Before I ran, I snowboarded. I had a few lessons and days on the mountain in high school, but when University came around and the Ski & Snowboard Club had cheep beers and even cheaper lift tickets so I joined and called myself “a snowboarder.”
I’m not sure what my plan was, but I found myself on the mountain day after day with a group of guys and girls who were way better than me. I cried a lot, threw snowboard tantrums (and literally threw my snowboard a few times), but I also got a lot better and did things I didn’t think I could. Hiking up to an open bowl of powder and having to jump off a little cornice to start? Errr, no time to think everyone else just went! Going through some tight trees at speed? Got to keep up with the pack or else I’ll get lost. Just do it!
I learned that it’s fun to push your perceived boundaries and be a little bit uncomfortable once in a while. It really is the best way to improve your skills and one of the main reasons I joined the Serpentine Running Club.
On Saturday I joined the Serpentine trail group on one of their many planned runs. I’d been meaning to go run with them for a while, but life gets in the way and some of their runs are upwards of 30 miles! The email said we would run a Woburn Wander route, all paces were welcome as long as you could continually run the 19 miles and it was going to be muddy underfoot. I had 17 miles on my training plan for the weekend and decided to be the same woman who ended up on the top of a mountain with only a black diamond run to get down – and just go.
I packed up my bag with the essentials – a ham & cheese sandwich, haribo, 1 gel with caffeine, a protein bar, and 500ml of water (6 miles or 19 – this is basically what I always carry) – and set off towards the meeting point at the Leighton Buzzard train station. Nine of us got off the train from Euston and met our fearless leader Alan who reassuringly was carrying a map and as a member of the LDWA knew how to use it! After some quick hellos and a toilet necessities we off running away from Leighton Buzzard towards Woburn. Alan lead us on a really nice route that took public footpaths, crossed very muddy fields, and went up and down the rolling hills of Bedfordshire. We disturbed a few herds of sheep and watched as 2 deer absolutely sprinted around one field (putting our plod to shame), and ran up close to some beautiful horses as we skirted their paddock.
We ran directly through the grounds of Woburn Palace (avoided the lions) and then followed the Greensand Ridge all the way back to Leighton Buzzard. Already up to our knees in mud, some lovely walkers warned us of the “deep mud ahead” coming out of Woburn, and we laughed them off, only to find some of the deepest, stickiest, tractor rutted uneven mud I’ve ever attempted to move forward on.
After a few miles of that I was seriously having running daydreams of the flat, dry Berlin Marathon course. Once the mud eased up there were some really fun downhill trails and a riverside path through some very marshy fields.
Not one to usually run 19 miles of unknown trails with 9 strangers, I couldn’t recommend it more. I was beyond nervous about being able to keep up and even though the group was faster than me, there was always someone to run with or plod along by myself which was very welcome at some points. I was running faster than what I thought was my normal comfortable long run pace, but sometimes it takes a little push to remind you that comfort isn’t always best.
We ended the run along the Grand Union Canal and took our muddy feet into the Tescos for chocolate milk (and a dry pair of socks if you’re me and forgot some!) and then all caught the train back to London. Home and showered by 4pm it was a great day trip and run. I often get caught up in the big races, big trips and big events but this Saturday reminded me that there are amazing places to run right here too.