t done the volume of miles recently but when determination is required, I’ve got buckets of it 🙂

DSC00643Our first sight of the coast and the endless sea that really did look like it stretched out for ever was at about 1 & 1/2 miles. The lighthouse was an impressive sight but very quickly we had to concentrate on the trail ahead of us. The track was only two feet wide in places, there were numerous stones that jutted out from the soil and the cliff edge was quite often uncomfortably close !! It was certainly noticeable that the banter and chat between all the runners around use quickly changed to focusing on the job at hand.

Once through the worst of the technical section the path widened out and I joined Kate and Dave queuing for one of the frequent gates and styles that are a feature of this area which combined National Trust land and military firing ranges.

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With better running conditions underfoot we could start to appreciate the stunning landscape more. The deep blue sea contrasted with the light blue sky and both were offset with the lush green cliff top.

Our first significant hill took us inland at about five miles. As trail runners you are often presented with big hills, the accepted practise is to try and combine some running and some walking because you can be sure there will be lots more ahead !! The sheep and cows that we passed would also be a common feature for the rest of the race.

A section of narrow country lanes then brought us out again onto the coast by about the eight mile mark and from then on we steadily climbed up and away from the coast. The views here were once again stunning.

DSC00648coastAnother feature of this part of the area are these yellow poles that you need to stay between as they mark the route through the firing ranges !!! Thanks to Dave Fuller for this photo.

Dropping down to Tyneham (a village that was taken over by the army for training purposes) we were past half way and approaching a very steep climb that lasted well over a mile. I considered taking a photo but to be honest I decided getting to the top was my priority !! Luckily Paul and Ben took a photo so thanks to them for this one.

15At around 16 miles my spirits were lifted by running along the top of the downs and Nikkie Yeo catching me up. By 18 miles Nikki and I had combined with 100 marathons Nigel, Julie from Billericay and her running partner (it’s good to talk to strangers !!)

Running as a group, offering encouragement and collectively feeling the pain of our challenge meant that the miles passed quicker and in no time were approaching Corfe Castle. I have to say Julie’s constant talking was a delight, … one of Essex’s finest 🙂 and just the sort of personality that inspires you to press on.

DSC00651Running through Corfe village itself I lost Nikkie for a while (she stopped at a shop to buy a bottle of coke), the rest of us laughed that this was where Julie was staying for the night but she couldn’t drop out as the accommodation key was in the car at the finish. Next we crossed a railway line. Yes, that’s right, a railway line !! There’s an old steam train which runs down to the coast.

“All that remained now” were miles 21 to 24 that had three long gradual hills and then we’d drop down to the seafront. The three miles of hills took their toll on me and even though I made some ground up on the downhill I joined the seafront with a likely five and a half hours finish time.

In true running club tradition Paul, Kate and Nikki were waiting at the finish line and ran with me in the last couple of hundred metres shouting encouragements. I was impressed with the medal, t shirt and even a bottle of cider that came in the race goody bag. We celebrated with a burger and coffee, I thanked the runners who’d I ran with in the latter stages and on reflection our times ranged from 4.29 to my 5.33 so I wasn’t too far off the pace on a tough course.

Great running by all of our local runners that headed down to Dorset. The other positive to take from today was that five and a half hours of effort will be a great springboard for future weeks.

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Many thanks to the organisers for “so many” marshals, a fantastic course (ever hill is a challenge that makes you stronger) and the stunning scenery.

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For those of you that are on Strava here’s the link to the 26.7 miles Strava Download 

This is the Purbeck marathon course profile . Trail running can be tough but it’s a pleasure and a privilege to experience our Great British countryside with like minded souls. If this post has inspired you to try trail running then my job is done. Join us, but beware, once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked like us 🙂

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19 miles, Tailwind, hills, & drizzle : Loved it !!

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It’s only two weeks now to the Purbeck marathon so today needed to be a descent test of my form. I managed just over 19 miles with 2,170 feet elevation in quite Autumnal conditions. Also my Tailwind trial moved into its second week which you can read about further down.

Todays added bonuses were bumping into Ray Gunner from Stubbington Green who I haven’t seen for ages and Rosie from my club Fareham Crusaders who again I haven’t seen for quite a while. On my way home at about 18.5 miles with two lanes of heavy traffic to my left I also spotted the bright red Absolute Running van with owners Nick and Kim in it, so that was a great “pick me up” with waves and shouts of encouragement.

