One of my twitter buddies Richard Kirkham came down to run one of my favourite routes with me - Cycle Route 41 which goes from Rugby to Leamington and is about 24 miles. Here is his account:
The prospect of a train journey on a 'cross-country' voyager induces a 'state of panic' in me. Without a seat reservation, your chances of a seat are slim. For the unfortunate many, you will spend the entire journey adopting the CIA approved 'stress-position' in the vestibule area between Coach B and C awaiting interrogation by the train guard for being in possession of the incorrect type of super-off peak return. If you do manage to secure that elusive seat, you are subjected to an alternative form of mental torture as the flickering dot matrix indicator above the seat teases you with the scrolling message 'this seat may be reserved between York and Plymouth'. This is only the tip of the iceberg, let's talk prices...
Travelling with CrossCountry is an expensive business. I frequently travel to Derby and Bristol from York which costs over £100 and £200 respectively. Being a savvy Yorkshireman I have found savings by splitting my ticket at random intermediate stations but a similar 'walk up' fare to London is only £50 with Grand Central. It was with these concerns playing in my mind that I agreed to meet up with Sarah for a run from Rugby to Leamington Spa. I'd not met Sarah before but had 'spoken' to her on twitter many times. She struck me as a very kind, considerate and supportive person who encapsulated everything good about running. (Editor: I MADE him say this) I was keen to meet my latest #ff so I cast aside the panic attack and travelled down to the Midlands to meet her (and yes I split my ticket at Burton-on-Trent for a £40 saving!)
I arrived at Rugby but there was no sign of Sarah so I sloped off to the little shop to stock up on drinks. I exchanged brief conversation with the lady behind the counter who peered at me with an amused expression. 'Are you going running?' she asked, relieving me of more money from my rapidly depleting wallet in the process. 'Aye, running to Leamington Spa!' I said. She looked baffled and said 'I'd get the train if I were you!'. Clearly my rather disheveled appearance, complete with the contents of a CrossCountry Starbucks coffee splattered on my t-shirt, didn't convey any sense of athletic prowess.
I headed back to the entrance where Sarah was now waiting. It was at this point that the panic attack usually reserved for the CrossCountry Voyager made a rapid reappearance. Sarah smiled warmly but she looked like she meant business, a bit like a robo-cop version of an ultra runner. She was well prepared (much to my relief later on) and raring to go. I, on the other hand, was ill-prepared and raring to go to bed. I'd texted various excuses to her on the way down, mainly blaming my one year old son for keeping me awake most of the night, but I could tell I was going to be made to pay for piss-poor perpetration later on!
We set off out of Rugby and it wasn't long before we were hitting the off road paths and peaceful countryside. It was a cracking day for it and we chatted constantly about running, pausing only briefly for a selfie with the alpacas and a bite to eat and drink in a small village, the name of which escapes me. As we dropped down towards the canal towpath Sarah mentioned that a pub was close by and suggested a drink. I pretended to muse on the question but really there was only ever going to be one answer! I glanced at my Garmin, the time was 11.50. The pub was 'sort of open' but the landlady seemed impressed we were including a stop off at her pub and promptly poured me a splendid half of bitter a few minutes earlier than she should have done!
We set off again and sadly that's when the wheels began to fall off the wagon for me.
I frequently suffer from quite painful leg cramps when running long distances and the last incident had wiped me out of the 100k Transpennine Ultra at the 75k mark. It was a real shame as I was enjoying the run so much but thankfully I was running with Sarah; patience of a saint and plenty of analgesia stored away in her robo-cop running vest!
I limped into Leamington Spa like an MOT failure with no hope of a re-test, but thankfully Sarah had arranged a tweet-up with Lozza at a rather excellent bistro in town; we ate and drunk well although some of our fellow diners appeared disturbed by our choice of attire. Fair enough, I'm not sure I'd like to look at myself dressed in Lycra over a cream tea! The general public would usually finish off such a fine culinary experience with 'a turn' around 'this most pleasant of Royal spa towns' but runners being runners - we took a short run down to the station and prepared to face my nemesis once more...and yes Sarah and I did have to assume the stress position in the vestibule on the train back to Rugby!
Thanks Richard! But I would like to confirm that his leg cramps were actually due to me spiking his drink at the pub as he was making me run at quicker-than-marathon pace and if I didn't stick something in his pint to slow him down I'd never have made it to Leamington and my bacon sandwich. (Just kidding - I'd never do that. I would have pushed him in the canal instead) I had a brilliant run and the Garmin info is here: