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Monday 24 September 2012

Last Long Training Run & Cycle Route 41

The furthest and last long run of my marathon training was looming but I wasn’t sure how I was going to schedule it around weekends away involving alcohol and weddings. I wasn’t inclined to try 22 miles with a steaming hangover or even worse substituting my water bottle for one of Smirnoff to save time.

I plotted and planned but despite all my scheming, my holiday request on the day of the Quarterly Sales & Marketing was spotted as what it was and it was declined. Bugger. It was to be Death by Powerpoint after all. Rather than death by exhaustion, dehydration and lack of long run practise.

I was just about to start sulking when my manager announced I wouldn’t have to go to the 2nd part of the meeting as it wasn’t relevant to my role. I decided that this was my chance and quickly booked a half day holiday.

The meeting was actually really interesting and best of all we got fed. A nice buffet lunch with lots of spicy Indian-style food. I wolfed it all down, smug that I’d burn it all off during the afternoon run …

Got home and ready to run but a few stomach rumblings meant a quick pit stop before starting out… Got a mile down the road and was burping spices and another pit stop in the local Travelodge …

Got the legs to start moving and the bowels to stop moving but I felt a bit sluggish and heavy and didn’t enjoy running as much as I usually do. Usually, running is an escape from work, motherhood and herding cats and a chance to plug in an audiobook, have a nose through people’s windows as I run past and fart. Secure in the knowledge that the unlucky recipient is unlikely to be able to catch me to tell me off.

However, I wasn’t feeling as bouncy and enthusiastic as usual but I’d had a 20 mile run five days previously so blamed that. My knee wasn’t twingeing, there weren’t any obvious niggles, just a general – burp! – sluggishness. Ah … that was why. Another pit stop. This time in the local Sainsbury’s. Sigh. If I ran at this speed during the marathon, the chap in the diving outfit was going to overtake me.

Finally … I got going properly and could start enjoying the run. I was following cycle route 41 some of which I had run on before but without realising it was part of the same trail. The route started at Rugby train station and went up a disused railway line through the centre of town although you’d never know it was there as it was beautiful and peaceful.

There was about a mile or so on pavement next to a busy road and then the route disappeared into a quiet road and continued at the end of the road into a secluded footpath between fields. It was lovely and although I’d run in this area and driven past the footpath many times, I’d never spotted it before. It was lovely and very quiet – you could hear tractors and it passed by farms and an old collie sleeping by the gate. He lifted his head as I passed but didn’t make a sound.

The footpath continued into a quiet lane and past a field of alpacas! Lots and lots of alpacas! Nuzzle and Scratch … and Nuzzle and Scratch … and Nuzzle and Scratch …

Down a tree-lined hill and to the edge of Draycote Water and thankfully the hilly and tree lined side of the reservoir, rather than the concrete-fantastic side.

Usually Draycote Water is absolutely full of people. Cyclists zipping round and runners puffing their way around and families having a wander with lines of toddlers blocking the paths, but today there was absolutely no-one else there. Not even a solitary cyclist.

I continued the route past the far end of Draycote Water and the route went down a broken tarmac track and onto a grassy lane and then quiet lanes. It was a nice change of terrain – a proper trail run. Under a railway bridge and then over and on top of it and onto a lovely smooth sandy path which was another disused railway line. The railway bridges were still all in place and obvious. Everything was well maintained and peaceful.

I followed the path to Birdingbury and despite the gorgeousness of the route and the fact I had no time limit, was finding it hard going. The long run a few days before had taken it’s toll and I was conscious that I’d knackered my knee only a week or so previously. 

I kept the pace fairly slow and kept topping up with water and mars bar slices which kept me going. I was only just halfway at this point which made it feel even more difficult as I knew I had another run of the same distance to do. Coming out of Birdingbury, I came to a T-Junction and stopped the Garmin to consult the maps so I could see which way to go. I then forgot to restart it … for another mile and a half. What a tit.

At this point I was running through country lanes over gently rolling hills, but they just felt as though they went on … and on … and on... Finally came to the canal path entrance but across the canal like a shining beacon of beer I could see a pub. And more importantly a sign on the pub door offering ice cream for 80p. Sold!

After the achy legs and multiple poos, I felt stopping for an ice cream would be a small sacrifice to the God of long runs.

After the pub, Route 41 carried on along a canal path which was smooth and well maintained and I always like seeing the colourful barges with the bicycles strapped on and geraniums growing from the pots on the roofs of the boats. Anything to distract me on a long run. I’ll take boats with flowers on over roads and pavements any day.

I ended up going past some quiet farms and onto a very small lane. I was passed by a few cyclists absolutely flying down the hill I was labouring up as I found the highest and sharpest peak of the run. Thanks a bunch. A nice touch at the 17.5 mile point. Ouch. Cheated and walked up it. I didn’t mind the downhill on the other side though.

The lane finished at a main road and the next mile or two were the worst of the route as they ran along a busy road which had a lot of blind corners and no pavement. In a lot of places, there was not even a verge really so I had to hop on and off the bank as cars passed. Bloody cars. And bloody people driving while I had to run. In their nice comfy seats. 

The Route 41 signs directed me onto a well maintained lane that was obviously another disused railway line with the railway bridges still towering over the path. There were some good views across the fields and the soil was red like in parts of Devon. Either that or the red mist that had descended as I swore at the car drivers going too fast on the main road earlier still hadn’t cleared. 

The next part was the highlight of my run. An adorable Springer / Collie cross puppy that wobbled up to me and licked my hand like I was his favourite person ever. He was 12 weeks old and too cute not to stop for. Even in the pursuit of a 22 mile goal.

I passed a few houses on the outskirts of Leamington Spa and was directed onto a winding path going around a park called Newbold Comyn. There was an interesting looking hill in the middle of it and a Beacon on top. I considered a Lord of the Rings moment and I would have liked to have had a closer look, but I wasn’t THAT worried about adding extra mileage in at this point. Meh … call me lazy.

There were lots of runners out and about and I thought it must have been a club night in Leamington. I caught up with another runner to ask and check that I was still on the Cycle Route as all signs had evaporated at this point … just as I ran past a sign telling me I was on Cycle Route 41. Ok. Now I look like scary, sweaty Stalker Runner.

Coming into Leamington, I had to stop several times at the traffic lights for the traffic and a chap passing in his suit with his briefcase cheekily told me off for stopping my run. I beat him to death with his own briefcase. Oh no. I laughed and told him I’d just completed 21.5 miles and was happy that the lights were red for 20 seconds. See. I CAN be nice.

The route ran alongside a park which looked interesting. There were a few monuments I could see through the bars and it was faced by some Regency style buildings. I wasn’t however, that interested that I was going to stop ½ mile before my finish point. I crossed a busy road and pegged it up a hill and arrived at Leamington station at 22.25 miles and 3:29:12.

Route 41: LIAS LINE:
From - To:  Rugby, Leamington Spa (and Warwick)
Type:          Mainly traffic-free
Access:     Warwick and Leamington Spa Railway Stations
Surface:     Tarmac or fine gravel paths

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