All posts by Sally Nash

When a Bob Graham is Not a Bob Graham

By Andy Collings

It probably didn’t go unnoticed to most that I recently attempted the Bob Graham Round. In case you missed it (I’ve no idea how if you did), here are my musings of what was an excellent weekend in the Lake District.

Firstly, who and what is the Bob Graham Round? Bob ran a Bed & Breakfast in Keswick and he liked nothing more than taking long walks on the fells. The round itself consists of 66ish miles over 42 peaks, 8,200m of ascent, all to be completed in under 24 hours.

It’s said that each of the peaks represents a year of Bob’s life. Incidentally, the 42nd peak was added in 1932, the year after his first attempt was unsuccessful. Some wish he had got the job done the first time!

It’s also said that Bob walked, not ran, the round in tennis shoes, long shorts and a pajama jacket. His food was bread and butter, a lightly boiled egg and plenty of fruit and sweets for energy. His record stood for 28 years before it was broken. 

The breaking of the record was the end of an era and the start of a new one—who would have envisaged how many would follow him around the circuit in years to come? To the end of 2019 there are 2,384 ratified rounds.

On the weekend of 21st August 2020 I was in the Lake District, hoping in some small way to leave my name in the fell running history books, as many from Tring Running Club already have.

In the days leading up to the weekend there was lots of weather watching and the forecast wasn’t looking good. Being so high up on the fells, the highest point in England at one point, the weather can make or break any attempt. With the forecast of 70 mile an hour winds and heavy rain I decided to postpone my attempt until midnight 22nd August, the weather looking more favourable (sort of).

I set off on my round at midnight Saturday 22nd August, through the ‘ginnel’ across Fitz Park and out onto the fells towards the summit of Skiddaw. My leg 1 support was Alan Whelan and Simon James. Delaying the start seemed to be paying off, looking up at the dark starry sky. Sadly, by the time we hit the summit, the wind was gusting across the top and visibility was down to about 2 metres.

Despite the wind and rain, at first the leg went well and we soon found ourselves atop Blencathra, 30 minutes ahead of schedule. We had only the Halls Fell descent ahead of us to finish Leg 1. All 3 of us had descended Halls Fell a number of times before the weekend. It’s a pretty scary prospect in the daylight and in good weather. Unfortunately, in the dark and wet we lost the path. What followed was a long arduous climb, sometimes looking down sheer rock faces, shimming carefully down ‘chimminies’ onto ledges. An hour later we arrived at Threlkeld, over schedule. 

Despite putting in an immense amount of training for the Bob Graham, I started to suffer from cramp. This is something I have been plagued with in the past but not in the last 12 months. Simon J & Karin Voller gave me some pretty painful massages at the change over, hoping this would help. After the massage and a bowl of porridge I set off on leg 2 with John ‘any cairn will do’ Millen and Paul ‘Pack Horse’ Bayley. 

The climb up Clough Head seemed slow but by the time we got to the top we were back on schedule. The Dodds were uneventful, and all the way over to Helvellyn and on to Dollywagon Pike we were about on schedule.

On the descent to Angle Tarn, I started suffering badly with cramps again and our progress slowed considerably. By the time we got to the summit of Fairfield we were 6 minutes down on schedule. Still, no reason for panic.

The descent to Dunmail was the killer. We were now 11 minutes down on schedule. More massage, a bacon sandwich (prepared by Nigel Lacey), flat coke and a cup of tea and it’s time to go. This time in company with Simon Barnett and Roland Kelly. This was the first time I met Roland!

Leg 3 is a make or break leg; a high percentage of those who fail to complete the Bob Graham retire at the end of Leg 3. Simon and Roland had relieved me of everything that I had been carrying so I could run unencumbered. Carrying my water and snacks seemed to make sense to me at the start but carrying 1kg of water took its toll eventually. The 10 minute break at Dunmail had been shortened to 7 to try and get back on track. I didn’t learn this till after. I also had help from Lynda Hembury and Brian Layton on this leg, who joined us to High Raise before heading off to Rossett Pike, whilst we completed the Langdales.

