Monday, 25 June 2018

The Joy of Offroad

There is a satisfying, unpretentious pleasure to be had from running offroad. Tracks, footpaths, bridleways...all provide an unambiguous connection with the proper outdoors that roads and pavements cannot. The River Chess valley near Rickmansworth provided just such jollies for a much younger me - you could go miles and miles with barely a hint of tarmac - so it will come as no surprise to learn that I've been seeking similar routes locally. But I am beginning to draw a depressing conclusion: away from the coast the footpaths are mostly dreadful. Frequently overgrown, unsigned, so rock-strewn and rutted that you daren't raise your eyes from the ground and can't really run at all, or in some other way deeply unsatisfactory.

Here's a typical example...

This photo was taken on May 29th, following three weeks of bone-dry weather. Prior to that it was a lake.

However, when you get near the sea it's a very different matter. I've barely scratched the surface yet, but already feel quite spoiled by what is on offer locally. And there is so much scope for exploration along the coast here...

Clifftop view from Burton Bradstock, early morning. Just me and the odd dog-walker. Bliss.

Roughly 7:00am last Saturday morning, the East Cliffs at West Bay. Twice, so far, I have run up that slope. Well, not 'run' exactly... Anyway, it is as steep as it looks, and demands three lungs at least. On the top is a golf course, and a great view.

Regular readers will hopefully forgive the weeks of utter silence, and the blithe segue into running mode. Standard NQS protocol of course...


  1. I've seen Stinking Goosefoot at the top of that West Bay slope. Thought you might like to know Gav...

    1. Thanks Steve, I'll keep an eye out!

    2. Okay, I've just looked it up. Nose too, then...

  2. Gav, I've always considered it was you who came up with idea of trail running, at least where we lived.

    Until then, all anyone did was run on roads or around a football pitch to avoid getting lost.
    The idea was actually quite simple. Follow paths on an Ordinance Survey map.

    The first outing was with the map to establish the route. After that we could just run.

    Mind you, it wasn't always easy running. When a group of internationals asked to come along with us, I was ok with the pace but I think you were having to work a bit.

    1. I remember that outing Ric. It was a Chess Valley route too, with John Downes and Andrea Whitcombe. Yes, you were all just slightly out of my league, and I recall those two flying up a steep path like it was flat.

      Are they still in action? They must be getting on a bit now!

  3. Not sure about John. But I ran with Andrea a few weeks back, pre magnesium, and she can still fly up a hill like it was flat. And in mud!
    Once again I was on my face with her asking if I was ok :) Sort of funny really.

    If she raced more often, she would top the V45 rankings.

    Age grade wise she's in another league. 90% plus level. Better than that, she's been operating at that level for close to thirty years.

    1. I remember her as teenager working in a running(?) shop in Rayners Lane. I bought a sports bag, little knowing I was being served by a future Olympian.

      I looked up John Downes on t'internet and found a photo of him winning the 1996 National XC championship and learned that he's now a coach, but still runs to a high standard. And is over 50! Strewth, I feel old...