To run 26.2 miles in one day across 4 towns/cities in the UK, spelling out ‘CORD’ – the name of the charity the run was in aid of.
The challenge was set for the 15 November 2014 and we gave ourselves just 10 weeks’ notice to prepare. The training for this event was very different to a normal marathon as it involved a lot of stop-starting. There was an early start, a lot of driving and sitting still and a late finish. You burn off lots of energy and get hungry but you have to be careful about what you eat and drink and when you do so. You have to warm up and cool down a lot and the chances are you will pick up some injury. This is a test of endurance for the mind and the body.
We started our journey at 6am in Warwick having fuelled up on porridge and a couple of glasses of water. The journey was lovely and quiet and we arrived on time. The route we picked was mapped out for us by Neil Costello of the Cambridge and Coleridge Athletics Club. We had printed off maps to use on the way around which worked perfectly well and thanks to Ben and Crawford, Kate and I could spend time catching up as we could just follow them.
To me, this 6.2 mile run felt easy – much easier than in training. I think this was because I was geared up for it, had great company on the way round and had such a stunning city to indulge in. There was no time to even think about how I was feeling.
Cambridge is such a beautiful city and we will be visiting it again in the Spring for a longer period next time and we hope to:
- Go punting along the river
- Visit the Varsity Hotel’s roof top bar
- This time…..take a bike tour!
- To visit King’s College Chapel (we had a quick photo there but no time to stop)
And if you want a unique experience, try the Cambridge College Supper Club!
We started our journey to Oxford at about 9:40am but didn’t arrive until about midday due to the traffic and road closures (that we hadn’t banked on!). I devised the 7.8 mile route for this run and in hindsight, taking us through the busy streets of Oxford was possibly not the best idea (trying to compete with Christmas shoppers on a busy Saturday afternoon is not wise!) although we got to see some of the beautiful buildings Oxford is home to, including The University Church of St Mary the Virgin which we had a quick picture in front of.
Oxford is just an hour away from London and the Midlands and so we visit fairly frequently, particularly to see friends from the City. We are even heading back this week and are looking forward to:
- Coffee at England’s oldest coffee shop, The Grand Cafe
- Visiting Oxford’s most famous College, Christchurch, and trying to recognise filming locations (although do note that the famous hall will be closed until March 2015 due to restoration)
- Enjoy a well earned lunch at Brasserie Blanc. We sampled this last year and what a delight. We visited Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in the summer and cannot wait to return to sample a taste of Raymond Blanc’s influential food.
And in the New Year, we will return to see the William Blake exhibition at the Ashmolean.
After a quick change, cool down and refuel, we headed to Reading, an hour away. When we all got out of the car, I don’t think anyone was free of pain. Crawford had a problem which his achilles, Ben with his knee and Kate and I had problems with out feet. I could barely put my foot to the ground but found a solution – I put 4 socks on my injured foot. We had 9 miles ahead of us but decided to change this to clock up more miles in Reading and leaving less for Devizes. In the end we made it to 9.8 (having taken a wrong turn otherwise, we would have gone further). Despite all the injuries, we managed to run most of the course and many issues were ‘run off’ but we did have a few more breaks than intended as some of the injuries were just too painful to continue. One odd thing I found about Reading was that although it was the only location with real hills, I actually enjoyed them despite hating them in training!
We arrived in Reading at 4pm, just as it was getting dark and so didn’t see too much. We did manage a nice picture with the Maiwand Lion in Forbury Gardens which was a surprising find and gave us a push to continue. One thing which struck me about Reading was how much people like their cars there! From doughnuts in the car park to cars not wanting to wait and let us cross. We could therefore recommend:
- Reading Abbey, adjacent to Forbury Gardens (missed on our run and so a reason to return), which was one of the most important and wealthiest monasteries in Medieval England
- Dine out at the Bel and Dragon
- Visit Basildon Park, a Georgian Mansion surrounded by Parkland and restored in the mid 1950s.
Our last stop was just over an hour away from Reading. We had left ourselves 2.4 miles to run, shuffle, walk (or be dragged) around this picturesque market town. We arrived at just after 8pm and so it was in darkness but for a few street lights; we will return another weekend to make the most of it.
Next time, we will be able to:
- Walk around the town in the daylight and take in the market square (we have a poor quality picture of this at the moment due to the lighting and because all pictures from this event were taken on a mobile phone – more portable than a DSLR!).
- Visit Wadworth Brewery
- Visit Avebury stone circle, just 8 miles away
If you’re feeling peckish and want a quick bite to eat, try Lee’s fish and chips in the centre. After our day, our fish and chips (at 9pm!) were the most wonderful thing!
I must say a huge thank you to Caroline Dolan and all at Cord for getting behind us with this and providing lots of support, to Creative Touch Design for printing our running vests, to Neil Costello at the Cambridge and Coleridge Athletic Club and to everyone who sponsored us. Also, a thank you to Kate, Crawford and Ben for agreeing to take part in this crazy challenge of mine – you are all truly amazing!!