Over the past few months, my running has been my primary outlet for all the emotions that have been spinning around following the events of this spring. However, chuck in a whiff of a challenge or a competition and that side of my brain seems to be very much alive and wanting to give the world a good kicking.
I’ve mentioned in the past about the two main fitness sites I use on the internet – Strava, which is for multiple sports and is pretty well known these days, and Smashrun, a site purely for runners, and which is much lesser known.
Both have free membership for the basic information and I highly recommend you check them both out.
Whilst Smashrun has its challenges set up in electronic badges (it’s very cute I guess but effective) which reward individual achievements, Strava has monthly challenges which can be done against other athletes as well as for the individual. Until recently Strava catered very well for cyclists, but there were precious few running challenges.
So when a couple of these came along, I grabbed them both, and set about working on them. Unfortunately they were both three-week long challenges and they started a week apart, resulting in a high concentration of effort.
Elevation is all you need….
Strava usually themes it’s monthly challenges and the ‘Dipsea’ Challenge was based upon the fact that this famous trail race has an increase in elevation of 2200ft. So the challenge was set at achieving 6600ft of elevation in 3 weeks.
So one might plan to aim for 2200ft per week. Or if you’re me, discover you’ve only achieved 1900ft by the end of week two.
For reasons unknown, I decided this challenge was still alive, I mean how hard can it be to do 4700ft elevation in a week…..
Thankfully living on the edge of the Peak District and close to the hills surrounding the Cheshire Plain, there is plenty of interesting running to be done. And with another spell of reasonable weather I set out to find new routes, in particularly ones with big hills and I achieved the remaining elevation in 4 more runs.
The first was a 15 mile jaunt out across Marple Ridge, over Jacksons Edge and across Disley, taking the hills all the way up to the Bowstones, before dropping back through Lyme Park. The wind was doing it’s best to blow me back down to Disley from Bowstones but it was mission accomplished with a total climb of over 1600ft.
3 days later and I returned to Marple, the Ridge, and the Edge in both directions running a further 11 miles distance and another 1040ft climb and clocked up three Strava course records in the process (how, I don’t have a clue). So over the half-way mark of the outstanding feet of elevation.
24 hours later I was out again, this time in Pott Shrigley, and the 2 mile climb of Bakestonedale Road. I actually started back at the main road in order to maximise the climb, doing a linear there-and-back 10 miler and adding 1175ft to the tally.
On seeing this course a colleague pointed me towards another local hill with very much a challenge to do it. So Friday morning I was back in Pott Shrigley, running over to Bollington and up Blaze Hill, a 1.5 mile climb up to the Macclesfield Hill Tops. I say running, the body was screaming at me before I even started the hill, telling me it didn’t really want to do any more hills, ever! But I persevered with the 7.5 mile loop containing 1040ft of elevation, and amazingly completing the challenge!
Yes, I use kitten pictures from the internet as avatars for my websites!
Feet? No I mean kilometers!
Now, in a perfect world I’d have stopped then, got an ice cream and slept for a week (having consumed the ice cream). But there was a matter of the other challenge, 148km distance (92 miles) in 3 weeks.
Now the combination of the previous week and my hill-attacking current week had clocked up 54 miles in total, and with 6 days of the challenge remaining I had a lot of work to do. Not least given day 6 I would be cycling around Snowdonia and therefore wouldn’t be running. And Day 5 I’d be driving to Snowdonia….. No pressure!
There is a disused Railway Route, called the Middlewood Way, stretching from Rose Hill Marple to Macclesfield. I have run segments of, but never run the whole route. So I set out steadily on Tuesday to see if there was a pot of gold of either end of this rainbow route which I can confirm there is not! However, having run 13 miles away from home, I still had the matter of getting back again which resulted in a 24 mile round trip which brought me back along the canal, a route quickly thought out because in the time since I’d set out the weather had got rather warmer and sunnier, and I only had a limited about of water with me (schoolboy error, I’ll admit). The logic was that the canal tow-path would be more sheltered than other routes but also I was able to beg some water from a barge-owner part way back.
The response on Strava wasn’t so much ‘wow what a run’ but instead ‘why didn’t you run the full 26.2?’
I had considered it but with 3 miles to go (a 10% of the distance) I decided I wanted to be home in one piece. And there wasn’t a t-shirt or a medal at stake either and besides, I had a load more running to be done that week (me, competitive???)
The following evening, my birthday, and buoyed with the incentive of a commemoration mug (of a gala, not of my birthday), I participated in a 5 mile trail race around the Reservoirs at Tintwistle. Now, I’m not saying it’s anything to do with a limited number of mugs, but I ran that course as quick as I could. Not that I’ve used the mug yet……..
But back to the challenge and having 10 miles to find within the next couple of days whilst preparing for a long and hilly bike ride. there was a tactical decision to be made regarding how I should do this.
A number of short runs to get to the target distance would be sensible.
I think you can probably guess that instead I went all out the following day to nail the remaining miles as I did a reprise run through Lyme Park, picking up the road I failed to find on my route down from the Bowstones a week earlier.
So come the end of June, I’m 2 electronic badges better off and 106 miles have been chalked up in the process as well as managing the Snowdonia bike ride. It’s been fun, but I think I’ll be holding off the challenges for a little while.
Or at least, that’s the plan………….