The leg turned into a war of attrition with some pretty awful weather, which required getting into full waterproofs. The timings ebbed and flowed, with schedules being met at some tops and lost on others. I was glad to see the highest point in England, Scafell Pike but knew Lords Rake and the West Wall Traverse  lay ahead. We skirted around Scafell to the Rake, which looked like a waterfall! No turning back now, up we went, slipping and sliding, trying not to think about the consequences of a fall.

The top came into sight, metaphorically speaking—you couldn’t see much, to be fair. Just the scree descent to Wasdale left, where I was looking forward to a bowl of ravioli and a cup of tea. We arrived 27 minutes behind schedule. My schedule was for 23 hours 30 minutes, so not much leeway.

I knew long before Wasdale that I wasn’t going to be retiring and It was a matter of going through the motions, eating, drinking, a change of clothing and off. Celine and Kirsty kindly removed my wet upper clothing and replaced them with dry layers. They went above and beyond by removing my shoes and socks, drying my feet, and putting dry socks on—all whilst I was being spoon fed my ravioli.

I can still hear Henrys’ voice ringing in my ears, “Come on Andy we’ve got to go,” over and over! I was helped out of my seat and staggered off towards Yewbarrow, whilst having my waterproof jacket and gloves put on me. I was mostly incapable of anything but putting one foot in front of the other at this point.

Joining me on this leg with Henry was Gareth Tomlinson, another person I just met for the first time. Simon Barnett also decided to join me again. I wasn’t chatty, to say the least, despite Gareth’s best efforts and his singing!

We left Wasdale 25 minutes down. I didn’t have much left in me. We weren’t too far off the schedule timings between the tops, but I was unable to gain anything back. In fact, I lost a further 22 minutes overall, putting me 49 minutes behind.

Before arriving in Honister I sent people ahead to get everything ready, as I decided I wasn’t stopping, and was aiming to hopefully gain some time back. I had 2 hours 52 mins to complete the final leg. On a previous recce I had completed the leg in about 2 hours 20 minutes, so I wasn’t losing hope. Karin and Rich Bedlow joined me. I felt I was moving and climbing well. We got to Dale Head in 38 minutes (2 minutes over schedule), Hindscarth 23 mins, (3 minutes over) and the final top Robinson in 30 minutes (2 minutes over). We got to the road at about 23 hours 27 minutes, leaving me 33 minutes to run about 7k, which is 4:43/km.

I ran as hard as could, with loads of encouragement from Rich, Karin and Celine who had joined us, but it was just too much. I made it to Portinscale, which is 4km from the finish, and had only 5 minutes left. I realised that it was done.

Everything shut down and I could barely walk in a straight line. It was over. I was not going to finish in under 24 hours. As I staggered the final 4km, I mentally processed everything that had happened, already thinking about the next time.

These adventures are, in themselves, quite selfish pursuits, but supported by completely selfless people. I cannot thank you all enough for all the time and money you spent in pursuit of my dream. I’m sorry I didn’t quite achieve it. As I said at the beginning, this would never have been possible without the help and support from my friends at Tring Running Club and Run the Wild. Thanks to Alan Whelan, Simon James, John Millen, Paul Bayley, Simon Barnett, Henry Keighly-Elstub, Rich Bedlow, Karin Voller, Nigel Lacey, Celine Wilcock, Kirsty Barnett, Brian Layton, Lynda & Paul Hembury. Thank you also to the two people I didn’t even meet until the day itself, Roland Kelly and Gareth Tomlinson. Finally thank you to my wife Katie for her continued support in my crazy adventures.

To be continued Spring 2021.

All the Twos

By Rick Ansell

I was going to call this ‘eight twos’ but I got so many difficult questions from the editor about why I called my last post ‘seven fives’ I decided against it.  Anyway, according to my book there are eights twos but according to the map there are nine so it was a bit confusing.  Eight (or nine) 2,000’ hills in the Cheviots that is – an upland area straddling the border between Northumberland and Scotland.  I went over the top of the ninth, it was on my way from the third to the fourth so it doesn’t matter if there are eight or nine because I did them all.  Perhaps I should have gone metric added The Schill in and made it 10 sixes (600m hills).

Enough of numbers, we are talking about hills and it was the lack of numbers to worry about that made the run particularly enjoyable.  This wasn’t a race so I wasn’t worried about which number I finished and, although I reckoned it would take me about six hours I wasn’t running against the clock so the only pressure was to enjoy the day.  With this attitude I find you relax and start to flow rather than fight my way over the hills.  Instead of seeing the next hill as being miles away you start to see it as too near as you will arrive too quickly and have less running to do once you have got there.

