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Cheltenham Circular, part one

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Having walked a lap of Gloucester last year - the Glevum Way - we decided to do the same for Cheltenham this year - via the Cheltenham Circular Footpath.

The route is marked and named on OS maps, and we'd seen occasional marker signs previously.  There is a guidebook, which was published in 1996 and so no longer 100% accurate!  I bought it anyway, and will attempt to highlight any differences as I write things up - but mostly it seems to be things like styles having been replaced with kissing gates.

The route officially starts either at Cheltenham Racecourse or Pittville Pump Rooms, depending what you read, and is about 25 miles/40km.  I mapped it out on OS maps without the pump rooms detour and that says 38km.

Our first leg took us from Golden valley to the Racecourse (guidebook sections J and K - between 13 and 1 on my OS route), starting from a bus stop on the B4063, next to what used to be the Pheasant Inn.  This is currently a private residence, but it's also been a Thai restaurant relatively recently.  The Stagecoach 94 bus goes past very frequently, so it's easy to get to from Cheltenham or Gloucester.

Cheltenham Circular footpath sign
Waymarked signpost. A bit of a rarity!

The path heads north through fields and past a slightly smelly sewage treatment plant near Fiddler's green. It was here that we spotted the first burnt out car of the day, which is not what any of us were expecting to find in the middle of a field.

What I was expecting to see was more footpath/marker signs!  Good thing we had maps and GPS because it was really not obvious where to go.

At one point our path abruptly vanished into a large and deep wet hole - complete with orange safety barrier but no suggestion of a detour. We carefully picked our way around it, and continued along the very boggy path. I should have taken a photo as then I'd be able to tell you exactly where it is, but was a bit preoccupied with a) not falling in and b) not letting the dogs fall in.

We popped out on the A4019 at Uckington, and walked along the pavement for a bit until we turned into more fields just opposite the fire station.  Busy main roads always tend to be the low point on walks like this, but thankfully it was only for a few hundred metres.

St Mary Magdelene churchyard in Elmstone Hardwicke provided a good spot for a drink and snack stop - and a chance for Jon and Jon to empty water out of their boots. I decided I'd just suffer damp feet rather than having to put wet shoes and socks back on - especially as my Keen Terradora boots are very definitely falling apart where the toe area flexes :(  Waterproof fabric is no use if there are holes in it!

stopping for a drinkcontinue reading »

Forest of Dean 10k

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I ran this race last year, when it was called the Skechers trail run.  New sponsor this year, so new name - Salming trail run. The course had changed slightly, bringing it to 10.5k (with 2 and 4 lap options added if you wanted to run a half/full marathon).  There was also a 5k option, and before the main race started, a 1km kids route.

The weather was warm and dry and sunny!  Last year I ran the (downhill) first 3km a bit too quickly, and this year I intentionally did the same as I knew the hill in the second half would slow my pace.

finish line

I was running with my soft bottle so didn't stop at the first water station. Grabbed a cup of what I thought was just water at the second, and it turned out to be something vaguely lemon flavoured. An unpleasant surprise. Yuck. Good thing I still had a bit left in my bottle to wash it down with...

After about 7km my right achilles/calf decided to start being a bit niggly, so I slowed my pace. My time for 10k turned out about a minute slower than last year, which is a bit annoying but I'm not unhappy about it!

What is disappointing is the lack of photos of me. Especially as the photographer took half a dozen or so of the lady who crossed the line just ahead of me..... Maybe I looked particularly sweaty and awful or something ;)

ice cream and a medal

Anyway, once again I had an ice cream afterwards.  Does that make it a tradition?  Let's see what happens in 2019!

Kymin Dash

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It's April, which means the clocks have gone forwards, my skiing kit has been packed away until next winter (boo), and I can slowly drag myself out of semi-hibernation.

This year I've set myself the challenge of getting the Strava 10k run badge each month. So far so good - four down, eight to go! April's was also my first race of the year - the Kymin Dash.

Having grown up in Monmouth, I know the Kymin pretty well.  We used to walk up it quite often with Scouts, including in the dark, and I still look out for the white tower if I'm driving back from Wales along the A40.
That said, it's about 4 years since I last walked up there, and I remember the footpath (Wysis Way/Offa's Dyke) being rather steep and leaving me out of breath.  So running up it?  Yeah, that'll be a great idea...

kymin dash start line.
waiting to start

So many people in running club kit! I did feel a bit out of place as a non-club runner, and I think this is probably also why I had a recycled Gloucester marathon number/chip instead of the ankle tags that most others had.

I started near the back as I knew I wasn't going to be sprinting the 2km of uphill!  Instead I did a mixture of slow jog and power walk, which seemed to be a popular technique.  The road isn't as steep as the footpath, so it wasn't actually as bad as I was expecting. Along the way they'd put out plenty of motivational signs - "it's only a hill" etc, and I was very pleased to reach the top and the first water station - complete with jelly babies!!  I ran carrying my soft flask because that's easier to deal with than paper cups.

Once the hill was out of the way I was able to speed up a bit and, as the paths widened and the crowd thinned out, even did some overtaking.  I did have to stop and wait at the road crossing, which lost me about 3 minutes but isn't exactly the end of the world.

When we entered Highmeadow Woods we were greeted with a lovely muddy bog, which gave me flashbacks to doing Forest Warriors a few years back. *shudder*.  There was also a downhill section that was reasonable muddy and narrow, but apart from those bits (and the walk to the start line!) the course was all tarmac and hard forest roads.  I'm still pleased I didn't wear my shiny new shoes though, haha

me running.  photo from facebook.
A rare photo where I am actually sort of smiling - and overtaking the lady on the left!  Photo by Rod, from facebook.

There weren't medals (unless you actually won, of course) but I do now have a lovely purple technical tshirt.  We were also handed a Wild Trail bar at the finish line, but that's long gone... continue reading »