|#11 / 12 Leith Hill 50k (Centurion One Community),
28 November 2020 07:31:39
I’ve had my eye on Leith Hill for a while but never actually run there. The November run presented the perfect opportunity with Centurion once again putting on the “One Community” virtual run series and the 50k distance being just perfect for a route from home.
I had the first and last thirds well mapped out from previous runs and just needed to add a new section to include Leith Hill in the middle. I figured I’d hit as many hills as would fit: Leith Hill, Box Hill, Colley hill being the main ones with a few other unnamed ‘friends’ in between – it promised to have plenty of elevation (4400ft/1340m). I aimed to enjoy this one as my primary goal, the time did not matter. After the pain of last month I allowed myself any breaks or walking where needed to get back to enjoying the run.
Pre-dawn into the “white out”
The first couple of miles were fine. I love the solitude of pre-dawn runs with my head torch creating a narrow cone of focus just in front of me. The world fades away and I just get into the rhythm of the run. If there is a better therapy I can’t imagine it 🙂 . I planned to set off at about 06:30 but woke earlier than planned and just decided to get going – my watch start was 05:20.
As I approached Reigate Hill the mist settled in hard. It becomes really tricky with a head torch as the light is all reflected back at you. Thankfully I knew this section well and could operate fine by braille.
Dropping down from Reigate Hill took me into the joining stretch linking with Leith Hill. This is characterised by stretches through farmland and hedgerows with some road sections. The mist lightened a bit and visibility became much better.
The 10k mark
I had committed the first 10k to run in memory of Matt Ratana – the policeman killed under tragic circumstances. Steve Burke from my club Tadworth AC had made me aware of the virtual 10k organised for Matt with all proceeds going to his partner and son. I have a great respect for the police in the UK and was glad to be able take a moment to honour him and others who perform such a great service.
Into the dawn and up Leith Hill
I started running with music just before the end of last year and had recently discovered a great movie scores soundtrack which I just love to run through the dawn with. Just around 10k came the “1492 Conquest of Paradise” famed for its use at the beginning of the UTMB race (the crazy one where you run around Mont Blanc over 100 miles with 10,000m/30,000 ft elevation, the start makes my hairs stand on end every time – if running had gladiators it would be these folk). It was great timing to get me motivated for the next stint.
Most of the road based distance came while connecting Westwards from Reigate to Holmwood common and this is where the new, unseen section began. The road eventually gave way to the oaks and ferns of Holmwood common which felt weirdly pre-historic and beautiful in the misty dawn light.
And if that was beautiful the forest from Cold Harbour up to the top of Leith Hill was just spectacular. It was eerily beautiful in the mist and I felt privileged to have this all to myself.
The middle bit
The descent from Leith Hill was great and took me on lovely pathways through undergrowth and forested sections while occasionally linking via short roads past houses and lakes. After cutting past Westcott I was taken over the railway line and up and up an underestimated rise to the top of Ranmore common – my last visit here was on the 100miler back in August. Atop the common the church loomed out of the mist and here began the downhill stretch past Denbies Winery which led eventually on to the charming “Murder Mile” up the Box Hill ridge.
Our club does an annual run and the Dick Clark Murder mile is held in honour of on of the clubs founders – this time, however, was a great deal slower than that dash for glory.
It was great to see Cally at the tea rooms at the top which, by now, was busy with cyclists and walkers making the most of their Saturday morning exercise time. For me it was mile 24 and a great boost to see a friendly face face before making off for the last 8.
Bringing it home
Its a funny psychological boundary 26 miles. After hitting 24 usually you know you’ve just got 2 more to go. I start measuring distance in terms of short local runs – 2 miles is my short ’round the block run. Super easy. 32 miles is not that much further than the standard 26.2 marathon distance but at 24 miles 8 more miles is a very different prospect.
Fortunately this was my much loved stretch on the North Downs Way, an “old friend” and it was great to feel the end in sight. Along this stretch the sun came out and the day revealed another side of itself – just beautiful to feel the sun burn through the mist.
I was mindful that 50km is actually 31miles and as I hit the distance I tailed right off and then strolled the last three quarters of a mile to my final 32.46 (52.1km) finish distance. Walking that last stretch felt great. No finish line to chase down, no pressure to do anything other than relish being out, pushing myself in an activity which I love. Sure I was tired, sure my muscles ached and I could feel my body protest what my Garmin watch called “overreaching” but I just loved it!
Seven and a half hours is a long time to be out running but it never really registered as being fast or slow (for me). It’s just how long it took. I’m just thrilled to be able to pull it off – its very rewarding.
Without the challenge the finish is just not as sweet. 1 more to go. What a challenge this year has been on so many levels at least this challenge gives back.