Category Archives: Running

The Accidental Marathon Runner

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He just kind of bumbled into it…

I didn’t mean to run a marathon.

Let me explain.

Today I ran the the Five Valleys Walk – a 21.5 mile route around the beautiful hills of Stroud, organised by the Meningitis Trust, based in the town, and now in it’s 30th year. It has become a very successful fundraiser and a great community event with many families and groups of friends taking part. I’ve lived in Stroud nearly 6 years so I thought it was about time I hauled my bardic butt around it. I decided two days before – having only just got from a two thousand mile bike ride (900cc, not pedal-power – I’m not that much of a masochist) to the West Highlands – feeling like I wanted to re-connect with the Stroud landscape having been away for so (relatively) long, and needing to get back into running. Having done the Stroud Trail Half Marathon earlier in the year with my running buddy Brendan I figured I could do it – though that was ‘only’ 15 miles. We ran the Brecon Beacons Trail route earlier in the summer (19 miles!) and that did me in – but somehow I found today’s 21 miles easier – maybe because it was on familiar ground – I’d run alot of the sections before – and because the climb, though rigorous – was not so insane…

I set off around 9am, heading to Haresfield Beacon where I parked my bike. The first checkpoint was down at Standish Woods, so I did a mile warm-up run down to it. The sun broke through the canopy of the trees as I ran along the Cotswold Way – and I knew I had chosen a good thing to do. It was great to be out, enjoying the glorious late Autumn sunshine. I made it to the first checkpoint  – where they offered free water and cake and fruit. I got my map stickered – a satisfying way to show progress. I made good time down to Wycliffe-  the second checkpoint – but leaving there I found an absence of signage, and ended up missing the turning at Ebley for Dudbridge – running all the way to Stroud, then along the A46 until I could join the cycle path to Nailsworth. This added a couple of miles to the route, as though I wasn’t doing enough already! More fool me for not reading the directions, I guess, but that’s kind of hard to do when you’re running along. The map handed out had no detail on it, and they hadn’t emphasized the need to turn it over and read what it says on the back! I guess I was counting on regular and clear signage, but that seems to be more the norm for trail races. And this was a walk, after all. So my bad – but it made me end up doing practically a marathon (21.5 + 3 extra ….if someone says that’s not 26 miles & 385 yards, I have a smelly, muddy trainer to throw at them) which is a bit crazy when you haven’t trained or psyched yourself up for it!

I just kind of bumbled into it …

But I think it’s good for the soul to do crazy things now and then! I didn’t pass any other runners doing the route funnily enough. I past alot of walkers. Some seemed impressed and wished well, but some were clearly baffled (one chap guffawed, ‘Well, I don’t see the point in that!’) Sometimes you just have to do things just because you get the urge, because they’re fun, or because they’re a bit demented. This was a combination of all three (and also, importantly, for a good cause).

The last bit was a bit of a slog, inevitably. The energy snacks seemed no longer to take effect as I dragged my weary carcase up to Standish Woods. As a bit of mis-spelled graffiti said on a bridge along the Stroudwater Canal: ‘All hop is gone.’ The brain told my legs to move, but they mutinied until we got a more reasonable section (ie not vertical).

When I got the Standish again after completing the full circuit I treated myself to an ice-cream. I felt I deserved it!

Help me raise funds for Meningitis Trust by donating here…

https://fivevalleyswalk2016.everydayhero.com/uk/kevan-manwaring

 

Running on High

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Running on Malvern Hills solo – 12 miles. Worcs. Beacon  (1394ft),  3rd April 2016

 

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help…

It’s just before sunrise, early January. I yank myself out of bed and pull on my running kit – full leggings, gloves and hat as it’s subzero out there. Selecting Martyn Bennett’s ‘Grit’ on my MP3 player I head out the door and start running. The cold hits like an electric shock. There’s frost on the ground. Hardly any traffic yet so I don’t bother to wait for the green man – I am him, as I strike out along the tow-path, over the railway crossing and up the steep track. I pause to take in the nimbus over Golden Valley, the sun not quite arisen yet. Two horses in the field turn to look over, snorts of breath visible. Rooster announces the day from the top of his hen house. I push on up to the Quiet Lane, then descend through white fields of icy virgin blades. The sun breaches and I feel reborn, sloughing the shadows of winter.

IMMANENT MOMENT COVER IMAGE WINTER LANE BY KEVAN   MANWARING

Winter lane, Kevan Manwaring

I get hooked on the buzz. The promise of endorphins gets me out of bed with the lark. Twenty minute runs grow longer. My first four-miler up on Haresfield Beacon feels exhilarating. To be high up, running on a ridge, drinking in the light and rich air – it makes you feel like you could run for days. It’s the intimacy with nature that draws me – to be up close and personal with the wild, following your instincts through the trees; desire-paths of the fauna; seeing the land wake up, the first shoots, the snowdrops, daffodils, bluebells, and birdsong. As though I was running up the Spring, a Jack-of-the-Woods, sap in the blood, green fire in the head.

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Beware the MAMIL! (Middle-Aged Man In Lycra)

 

Running up a path that is a stream that is a waterfall in the heavy rain. Laughing at the insanity of it all. Slipping over and getting back up again. Splattered and smeared with mud. With scratches, grazes, bruises and blood. War-wounds in peacefulness. Stillness in motion. Zen mind. Wordless. At-one-ment. Every footstep says ‘here’ and ‘now’. Every heartbeat shouts ‘alive!’ Each day’s run pulls a nail out of the coffin.

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By the map of the route – after the Stroud trail. 8 May 2016

Running by yourself. Running with a friend. Fell-runner wisdom, stamina and northern no-nonsense banter. Distances increase as training begins. 4 miles, 6, 8, 10… 12 miles running the Malvern Hills solo. My old ‘long’ runs become short ones. We become acquainted with the hills. New paths discovered. Old ones seen in a new light. Every steep path becomes a training opportunity. Legs become more confident. Fitness improves. The body tones up and the fat burns off. Slowly. Miles convert to inches, ounces, stones. BMI to Bloody Marvellous Insanity.

 

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After the Stroud Trail – Kevan, Brendan & Paul, 8 May 2016

Running alone together. With headphones. Without. In companionable silence. At the speed of chat. Pacing yourself. Pushing yourself. Discovering that you can go further than you think. Enjoying the graft of the hills, the satisfaction of reaching the top. Cruising on the flat. Enjoying the view you’ve earned. Tearing down a hillside. Suicidal tracks. Sweat and a tan. Warm down. Afterglow.

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Trig-Martyr…

Then the day of the race. Suddenly it’s not just some nutty hobby. Crowds of people – from the superfit to the newbies like me. Running clubs, running buddies, lone wolves, silver foxes, dark mares and white hares. The starter’s gun and off you go, dragged along by the lycra shoal. Ignoring the race, and finding your pace.There is always someone faster, someone slower. We all have our own mountains to climb. For me, this was my first half marathon, and getting around was enough of an achievement. The only runner I was competing against was myself. Fourteen hot miles to go yet. Selsey and Minchinhampton await. The slog begins. 23 Degrees and counting. Trying to enjoy the wheeze of it all. Sucking up the pain. The jelly babies. Water guzzle. The slurp and the dash. Slogging through the wall. Wear the limp like a medal. Crossing that finishing line with my running buddy. One small step for man, one giant leap for Manwaring-kind. It was only a half, but it was my first, and I did it. But thank goodness for the physio!

(and for Chantelle & Brendan for getting me going and getting me there!)

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Medallion Man AKA Stroud Trail survivor. May 8 2016