Monday, 17 June 2013

A gentle jog along the Vanguard Way

After yesterday's 24k trail race, The Hurt in the 'Little Switzerland' area of Surrey, today had something slower but longer in store: supporting Jonny Muir on the last twenty-something miles of his run along the Vanguard Way.  In case you don't read any further, then first of all please note that Jonny's run was for charity as part of the Vanguard Challenge - a fundraising effort for a great cause which he describes in his blog 'Heights of Madness'.

Due to some hold-ups caused by the London to Brighton cycle ride, it took a bit longer for Jonny's trusty support crew (his parents) to drive Duncan and I to the route, so we ended up meeting Jonny a bit further north than originally planned.

We parked up near Potter's Wood and jogged back south to meet Jonny near Bowshot Wood.  If, like me earlier today, you don't have a clue where those places are: somewhere a little bit east of East Grinstead.  Jonny had started at six in the morning and had been running very strongly on the early stages, running the first marathon in around 3h30m.  I think he had started to flag slightly by the time we met him, but our appearance seemed to raise his spirits, and the three of us set off northwards at a respectable pace.

For me, the next few hours were a pleasant Sunday training run in great company, running about 24.5 of the last 23.5 miles of the Vanguard Way.  (Yes, we went slightly awry at one point where the generally poorly signed route wasn't obvious).  I think Jonny said he probably ran 68 miles or so in total i.e. beyond the intended 66 miles.  It was great to catch up with Duncan and Jonny, and there was the added entertainment of our repeated attempts to persuade Jonny to eat and drink some of the array of tasty morsels we had on offer.  I expect that this will be good practice for dealing with small children in future years.
As there always are with these occasions, Jonny's spirits and speed ebbed and flowed, and Duncan and I did our best to thrill him with witty banter to take his mind off what was clearly becoming a fairly hard slog.  Jonny's run was part of a larger fundraising effort from the school at which he works, and there was a wonderful moment a few miles from the end where we ran through a throng of the school kids who were near to completing a sponsored walk.  They lined the path through some woods, cheering and applauding the heroic "Mr Muir"; this boosted Jonny's spirits and meant he had to run up the next hill to save face! 

I anticipate that Jonny will write a detailed blog about it soon so I will leave that job to him, given that his view on the day will no doubt be more interesting due to the first-person perspective on the epic effort of endurance involved.  

[Updated 21/06/2013: Jonny has written a blog post entitled The Art of the Ultra Shuffle

Jonny completed the route in ten hours and forty seven minutes, a great time for 66 miles on undulating trails, especially given that much of it was done solo with only occasional road support.  As he sat, shell shocked at the glamorous end point of East Croydon station, Jonny claimed that he would never run again.  I took this merely as a sign that he was appropriately tired from a decent effort - I am sure Jonny will be out running by next weekend!

After a brief rest at the end, we all drove over to Jonny's school for a lovely afternoon and evening event, with a huge turnout of school children and their friends and families celebrating the many achievements of the fundraisers.  It was a great end to the day to relax on the school lawns in the sunshine, eating tasty barbecued food, listening to impressive live music performances from some of the students, and chatting with friends.  A fine end to a great day out.

Below are a few photos taken on route.

  Jonny and Duncan running strongly:

Jonny climbing Titsey Hill:

Impressively, Jonny was still cheerful enough to humour Duncan's suggestion to pose 'hurdling' what appeared to be a jump from a dog obstacle course:

That looks like a far easier way to travel:

"Moo shall not pass!"

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