Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Last big training run (day 1)

Last week saw the final big training run before Stage X. I didn't have a particular route in mind but the basic idea was to get a train up to Edinburgh and run back home somehow. I set off early from Morpeth on Monday with a heavy pack full of food, water and my sleeping bag. I had 2 days to make it to Berwick where support man Carlton had offered a bed for the night.

I left the station in Edinburgh and was very surprised to see how quiet the streets were. There was hardly a soul about and not much traffic. It was a sign of the times I suppose.

The previous 6 times I've ran back from Edinburgh have all involved running almost due south out of the city towards Dalkeith. This time, however, I ran in the direction of Portobello with a view to heading in the general direction of Berwick. It's not like me to not have a detailed route but I was carrying everything I needed and I felt like I had at least 30 miles in my legs that day. The image below is on the A1 out of Edinburgh with Arthur's Seat in the background. One of my favourite sights is looking back on it when I'm 20 or so miles away. It always gives a great feeling of progress and accomplishment.  

I reached the promenade at Portobello in good time and headed along it. There were plenty of people about enjoying a walk, a run or a coffee. I think the last time I was here was for an overnight stop during my run from John O'Groats to Lands End in 2007.

I soon reached Musselburgh after Portobello followed by Tranent. By this time, I had a rough route in mind and made my way towards East Saltoun and Gifford. The roads were pretty quiet and I was pleased that all the oncoming traffic gave me plenty of room and most gave a friendly wave. 

I stopped at a tremendous little cafe in Gifford called Lanterne Rouge. I suspected from the name that it might be a popular stop for cyclists and I was not mistaken. I was greeted by the friendly owner and the scone and coffees that I had were as delicious as they were very much needed. I also spoke across the room to some very friendly locals and talked about my running exploits.

The kind owner (pictured below) wouldn't take my money for the coffees and scone so I explained while I don't accept free meals etc, I do pass on the money I would have paid to St. Benedict's Hospice. In time honoured tradition, I made a donation to the Hospice via uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun.   

I later wrote on my socials "...the climbing after Gifford was absolutely tremendous. So tough and even more so carrying a full pack ready for rough sleeping and 2 days worth of provisions. Anyone who knows me knows I love a climb. I’ve got to mention the kind folk again in the cafe in Gifford. Their good wishes and kind gestures really put a spring in my step as I then climbed, climbed and climbed some more. At one point I could see Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh to the north and then The Cheviot to the south east.". 

There was a road closure just outside Gifford meaning I had the place to myself. It was a small bonus but I have to again mention the very considerate driving that I'd ran alongside throughout the day.

Despite the difficulty, I really enjoyed the climb up to the summit at 1420 ft or so. This gave me a marathon distance for the day. The views back to Edinburgh were spectacular and I could just about make out Arthur's Seat on the horizon.

As I ran down the other side of the climb I could make out The Cheviot to my right. The view straight ahead (pictured below) included a wind farm and Whiteadder Reservoir in the distance. I stopped running for a second and there was not a sound to be heard. No wind. No traffic. Nothing. It was possibly one of the quietest places that I'd ever ran in the UK. I think I've only ever experienced this kind of silence before in the Mojave Desert. It was nice to run for a bit without the music playing on my iPhone.  

The final 6 miles were a bit of a slog and I spent a lot of time checking out the surroundings while I was running this final miles. I've got to admit that I wasn't looking forward to sleeping rough here. There was plenty of wildlife around and the signs warning of snakes in the vicinity didn't fill me with confidence.

I'll take the text from my socials to explain what happened next - "32 miles done and guess who turns up. It’s only the legend that is support man Carlton. 'Would you like a bed for the night at my holiday cottage down the road?' he says. Well it was either that or sleep amongst the Adders! So I’m now looking at the prospect of a shower, pizza and a comfy bed when I was all prepped for rough sleeping. Carlton has played some blinders in his time across 3 continents. Today is up there with the best of them. It almost makes up for the burnt cheesy popcorn fiasco and using the last of the water in Australia to do the dishes.".

So after running 31.7 miles with 2500 ft of elevation from Edinburgh to Cranshaws I had the prospect of a warm meal and roof over my head. I think it was at that point that I made the decision that sleeping rough is no longer for me. I've got no problem sleeping in Chappie but the days of a bivvy bag are long gone for me. Especially in places named after the snakes that inhabit there! What was I thinking!

A huge thank you to Carlton who, once again,  went above and beyond in the name of supporting my running. He has been involved in the runs across the USA, Australia and Western Europe as well as Edinburgh to Newcastle in the past. His involvement this time was as appreciated as any of them. 

So a tough and successful day 1 came to a satisfying end. Tune in tomorrow where I'll reflect on day's 2 and 3.