This weekend saw the excitement of two group-based trail runs, first up a trip to West Sussex with the Never Stop London crew and then on Sunday popping the Epping Forest Cherry with a few of the Cool Cats runners.
Never Stop London – West Sussex
Every month the North Face community (Never Stop London) lead a free (yep!) trail run. Tickets sell out pretty damn quick and I usually miss out because I’m either too slow or not about on that weekend. This month though I managed to get a place…
We met at 9am outside the store in Regents Street where a bus was waiting and we were greeted by free coffee provided by the Workshop Coffee. Plug – it was bloody good caffeine. Jack, the community manager, gives the first of many prep talks and we board the bus heading towards West Sussex. There must have been about 30+ of us. The drive was a bore. Slow and painfully escaping London (and passing back near the area where I live on the way!) we arrived in Fulking around 11ish and assembled in the car park of the Shadow and Dog pub. Prep talk number 2, an intro to the team (Jack, Mark, Mathilde and Yvette) and an explanation of the route planned by Jana who’s leaving the team to start new adventures in Chamonix later this month.
Group photo taken and off we go, starting with a climb of approximately 400ft where we were presented with some glorious views and plenty of happy cows and hikers.
About 3 miles in, after some undulations and more breath taking views of the South Downs we were upon Devils Dyke, a spectacular v-shaped dry valley. Time to run down, wooooooooo. Jack as always was behind the camera, dashing ahead to capture the emotions and joy of each of us running.
Earlier in the week I’d agreed to meet up with a friend Jon and some others he knows through Instagram, I got my dates wrong however and had to bail for the NSL run as I’d already committed too. They were also out on the South Downs doing a 30km Trail, and then we met. Amazing that in such a vast space you can cross paths with so many familiar faces. A quick detour and I went and said hello, introduced myself to those I recognise from social media but hadn’t yet met. And then a dash back to rejoin the group.
A few more pleasurable and breath-taking (literally) climbs and there were more views to savour. I chatted a bit with Mark, who is a very experienced runner, about the different techniques for hill running. Now I just need to put them to good use!
Along the course we were constantly greeted by the wildlife. So many young calves and lambs out on the Downs, cautiously saying hello and minding their own business.
As we started to near the end of the 10 mile route we hit some mud (yay!) and it started to rain. Only ever so slightly did it dampen (get it?!) the spirits. But by now everyone was already thinking about the food in the pub.
Miles done and t was food time. We’d ordered ahead and the shadows and Dog were pretty good (I thought) with the group and the food was excellent. Now it was time to board the bus again and be lethargic. All in all a great day with plenty of laughs and memories and fun on the trail!!
Epping Forest with Cool Cats
The shortest version of this story is that I took the responsibility to arrange this cool cats adventure. A group chat identified that Jorge and I had never been to Epping Forest. I put out the Facebook post and the Vesseys, Yvette and Verity put their hands up. Nick was going to come but on the day bailed. I didn’t have time in the week to look at routes so I begged Jana for some from her collection. What came next was the result of the group.
I opted for the shorter of the routes Jana provided, a 15km route. I had the NSL run the day before and the Helsinki marathon the following weekend so a shorter run was preferable to me. I’m also concious I’ve still some unexplained pain in my foot. There was some noise from the group as we were all travelling longer that what 15km would take, but we were easy. We could continue on the day if we felt like it.
On the day though we were all in favour of the 15km as a few of us were carrying injuries and niggles. So off we went from Loughton…
It was a greyish morning and we could feel the chill as we stood around setting our watches and bags. A quick mile or so up the road and we hit the ‘forest’ and you could immediately feel the humidity. We had the choice of a clockwise or anti clockwise loop as we’d be finishing in the same place. We went left and for the clockwise option.
Soon we hit the lake and had some great views and crossed some wooden bridged-path before rejoining the trails. We were all smiling and glad of the flat but spongy gravel track and talked a lot about our injuries, inability to heed our own advice and the technicalities of different running shoes (always fascinating with Dan’s insight as he works for Runnersneed!)
To our surprise the trail took a little hilly turn. We had some up and downs to contend with. As relaxing as they were, I wasn’t expecting them! This is pretty much how the rest of the run went. It was very relaxed and we were all smiling and together for the 9 miles or so and only took a wrong turn a few times!
It amazed me that I wasn’t alone in never having previously ventured to Epping Forest. I’ve intended too many times before, just never made it happen. I was blown away by the scenery and in particular the “greenness” (if that’s a word?!) of the place. so many shades and variations of the green, it really is a gem of a place, and despite the time, so easily accessible from London with the Tube!
Food. Was on our minds and we finished up and went in search of a pub. None were open yet so we opted for Cafe Rouge. I’ve no idea why I felt the need to devour a whole sharing platter. Oh yeah I do, because it had baked Camembert on it. Result. It was time to traverse back across London and Home!