Tales of the Unexpected?
Wasn't sure what to call this blog. I guess I could have gone with the title of the main event - The Mynd Drover 20 - but there's more to it than that, it has been a busy running week.
Tuesday night - 5 a-side football. It's been a long, long time since my weakened knees decided football was a terrible idea, near as damn it 20 years 😱. I can't twist and turn to pull off fancy tricks, but it turns out I can still hit a ball, and I can run, and hustle, and the engine ain't too bad.
Wednesday night - Pontesbury Fell Race. Pretty much a 5k race, but not many 5k's are like this one, with a great little hill (or big hill depending who you ask 🤔) that looks like a whopping great elephant as you approach from Shrewsbury side.
Short, steep, fast. Great run for a Wednesday night, hard work after football, but hard work well rewarded with chips at the pub for eveybody at the end 😀.
Saturday now - the main event - the butterfly effect? - Maybe? - Bear with me on this...
Brother gets his neck broke - needs a carer, Tara - the woman who would become my lovely daughter's mum - lives with me in England, hates it, I live with her in Wales - first forays into running but come to a dead end - Tara leaves - I leave my job at Sharp under the cloud of anxiety and depression, 6 months to get back on my feet, 3 jobs later, 2 of them redundancies, land at Ifor Williams - in amongst this chaos, my relationship with Clair, it fails - marry Tanya (Oliver's mum)....
.... Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, literally, the other side of the world, in New Zealand, Molly's story unfolds, it is her story to tell so I won't tell it here....
... Tara's brother, Nick, worked with me at Sharp, now a supervisor at Ifor William's, knows my skills, so I get switched to another site - sets me on a path where I meet Dave Parker - we're both running marathons and through this we make friends - Dave Parker introduces me to fell running - change jobs again, find Ellison and I love it there - marriage to Oliver's mum fails, I move out - opportunity and promotion at work takes me to California - a 2nd chance with Clair, but once again it fails - join Fitness Singles - meet a lady on-line, Lady Molly - we can see we've things in common (much as things turn out) but it's air travel that gets us talking...
.... from those earliest conversations, Molly (from the foot of that elephant hill at Pontesbury - see - it all connects 😊) and I have landed here, today, Saturday June 22nd, in Church Stretton, ready to take on a 20 mile running, and walking, and navigational challenge on Shropshire's lovely Long Mynd 😊.
This is primarily a walking event, part of the 4 day Church Stretton Walking Festival (https://www.churchstrettonwalkingfestival.co.uk/), but runners have been welcomed to participate too.
Now regular readers of my blog will know, I can wax lyrical all day long about the beauty of the hills, but having seen this video from the event on YouTube, I'm not sure there's anything I can say that would say it better than spending the next few minutes having an ogle of this short film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPpUwbSYqLY
If you watched it, you can see that the weather was incredibly kind to us, the day after the solstice, it's not unreasonable to expect that the weather ought to be this way.
If you didn't watch it, here's a clue:
What you can't see from the video is just how well put together this event has been 👍. Clear communication by e-mail from the minute the entry fee was paid. Route details were promised for a week before the event and sure enough, a week before, the checkpoint co-ordinates arrived 👍, along with GPX files and a downloadable OS map that would work with the OS app. if you put it on your phone - for one who's glasses never did come back from their holiday in the Lakes, this proved a much easier version to read.
We still did our navigation properly, marking out the paper OS map the night before, with all the checkpoints marked and a highlighted line around the route. It was good to do it that way, because between us, on the route, most of the major navigation points we had memorised between us, and with visibility good, we only needed to map check twice 😊.
The GPX file worked great, on my Garmin it can show a map, not properly, it's just a line, but the line on screen worked well enough that I could see within a few yards of a junction if we'd taken a wrong turn. There were only 2 occasions where that happened, and one of those took us through a little ford just before the pub, The Bridges, a stunning little place beside a tranquil brook, with Shropshire's own Three Tuns Brewery's finest offerings on the pumps. There's worse places to have a checkpoint, and both of us agreed that our little splash in the river was more fun than the proper route would have been 😁.
There's more that video can't tell you...
It doesn't tell you the pleasantness of every single interaction we had with walkers in the event, other runners, and of course the lovely marshalls, who surely can't all have been members of the Church Stretton School PTA?
It doesn't tell you how absolutely delicious the home baked chocolate brownies we were treated to at the feedstations were (other foods were available, but by crikey them brownies were good 😋).
It doesn't tell you that in conjunction with the excellent mapping provided to us, the trickier junctions had been subtly marked with orange spots on the ground (wash away paint I would wager) which really added to the ease of navigation 👍.
It couldn't possibly tell you that for 20 miles solid the conversation between us flowed so easy, and it was lovely to share in Molly's stories of very personal connections with the landscape in this area, not just for her, but also for her mum 😊. I'm not convinced that strength of connection even can exist on flatter lands such as the former sandy seabed upon which I was born 🤔 (I've spent half my life in Cheshire, and half my life in Wales, and it's here I feel connected more than where I grew up).
There were both half and full marathon courses alongside the 20 miler we were on, and honestly we met people that were involved with all 3. The walkers had set off an hour earlier, and in the 2nd half of our run, past the gliding school (that was cool, watching how they slingshot the gliders up into the air was totally different to the vision in my mind of the gliders being hauled up by another aircraft and then cut loose to soar like a buzzard).
Plenty of them about today, buzzards I mean 😊. The scenery has been fantastic and with the weather we've been spoiled 😊. We run up to a group of walkers standing in a field, afraid to go walking on past the cows that had been grazing by the path. Cows are mostly just curious, rarely are they a threat, so we walk through and have a chat with them (the cows I mean 😀), followed by the walkers who otherwise I think would have stood there all day - nice to be able to get them on their way again 😊.
How confident we must have looked walking up to them cows. How confident we must have looked running up to junctions, calling out "yeah it's this way", not even breaking stride from our run, whilst others are breaking out the maps. How confident we felt with the excellent instructions given out in the briefing just before the start 👍.
We were well looked after at the end too. Pie, peas, and gravy, the northern boy was pleased, and a mighty fine cup of tea 😊.
Can't recommend it enough. I would definitely come back again 😊👍.
Sunday - and perhaps the highest recommendation I can give for running 20 miles on the Long Mynd - see the last time I ran that distance would be struggling round the Snowdonia marathon, back in October last year.
After a beautiful day with Molly on Shropshire's green hills, there was still enough in my legs to do the Moel-y-Gamelin fell race today - Class A, medium length, tough bugger of a run 😬. Only one intention for me, run every bit of uphill on the out lap, which I’m pleased to say I managed to achieve...
... and who should I see there marshalling - but my old mate Dave Parker – Dave I said in my last blog it’s been too long since I’ve seen – Dave who brought me to the world of fell running and without whom yesterday’s trot around the Long Mynd might never have been – the world truly is circular it would seem 😊.
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