This was the biggest run yet (here it is on Nike+), and will be the biggest until I get to the Marathon, just three weeks away now.
Helen Esplen, the physiotherapist, had recommended I run an 18-miler this weekend, and then taper it off until the Big Day. So that’s what I set out to do. And, thank goodness, that’s what I did.
In fact I ran 18.9 miles, if you want to be pedantic about it. And believe me, I do. When every yard is a fight to stop yourself stopping (if you know what I mean), you want to count them all.
This time, thankfully, I wasn’t in the teeth of a bitter, snow-flecked wind (although snow came and went throughout the run), and when I hit Leatherhead I kept going, running around the edge of the town centre out towards, and then through, Great Bookham.
Running this far, especially on your tod, means one of the great dangers is boredom. Good news, then, that I could plug into my phone, which is stuffed with Mayo & Kermode ‘Wittertainment‘ film review podcasts I haven’t otherwise had time to listen to. The latest two of those got me through about two thirds of this run.
Between Bookham and Effingham (which sound like unsavoury verb constructions: ‘Don’t book ’em while I’m effing ’em’), I cut left back towards Dorking (which sounds like a rather rude gerund itself), taking a slightly mistaken detour towards Polesden Lacey.
Retracing those steps, and listening to Kermode and Mayo’s entertaining interview with the great David Morrissey, I was passed by a cyclist who slowed down enough to ask how far I was running today, and (when I revealed it was 18 miles), asked if it was for the London Marathon.
I said it was, and he said that was brilliant, and wished me luck. Very decent and cheering of him, and a good fillip at that point – somewhere between 10 and 11 miles.
I found the right road – Chapel Lane – and headed towards Westhumble, with the sun suddenly breaking out and making the day feel remarkably springy.
I must have driven through Westhumble before, but running through the village I was struck by how ludicrously pretty it is. I passed beautiful house after beautiful house, snuggled in among winding lanes and ancient trees. If you were looking for a slice of Hollywood England, it would be as good a place as any.
As I came round the bend to Westhumble station, I came upon a family of walkers. The man pushing the buggy said, ‘Blimey, you’re covering some distance! We saw you an hour and a half ago!’ I felt a bit rude rejoining with little more than ‘Really?’ but I didn’t dare stop – I’d run about 13 miles by this point, and knew there were five more – about 8km – required. I hope he didn’t mind.
I hit the A25 and set off back towards Leatherhead again, knowing that it was 5.7km from my house to the town. So if I ran almost there, and then back again, I’d be fine.
I’d gone quite a long way before my brain caught up with itself, tapped itself on the shoulder and reminded itself it was 5.7 miles to Leatherhead. Not kilometres. Laughing ruefully at myself, I saw that if I turned around now and ran home, I’d actually do about 20 miles in total. Hey ho.
And so I ran back, with the sky turning from Quite Nice to Worryingly Glowery as I went. Snow speckled the air, and I hoped very much that it wasn’t about to get really nasty.
It didn’t, but it was cold enough for me to stop and put the trusty Howies merino back on. (I’d taken it off quite early in the run, surprised by how mild the day was.) I’d brought energy gels with me for the first time (and I’m profoundly glad I did), but they were gone now. It was just me and the road, all the way home.
Well, I made it into Dorking and through the park, all the way to Pump Corner, the base of the climb towards our house. (Why did we have to buy a house on a hill?) By this point I knew I’d passed 18 miles, but I was hoping I might squeeze 20.
But there was virtually nothing left in the legs. Or in the phone battery, and I was damned if I was going to miss having this run recorded. So I let myself stop, and hit End Run on Nike+ Running.
18.9 miles. I was shattered. But hey – the Marathon’s only another 6.3, right? I shall buy more gels, and hope the crowd carries me the rest of the way.
Postscript: The day after this run I went to see the wonderful Karen Marshall, my personal trainer. I explained what I’d been up to, and threw myself on her mercy.
A fatal error, as Karen has no mercy. ‘You really ought to be doing another run today,’ she explained, ‘so we’re going to put some work through your legs I’m afraid.’
I’m sure she was right, but I got home a limp rag of a man. Seriously, I’m working for this run. So if you haven’t already sponsored me, do express your admiration and sympathy by chucking a few quid in the pot if you can.
Thanks to the generosity of many (seriously, thank you all), I’m getting very close to my £2,000 target for ICAN. I’d be very grateful if you could help tip the balance. Cheers!