Dawn, Sunday, Im awake before the alarm to take part in a new challenge starting in Burley- New Forest Hampshire. Excited about this one in the same way as I used to be at 12/ 13 years old when making my first independent rail journeys. An 18 Miles Navigation challenge which is an option on the long -established Long Distance Walkers Association New Forest marathon, where walkers and runners are invited in to complete a designated course with checkpoints. Excited, my feeling is that of an adventure about to start, and part of this is the thrill of the journeying, cycling to station, riding train to chosen nearest point of event, making it around the whole event successfully, then returning- all under my own power. In the late Eighties Im not sure how many other 13 year olds were riding around on trains alone for fun but this must be part of what fuels my drive to bring young people independence and adventure through my coaching. Smoothly time keeping through the practice then breakfast and short spin to train takes which me to Hinton Admiral Ive got a 10k warm up on the bike before the start at 9.00 a.m. Making it with seconds to go quickly shed some outer layers, grab the backpack and get the Mudclaws on to join the running group, Its amusing to see a few dressed in full 2 day Mountain Marathon kit immaculately packed and re-packed and as I stand chatting to couple of others hear theres people from Milton Keynes, Exmoor and of course London driven down for this event.
My clubmate Gavin has given me the challenge of a 2.20 time for this 18 miler, I think he plucked that time out of the air but its a basis for what I know will be an easier Navigation than my regular Orienteering events, with a distance sting in the second half for me. Ive no aspiration to do a full marathon, as a friend always says, “junk miles” and when Im putting in sub 4 minute K’s on 5 and 10 K races Ill leave marathons to other people. 18 Miles will be the furthest Ive done straight off, have been doing some long runs recently so here we go, and go we do, steady and onto the Smugglers road, wonder if there were smugglers in the New Forest as most of the Dorset and Hampshire coast is widely known for it? these are the thoughts that arise out the 1:25 map im carrying. A little Nav needed through Little Linford forest and onto Rockford Common, we did a Wimbourne event here recently its good to pass through again. Heres the open spaces I live for, with some contouring, and running downhill fell- style the legs are working well with the brain using compass direction to get to check point 4.
Gavin said to me about corner cutting using Orienteering maps- to get a better time, now, as Ive done half of this event strictly on the official route, that needs to be the way I continue- this is where the challenges start however. 1.15 is my time to Hasley pictured above, which means that doubling that time could get me back in 2.30. Endurance is a test, of will and body. There are 3 sections of the next areas Broomy, Milkham and Bratley which have very tempting corner cuts, where a direct line on compass bearing would shave off Kilometres distance, however this is now completely my challenge- not to cheat myself of the whole 18 miles distance. Now on the southern section direction, and the wind is up in my face as prevailing winds always are in the South West. So far its been fun just identifying all the features as I pass them, from here though the legs and hips are starting to feel different…. I pass under the A31 and notice this lovely spray can art, some wandering graffiti writers from somewhere but I liked their “Staggering” style.
Up and out on to the Backley plain, and heres the forecasted weather, rain blasting at me its on quickly with the jacket, and for a second a peverse thought passes over me on the theme of ” This is where it gets really good” there must be something twisted in the characters of all those who enjoy these sorts of outdoors challenges…theres a subject for another blog one day. Another couple of miles of southerly slog and Im in Berry wood, the last big section which reveals true forest terrain – that is BOG! seriously wet by now I pass the ‘Old house’ enclosure, which is funny because a short while before I had passed a group that looked like the residents dog walking. If I mentioned tweed, full tweed worn as everyday attire Im sure you can see what sort of locals Im referring to. The ride through some of Berry wood is also called ‘Sir Dudleys ride’, musing as I run on whether this route leading from the big house was named after one of its residents, such musings helping to detract from the feeling of tiredness in my legs. Into the last few hundred metres now into the village and uphill, have to admit walking a few sections here, on concrete isnt the best place to run. My watch says 2.47 as I arrive back first into the Burley Village hall, the organisers give me a certificate but even better the volunteers whoop at me the first finisher back. Bonus time now as theres a Wilfs style veggie chillie and Jacket as part of entry fees, with cake! and lots of sweet tea, thanks LDWA for putting this on, a great event. Short chat with Sue Hands from Southampton O club who finished first lady, and Im back on the bike to Hinton Admiral, along the A35 with the fat-bottomed girls and boys in the 4 x 4s. Next stop- swim / sauna rest and its another great day in the New Forest.
If you have got this far a bit more context for this adventure. The link below outlines my vision for Long Orienteering event 2015, this is now getting some serious support and interest through Nopesport viewers who make up the largest proportion of Orienteers, do message me if you would be interested in this event, I hope this post has shown how much potential the New forest has for long distance outdoors running. In 2015 I aim to run a ‘Castleman challenge’ using 4 linked areas to offer long distance races. http://www.nopesport.com/news/1555-long-event-in-the-south-