It seemed like a good idea back in November. A Christmas group run from Rugby to Leamington; a 13 mile run followed by a pub lunch at the finish. It even seemed like a good idea as late as Boxing Day, but then, the day after, we woke up to a heavy fall of snow, and suddenly it didn’t seem so great. The invitation email suggested a nice off-road run along a disused railway track, averaging an easy 9:00-9:30 min/mile pace. What it actually was, was a very icy, very muddy 13 miles averaging a quite tough 10:30 min/mile.

What also seemed like a good idea at the time, was deciding to take an easy jog to the rendezvous point, adding another 5 miles on to the total. There was a question surrounding how we were going to get back, with the bus or train the only real option. I therefore decided to take a car over to Leamington early in the morning to be there when we finally made it. My wife duly obliged and we set off at 06:30. This then opened the question as to how I was going to get to the meet point. I could have asked my wife to drop me off, but decided on the extra miles instead. This meant a total of 18 miles, almost 2.5 miles further than I had ever ran before. I also hadn’t ran any more than 10 miles since the Northampton half at the beginning of September, but I was assured that it was going to be easy, with a number of stops on the way, so opted to go for it.

I set out from the house and quickly realised that I wasn’t going to be averaging anything like 9:00 min/miles. I hadn’t even made it a quarter of a mile before a change in direction caused my standing leg to slip beneath me and I landed hard on the ice. I quickly bounced up and continued on in a “no one saw that” type fashion. Really, the paths were unrunnable. Any other day, any other run, I would have turned back at that point and used the treadmill instead. It will be fine though I thought, as soon as we got off the roads and onto the track, it will be fine. The issue was the 5 miles between my house and that track.

I made it through the estate by running on the road before meeting up with another participant willing to join me in the extra miles before the main event. It was hairy at times but we finally made it to the start point, and in one piece. It was the slowest and possibly the hardest 5 miles that I had ever ran.

We got going as a group and the hope that the track would offer easier running was true to a point. It was certainly easier than the paths, but where there wasn’t ice, there was mud, deep puddles and fallen trees to negotiate. One of the ladies stepped on some ice and fell into the puddle beneath, which came up to her knee. My efforts to avoid the same fate were unsuccessful. It was truly off-road almost the entire way. We took the disused railway track from Cawston all the way to Radford Semele where we picked up the Grand Union Canal. This lead us into Leamington, with the final mile on tarmac, finishing at the monument on the Parade. After celebratory high-fives and selfies, I checked my watch and I had stopped it on 17.75 miles. There was no way I wasn’t going to make that up to 18. As everyone else decamped into a Weatherspoons I continued on up the parade towards where my car was parked, going a bit further and doubling back to get the extra 0.1 of a mile. OCD? Only slightly, but 18 miles sounds better than almost 18 miles!

The overall pace was 10:33 min/mile, bringing up 18 miles in 3:10:25 (moving time, actual time was more like 4:30 after stopping for snacks and waiting for others). Climbing over and around the trees really affected the pace, as did island hopping in between the puddles, climbing banks to avoid streams, diverting through farmers fields and stopping for chocolate consumption. The run wasn’t about the pace though. It wasn’t a training run, not about the miles, the endurance or the speed. It was about the social, and it was a great day out. It was tough, and I have been feeling the effects since, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to the same again next year.

Once changed out of my muddy kit, the day was capped off with a BBQ burger, a cup of tea and a pint of water. Rock and roll!

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