I think it's been a pretty good week for my running this last week. I managed to give myself a couple of days' rest (in the face of some suprisingly tough temptation) after the last blog post and felt good for it, so that the regular 10k run home felt a lot fresher than it has before - both in terms of fitness and attitude. Maybe there is something to the whole mental and physical rest idea :)
Mid-week a friend of mine suggested visiting one of the beaches a little further up the coast from where I live for their annual charity sandcastle competition; it's always a good day out and when she mentioned it, out of nowhere I decided I was going to run there. I then spent the next few days labouriously figuring out a safe route to get me there (using a fair bit of the local coastal path, since there are some pretty sketchy blind corners on some of the tighter roads around), looking at elevations and trying to get an idea of timing so that I'd arrive around when my friend did.
I'd like to mention at this point that this is the most effort and preparation I've ever put into a run, ever.
Armed with a total route that worked out at around 28km inputted into my phone and a bag stashed full of clean clothes and some supplies left with my friend, I set out at around 9.30am. It was the first time I've had to really think about pacing - the first nine or so kilometres were along my route to work, so there were times when it was all too easy for my legs to start assuming we were only going to be going about 10km total, but I think I kept a pretty good handle on it. My phone's GPS gave out at around the 9km mark, so from there on in I was relying on what I remembered of the route (and my own knowledge of the area) - this kind of worked out though, as it immediately started to feel less like I was doing The Run and more like I was just out exploring on foot.
I took a slightly wrong turn on a local golf course that backs onto a long beach, meaning that I added around 2km to the total journey, and there were a couple of points on the coastal path so muddy and on such a steep descent that I was practically sliding down them on my backside. I got to around the 20km mark before I started to really feel it (coincidentally at the point where I had to climb the last point on the coast, round into my destination), but I actually got a weird sense of satisfaction from the guys I passed on the way up the footpath encouraging me with semi-sarcastic 'keep going buddy's - since I think I'd probably come further than they might have imagined. The last 5km or so were all downhill from the point to the beach, but then the beach is around another 2.5km long to get to where the sandcastle competition was being held (and being able to see the other end of the beach in the distance, apparently never getting any closer, was pretty tough).
It turns out I'd been pretty close with my guess of how long it'd take - I arrived in around 3hrs25, just in time to be met by my friend. Who'd forgotten the bag of gear.
So, I'm feeling pretty good about myself right now - I know I can at least tackle running for about two hours more than I have before (and over pretty horrendous terrain, at that) without being in too much of a state afterwards. I'm going to try and find some more similar-length routes around the area, to go and do some more exploring.
P.S. If anyone's interested, the route I ran goes from Barnstaple in the UK, up around the coast to the North, along Saunton beach, across Croyde beach, then round the point to the far end of Woolacombe beach.