By Rick Ansell
We all remember that last summer Ross set us the challenge of the Langley Score Event. At the time I had set myself other challenges and never got round to it but when Lockdown 3 kicked us in the teeth, I was in need of something to get excited about. I spent many happy hours over Christmas plotting all 100 control points on to my map and then starting to plan routes.
I went out early in the New Year to attempt the One Hour version and came home feeling very pleased with myself. Ross sent me the results and I discovered that Simon and Matt had managed to get more than twice as many points as me and I was only a little ahead of Jack Barnett. The wind rather left my sails.
Ross sent me a kind message saying that I had done mine in winter while the others had all run in the summer so it was impossible to compare. It was true that it was Peak Mud but I knew he was just being nice because that’s what Ross is. Mind you, he still hasn’t broken 2.45 for the Marathon…Sorry, there was absolutely no need to say that, it’s not nice.
But it’s true.
After a third comforting beer I realized that the thing was, I was a long-distance runner and completely unsuited to a short sprint of an hour. So I went out for the Two Hour the following weekend. It was a braw afternoon and familiar local spots suddenly took on whole new characters. No longer was Wilstone car park a car park, it was 8 points. My tally, though still put me well down the rankings.
I had decided that for completeness’s sake I should do all four distances, so next up was the Four Hour. This was more like it. I knew that Celine and Alison had done a tour of Ashridge and Little Gaddesden and visited the 100 pointer at the Buddhist Monastery, chalking up over 400 points.
Others too had got in the 400s so this seemed the target but the Buddhsit Monastery didn’t seem to be answer so I planned a route out to Halton and Wendover and then up to Widmoor Wood, Swan Bottom, the Lee, and back across the grain of the Chilterns via Chartridge, Hawridge and Cholesbury. This got me into the 500s and interestingly I was now less than 50% behind Simon. Bring on the Eight Hour.
Only two others had completed the Eight Hour, Simon, obviously, and Andy E, so I reckoned there was a good chance of making the top three in the rankings.
It is amazing the excuses you can find not to go for an eight hour run. I seem to find enough excuses not to go for a 40 minute run. Finally the excuses ran out. The Spring Equinox called for something to mark it and what better way than a long run. So a little before 10.30 last Sunday I set off across the football field from the Cricket Club for a fourth time.
For weeks I had been plotting and measuring my route and visualising it, working out the times for each section. It was all clear in my head and I was hardly even going to need to look at the map. Out through the Park, Aldbury, the Monument, Little Gaddesden, Studham, Dunstable Downs, a loop back through Ivinghoe and Pitstone, then out through Cheddington to Mentmore, Crafton and Wingrave, basically visiting all of Ross’s old houses.
Then for some reason the afternoon before I glanced at the map and a whole new possibility suddenly swam into view: going west and south to Wendover, Cadsden, the Hampdens, Missenden and back. There were not many checkpoints out there but they were all big pointers. Simon had over 1,300 points and I knew I wasn’t going to get that but 1,000 seemed like a good target and I remembered a little hint that Ross had sent me. I spent most of the night pondering the options. Each point suddenly seemed potentially life changing. Somehow in my mind I had made something of absolutely no importance the most crucial thing in the world.
Over breakfast I made the decision. The Plough at Cadsden it was. The fact that my monthly average so far this year has been about 40 miles and an 8 hour run was going to require at least this distance in a day was a fact so daunting I tried not to look at it. But I was pleased to find my body quickly fell into the old familiar shuffling rhythm, feet skimming the ground, minimal lift, stride shortening for each slope and lengthening slightly to go down a hill.
In the backstreets of Tring I bumped into Rich B just back from a run. “Can’t have been much of a run if he’s already finished at 10.30”, I thought. I reminded him that I had beaten him last time we raced, hoped his training was going well and went on my way. At the top of Aston Hill I met Simon S. He said he had been for a Strava Segment. We passed the time of day and I continued into the Woods, wondering what a Strava Segment might be. Approaching the café I decided it was probably a kind of cake. Simon looked like he’d been on the cakes over lockdown.
Soon I was padding up Wendover High Street to tag the Shoulder of Mutton and thinking the hors d’oeuvre was over. Now I had the Main Course, up Coombe Hill along to Dunsmore then a long leg across to the Plough. I always remember the furore when Dave and Samcam slipped over here for a quick Sunday pint and left one of their children behind by accident. I suppose at least he knew how many children he had and eventually noticed that one was missing. Not sure the same can be said of the current weekend resident of Chequers.
Anyway, the Plough was a sort of turning point. I was no longer running away from home. Well, I was, I suppose but I wasn’t running away from home in a westerly direction and somehow this made me feel better. I now had to visit the Hampden churches. This took me into new territory and for a while the paths in the woods and paths on the map didn’t quite match up so I resorted to that tried and tested navigation technique: asking Sunday walkers where I was. I was very conscious of the fact that if the wheels fell off here, I was long way from home, and even further from Tring. However, eventually I was coming into Missenden, ten minutes up on my hoped-for time and still moving reasonably well.
I admired Richard White’s works here and all the men standing around in very bright, very clean orange uniforms carrying out his project. It seemed it required one man to stand and do nothing and eight others to watch him. I climbed up to Pike Hill radio mast and I really was on my way home now. Maybe not directly but the way you come back from the pub, weaving about a bit. There was a rather tedious road section from South Heath to the Lee. I was definitely beginning to feel like I had been running for a while but I still seemed to be progressing with reasonable comfort and I was looking forward to popping into my sister’s in Chartridge for a bottle refill and a chat.
On leaving Chartridge and crossing to Asheridge I thought I might actually have the time to get down to the Black Horse in Chesham Vale (for 40 points, not a pint, of course) before climbing back up to Hawridge. I made the turn but was suddenly afflicted by agonizing stomach cramps. Maybe it was the water in Chartridge or maybe it was my new predominantly vegetarian diet but for a while I was doubled up. Eventually I was able to add my bit to the greenhouse gasses and feel a bit better.
I turned direct for Hawridge Church. It was a weary old plod up the road to Cholesbury, Always on these score events the first few hours tick by at a nice sedate pace but the closer you get to the end the faster the time goes. I think this was Einstein’s Theory of Relativity? Someone? At St Leonards church I had 61 minutes left.
Today’s gurus all tell us we should be ‘in the present’. This is one of the many modern bits of wisdom that send me apoplectic. There are plenty of times that the present is not a good place and the last hour of an eight hour run is one of them. (Lockdown is another). You do everything possible not to be ‘in the present’ and everything to imagine the future. I kept a very clear picture of me sitting on the bench by the Cricket Club, feeling the satisfaction of having made it in time.
This image sustained me up to the Crong and all through Pavis Wood to Hastoe. In the Park I diverted to touch the wooden turtle/tortoise in the play area for 9 more points and then made my way down to the bridge and finally to that bench beside the door of the Club. Two minutes to spare. Just over 1100 points. The gap is closing on Simon…Is there a 12 hour version, Ross?