With only six weeks to go until the London to Brighton 100K Challenge, I figured it was time to get some more Ks under my belt and trail test my new running shoes!
Now, to be fair, pink would not normally be my colour of choice but as these were the only trail shoes that Sweatshop had available in my size (and the fact that I had a £15 Sweatshop voucher from Parkrun to use), I decided to get them anyway.
I had tried going cross country in my regular trainers a few weeks ago and, while they are great for running on the roads and evenly laid paths, they weren’t so good for walking over bumpy trails and left me with a few hot spots and small blisters. So, I didn’t really mind too much about what my new shoes looked like, as long as they did the job.
I set out just after 8:00 am for what was to be my longest walk so far. I’d decided to go East along the seafront, taking the trail along the top of the cliffs towards Newhaven instead of the Under Cliff Walk that I had taken for my half-marathon earlier in the week.
The new shoes felt a bit strange to begin with. For the first few kilometres, I was walking on the promenade (apart from a small stretch of grass on Hove Lawns) so I was concerned about how the trail shoes would feel on the hard surface. But they felt ok.
By the time I reached Brighton Marina and headed up towards the path along the top of the cliffs, I had pretty much stopped thinking about my shoes. I had been worried about blisters before heading out so had put a compeed plaster over the most vulnerable part of my foot but it seemed to be ok. No rubbing at all, which was reassuring.
My plan was to walk for 15K and then turn around and jog/walk back. Despite the hills along the route, I was feeling pretty good. I had packed plenty of water and a couple of bananas to keep me going and took some money with me to get a snack if I needed something more.
However, once I reached 15K, I decided that I might as well keep going a bit further and see if I could do 20K before turning back. Most of the trail runs along the coast road and there were plenty of buses that would take me back to Brighton if I decided that I’d gone too far and didn’t feel like walking back home.
As it turned out though, the path came to an end at around 18K when I reached Newhaven. It was around 12:00 pm by this point, so I decided to head off the trail and down into the town itself to see if I could find a public toilet and somewhere to get some lunch.
There was a small cafe by the harbour, so I stopped to buy a couple of bacon rolls and a coke. The woman in the cafe wrapped the rolls in foil for me, so I put one in my backpack and munched on the other one as I headed back up to the trail.
I was a bit worried about how my stomach would cope with the food, but it was fine, so on the way back I decided that I would try jogging some of the downhill sections. This wasn’t easy with my backpack as it bounced around a lot, but I was enjoying being able to run on roots and rocks and stones without feeling any discomfort in my feet.
To be honest though, I didn’t do as much running as I would have liked on the way back as my legs were starting to ache and I could feel the beginnings of cramps in my calves. I did, however, find that if I drank water as soon as the cramps started, they would go away for a while.
In the end, I managed to make it all the way back to Hove without stopping (apart from a toilet stop) or using public transport and clocked up a very satisfying 37K in 7:05. I was very happy with this and, even though the uphill parts of the route slowed me down a fair bit, I was happy with the pace.
When I got home, I was pretty exhausted and my feet ached like crazy, but no more than they did when I used to spend all day on my feet at work. And, when I finally took the shoes off, I was happy to discover that I hadn’t picked up any blisters either.
The biggest lesson that I learned today though, is that at this stage I’m not even close to being able to walk 100K from London to Brighton. However, I feel confident that, as long as I keep up the training for the next six weeks, I should be able to just about cope with it. It won’t be easy, but it is doable.