In our quest to run the entire length of the North Downs Way trail before I leave London at the end of the year, Nigel and I have so far run from Farnham to Oxted in three sections. On Saturday, we joined a group of crazy cats (also running the reverse London marathon in the small hours of Sunday!) on a run between Oxted and Otford. It was a delight!
We jumped on the train at London Victoria as others did the same at London Bridge, all meeting together in Oxted, raring to go and excited for a morning on the trails. We set off along the high street and cutting through residential streets we eventually spotted the first NDW sign leading us up a grassy slope and onto the path. Nige set off on his threshold run, leaving us to enjoy a more social paced group run together, obviously stopping for obligatory photos and snacks along the way.
Like the ultrarunning-loving beans that we are we were sensible and walked the few climbs and ran at a steady pace along most of the rest, which often undulated ahead of us giving us a little momentum. My hopes of bluebell meadows were met with joy, as we raced through shady forest areas with blue blooming carpets, heady with their heavy scent. More colour was provided, despite the overcast weather, by the fluorescent yellow rape seed fields, stretching high above our shoulders as we ran past.
The trail was busy in parts with other runners, walkers and groups of teenagers with their noses lost in maps, as well as cyclists who we met everytime we crossed a busy country road. The chat flowed as we talked upcoming races, London Marathon cheer plans and ultramarathon hero meetings, and soon we were well over half way and feeling the sense of descent.
We met a sweaty Nige just after some group photos and ahead of a long stretch of downhill to meet a road heading into the village of Dunton Green. Herding the cats around busier roads and back onto the trail, I was beginning to feel we were nearing the end and all I wanted to do was keeping running. Soon we arrived onto the outskirts of Otford, a pretty little town with beautiful quirky houses, a lovely little river with energetic ducks and some cute shops and cafes on the main street. We found the station at the far side of the town and after 22.5 km, just shy of 14 miles, we high-fived each other with huge smiles of satisfaction. Another segment of the North Downs Way trail was complete and now we’d run over 50 miles of this beautiful path, could it get any better?
In a few weeks time I’ll be volunteering at the NDW50 race, helping and encouraging runners and some familiar faces along the route, and here’s hoping I might be back next year challenging myself to do the same.