Ockham and Wisley Commons and Chatley Heath

Now that the evenings are starting to get lighter, mid-week trail runs are slowly but surely creeping back into my schedule.  On Friday, I headed to Ockham where I completed a carefully planned, almost perfectly circular lap of the common, taking in a section of the woodland, some of the open heathland and the telegraph tower, and chosen specifically to optimise the mix of sandy horse trail, classic tree-root-and-leaf-mould forest track and run of the mill mud path.


What do you mean “it looks like the web of a spider on a caffeine high“?  Carefully planned, almost perfectly circular lap, I tell you.  No random path following here, oh no.

Buoyed by my success, and not daunted by the startling level of activity to be seen in the pitch black car park at the end of my run, I returned to Ockham this evening.  To avoid falling into a rut and running the same route again (it was perfectly planned, you know, and thus wholly repeatable), I crossed over the footbridge to Wisley Common.

Lowland Heath” is how it is described in the Surrey Wildlife Trust leaflet.  A leaflet which I now believe to have been penned by an Estate Agent.   Bog.  It’s a bog.  All paths lead to bogs.  Bogs with spiky plants.  Spiky, scratchy plants.  In bogs.

My plan to run around the edge of the common very soon turned into a mission to find my way back to the bridge as quickly as humanly possible.  Easier said than done.  I escaped from the bog and found my way back to a path which felt hopeful, only to be confronted with the other end of a bog which had blocked my path.


I turned tail and started running towards the sound of the traffic, and then followed the M25 back to the A3 and the A3 back to the bridge and over into the familiar surroundings of Ockham Common.

And the car park with a disconcertingly active night life.

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Guest blog: Running with anxiety

I don’t often feature guest blogs on here, but I’m glad to make space for this honest and thought-provoking piece written by an amazing woman whose friendship changed my life.

At the beginning of 2017, I decided to have another go at the Couch to 5k program. It’s gone a lot better this time than my 2014 attempt (when I stopped in Week 4, but was already a convert – it was “right for me”, just not “right for now”). But this has been because of a couple of decisions about how I’m approaching running this time. Call it personal growth.

My problem is keeping motivation up. Sticking with it. Don’t ask me to list the personal objectives I’ve had that were abandoned halfway through. It’s embarrassing how many there are. No, it’s shaming. But the advice on running has a common theme:

  • find a running buddy
  • join a club
  • enter a race .

I understand how all of these work. You don’t want to let someone else down. It’s no longer about just you. What will they think? I’ve paid money to enter, what a waste. I understand how all of these motivations work. It’s about making your exercise about more than just you. Good tactic.

But I’ve been experiencing (I just deleted “suffering” because I don’t want to wallow, but you draw your own conclusions) anxiety and depression. This time last year, it got so bad that for a two month period, I did not wash. At all. I’m not proud of it. Rather the opposite. But it helps as a yardstick. I’m feeling better than I did then. And I’ve taken up running. I’m looking for ways to bolster my motivation. And all I find are articles suggesting the above three approaches.

Here’s the thing. All three sound to me like emotional blackmail. All three are anxiety-inducing. All three run counter to why I’m enjoying running in the first place. All three almost guarantee I will fail if I try to adopt them.

What I am loving about running is that it’s not a competition. It’s not a class. It’s just me. While I far prefer getting out of bed, changing into my running gear and going for a run as soon as practicable, it doesn’t have to be that way. Life doesn’t necessarily accommodate what works best. What generally, actually, happens is I go walk the dog in my pyjamas, we eat breakfast, I read about today’s awful news – THEN I change into my gear, etc.

But here’s the thing. If I’m not able to do it right that moment, the park isn’t going anywhere. I can do it in half an hour. Or after lunch. Or at 3pm. Or tomorrow. And I understand that for a lot of people, this is a problem with running. This is what impedes motivation. You don’t have to do it now, because there’s always another moment. And that’s why the tactics above are suggested. For me, it’s the strength. I really want to do it. That’s not to say I’m not afraid. I was petrified about the switch from run/walk to run. But that there is always another opportunity is what helps me. I can run any time. It’s easier in the morning, but there’s no rule saying I can’t run in the afternoon. I can’t do it right now. Give me a minute…

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Dulwich parkrun

Despite the god of traffic lights’ best efforts, I arrived at Dulwich parkrun before half past eight.  There was a void where the finish funnel lives.  No flag, no hi-viz, no barrier tape… just an empty bench.  I locked my bike up on the nearby railings and returned.  Still empty.  I sat down, changed from my cycling kit into my running kit and dug out my mobile phone.  Still deserted.  I checked facebook – no cancellation notice – and twitter – ditto – making a mental catalogue of parkruns within spitting distance, just in case*.

