#7 / 12 North Downs Way Trail Marathon, 12 July 2020 6:12:03
My homemade oak leaves medal

This was a solo version of an event which had been scheduled for the previous week and cancelled due to COVID. No reason not to run it as it’s in my back yard.

The lead-in was basically rest and recovery from the previous month’s Beer Ultra. This has started becoming the norm as the months have stacked up. I’ve been struggling to put in regular training miles and so knew I was going to have something of a slog on my hands.

The route comprises two “out-and-back” legs from the tea hut atop Reigate Hill to the view site on Box Hill and back. This is familiar territory and I run these sections regularly and have even done the out-and-back before. Stringing two together back-to-back proved to be hillier than expected.

Here we go again…

I set off around 5:30am – this is an aspect of doing my own thing which I really enjoy. I’m an early riser anyway and it just suits me to get an early start.

The morning was bright and clear and, anticipating heavy going, I largely ignored my watch and any kind of time goal. I thought I’d probably be able to bring it in around 5:30-5:45 though, hmmm…

I got the mellow morning playlist on and resolved to take in the day. It’s a beautiful and varied section of the NDW and is mostly under cover of trees. Some paths run under majestic giants with others passing through closer undergrowth transitioning occasionally via a road or hedgerow.

It really was a fantastic start to the day and as the sun came up it filtered through the leaves and bathed the fields in a yellow glow.

The biggest difference on this run was the addition of poles. I’d read about the benefits over long distances and figured I’d give them a try. I bought some collapsing Leki poles which folded down and fitted perfectly into the add-on Salomon quiver which I’d got for my running vest.

It was a bit awkward at first to find a rhythm but eventually I found they really did help up the long uphills. I’ll definitely need to train more with them to build up arm stamina – I found my triceps taking a bit of a pounding.

Another benefit from the poles came from the attachment palm ‘mesh’. Leki do not use loops for their poles but provide palm straps. I took a tumble on some stony ground around 5miles and these saved my right palm, big time.

I had a funny moment going up Colley Hill for the final time. I was in a good rhythm poling past a family with a young daughter. As I went by she said “isn’t he an old man!”. We all laughed and I replied “he sure is” thinking that she was surely associating the need for two “walking sticks” with advanced age 🙂

Of all the runs so far this year when I look back on this one it weirdly seems pretty unmemorable. Just another one “ticked off the list”. I’m not sure why as it was definitely challenging.

My pace has steadily dropped off the the year has progressed and I’m pretty sure that correlates to the drop in training volume and intensity. Knocking out a trail marathon each month does not make for good form on its own. Surprise surprise.

relative weekly volumes

As previously mentioned though, marathons are no longer a daunting thing. I’ve definitely developed my physical and mental endurance and that was a goal for the year.

Moving forward I’m planning to get back to regular weekly volumes alongside a program of bodyweight exercises for strength.

Right now, the 100miler next month is off for me. A key objective of this run was to test where I was at physically. And the answer was that I’m not ready. I reckon I need to do some serious, focused and specific training to give myself a fighting chance.

Nice to be on the “back 9” and as I wrote on my Strava post it’s “the end of the beginning”.



Categories: Race Report