Well, September is with us, the football posts were up next to the cricket boundary, the leaves have started falling onto the path and todays drizzle was (although refreshing to begin with) fairly constant from mile 6.

However, none of the above dampened my spirits because today was the furthest I’ve run since June and being on the move for over three hours gives you “belief”.

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As the initial miles ticked by I contemplated on my liquids and nutrition strategy. I’d filled three 500ml soft flaks and only packed one gel and one energy bar. Ordinarily for a 3 hour + run I’d have taken three or four gels as well as a couple of SIS energy bars so it was going to be “sink or swim” time. Granted I was running conservatively but when I say the first time I thought I may need something extra was at 15 miles then that’s a big thumbs up to Tailwind. You read the recommendations but it’s always best to try it for yourself. I’ll come back to this later.

The first 6 or so miles were really an introduction before I reached Portchester Lane. This Lane is a favourite of mine due to 3/4 of a mile giving you 270 feet elevation. I set myself 4 reps and I wasn’t alone as a number of cyclists passed me too. As I mentioned earlier Ray Gunner passed me going up one of them. Ray has always been quick and he was on good form as he easily caught me up.

I really believe hill reps are an essential part of any runners training regardless of their race distances. The strength work really pays off physically and mentally.

DSC00619The route may be tarmac which isn’t idea and it is open to traffic but generally on an early Sunday morning its quiet. As you can see it’s a hill that just keeps giving as it snakes up to the horizon.

The fields to the right had wheat growing three weeks ago but that’s all been harvested so this was another reminder that Summer is disappearing.

I generally use a “bump bag” these days that I swivel around when I want something. My preferred choice of liquid containers are soft flasks because once empty they take up no room at all, they can be rolled up like an empty toothpaste tube.

Once heading down Portsdown Hill there’s a section with no pavement and it was starting to get busier as the morning progressed. I always like to run towards the traffic on these sections as I’d rather see them and move out of their way. Naturally I avoid doing this wherever possible.

Once heading for the creek at about 15.5 miles I’d taken a gel just for good measure and it was all flat from now on. Passing my friend Rosie was a surprise and then waving to Nick & Kim was a great motivator. At 17.5 miles I had the energy bar just to be on the safe side but to be fair I was still feeling good on the back of the Tailwind. Is Tailwind the answer to all our running needs ?? I will let you know over the coming weeks, however, the signs are promising.

Finally, I thought this sign from our local council was well thought out by aiming it at the kids 🙂 Although to be fair most people are pretty good.

DSC00615So, great miles, plenty of hills, more Tailwind feedback and a few surprise friends along the way. “Good Times”

 

Why I chose the Trails

Day to day life has its structure, its demands and its expectations but running sets you free. Even saying “running sets you free” makes me smile, its makes me feel alive and sharing it with other like minded souls, while running through nature, completes the experience.

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The reason I started writing a running blog was to try and pass on the enjoyment I feel while I’m running through the great outdoors with friends. I called my blog “irunoffroad” to simply try and capture why running isn’t my hobby, its my passion.

https://irunoffroad.wordpress.com/

When runr asked for contributions to their website it was an easy decision to offer some words because I’ve always been keen to share my love of running and try to encourage others to leave the pavements, now and then, to try something different.

I spent some 20 years training for and racing largely 10K’s with occasional 10 milers and halves. I dipped my toe with a road marathon in the early nineties and a mixed terrain New Forest marathon in 2007 but it was only when I decided to give myself a bigger challenge in 2013 by entering the North Devon marathon that my perspective on running changed. The area of outstanding natural beauty tag, that is associated with this marathon, equated to 3,000+ feet of elevation (hills) and both amazing coastal and countryside views.

Driving home after completing this marathon I realised that pace, pb’s and speed weren’t the only benchmarks of a good run, rising to the challenge of a tough course was just as rewarding. The countryside has its own natural pace setters, hills (both up and down), tree roots and overhanging branches, mud and puddles. Concentrating on and navigating these natural obstacles might seem daunting but once you have your feet to eye coordination lined up then its quite exhilarating to overcome whatever the trail is throwing at you. Naturally this comes with experience and taking risks certainly isn’t part of the approach. If it’s safer to walk, I walk.

