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Monday 28 January 2013

Week 6, Day 7: 18 miles of Wees, Floods, Mud, Falls and Getting Lost

Goal: 18 miles at 9 min/mile
Actual: 18 miles at 8:46 min/mile

I’d been looking forward to this long run. I’d spent some time researching a good route and had decided on a part of Cycle Route 50 going from Walcote, heading towards Daventry and cutting onto the Grand Union Canal Path at about mile 16 … and conveniently finishing near a pub. Just by chance of course.

It had rained heavily the night before and washed away all traces of the snow but the morning was bright and cool. The path was slightly wet underfoot but the sun was shining and I was looking forward to the chance of a nice, rural long run on a new route through the lanes with no distractions.

I always pop to the loo before I head out for a long run so I wasn’t impressed when I needed a loo stop before I’d completed the first 2 miles. Typically, it was the usual English lane in Winter. Sparse hedges, flat fields and no convenient toilets. For miles.

I ran on for another mile or so but unfortunately no pubs, public loos or moments of epiphany occurred so I carried on until I found a bushy hedge. Sigh. I don’t care what anyone says about blisters, black toenails, or chafing. The need to carry loo roll on long runs is the REAL curse of the long distance runner.  

Frequent loo breaks was unfortunately a recurring theme on this run.

However, the countryside was gorgeous (if you were in front of me) and it was nice being out and about. The sun was shining and it was – apart from the frequent loo breaks – nice to be running in the lanes and paths.

I went through a few small pretty villages and past Stanford Hall. It looked stately and very beautiful set in a lovely estate … although I soon realised that the pool of water in front of it was actually flooding, rather than a picturesque lake, when I came around the next corner and found this.

I stopped and just considered what to do. The water appeared to be about 4 – 5 inches deep and unfortunately was lapping at the wall at the left side so I couldn’t even cheat and run along the bank. As I stood there deciding what to do, it started washing towards me and the water speed increased and it started getting deeper. A river must have just burst its banks … Right. No time to stop and think about it. There were 2 choices. Forwards or back.

Forwards. The water was deeper than I’d expected and while it only made it up to my knees, the running caused extra splashing which meant I was damp to the buff. In theory I could have waded through it I suppose, but if I was going to be up to my knees in dirty river water, I may as well enjoy the experience.
Well, at least if it was REALLY rainy in Paris I’d be prepared …

2 bemused cyclists had stopped to watch my progress and I think I disappointed them slightly as I’d made it through without any further mishap. The damper of the 2 cyclists admitted that he’d just hit a pothole further back and had been catapulted into the flood water and I think they were hoping for something amusing and running-related from me that they could watch safely from a patch of dry land. 

They offered to take a photo of me in the slightly shallower section. As I was already about as wet as it was possible to get without being fully submerged, I thought why not:

The rest of the village was pretty much underwater too, although in the hope of drying out a bit, I managed to clamber onto the banks to avoid a lot of the water.

The bank hopping meant the speed suffered a bit, but I wasn’t really too concerned about the timing at this point as I’d already had to stop the Garmin for the loo stops so the time wouldn’t be a true reflection of a continuous run anyway. Saw a couple of different cyclists coming the opposite direction and one of them called to me: “It’s really deep in the next part! The water was up over my bike chain!” Poor lamb. I hope he didn’t get his toes wet …

The majority of the next village was flooded too and as I passed the local church, it was a stone island in a lake of water, with the tops of gravestones sticking above the water like teeth. I hope the local gravedigger isn’t relying on his wage …

I carried on out of the village and onto a more rural section, rarely passing any houses or farms. It was very peaceful and isolated. There was a lot of water running along the sides of the roads and you could see the road shining and bright in the distance, snaking up the side of the hill.


Running up the hill - which had looked a lot worse from a distance than it actually was - I spotted a horseshoe in the newly ploughed earth of the field on my right. I took it to mean that the rest of the run would be good. I could use some luck after the tummy issues and the floods.

I reached the top of the hill and the road narrowed until it was almost just a track with fields stretching out on the right. The sunshine meant that I could see for miles and I could see the water shining in the fields. The road carried on down the other side of the hill and opened out for a nice long downhill lined by trees. The road turned around a corner into a dip … which was completely flooded. 

However, there was a bank on the right of the road and it was a good 6 inches to a foot above the water. It was squishy and slippery but I could climb up it and use it to get past the water. All I needed to do was run along it and jump the drainage ditches. Simple, right?

This plan worked surprisingly well until I got to the last ditch, which was a good 2 metres away. There are a lot of good points to being an eternal optimist. However, thinking I can jump 2 metres from a standing start isn’t one of them. I missed the bank by at least 4 inches with my leading leg and splashed straight into the water which was surprisingly deep.

My face must have had a comical expression of surprise as my momentum kept me going and I smacked into the ditch on the other side landing on my shoulder. Ouch.
Great. I now had an upset tummy, a sore shoulder and hip and I was covered in mud. Plus my shoes which had dried out over the last 6 miles were now squelching again.

Picked myself up and set off again. At least it wasn’t raining.

Followed the lane for another few miles and the route was quite scenic. I passed over a few bridges and over the canal twice and the bright sunshine on the fields made everything very pretty. I could almost forget I was covered in mud with wet feet and had run out of loo roll.

I finally got to the end of the lane and it finished at a busy main road. Odd. Also, there was a definite absence of the cycle route signs I’d been following.

Had a quick check on the GPS … I had somehow wandered about 3 miles off route. There must have been a sign I’d missed. (Sigh) I didn’t fancy retracing my steps back 3 miles, so I set off along the main road towards the next village and I could pick up the cycle route from there.

Ran up the main route hopping onto the bank whenever a car came. After what felt like a never ending hill – but with no floods! - I finally came into sight of the village. There were absolutely no Cycle Route signs to be seen, so using the GPS to stay on track I picked it up again and made it back onto the right path.

Thankfully, the last few miles passed without any further loo stops, falls, mud, floods or getting lost. I had been wondering when the wild dogs would attack or a tree would fall into the road blocking my path but luckily it looked as though I’d used up my bad luck for this run. Lucky really. I’d also used up my water, gels and loo roll.


  1. great post! hope your trainers clean up okay - do you have more than one pair? Seems like I'm not the only one who gets lost on runs......

    1. Thank you! They actually looked remarkably clean after the first few floods ... then I fell in the ditch and they got covered in mud again! Grr! Nope you're definitely not the only one who gets lost ... I often try to end my long runs at a pub so I've got somewhere warm and dry to go (where they incidentally sell wine) but due to my atrocious sense of direction it never seems to work out! :)

  2. My only question, is how did you manage to keep the loo roll dry anyway?

    1. Ha ha! Good question!! But have to admit I'm not entirely sure how it stayed dry ... !! Also I'm not entirely sure why I was bothering to carry a bottle of water! :)

  3. Great read,always said that one of the better qualities of a runner is the ability to blog a run warts and all, and to be happy about the good bits and not too disappointed with the calamities

    1. Thanks Leg End! I'm afraid that this post was a bit graphic! ... but that's one of the things about running! It's not all ice cream and sunshine. Although it's AWESOME when it is!! :)

  4. Hey Sarah, ever considered triathlon? you have practically two of the diciplines right here lol :)