And then he came, Run Director Hayden Judd, kit in hand.  Within minutes the flag and the finishing funnel were in place, and the wasteland around the bench was awash with parkrunners.

Memos to self:

  • next time, have an extra 15 minutes in bed and save yourself some heartache
  • update your sacrifices to the god of traffic lights.


* I wouldn’t usually be so twitchy but Storm Doris had caused a number of parkruns to cancel due to fallen trees and other obstacles.

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Reigate Priory parkrun (winter course)

Some parkrundays are better than others.  Today’s was better than most.

The course had less gooey grass than I had expected, as they were running their winter variation.  An ultra-running friend was down from Lancashire, some touring friends were visiting and a local friend had stayed local.  I spent the first lap chatting to my ultra-running friend and when she stretched her legs and dropped me at the start of the second lap, a new-to-me tourist in a 250-t took her place.

Nice course, convenient café, great company, and close enough to home to merit an 07:xx alarm call.

Today’s parkrunday was better than most.


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Homewood parkrun

After a fabulous parkrun featuring friends, mud, tree roots, trees, coffee cake and token sorting, I was sitting in the café when my results text came through.  “Your time in position 57 today at Homewood parkrun was 33:00”

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Finally.  After 286 parkruns I have completed my set of seconds.  My penultimate one, xx:05, came at Bognor Regis in April 2015 and since then I have been taunted with two xx:58s, four xx:59s, three xx:01s and two xx:02s, but never, until today, an xx:00.



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Polesden Lacey 10k

There was a time when I wouldn’t have given the Polesden Lacey 10k the time of day.  It has no bling, no goody bag, no results – in fact no evidence of participation at all.

Who would want to go to a beautiful National Trust property on a gorgeously sunny day to join a small group of other runners for a free, waymarked 10k run through the British countryside?  Seriously?  Who would do that?  Granted it sounds like great fun, but if there isn’t a useless piece of tat at the end then WHAT IS THE POINT?

And who, having run one, would be hatching plans to visit the other nine?

Answers on a National Trust postcard to:

Abradypus Sloth
The Sofa


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Box Hill Fell Race

One of the nice things about a personalised training plan is that it encourages me to climb out of my rut from time to time.  For example, last Sunday’s hilly trail run came with the phrase “somewhere new and exciting perhaps?” at the end of it.

As it happens, I’m in the middle of a cluster of deadlines at the moment, both work related and personal, and the level of effort involved in trying to find somewhere new and exciting that was hilly, would work for the suggested session and which wouldn’t end up with me being hopelessly lost was beyond me.  The best I could muster was newish and not wholly dull, so I loaded the route for the Box Hill Fell Race onto my watch and set off for a recce.

It turned out to be a nice enough run.  Bits of the route were familiar from Midsummer Munro, XNRG’s Pilgrim Challenge, Centurion’s NDW100 and various training runs in that neck of the woods.  The other bits (mainly the steep ups and even steeper downs) were less familiar but much the same, and I came away thinking “that was fun, but I could probably live without running the race itself, I’ll see if I can find anyone who’d like my (perfectly legally transferable) place”.

I couldn’t.  The gods of running are obviously more powerful than the gods of productivity.

Not wanting to anger them, I set my alarm and headed off to Box Hill.

Best.  Decision.  Ever.*

It turns out that a nice enough solo recce run on a very wet day translates into a hugely enjoyable race on a crisp and clear day of gorgeousness**.  Especially when the race is a small, low key, local race organised by runners and comes complete with a fair turn out of Windmilers and a handful of familiar faces from elsewhere in my running world.

Flat road races have their place, but it’s the hilly trail ones that remind me just how much fun running can be.

* Okay.  Probably not really, but definitely one of my better ones.

** The views were stunning.  So I’m told.


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