… and also run with Gif, Kirsty, Chris, Ck and Lizzie.
This one grew! Jon proposed a run in the lead up to our Brecon Ultra and a date was agreed. We’ve both so much going on in the coming weeks that it was going to have to be the weekend my parents are visiting, so we agreed an earlier than desirable start – running from 7:30am. We’d meet in Merstham and run to Otford approximately 20 miles away along the NDW, a route Jon is familiar with.
You’ll always see us runners joking about the early weekend alarms. That we get up earlier to run than we do to go to work. It’s not funny. It really isn’t. The 6am alarm saw me spring out of bed though. No way was I missing a run again after the failed early attempt for the WTR morning run the week before last. I was outside the flat waiting for the bus to Croydon when I had a bad feeling. The 410 hadn’t shown up. The 410 is always on time. It’s like one of the constants of the universe! I checked the bus app and it said the next one wasn’t for 20 mins. Oh oh. It must have been super early with the lack of traffic at this time of day. Shiiit
I did the usual moment of panic and calculation to come up with a plan b. I couldn’t miss the train from Croydon and make everyone else late after stipulating an early start. No problem though. I’m a runner – I sprinted the 1.5 miles to Norwood Junction and got a train from there to Croydon. Legging it across platforms and squeezing through the closing doors just as the train was about to pull away. Phew. I met up with the group and off to Merstham we went.
It was a beautiful crisp morning. The weather had been bad through the night and threatened more rain through the early hours. It hadn’t come though and we we able to start the run without our waterproofs or too many layers. The ground was wet and covered with a layer of mist that was quite surreal.
Jon’s route involved a few little hills to begin with and we chatted away as the sky brightened and the mist lifted around us. Before long we were greeted with the muddy paths of the NDW to our delight. Well, except for Chris who was in road shoes and already beginning to slip and slide all over the place. As we rose the trees cleared and the views across the Downs appeared before us.
We ran the first hour or so uninterrupted other than for a selfie stop with some beautiful views of the South Downs in the distance. After which we were back on the move.
We stopped again at 9am for a reason. This morning the ultra Dolomites registration opened and Gif wanted to sign up. Like many trail races now the spaces sell out in minutes (as I encountered recently when the Eiger101 sold out within 3 minutes!!). We ate whilst Gif went through the motions of her application. Never a stress-free moment. Weak signal made this particularly nerve racking as Gif raced through the process. We joked whilst we ate and were relieved when she confirmed she had a place. Back to the run.
There was a moment of realisation that I’d run some of this route before. Only in the opposite direction from Oxted towards Dorking . I recalled the path and hill in Oxted and reminisced on the run (which was switch Gif earlier in the year). It’s a nice feeling when paths are familiar. Especially considering so many look and feel the same!
As we ran it became very apparent that this section of the NDW contains a load of gates. Like a shit ton of gates. It was amusing at first. Soon they became a chore. Even Jon admitted there were a lot. It became our joke. Our gate tour. None were special or spectacular. Two stood out though. Firstly the pointless double gate. Yep. Two gates in close succession for no apparent reason whatsoever. Secondly the ‘fence of gates’. On a section where the foot path entered a field the whole fence was made up of three separate gates. Two foot gates either side of a main vehicle gate (not sure how any vehicles would get there mind!). Lizzie mentioned the gates we passed through were known as ‘kissing gates’ where you open, turn around and kiss your partner. Affectionate. I felt educated!
There were a few sections on the run that were very muddy. Yay. And chris’s yelps became more prominent as he almost fell. It felt imminent that we’d turn around and find him face down in a cow Pat (of which somewhere monsterous in size!!). It never quite came to this though. On the whole the path we travelled was quiet spare for a few dog walkers and one group of hikers. Other than that we were undisturbed on our run. It was so peaceful. That was until we came across a field of cows towards the end. And one cow was right in our way. Not a problem, but Gif has an almost crippling fear of these beautiful beasts. S/He was quite happy just standing there and as I got close it just looked at me. With their gaze occupied Gif slipped past and we carried on.
The final stretch of the run involved about a km and a bit along some major A roads. I’ll admit, this was a struggle. After trudging through all the mud, the legs were very heavy and achy on the tarmac. Thankfully this didn’t last too long and before we knew it we were finishing up in Oxted.
Time for me to go babysit the parents…
Also, a special mention to these birds who went full thuglife with their spelt out message to me…