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Your will power and mentality change when swopping trails for the road. Keeping to your planned pace on the road requires practice and discipline, off road its all about going with the trail and adapting to your location. Some people ask me do I use music on a 15 or 20 mile run, the answer is I’m too busy tuning into what’s around me, whether its the glorious views or the best line to run on a muddy section. Consequently I now find trail running so much more rewarding due to both the challenges and sights.

At this point I’d say out it’s safer and more enjoyable to run with others in the countryside just in case you get lost or have an “issue”, take your mobile phone too 🙂

I agree its too simplistic to say that the road is the road but out in the country so much changes every 3 or 4 months as the seasons pass. The landscape changes from Summers lush green into the array of Autumnal colours, then Winters barren and cold months are followed by the shoots of recovery that Spring brings. Don’t get me wrong I realise not everyone wants to take a full change of kit and shoes for when their Winter mud run has finished but again its adapting to the conditions that’s really rewarding.

Trail running also gives you infinite variety with the huge number of footpaths and officially recognised paths e.g. The South Downs Way. One minute you could be running next to a river, the next scaling a hill on the way up to the trig point. Armed with your lightweight rucksack you set off on an adventures every time. Are the crops ready for harvesting, will there be ice in the puddles, take in the scent of the flowers and aren’t sheep inquisitive 🙂

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All of these factors add up to why I love to trail run and the people I run with. Naturally when you are out on a long steady run you do get to chat, take an occasional photo and discuss strategies for what lies ahead of you. A particular recent run comes to mind here when we I ran 20 miles with Paul that I run with regularly, Rod who I haven’t run with for ages and James who we ran with for the first time and wasn’t as aware of the route as we were. Everyone brought their knowledge and experiences to the morning and after a well earned cuppa we all left agreeing to do it again.

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Due to trail marathons being less about the time and more about the challenge I also think the off road community is slightly more inclusive, especially once you go beyond marathons and into the world of ultras where survival becomes another feature.

In many ways my recent Race to the King run sums up why I love to run off road. A distance challenge that was far beyond my previous mileage, great company, my favourite South Downs Way and an almost out of the body feeling to be on the move for 12 hours over a double marathon. Have a read via this link to my blog,

https://irunoffroad.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/race-to-the-king-53-5-miles-12-hours-1-big-smile/

Finally I’d like to say thanks to all the “givers” who I now call friends through running. There are far to many to mention but surfice to say some are running shop owners, some are race directors but most are my running buddies.

Where can you run, this UK listing is in alphabetical county order.

http://www.gps-routes.co.uk/routes/home.nsf/contentnew/walking-in-england

Thanks for reading my rambles and maybe see you on the trails 🙂

Rog

 

 

 

 

 

In at the deep end, the road to “race fitness”

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Well, it’s 3 weeks until the Purbeck marathon so it “really” is time to get those distance legs working again. My analogy of “the road to fitness” and more specifically marathon fitness was tested to the full with this churned up trail coupled with the gradual elevation. To be fair this logging access trail only lasted for about 350 metres but it was a great addition to our run.

With the Purbeck marathon having a similar 1,000 meters of elevation to Second Wind Runnings QE Spring marathon (25th March 2018) then 14.5 miles in todays heat was a great tester on the back of 10 miles from Tuesday and 6 from Thursday. The QE Spring marathon has two 13 mile loops so we largely followed one laps worth.

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Starting at 8am due to the anticipated heat our first 2 miles included a number of twisting and turning ascents that we well remembered from the race in March, especially with us running up this twice for that marathon. The most noticeable change from March to August (apart from the heat) was how green and “lush” everywhere was. The woods branches had filled out and this certainly worked in our favour with greater shade.

I haven’t seen Paul since RTTK so we had lots to catch up on as we steadily ran the trails. When I say we had lots to catch up on this actually meant going the wrong way 🙂 !! However, we both agreed the extra miles would come in handy as additional training.

After about a third of our run we passed what has to be the busiest junction in the QECP  woods. With this signpost pointing to the South Downs Way, Hangers Way, the Shipwrights Way and Staunton Way (which we’d pick up later) it was an obvious photo opportunity.

