After miles and hours spent running solo on the streets and trails of Lichfield and Kidderminster, we arranged our first run together.
After about an hour drive, Jon Mc arrived in Wolverley under grey skies and drizzle. And his first words once out the car were “What are we doing?”.
The plan was an ambitious 30-40km run over Lea Castle and through Cookley before picking up the Worcestershire Way over Kinver Edge, Kingsford Forest, Eymore Wood and then along the Severn up to Bewdley - where Jon’s partner Kathryn and his daughter Bea would be waiting for us with a change of clothes.
The run itself would be broken down into 10km sections with an enforced 15 minute walk between each - during which we would refuel on banana bread, jelly babies and gels. Hopefully, this would be decent preparation for the 10km laps of the Thunder Run, although there we would be getting longer rests and doing more laps; the average male pairing last year did 18 laps (or 9 each).
With Camelbaks full of drink and supplies, and weighing us down with a couple of extra kilograms, the early going was good and the relatively flattish first 10km was knocked off in just over an hour and two minutes. The walk added another km and getting started again wasn’t as bad as feared.
The second 10km was always going to be the toughest as it had 121 steps to climb out of Kingsford Forest and a 10% climb before we could walk again. Anyway, we did it through effort, banter and a new strategy of walking steep sections. This approach was adopted when I realised my jogging up the 10%er was slower than Jon’s walking up it. A nice descent into the edge of Eymore Wood meant we arrived for our second walk-break relatively fresh, and the time of 1hr 10mins was none too disappointing either - especially as we knew the back of the run had been broken.
Safe in the knowledge we had already completed the equivalent of an off-road half-marathon we plodded on through Eymore Wood and its smells of freshly-felled trees, wild garlic and toffee apples - we had no idea where the fairground smell came from. The trails dipped and rose, we chatted about this and that, and sort of realised fatigue was creeping up on us. A footbridge at Arley took us over the Severn and then we knew it was just a matter of following the river into Bewdley. In a way, this made it a tougher section than expected. Thinking the end was only just round the corner only to find another kink in the river, as well as us falling into a regular pattern of running which seemed to cause a kind of running-related repetitive strain injury in the hips, ensured that this section would a test of our heads more so than our legs. We both realised it would be stupid to force injury for the sake of valour in a training run so, sensibly, we added a few more enforced walks when nagging pains appeared.
As we arrived in Bewdley - to a severe lack of cheering crowds - the final section had turned out to be 9km which we had completed in just over an hour. In total, we’d covered just over 31km and had spent nearly four hours on our feet.
After a quick change in the car park, efforts were rewarded in the George III Hotel where, for the record, Jon and I had chilli, Kathryn had the chicken burger and the cheesy pasta was wasted on Bea who proved to be fleeter of foot than her dad when it came to running to the bar.