The Colours Of Autumn Running

I once ran with headphones. Well, earphones really. It wasn’t for me.

So many runners do love music on their runs. Or podcasts. What a great way to keep up to speed with your favourites. It simply isn’t for me though.

I prefer the rhythm of my stride, like a perfect metronome counting out the time signature of my efforts.

Or something.

It’s more like random stomps giving away the uneven swing of my legs as they chaotically guide each foot to the floor. Nobody has ever shouted “Oi! your beautiful running gait is pure eye candy for the endurance sport enthusiast.”

In fact, back when I ran with a training group, the coach described me as “running like a drunk man herding cats”! This is the same coach who, at a training session on an actual running track, was calling out the lap splits as we all went through 400 meters in our 800 meters reps. As the speedy guys and girls whizzed past he was calling “60, 65, 68” etc, informing the athletes of their pace. As I trailed through some way behind the young and the athletic, he called out “Thursday……. Friday…..” Ahh he’s a wit!

Where was I? Headphones, earbuds, ear phones. They are just not for me. I tend to avoid roads and so I’m never really looking to drown out any ambient noise. And, joking aside, I really enjoy the sound of my feet striking the ground, the different rhythms of uphill, downhill and flat and the textured layers of sound created by the wide variety of surfaces once I get away from the concrete, paving slabs or tarmac. Who doesn’t enjoy the squelch of deeply packed fallen leaves on a damp day?

Autumn running. Marvellous isn’t it? It’s the colours. Man, those colours. I don’t mind repeating my favourite trail routes, they look, feel, sound and even smell different on every visit. The time of day, the season, the wind speed and direction, rain, sunshine and the direction I’m running in all vary the sensations the run rewards me with. And I keep coming back for more.

An old favourite is this route
so lucky to have it on our doorstep

I was on one of my favourite long and hilly routes last weekend and I found myself so in tune with my running that it was almost dream like. The weather was changeable; strong winds, hail storms, mist and drizzle, heavy rain and gorgeous bright sunshine all made an appearance over the 26ish miles of South Devon’s finest trails.

For some reason, I started focussing on colours. Every surface varying its shade with the changes in the weather. It was like choosing a paint texture. The gloss sheen on wet, freshly fallen leaves, giving them an almost mirror like quality. The flat matt of a grazing pony’s fur as it stood in shadow. The subtle, fine silk of moss on a north facing rock. And so it goes on.

The run started as the clouds which had delayed the dawn and denied us a sunrise drifted towards the horizon. The sun appeared above them, candle flame bright and daffodil yellow. Paignton beach, soft sand above the tide line asking for an increase in effort level as every foot strike sunk deep into it, offered the perfect surface to exaggerate the power of the sun. Too coarse to be golden, but certainly more glitzy than a simple beige, Paignton’s sand is perfect for family beach days.

The South West Coast Path dominates the first 16 miles of this route, all the way from Paignton to Kingswear. It is a lung bursting onslaught of ups and downs with a brief flat respite through Brixham. The seaside fishing town rewarded me with sunshine after the eye watering blitz of a hail storm. With everything freshly dampened, the bright sun showcased the broad pallet of the cottages’ colours, looking like they’ve been painted onto the slopes heading down to the harbour. Pastel yellows, blues, pinks, reds…… it really is a living picture postcard.

And what about the sea? What colour is the sea? Under dark clouds and with a handsome swell, the water takes on a full range of military greys. Dark, gunboat shades, almost black, through to a pale matt silver, glints of light reflecting where the sun sneaks down through gaps in the cloud. From high up on Berry Head, with the old fort in the foreground, the vista could be an arty monochrome photograph come to life.

Greens! You want greens. Well, from yellowy limes, a bit like the colour of a Skoda I once owned (I also had a lime green Allegro at one time, and a shit-brown Datsun – I’ve had some horrendous cars!), fragile grasses almost translucent in the low sun. Green is such a versatile colour. From some angles the dark seas take on a green hue as the wave tops briefly capture some extra light. Lush meadows on the cliff tops make a British Racing Green statement whilst tufts of grass on the upslopes sway from light to dark with the wind.

Not forgetting the browns. Dark and blackened cow pats, shiny oak shades in muddy puddles, golden rusts of leaves about to give up and fall to the trail and plenty of beige too in the bark of trunks, peeling to reveal a smooth pale yellowing of fresh wood. Even the flakey patchwork of rusting, burned oranges on long forgotten ironmongery caught my attention on this run.

The blue/black and greys of dark clouds give way to their paler, fluffier cousins as the day brightens. Whites in every shade of the Dulux deluxe range, I was imagining Egyptian Cotton, Lamb’s Wool and Old Piano Keys might be new shades of paint to sell to those who need to impress the neighbours!

This route, on a blustery Autumn day, with the song Four Seasons In One Day becoming an ear worm, shows off South Devon in all of its finery.

It’s not the same without you….

 

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And off I go….

I’ve never ran this far before on my own.

 

Nicky and I have completed four 50km events whilst running together, and she has, of course, topped all of that with her South Downs Way 50 miles.

So, with the East Farm Frolic looming and the small matter of Snowdonia Trail Marathon still heavy in my legs, I set off at the crack of dawn….

Knowing I intended to run on some very challenging terrain, and that I hoped to be out for 6 hours, I set out tentatively.