DSC00596Paul has carried on his relentless quest to race virtually every week so today’s run must have been quite relaxing for him and it was just the push, distance wise, that I needed so as to hit 30 miles this week. Today was also especially beneficial for me as the earlier runs this week have been flat ones so it certainly was a case of “in at the deep end”. Not long after this signpost we came across four Pompey Jogger ultra runners and after a short chat they carried on their way onto yet another trail.

Now, I’m always keen to try different products, both drinks and food wise so today was the start of my Tailwind trial. I mixed 2-3 scoops in 24 oz of water twice, which made up enough to fill my two 500ml soft flasks and a smaller 250ml. Todays hot weather and hills would be a good test and they passed with flying colours. I will update this in future blogs as it would be unfair to just base my thoughts on one run. That said I’m excited to be using a product which so many people recommend.

I suffered with some stomach issues at the end of RTTK so I’m keen to try Tailwind 🙂

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After negotiating the short mud fest which was just as entertaining as it was unexpected we pressed on down New Barn Lane. To our surprise we were met by a number of cyclists on this narrow and quiet country road. The surprise wasn’t the number but the age !! Paul and I often joke we are the Saga branch of Fareham Crusaders running club but a number of the ladies and gentlemen that were cycling uphill towards us were considerably older. Huge respect to them.

We joined the Staunton Way at about ten miles and made tracks for home. This photo gives you another example of why we run in the countryside as well as how hot it was getting !!

DSC00608I look like I’ve got makeup on but that was simply a combination of suntan lotion and sweat, however, it was the rolling fields and freshly cut crops that I was trying to capture 🙂

By the time we got back to QECP the temperature was up to 23 degrees and a well earned drink was in order. Pace wise lets just say it was “steady”, however, I was chuffed to get back to a testing run and it’s a large thank you to my running buddy Paul for his company.

Goodwood 5 miler #glorious

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How many races have a tree lined avenue leading to the finish, registration in the grounds of a hotel and glorious parkland to run through …. Goodwood 5 miler had this just for starters !! I think we’ll all be familiar with the motor racing and horse racing that Goodwood offers but up and till a few weeks ago I didn’t realise you could experience the glorious parkland that the estate offers.

As if all of the above wasn’t enough there’s a hill involved in the 5 miles too !! We all know I love a good hill so when I read that the iconic motor racing hill climb features as 1.2 miles of the course then my £14 entry fee for a Monday evening race was assured.

The Goodwood Health Club were organising this third annual event and the race was also supporting Winston’s Wish

The perfectly cut lawns behind the hotel presented the evenings first surprise, an amazing marque that’s presumably used for either social gatherings or weddings.

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The Salomon sponsorship was immediately noticeable with the flags and very cool deckchairs. After registering it was also noticeable that there would be entertainment and food afterwards if you’d chosen that entry fee option (£27). The circular marque bar was another feature I wouldn’t normally experience on one of my typical off road races.

So, “was any running happening” … I hear you say ?? …..  Yes 🙂

I warmed up along the tree lined avenue that extended for probably the best part of half a mile and it was noticeable that I hardly recognised any local club runners from the Southampton / Portsmouth area. The majority of the 230 clubs runners were from Sussex and for this reason alone that’s why I’m writing this blog to encourage others to run next year. The largest club participation seemed to be the Tuff Fitty Triathlon club.

The first out and back mile or so was on smooth tarmac with parkland and golf course that stretched out for miles. The nature of this “out and back” also meant lots of encouragement in both directions from all the running abilities. At about 1.5 miles in we passed Goodwood House and then started the hill climb. This photo was after the race as I just had to have a snap of the “Big House” !!

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The old flint walls near the big house followed the road up quite a reasonable incline. With the road twisting it also meant you weren’t aware just where the top of the hill was so this added to the psychological as well as physical challenge. The tree lined section opened up to present us with a view of the horse racing pavilion in the distance. Once at the top of the hill a short section of grass was then followed by re-joining the road downhill from where we’d come.

Knowing you have about a mile and three quarters left that’s downhill or flat really makes you work your lungs to the maximum and as we hit the home straight it was a case of counting down the ancient trees to the finish line.

I was pleased with 85th out of 226 on a humid evening. One final “Goodwood” touch was the golf kart at the finish which I also couldn’t resist a photo of.

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Tonight was an unusual location with a completely different atmosphere to almost any other race I’ve done and I’ll certainly return next year, hopefully with others from Hampshire and my Fareham Crusaders club.

Thank you Goodwood for great run.