Marathon Training Week 15 – Bracknell Forest

For the last couple of months my family was planning to visit some relatives of ours down in the Bracknell Forest area. Having first clapped eyes on this area I was hugely excited due to the potential to actually run some trails. My planning for the trip was tempered of course, by my ongoing injury concerns, and secondly by a lack of time to thoroughly plan and research planned routes. Nonetheless, on the basis of last Sunday’s successful five miles I decided after all to pack my running gear and we all set off on Tuesday to undergo a total six hour plus commute down to Bracknell via London Kings Cross and the Tube services. This meant missing a couple of training sessions on Monday and Tuesday, but this gave my Naproxen tablets more time to work their magic and for my foot to rest.

Thursday arrived and I was up bright and early for my overdue first run of the week, a planned and precise 6.66 mile run up to the area of Gardeners Green and down through Gorrick Woods, exiting onto Nine Mile Ride via a trail called Hatch Ride and back towards base. All was going well at first despite heavily relying on GPS to ensure I navigated the route correctly. There was a beautiful and stunning red sun on the rise and I was safely into Gorrick Woods. Then my phone threw a strop, dropped all its remaining battery and died. With no money and no phone battery, it was down to my sense of direction to identify the way back.Turning back, however, was far too easy. I proceeded to arrive at a roundabout for the Nine Mile Ride, but knowing it was a huge stretch of road and hesitant to make a wrong turn (ironically), I went the other way down Lower Wokingham Road – and eventually ended up in Crowthorne town centre! Thankfully a kind lady at a bus stop in town told me the way to go. I eventually arrived back at the roundabout I came from, finally noticing the exit from Hatch Ride (which I clearly had missed on the way down), and eventually found my turn back to base to clock 8.79 miles in just over 67 minutes. The pace wasn’t important though – it seemed at that point I’d come through a major test on my foot, in new shoes, and felt nothing in my left foot.

I decided at that point to not take my Naproxen that evening, but by the morning I still felt the murmur of the injury, and decided to start on the second week of supply. My family all went out for the day to Paulton’s Park and didn’t get home until after 10pm – I missed my next dose as a result. But I still felt good for my run on Saturday morning and did just over 4 miles in 30 minutes, going around North Lake, South Lake, back through Birch Hill and Great Hollands.

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North Lake, Bracknell Forest
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Trail section at South Hill Park, Bracknell Forest

Again, it seemed OK initially, but now there was more aggravation and I decided to ditch the old trainers I was wearing for the rest of my holiday. It was going to be me in my Salomons for the remainder – the only shoes it seemed that offered a resistance against my injury coming back.

But it was still full steam ahead to continue my preparations for Manchester and so it was down to the last long run before the race. This was a run I’d long been looking forward to since we first planned to visit our relatives – a run down the Nine Mile Ride, turning onto a trail called Windsor Ride, the entry to Swinley Forest, before eventually reaching Bramshill Forest and The Devil’s Highway, before heading back towards base.

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Windsor Ride, Swinley Forest

My unfamiliarity with the area meant a lot of weaving on the Nine Mile Ride, from one side of the road to another, in and out of woodland trails, before eventually reaching my right hand turn at the roundabout. I ran down the dual carriageway on the grass and found the entry point for Swinley Forest. Initially there was a fair few dormant construction units aside the dirt path but eventually this cleared, and all there was to be concerned with was vast swathes of forest and dog walkers. The path seemed to extend for miles as I could see the dips and spikes in the path. I tackled a reasonably steep rise called Surrey Hill and soon doubled back around a sweeping bend to begin proceeding towards Bramshill Forest. The mid section had a few difficulties owing to ecological fencing which was making keeping to the right path a little tricky, but I made it to The Devil’s Highway and I enjoyed the remaining few miles of my run, clocking 9.2 miles in 70 minutes. Pretty much how I’d planned it.

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That trail!
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Bramshill Forest

Aside from a couple of irritations on my little toes, which are threatening to blister, I seemed to come through that run without any major issues and I’m pleased enough now that I can look ahead to one week’s time. I’ve got two more mornings of Bracknell Forest running planned before returning home on a five to six hour commute, and completing my remaining taper runs before the big one itself. Damn I’m going to miss Bracknell Forest, for these last few runs have felt like sweet relief for my feet, which struggle to see enough trail action back home. And I’ll shortly have to consider buying some comfier shoes to wear other than my Salomons if I want them to see a few Yorkshire trails.

As it seems right now, despite all this trouble and misfortune that has beset me before now, I’m now back on track and giddy with excitement for next Sunday. For this time next week, I’ll be able to call myself…a marathoner.

Who’d have thought it?!

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The Devil's Highway, Bracknell Forest
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