Sunday, 29 January 2012

Training Run - 25 Miles - Vale of Belvoir, Lincolnshire & Leicestershire

A Handy Salt Bin
There are always hundreds of reason not to do a long training run, bad weather, lack of sleep, lack of motivation, can't be bothered....but the need for London Marathon training was the reason which trumped excuses. I left a colleague's leaving doo early on Friday evening after drawing on powers of discipline to sip cola instead of ale and wine and went home to get the car. In a similar way to last year I spent the latter part of Friday evening driving round a planned running route to drop drinks and food at strategic points along the way. At 8am on Saturday morning I left Grantham for a route which passed through - Denton - Harston - Branston - Barkstone - Redmile - Belvoir Castle - Woolsthorpe - Denton - Harlaxton and back to Grantham.

What Lincolnshire lacks in hills it makes up for in the beauty of its arable farming landscape and quintessential English Villages. I ran steadily past Harlaxton Hall, now used by the University of Edmunsville to give US children the chance to spend a term in England and on to Denton. I stopped at Denton to sip a sports drink, which I'd dropped in the village salt bin the previous evening. Last year I was unable to drop drinks the night before as they would have become frozen overnight. I ran on, along a straight stretch of road to Harston stepping off the road intermittently to allow tipper trucks to bypass. I counted three tipper lorries in the short stretch to Harston, each with their load of what looked like earth. After Harston I ran on to Knipton enjoying the sight of Belvior Castle to the right. It was a grey day and although it wasn't raining there was precipitation in the air. I climbed out of Knipton to reach a plateau with a view of Belvoir Lake through the trees, just visible in the valley to the right. I was glad to be wearing my new Running Bear top with a thin fleece lining, as a chilly wind blew occasionally across the fields. On the way to Branstone I passed a woman pushing a pram. She was walking along a remote country lane, before 9am in the morning and attached to the pram were perhaps five small terrier dogs secured with a length of rope. It was a sight that would seem unusual anywhere other then remote rural Lincolnshire. I exchanged pleasantries and ploughed on unsure of what or who was in the pram.

Snow Drops
Running through Branston there was an aroma of cooked breakfast coming from the fine stone cottages which flank the village high street. It felt like it should have been midday but I reminded myself it was still early morning. I stopped for drinks again shortly after Branston and ran on the 4 miles to Barkstone. The journey from Branston to Barkstone involves the highest part of the run descending steeply down the Belvoir escarpment along a road through the woods. The snow drops in the woods were plentiful, an unexpected treat and worth getting out of bed for. At the bottom of the escarpment, the steeple of the Church at Barkstone can be seen nestling in the distance. I was glad to be running along a straight quiet road. I was beginning to tire and I questioned whether moving my next drink stop a mile further on had been a good idea. After winding through the streets of Barkstone I passed a couple of horse riders and on the bridge over the canal at Redmile I was glad to find my next drink, banana and jaffa cake bar. I had dropped 'capri sun drinks' along the route but I hadn't realised that I had purchased the fresh orange version, not the easiest thirst quencher to drink and I was a bit concerned about the effect on my stomach. I ran on moments later back towards the magnificent Belvoir Castle which stood proudly on the hill in the distance. By the time I reached the castle stiffness was setting in and I was grateful for the descent to Woolsthorpe by Belvoir before the short stiff incline towards Denton which is part of the Grantham Half Marathon route. I staggered back into Denton and arrived back at the salt bin that had been my first pit stop some hours earlier. Here I drank the rest of my sports drink and half a banana, I left the jaffa cake bar as I was tired and wanted to get back home. Another short incline towards Harlaxton passed and I ran with renewed energy glad to see Grantham Town in the distance.

I arrived at the Farrier Public House and could see a couple of runners coming towards me in the distance. When they got closer I could see it was fellow London Marathon training compatriots and Grantham AC Members, Ben Hatherley and Ben Mason. We exchanged greetings and ran on, me towards home and Ben and Ben out on their own long training run. The sight of two others out training for the same goal inspired me through the last couple of miles but I was glad I wasn't in their position just heading out towards the Vale! 

Belvoir Castle
3 hours 24 minutes later I arrived back home with just enough time to relax in a hot bath before settling on the settee to watch the sad sight of Liverpool beat Man Utd in the FA Cup. It was great to lay watching lunch time football whilst eating scrambled eggs, with stiff legs content in the knowledge that I'd put a steady 25 miles on my legs in the morning. I had a Stella during the second half and didn't feel guilty at all.

On Sunday I cycled the same route to pick up my drink and food litter and took a few photos to illustrate this blog post.

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