After spending a lot of this year talking about my love hate relationship with running, I thought I would be a bit more positive today and compile a list of my top five runs in 2014. Whilst admittedly there was hardly a ‘long list’ to chose from, I am quite proud of how much of the England I have managed to cover this year: literally all corners of the country, with the north east, south east, south west and midlands all represented below, and the north west (Manchester & Chester) and London only narrowly missing the cut.
The irony that none of my runs which actually took place in Chile are on here is also not lost on me, although to be fair I did not really get in any particularly long or exciting sessions in whilst I was over there. Perhaps next year… Anyway, on with the list:
5. Half Marathon, Birmingham- 19/10- 21.1 km in 2.08.40
I could hardly present a list of my top runs of the year without mentioning my main foot race. Not only was it my furthest distance (ok the Avenger was equal but I spent half of it hobbling around the run section) but my most inspiring run of the year, giving me something to train for after the summer and also to benchmark against from the previous year. Although it might look from the above map that I started halfway through, that is mainly because my watch took a while to locate me – perhaps wisely choosing to avoid the less salubrious parts of the city. Despite previous experience on this route the hill at the end never fails to catch me out and sap any last energy, but the great support and organisation ensure I found something from nowhere to enjoy the final straight down Broad Street.
4. Beach Run, Cornwall – 26/5 – 8 km in 1.03.25
What better way to spend a holiday than an early morning run? My thoughts exactly. This was a beautiful run along the cliff-tops of Newquay on the north Cornish coast. As you can see above I managed to get a bit of Rocky III beach training in, although the picture does not really do justice to the hills which were a lot tougher than you might think. Other great sights along the way were the zoo (sadly no animals hanging around to race against, probably a bit scared of losing to me) and a picturesque lake. As a bonus everyone must have been out on the lash the night before as the roads were empty, meaning it felt like I had the whole town to myself.
3. Woods Run, Peak District – 1/6 – 10 km in 1.06.42
This was one of my first ever trail runs, and as you can see from the map I guess I got a bit lost. To be fair tree canopies all seem to look the same. Fortunately once I worked out which direction I needed to run along the river (!) it turned out alright and I was able to appreciate the surroundings without fear of having to spend the night in a Bear Grylls style homemade shelter, eating worms for the protein content. Actually that might have been fun, but I did enjoy the run, and as with many others on this list it was an incredibly peaceful (if somewhat tiring) way to start off the day.
2. Cuckoo Trail, Sussex – 21/9 – 16 km in 1.43.19
One of my later runs this year, where I started out aiming to do about 10 km, and ended up doing a bit of a Forrest Gump and kept running for my furthest non-race distance of the year. This was a purpose created cycle / running path (hence the long straight line on the map) and perhaps it was the fact that the first half was almost entirely downhill that caught me out – as the rule is what goes down must come up. At least when you have to run back to the start! It did feel great though, and was one of the best ‘runners highs’ I had all year, of course with some great scenery on the way.
1. Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol – 15/6 – 10 km in 1.06.42
Here we are: my top run of the year. This was at the point I was at my peak fitness in the summer, just a week or so before the Avenger. To make it doubly impressive this was after a fairly late night after going out for my birthday (and watching England get a hammering in the World Cup) so I had a few drinks to get over… Not only did I get to run past yet another zoo along the way (no intentional theme here, honest) but there were some truly spectacular views from Clifton Down and the Suspension Bridge. It was also a perfect summer morning, but the main difference from most of my other runs is that there were other runners about. In fact there were loads of us, and it felt great to experience some of that camaraderie with the others, giving the good mornings and seeing them enjoying themselves as much as I was.
After all that, maybe I do really like running a bit more than I give it credit. Interestingly all of these runs took place on Sunday mornings, the last 4 all at 8am so I guess I can safely say that is my optimum training time. Hopefully next year I will be posting a Top 10 list with even more great sessions to write about!