I always feel so lucky that Paignton faces East. These early morning runs are so often blessed with such dramatic lighting and colours, today was no exception.

It’s also great when the tide is out. Running along the

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Mile 1 – a deserted Paignton beach

beach, reigning myself in, drinking in the fabulous, flickering, coloured reflections of the

 

sun and clouds on the wet sand.

Determined to keep to as many trails as possible, I ran the grass next to hard footpaths wherever possible

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Mile 2, the tide has left plenty of seaweed on Goodrington sands

to protect my aging bones!

 

Again, I also feel lucky that I simply enjoy the very basic pleasure of running….

I’m not really a ‘group’ runner, but love running with Nicky & Charlie (the border terrier). I’m also quite happy, and motivated to run and train alone.

I was expecting this epic to test the meditative state running can give me to it’s limits.

 

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Mile 3 – not the most inspiring section!

Before Nicky and I were together I was less adventurous with my running, mainly sticking to roads, and entering events with ‘PB potential’.

 

But, I was always motivated to train hard and rack up the miles on my own. I did speed train in a group from time to time. It was focussed,  eye balls out, intervals and time trials and I could always dig deep for them.

 

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Mile 4, the sun appearing over the fields above Clennon Valley

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Mile, er, 5

Now, I feel I have taken that rather single minded focus and have added a layer of adventure, a layer of exploration and of finding new challenges in endurance and terrain.

 

I’ve found, since writing this blog, that I read more and more excellent blogs from other runners. It always astonishes me how much detail people remember.

I know I enjoy waxing lyrical about this life of adventure and running with my wonderful wife, soul mate and fellow adventurer, Nicky, but I can never remember the points of a run in any sort of chronological order.

Hence this blog. I set out to take a photograph at every mile or so, then upload them in order.

 

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Mile 6, Stoke Gabriel, I wasn’t going that badly….yet!

The idea being, for those that are interested, the ‘journey’ of this mammoth training run can be charted by way of photograph.

 

 

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Mile 7, the dramatic skies above Galmpton

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Mile 8, The last time I climbed this stile, a herd of frisky bullocks increased my pace and heart rate rather!

By my Garmin watch I covered 50 kilometres , but the Strava app on my phone gave me 32.5 miles or so. Check out the route here.

 

There was definitely a ‘Snowdon Shuffle’ feel to this run, particularly in the latter stages, after that brutal coast path from Kingswear to Brixham.

On a couple of the tougher stairs sections, I actually had a word with myself to ‘Man the F*** up’! as my good lady wife would say.

‘Tis tough though, as anyone who has run or walked it will know.

I wonder how many people actually talk out loud to themselves whilst running in deserted, wind and rain swept. It feels bloody lovely.

Until you round the next corner and bump into an intrepid family hiking in the rain! I’m sure they were smiles of pity as they quickly scurried past me!

 

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mile 9, Galmpton creek (and a sweaty thumb)

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Mile 10, the fabulous view towards Dartmouth from above Greenway

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Mile 11, still smiling was trying to digest a Mars Bar

Well, this year I’ve run (at the time of writing) 1,450 miles, climbing 125,000 ft of elevation at an average of 45 miles a week. I run about 8 hours a week on average.

 

The event is 12 hours on a loop of about 4 or 5 miles, off road and hilly.

Not as hilly as this though!

Whilst I was battered after 6 hours and 31 miles, I did do 5900ft of climbing, only 6 days after doing 5800ft of climbing in The Snowdonia Trail Marathon, so I am pretty pleased.

Another 6 hours is a bloody long time though!

 

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Mile 12

I think I shall (*stolen from Steve Skedgell) be the tortoise not the hare!

 

I even practised eating!

Actual food.

I had a mars bar, two packets of honey and oat bars and a bag of mini cheddars.

I also drank my full bladder, 2 litres of zero sports drink.

I’m ignoring the question….

12 hours running round and round a farm in Dorset. How hard can it be.

I’m off again Saturday, maybe a slightly less brutal route and maybe slightly further than last week. hopefully a bit quicker. Although it’s the time on my feet I need, rather than any particular pace.

Anyway, enough of this rambling, time has beaten me this week, so hopefully you’ll enjoy the rest of the pictures from this run.

Please keep in touch via Facebook, Twitter, Strava, by commenting on here, or by email, kbonfield@live.com

Keep on keeping on……

 

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Mile 13, as you do….

 

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Mile 14, down to Kingswear

 

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Mile 15, if you go down to the wood today….

 

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Mile 16, I chose the longer option….

 

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Mile 17, even in the lashing rain the coast path is stunning

 

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Mile 18, I don’t remember…..

 

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Mile 19, LOOK! eating AND running….

 

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Mile 20, I do believe that’s Mansands ahead

 

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Mile 21, does this look like a man who shouts at himself?!

 

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Mile 22, Berry Head appears in the gloom

 

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Mile 23, amazing how challenging these start to look!

 

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Mile 24, leaving the solitude of the coast path for the bustle of Brixham

 

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Mile 25, Shoalstone Pool, tempting…

 

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Mile 26, Battery Gardens

 

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Mile 26.2, pretty pleased with that!

 

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Mile 28, Kayakers enjoying the empty seas in the foul weather

 

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Mile 29, surely the last set of these!

 

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I’d hoped to do 30 miles in 6 hours, so extremely happy with this

 

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Mile 31, this man needs an ice cold coke (and a shower!)