Despite the post-lockdown madness I thought the Cheviots would be reasonably quiet and I’d always thought a circuit of all the high points would make a good and not too demanding day out.  With no races or events to go at at the moment I am slowly ticking off these little challenges that dismal winter evenings have given birth to over the years.

I set off in a light drizzle from Hartside, the roadhead in the Breamish Valley.  It was good to be running with a map and compass in hand until I realized that the map I was using wasn’t waterproof.  It was an old event map.  Nowadays any map you get given to race with is waterproof but in the old days you had to put your map in a big plastic bag to keep it dry and this map was 15 years old and I didn’t have a big plastic bag.  I decided I would have to only use it if the weather got really bad and in the meantime try to navigate from memory.  I wrapped the thing up in my waterproof and tucked it away in my bumbag.  Running from memory did lead a to a couple of errors but nothing that added much time to the day and later the sun came out and I was able to use it again.  A close call, though as a map turning to pulp would have spoilt the day.

The first hill was Hedgehope and this was that annoying gradient that’s just not steep enough to walk. So I had to run it and it was a steady 3km up hill grind.  By the top I was nicely warmed up and ready for a jelly baby.  A lovely downhill run led me to the morass that is Comb Fell.  I escaped this to get stuck into the steep grassy slopes of the Cheviot.  The heather was in full bloom and for once I loved pushing through the thick vegetation.  I was in no hurry, just pushing hard enough to feel I was working.  After the Cheviot and its two (or three) satellite tops there was a long section of mostly flagstones along the Pennine Way to Windy Gyle.  I padded happily along thinking of weary Spiners coming up here in the last few miles of the race and wondering if I would go on feeling as happy as I was if I went on south all the way to Edale.

Leaving the Peninne Way I dropped into the Usway Valley and jogged up the track to the lonely Uswayford Farm.  The next hill was Bloodybush Edge and I did start to lose my equanimity as I stumbled through the tussocks on tiring legs but the trig pillar eventually came into view. The wind was at my back and there was just one hill to go before the final 5km run in. I trotted back to the car feeling more than content with the day; sufficiently tired without having had to flog myself.

I reckoned the day was about 36km with 1,400m and a good mix of easy running on the Pennine Way and hard going on tussocks.  It took me 6.32.

Seven Fives

By Rick Ansell

I have a book listing the names of mountains in England and Wales (the ones in Scotland need a book of their own) and at one point the author imagines a scenario of the sea level rising by 2,000 feet and the country being reduced to a number of islands, the largest of which would be the Northern Pennines from Cross Fell south which would be about 18 miles long, apparently.

I imagined a similar scenario applied to the moors north of Crowden, up to Black Hill in the Peak District and used a 500m rise in sea level as 2,000 feet would drown everything.  This gave six islands, the biggest of which would have two or three little sections standing proud of the others perhaps with a palm tree on top.  A run was born.

I took Max with me and we made a day raid on the Peak.  I wanted to see if I could still run over rough ground.  Leaving the humid fug of the south I was apprehensive.  Running has been an effort.  Going out on my bike I haven’t yet met a cyclist who didn’t have a big grin on their face, as I have done but while running it’s been more of a grinace if I can invent a word. 

Getting out of the car you could smell the heather on the breeze, overpowering the smell of the Woodhead road.  I felt a gentle tide of energy rise within and as we set off I found myself jogging comfortably up the hill.  I think Max was even more surprised.  The time was when I used to feel like I could just float over the hills and those old feelings came flooding back.  Back was my cycling grin and a cheery ‘Hi’ as we passed people replacing my more usual dour grunt these days. 

I looked ahead and thought: ‘I’ll have to walk that bit’ only to find myself running the steepening ground when I got there.  My knees seemed suddenly well oiled and moved easily without the usual clicks and grates and groans.  We paused on top of Black Hill and after an easy run down the Pennine Way headed for the proper rough moorland around the Chew Reservoir. 

Usually I curse and swear at the tussocks and bog but today I embraced them, once or twice literally.  After months of the hard paths of Ashridge to be on truly unrunnable ground was glorious. 

