March 29th 2017
Today I ran 10 miles over the hills. It was a group run with a bunch of people from work, and it was simultaneously one of the most enjoyable runs I’ve done, and one of the hardest. Technically, it’s the longest run I’ve done – in terms of time – and the second longest run I’ve done – in terms of distance – and is the run I’ve done with the most elevation. Over the 17k there was 535 metres of elevation. Which, doesn’t sound like that much when you think of it as a horizontal 500 metres, but when you think of it as a vertical 500 metres it gets a lot scarier.
535 metres is effectively double the height of the Eiffel Tower, 1.5 times the height of the Empire State Building, over 5 times the height of the tower frequently (and incorrectly) referred to as ‘Big Ben’, and ten times the size of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
And that’s the amount that we climbed over the hills of Stroud whilst also running for ten miles.
The elevation climb makes you forget about the distance, because you’re more worried about climbing the 100m hill than about the 1km in horizontal distance. So by the time we reached the 10km mark, I was filling a lot better than I thought I would.
I’d bought new trail shoes for the occasion, and I’m glad I did, because the run was all cross-country, off-road, in-mud, through-water, trail-running.
Again, that makes it enjoyable but difficult.
Trail shoes give you more grip going up hills, but they’re most important going down hills. Without them, you’re sure to go down the hill more on your arse than on your feet.
For the first few kilometres I began to reassess my previous knowledge of hills, because I always assumed that if you go up a hill then you get to go down it again afterwards, because, y’know… science, but the first 2km was completely up hill, and I was beginning to wonder if there was ever going to be a summit.
There was a summit, and the view from the top was… summit else.
The run is known (by us at least) as “Two beacons, a topograph and a water feature” because there are two beacons, a topograph and a water feature along the route. Each beacon meant an uphill climb to the top, and so did the topograph, the water feature was a steady descent with your feet basically submerged in the water bursting out from the spring at the top of the hill.
From the topograph you can see the Five Valleys mapped out three-dimensionally, we were somewhere on one of those hills.
As well as the peaks and troughs there were nice stretches of comparatively flat woodlands, that seemed a nice break from the elevation challenges we’d got used to facing.
In the last few kms of the run it got darker, and harder – mainly because I began to get really, really hungry.
Because we’d spent the first 2km of the run climbing, I figured that the last 2km would be a nice downhill, and it did begin that way…
But somehow, and I don’t quite know how, – because all elevation on any run that starts and ends in the same place must have a net zero elevation change – we ended the run with a climb.
To be fair, looking at that graph you can see that the elevation did level out – it just didn’t feel like it!
It was great fun, and it changed my opinion of long-distance trail running. The stop/start nature made the distance feel easier than a solid, reasonably paced 10km, but the added elevation brought a new challenge.
Until tomorrow, I am fucking shattered.