Hills, trails and stinging nettles – breaking down a half marathon

My half marathon route

So after having got rid of my ranty tendencies previously here’s now the far more positive story of how I came to run my 20th-ish half marathon last weekend.

Actually my 24th. That I didn’t know the number is probably a humble-brag of the highest order but the truth is I didn’t and I’ve just had to look it up. I think I knew that number up until about half way through marathon training back in 2016 when a half marathon and a bit became “just” a training run that I lost track of how many times I’d run 21.1km.

I think I returned to running a couple of months ago not expecting to do a half any time soon and that probably my running would just be a bit aimless for a time.

Well much of my running probably has been aimless but I’m enjoying lots of it too. A couple of weeks ago I decided I’d have a long run and had half a mind thinking I might do 13 miles but wasn’t really feeling it that particular bank holiday Monday and ended up doing 15km. Still a good run though.

After a slightly lighter week or so, in running terms,I thought I’d try again. I’d spent more time than is truly healthy the night before plotting out a route along the lines of that from two weeks earlier – up towards the zoo, along the cliff paths to Bouley Bay, up the nasty hill then down roughly along the route of the first half of the Durrell Challenge race in reverse.

Got to say it all went pretty well. The run to the zoo flew by and I’d certainly felt faster, and more importantly fresher, than the previous long run. So on I went down to the cliff paths on the north of the island. They’re not really suitable for running a lot of the time if I’m honest but still good exercise and a pretty outstanding bit of scenery too.

The cliff path eventually took me down towards Bouley Bay. Now, my map told me I should go left at one point. But left looked inland and back uphill again, whereas straight ahead looked like, well, the actual direction of the bay itself. I went straight ahead. The path got narrower, and muddier.

And much more stinging nettle-y.

And more narrower still and overgrown. And not really a path at all. I concluded this was almost certainly the wrong direction and continuing this way would only end with me in someone’s garden or something.

I retraced my steps, turned where I should have, went inland and uphill, until I turned again back to the hill road. Which oddly had a sign at that end saying pathway closed in the direction of the way I’d just been… Not sure what happened there or why. Anyway, I was back to civilization with only nettle stings being the negative.

Looking back from Bouley Bay

The getting lost had actually been a bit of a rest too so I walked down to the foot of Bouley Bay hill to run up. The running up bit didn’t really go all that well, which probably is reason enough to be back there some time very soon to do better. But after having decided I’d do a long run I’d resolved to keep the effort levels sensible so when it did get tough I walked a bit, then ran some more. It was not a quick ascent of the hill, but it’s something to build on.

From the top of the hill, I just made my way towards Vallee de Vaux for the downhill run home. That was quite good fun and actually reminds me of what a fantastic run my best effort in the Durrell Challenge really was. There are some properly brutal climbs in that race.

So down the valley without great event other than a photo stop for some cocks.

Really…? What were you expecting?

At the foot of the climb, I came out just by Waitrose which on this particular Sunday meant a huge socially distanced queue of would-be shoppers. Glad I had other plans.

At this point, I was about 18km into my run so knew I needed to add a bit of a loop to make the distance up so a run across town then back in a different direction towards home, followed by an extra loop of the park across the road from home.

And it was done. Very far from being my fastest ever half at 2:23 and about 27 minutes outside my pb, but this day it didn’t matter and I wasn’t trying anyway. I achieved what I set out to do and kept control of my effort levels. And I also discovered the hills represented the second highest amount of hill metres climbed in any run of mine ever, the first being my Jersey Marathon in 2016. Quite amazing really.

I dare say I’ll be back at the same route next month, less about the distance but possibly about getting up that nasty hill in one go. I even think I’ll look forward to it.

No stinging nettles next time though.

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