The day was perfect for running: clear and breezy; warm and cool.  There was a slight haze which hid Manchester and added scale to the moors all purple and green in their summer shirt of heather and grass.  Usually it is winter when I run here and the moors are a drab brown.  We found our little nunatacks, one even had a baby Christmas tree growing on its top, and stumbled back to the path at Lad’s Leap, legs still full of running.  As we tripped back down to the car I felt a genuine sadness that we were finishing.  I could, I thought, comfortably go and do it all again.

There was only one real regret: we didn’t see a mountain hare.  Normally when I run here, however badly I go, if I’ve seen a hare it’s been a good day.  This was a good day even without a hare.

Vital statistic: we ran for 3.18 and probably covered about 22km. And this article is called Seven Fives because there were six hills over 500 metres but one had two tops, hence seven x 500m.

Lots of Peaks

By Rick Ansell

Well what a week last week was for dot watchers and fell records. Simon alerted to me to all that was happening. First we had Kim Collison breaking the long-standing Lakes 24 hour record, probably the blue ribband record. Kim visited 78 Lakeland hilltops in 23.45 adding an extra peak to Mark Hartell’s record. A few hours later Sabrina Verjee set a women’s record for doing all the Wainwrights, the third fastest time, pushing Simon down the rankings and then American John Kelly, now resident in Bristol took 40 minutes off the Pennine Way record.

Of a similar order of magnitude, perhaps with the addition of a few decimal places, was my own Four Peaks run. These are of course Whiteleaf Cross, Coombe Hill, Aston Hill and Ivinghoe Beacon, a route often walked for charity.

This was the first time since lockdown that I haven’t run from my doorstep. I’ve done the run a couple of times in the past, once with Michael when we left a car at each end and once alone when I left a bike at one end and cycled back to the car afterwards. This time I decided to use a support team and decided to run west to east to have the prevailing wind behind me (yes, alright, that comment doesn’t need making). This was actually a mistake as it was a warm day and breeze in my face would have been helpful.

I was watched dourly by an armed Policeman as I crossed Chequers and then I got lost in the woods approaching Coombe Hill. I was sure I followed the Ridgeway sign, somebody must have moved it and I ended up having to struggle back up the road. I was once presented with a compass that had its needle bent as I used to complain that my own compass never pointed the right way which is why I got lost so much. All these conspiracies set up to thwart me. As I organise a race on Coombe Hill you’d think I’d know my way round there pretty well but I managed to put in an extra loop by returning almost to the carpark.

Back on track I was passing through a gate being held open by a couple out for a walk, trying to look focused and determined and impressive I took a nose dive at their feet. It wasn’t going well.

At the foot of the Hale I met Max and stopped for a drink and to compose myself. I managed a good steady jog all the way up to the top of Wendover Woods and out to the trig on Aston Hill. The end was in sight, well almost, but I still had to get through Tring and then face the tedium of Marshcroft Lane.

Being from Berko I always feel slightly sullied coming to Tring and having to run down the High Street on a hot afternoon wasn’t fun. Head down and I managed a proper run rather than shuffle up Marshcroft and then sat down in the shade for a drink. I did have to have a bit of a walk on the steep bit of Pitstone Hill. I held the gate for a family out walking. “Wow it’s just amazing here isn’t it. We haven’t been here before” I looked up at Incoombe Hole. Yes they were right, it is pretty amazing and a bloody sight easier than climbing Lakeland hills.

“That was good” I said as I finally sat down by the final trig point. But of course what I really meant was, “It’s good that I can stop now”.

Wendover Woods 8k Hill Run

By Clive Cohen

It will be great to see as many of the club members as possible have a crack at what will be the 10th edition of our annual Wendover Woods Hill Run. This year it’s an event with a difference: the route stays the same but it will be a virtual run.

Dates
A 3 week window to submit an entry, starting from 13 July to 31 July.

So if you are unfamiliar with the route you have some time before the run window opens to reccie the route.

There’s no limit to the number of times you (masochists!) run the course, but you can only submit one entry.

Route

You can download a gpx file here:

There will be no route markings this year (Forestry England would not permit us to put down biodegradable line marker as usual).

Social Distancing
Please conform to whatever the social distance guidelines are when doing your run. Remember you are in effect representing Tring Running Club, so any group running absolutely must conform to the operative guidelines on group size and distance.

Running in a small group
If you do not feel confident about self navigating, a cunning (devious – reeks of pyramid selling!) plan has been masterminded by Nigel K. Essentially we will have a number of run leaders (an 8 leads the 9-minute-mile groups, a 9 leads the 10-minute-mile group etc.) who will lead a group of 4 runners around the course at RACE SPEED. One to lead and one to mop up. These runs could be on a Wednesday evening or any other time that’s convenient for the group. More to follow.

Submitting Results
For those on Strava a club has been set up for the run, “Tring RC WW 2020”. Please join this group and call your run “Wendover Woods 2020”

If you are not on Strava simply email your result to me (cohenclive5@gmail.com), plus the date and time of your run.

Woods access and car parking
Parking is £2.50 for 2 hrs per car payable on exit by cash, card or SMS at the new machines in front of the old (now closed) Cafe In The Woods.

Wendover Woods New Car Park. HP22 5NQ

Currently the woods open at 08:00 and close at 18:00.

You can of course enter the woods outside these hours. If parking outside the woods either Aston Hill (before the MTB) entry or the free car parking area at at woods exit are recommended.

The Gade Valley Skyline

By Rick Ansell

I love geography. When I was about 12 and about to change schools, I was given a choice to study Latin or Geography. I opted for Geography but was told I should choose Latin. That’s the good thing about posh schools; they always know better than you what you want.

Anyway, the Latin came in handy later when I found myself having spells living in Spain, Italy and Brazil. I developed a mixture of all three languages and spoke what I called modern Latin. It was a shame that, although I was pretty fluent, I seemed to be incomprehensible to everyone else.

I love maps and when the world is out of kilter a map and glass of beer soon put it back to rights. I’ve been spending a lot of time recently looking at maps (alright, and drinking beer). Years ago when looking at the local map I noticed that it showed a ridge of high ground separating the Gade and Bulbourne Valleys with four cardinal points: a trig point on the road near Fields End, (it’s marked on the map but I have never found it despite searching high and low, well just high, obviously), a trig point on the edge of a little copse just off Beacon Road towards the Beacon, Ivinghoe Beacon itself and Bridgewater Monument.

A run was born (or should that be bourne?).

It’s probably about 20 miles, though I’ve never measured it, it’s a sort of extended Boundary Trail. I have run it a few times and always suffered on it. The last time I did it was with Simon when he was training for his Bob Graham and Kevin joined us. I remember that as we were coming back across the Common Kevin ran off to get dinner on. Simon and I looked at each other and breathed ‘Thank God’ and sat down for a rest before ambling home.

Last week I did the Boundary Trail and dried out at the Monument. I was hoping to refill my bottle at the tap beside the café but the vandals (from the NT) had taken the handle. I struggled home trying to remember the rest of the lyrics to Subterranean Homesick Blues. To counteract this, I drafted in Max (my son) as a mobile drinks station and set off for the Gade Valley Skyline wondering how much I would suffer.

All went well to Potten End and the first drinks stop. I even paused to look at the bee orchid above Well Farm. On the road section round to Fields End, though I was suddenly assailed by stomach cramps. I was wondering if I was having contractions but on reflection thought probably not. Some retching and the passage of wind and I was back on track, though actually I wasn’t as I had missed a path and needed to backtrack. Eventually I made it to St Margaret’s and the next drink. From here there is a long flat section to Little Gaddesden. I wasn’t feeling any worse so pressed on towards Hurst Farm and the Beacon. I was decidedly weary now and had a little walk up Steps Hill but kept myself going to the Monument and the last drinks station.

The wheels finally completely fell off as I got to Northchurch Common and I had to hobble back down the hill to home, my knees screaming. I’d forgotten to take the painkillers I normally need to keep me running. I know you’re not supposed to but it’s either Nurofen and run or not.

I think that’s enough for long local runs. Next week I’m going cycling. It doesn’t hurt.

Summer Trail Half Marathon Challenge for Rennie Grove

By Nigel Kippax

Rennie Grove Fundraising
As a club, TRC was expecting to have helped Rennie Grove to raise £10k from the combined efforts of the Ashridge Half and our Fun Run. In these strange times, we have organised a virtual multi-event instead.

Take part and support this great charity
Please take part by running one or both of our challenging and beautiful trail half marathon routes and consider a donation to Rennie Grove. Please mention ‘Tring Running Club support’ in the reason for donation box, so that we can see how much our challenge raises for a brilliant cause.

What is Rennie Grove?
Rennie Grove is a charity that gives specialist care for adults and children with a life-limiting illness in Bucks and west Herts. They support people to live the best quality life they can with a choice about how and where they are cared for towards the end of life. It’s important work, worth supporting. 

The Challenge
Choose one or choose all three of these options:

  1. Social: Run the route(s) socially. Enjoy the scenery and give yourself a big pat-on-the-back. Extra points for the best photos!
  2. TRC Competition: Run the route(s) as part of our TRC competition.  To enter you will need to post your result on Strava clearly titled either Ashridge or Chilterns Trail Half.  Make sure it’s on the TRC Strava group and that the time is ‘race’ time not ‘moving’ time.  The TRC competition will remain open until the end of August to give everyone a chance to run/race each route. As it’s a TRC competition you can, of course, expect the prizes to be immense!
  3. Open Competition: Run the route(s) as part of the open competition which is being organised by Rennie Grove.  There is a charge to enter the official race. Here’s the link to enter.

The Routes

  1. Ashridge Trail Half Marathon: The route starts and finishes at the Bridgewater Monument in Ashridge
  2. Chilterns Trail Half Marathon: A circular route starting from the Coombe Hill Monument (Wendover) although as it’s a circular route you could start from any point

The routes are self-navigating. To help ensure you don’t get lost (??) each route has a written route description with lots of lovely photos.  Within the route description there are also links to the route on Garmin Connect and on Strava. You can download the route as a GPX file from either Garmin Connect or Strava.

What you need
As this is a virtual event you will need access to a GPS device and the ability to upload your results onto Strava.  Our apologies to anyone who does not use Strava, but in these virtual times it is about the only way to share routes and results.

What next?
Download the routes, go running and make a donation (remember to mention ‘Tring Running Club support’ in your reason for donating, so that we can track how much we raise as a club).  I will send the link to upload results for the open competition as soon as I have it.  

Running in Lockdown Lyon, by Martin Hopcroft

It became evident in late February that it was time to batten down the hatches, as we were heading into economic carnage. I was commuting weekly to Lyon, and the airport had become deserted. Everything was coming to a grinding halt. After the Ashridge Boundary Trail, and with the benefit of my forecasting gene, I packed my bag in the expectation of getting stranded in Lyon.


France was given just hours to lock down, with the need for permits to justify any absence from home. The French love rules, and love even more navigating around any ambiguities, so the laws had to be refined a few times before they were sufficiently watertight.

Working in an essential industry, I needed to attend the office daily, so I invested in an annual membership of the community bike scheme, which became my default method of transport.

For a few days I stayed in a hotel, but then the hotels closed for lack of customers, so I moved into an Airbnb for the rest of confinement. I would cycle to work every morning, picking up a sandwich for lunch from one of the few boulangeries that stayed open. Then I would cycle back to the flat, buying food for dinner from one of the many supermarkets. There were no showers at work, so commuting on foot was not an option.

During the week, I would invariably run around the neighbourhood in the evenings. At weekends, I might be more adventurous with a longer run. The roads were deserted, and I had the pleasure of running in the middle of the wide boulevards, as well as pacing hypnotically on the pavement slabs.

The advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office was becoming increasingly strident in asking nationals to return to the UK while there was still transport. I always had a way home as Eurostar maintained a solitary daily train, however navigating the border controls back to France would be a challenge.

Some people save souls, others save lives, while I save businesses. The company that I had joined before Christmas was turning round, and I was not going to put that at risk by leaving. I told my family that I would be staying in France as I did not want them to remember me as someone that ran away when the going got tough, whatever the consequences. They were shaken and stirred.

One of the benefits of trail running is that it develops agility. One false step and you hit the ground in a bloody mess. This skill was vital in lockdown.

At work, customers were agitated, supply lines were disrupted, and employees were worried by repeated presidential statements of war. Nevertheless, we managed to keep the sites functioning so that we could continue to manufacture medicines that save lives. Issues in the business were happening so fast that we applied crisis management for a while, and running was my release mechanism.

My shoes were wearing out. I placed an order online that didn’t turn up. I advertised on my apartment window with my European shoe size, but there was no response. I placed another online order, and that got delivered. Hallelujah.

One day I fell badly from my bike and suffered myocardial contusion. The pain severely restricted my sleeping and running for a while, but then we were only officially allowed to go 1 km from home for up to one hour. I decided not to worry my family.

As usual, I was blogging on Strava with a unique title and photo, which makes each run a memorable event. With hindsight, it was a great way to remember every day of life in lockdown. Each day was different.

By running, I got to feel the pulse of the city. Each and every day there were more cars, more people, more shops, more everything. In addition to being the gastronomic capital of the world, Lyon is plastered with murals, which is largely a local female occupation. For a while, I selected my routes to see these murals, which took me all over town. It was some compensation for the fact that the parks and riversides were closed.

There are many different sides to the city. There are streets where people are living in cars, there are many tents, and there are sleeping bags in bus shelters. Volunteers go round daily to deliver food to the homeless, who charge their phones at the bike stations.

Rue Paul Bert is the epicentre of the Muslim community. The street came alive in the evenings throughout Ramadan. The police wisely stayed at a discrete distance. I took to running down the road to take in the atmosphere.

Without access to a hairdresser, I purchased some hair clippers and, after agonising about the wisdom of self-harming, gave myself a number 8 all over. It took four attempts. The difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is a fortnight. With my new look, I had to run much faster for the next two weeks along rue Paul Bert, as I looked like a flic on a mission.

There are similarities in being stranded with being at boarding school, as you are away from your family for an extended period of time. There are differences in that I had hot water. We kept in regular contact with video calls and virtual birthday parties. My family think that I am on a gap year.

Normal life has been gradually returning with the re-opening of the economy. France has been savvy in opening the hairdressers early in order to resurrect the shopping experience.

I celebrated sixty-four consecutive days of running before taking a rest day, and then upping the mileage.

When the radius of confinement was expanded to 100 kms, I took a tram to the lake district and enjoyed long runs along the Rhône river back to the city. With lots of trails and a gentle downstream slope, I had some great long runs in the scorching sun. Without a hydration pack, I resorted to carrying a water bottle. To go home, I need to be able to navigate borders, quarantine and transportation in two directions.

The introduction of house arrest in England, without parliamentary scrutiny, is just another problem to be navigated, except that stepping outside my own house could be a criminal offence, including outdoor exercise.

Meanwhile, the business has been transformed despite lockdown. Then along came the opportunity to manufacture a coronavirus vaccine for Europe. Perhaps I shall save lives too. Maybe it is time to think about going home. Stay safe.

Who Square Wins, by Andy Evans

Tring running during lockdown
Some squares are easier than others to reach. This one is at the edge of Wilstone reservoir – maybe I need a boat?

Lockdown was announced, and I’d run in 2020 just 58km. Given this included 8 parkruns, my non-parkrunning was averaging 1.5km per week. Working from home it was time to visit the trainasone.com training app that Andy Collings had recommended. I’ve used this before and would definitely recommend it. The schedule demanded that I should build up much more slow paced mileage.

Running for me has rarely been for the running itself, usually it’s for the side products such as the social chat, maybe exploring an area, Strava drawing or playing games. Several such games can be found on the excellent running website fetcheveryone.com. For those of you who haven’t come across fetch before, it’s well worth a look. It can be used as a repository of training data and analysis, and there are plenty of running blogs and forums, information about running events and route planning capability

One Fetch game is Who Squares Wins. Each chooses a home point anywhere in the world, the centre square of a 15 by 15 grid of 225 mini-squares. The main game is like a squash ladder and you play against another runner and if you win the week (win, by visiting, the most mini-squares) based on a points system then you go up the table. If that all sounds a bit complicated, here is a link to the instructions.

Every 2 months there is a multi-player match for the top 128. The most recent one started in mid-April and as I was running more, I joined in. In the past my working has meant a commute and a lunchtime away from my home square but with the covid situation I’m working at home and able to exercise more in the same square. The scoring method is the same for the multiplayer but all players compete in one grid and all scrabble around for a few squares each week. Every round half the players get knocked out i.e. 128 players – 64 – 32 etc. In the early rounds, a simple tactic of running/cycling/walking along nearby roads each day should see you through however the mileage increases in later rounds.

My square stretched from the new housing at the west end of Tring to the New Mill roundabout in the North East, to Wigginton, Tring Park and Stubbings Wood in the South. I had intended a flatter more northerly square, but the canal and reservoir paths were out of bounds due to the covid situation

Most of the others taking part, run much further and much faster than me. To make up for this I was going to have to score points through cycling and walking and also spend more time route planning and the tactics of guessing where you think your opponents may run by looking at which squares they are scoring points in. The game is a tactical battle of knowing whether to cover more squares thinly or repeatedly doing different activities in the same squares.

3 weeks ago, I’d battled through to the last 16 and to get through that round I was running on average 6k before work each day and then a 10k cycle after work. A week later in the last 8, this increased to 8k runs per day and still the 10k evening cycle. I ran 55km in the week, the furthest I had ever run in a week

Looking at my opponents in the semi-final, it was going to be a tough week. The recommendation when increasing mileage is to add say 10% but that wasn’t going to be enough to reach the final. So I settled into a routine of getting up early for a 14km run each morning before work, a 3km walk at lunchtime and a 20km cycle in the evenings before getting home to plan out the 3 routes for the next day.

By the end of the semi-final week I had stepped up my previous week’s record running kms from 55km to 100km and even had the unusual sight on Strava of beating Tom Sawyer to the top of the distance (and time taken!) TRC Strava tables. In all previous years I have never run more than 6 13km+ runs in any particular whole year and yet now I had to run 7 of them in one week.

Tring Running Club Strava results
A very rare sight on the TRC distance leaderboard

It’s odd with an event like this, how it grows without it meaning to. What started off as a cycle, run and walk along the local road and back was now turning into an event that was taking all my free time and just accepting as normal the increased daily running amounts

The end of the semi-final week saw a late push by a couple of the other competitors and so  late runs had to be recorded on London Road between Tesco and Cow Lane, an area of the map that had turned in to a particularly hot battleground but I managed to make it through to the final (although part of me would have been quite happy to stop at this point)

Straight into the final week which I knew was going to be another distance increase. Monday began with a half-marathon before work, a few lunchtime miles walking and 40km cycling in the evening – it’s amazing how much distance you can squash in a small square! Tuesday was a repeat, another half-marathon, walking and cycling, Then on Weds, it was cold and wet, part way through a 3rd half marathon, one of my quads decided it had enough and I had to phone Ann-Marie for a lift home. However, a bit of warmth inside meant that I could walk and cycle later in the day. Checking the scores on Wednesday evening I was still in the lead, but my opponent had upped his running mileage with a 30km run and was closing in. A bit fed up,  and resigned to the fact that I would now lose, on Thursday I set off with the plan of using the rest of the week for just running and cycling to rest my leg until mathematically  I could no longer win and then I would  announce on the forum that I was dropping out. On Thursday evening I waited and waited for my opponent’s file to be uploaded. Then late in the evening he announced that unfortunately his mother had been taken ill and he would have to stop and that victory was now mine. My legs have never been so happy!

A typical Strava route – Probably not the fastest Half-Marathon course

Although repeated daily exercise like this is not usually recommended, the interesting thing for me has been proving that I was able to achieve repeated running  of these distances, admittedly at a much slower pace. Comparing to typical running events it also means that you are never far from home if things go wrong, or you need to refuel or get changed between activities. You also know most of the streets, although the battle when you are tired is remembering which street combination you are doing that day/activity. It’s great to see people that you know during the activity but in the last couple of weeks it’s hard fitting around normal work/home life and so a big thanks to Ann-Marie and the family for putting up with me doing this over the last few weeks.

So after hours and hours of pounding the streets of Tring and having built up an in depth knowledge of the streets and alleyways of Tring, I get a virtual badge to say I won! By the time you read this it will have all started again with a new 128 players and if you want to follow progress then the multiplayer can be found here I play as “Snail” although I’m not sure how long I will last in the game this time.

At least if you now see my Strava wiggling around Tring you will know why or if you live in a Tring cul-de-sac and yet you see the same person cycling, walking and running daily along it, now you know why!