Running in a Blast Chiller

I was woken by the chill of frozen cat paws padding across my cheek. She was presumably trying to tell me that I’d forgotten to set my alarm and it was way past the time I had said I was going to be out on my run.

I swiped her aside and burrowed deeper under the duvet.

Some hours later when the sun was high in the sky, I tentatively opened the front door to assess the chill – it was brutal.


As the ground was frosty I chose to wear the Hoka Mafate’s with their sticky soles, and bounced assuredly down the hill on the way to Mitcham Common. I love these shoes, they make me bound like Neil Armstrong on his lunar debut. On the common I was crunching through frozen puddles and bouncing across the mossy hillocks.

20121202-194641.jpgYesterday I’d been drawn into the seemingly permanent liquidation sale at SportsDirect and came away with a Karrimor X-Lite jacket for a mere £14.99. It turned out to be just the job for a brisk run on a freezing winter’s morning. The front is fashioned out of windproof material with a fleece lining while the back has considerable patches of mesh to ensure you don’t overheat. Absolute bargain.

Turned out to be a great day for a run – shame the cat didn’t wake me a bit earlier.

A Pit Stop in Mitcham

Having spent the morning on the allotment, swinging mattocks into rock solid clay I was a bit limp lettuce and couldn’t muster much energy for a run. Still, Juneathon must be obeyed, at least in week 1 and I still need as many activity calories as I can get.

So I was abandoned (in a pre-planned way) at a distant supermarket and left to run home across ditch and dale, otherwise known as Mitcham Common.

20120602-221511.jpgI was lost in the joy of warm weather running, with long grasses swaying and bunnies lolloping, when I looked down to see a Pit Bull Terrier hurtling towards me. I choked a bit with the shock and had no time to scream before the beast hit me right in the knee cap.

He was fortunately a fairly jolly creature and seemed content with dislocating my knee without further savaging. I limped off, hoping he wouldn’t come back and floor me with a back of the knee head butt.

Fear and Gloaming in Mitcham

photo by Dubmill - click photo for flickr page

I’ve articulated my fear of running on Mitcham Common on a number of occasions (try here and here). You’d think I’d know better than to attempt a twilight run with zombie accompaniment but it seems not.

Spring is a crap time for accountants and I feel like I’ve been strapped to a ledger for the past 14 days. I haven’t run or exercised for 7 days solid so I was keen to get out and bounce around the common despite the disappearing sun and the heavy clouds.

I was deep into the common when the first Zombie attack was announced. The mangled pilot, killed in the crash that landed us in Abel township some days ago was “re-animating”. Nice.
Fresh zombies are fast runners apparently and this one was chasing me.

That common carries enough horror without the addition of the undead. I’m not sure if my heart can cope with the excitement.

Running Safely with ICE tags

Whenever I run around Mitcham Common my mind drifts off to sudden forms of death. It’s a lovely and often deserted place to run but there is something about the vegetation and the lay of the land that makes me think I am exposing myself to a greater risk of an early and unseemly demise.

I have jogged into the path of teenagers and pitbulls and still lived to tell the tale but I feel just a little more comfortable now that I run with my In Case of Emergency shoelace tags.

20120101-160004.jpgAndy from ICEtags sent me a couple to try out recently. Although they aren’t designed to protect you from from potential muggers they could prove to be invaluable in the event of an emergency.

I tend to run with quite a lot of trammel but as a rule runners are generally minimally clad and don’t have a lot of ID. Should the worst happen and you find yourself knocked over by a car or laid low by a rabid pitbull, the ICEtag is designed to alert the emergency services to your next of kin and any pre-existing medical conditions you may have.

Another brilliant feature is that for the same price of £4.95, ICEtags will produce a second tag that holds your parkrun barcode on it. I’d order it for the barcode alone – never again would I need to hunt around for my laminated paper copy.

Excellent value for money.

Natural Navigation in Ever Decreasing Circles

I’ve been watching Sue Perkins, Alison Steadman and that other fella trying to cross the UK without recourse to a nifty Garmin navigator or even an oldey worldy compass thing.

They got on to their hands and knees to examine the differential drying of poo sides, scanned the horizon for the tell-tale sweep of exposed trees but mostly they’ve spun round in circles saying “is that East, North, South or West?”.

I was in Mitcham Common yesterday – my personal Bermuda triangle. For some reason I step into the gorse and become immediately disoriented. Still, I am an adventurer, so I ignore my personal wrist link to at least 3 satellites and ask for directions from the trees.

The natural navigation wisdom informs me that the prevailing wind direction in the UK is South Westerly (wind comes from the SW), so the sweep over of the trees foliage is in the opposite direction, ie NE. Had I stuck to this piece of evidence and run on I would have been fine but I always look for corroboration where there is only contradiction. Moss grows on the north side of trees but if the sweep over was accurate the Mitcham Common mosses prefer a southerly aspect, and the destination Croydon buses appeared to be headed East. I started spinning in circles and despite being less than 5 mins from my car I was best described as lost.

I was particularly keen to define the run by the cardinal points as I was trying to do a recce of London’s next official parkrun and was building up the race description in my head. I keep meaning to try a parkrun in my new locale but it occurred to me this weekend that it would be far better if parkrun came to me, so I set about trying to define the perfect 5km route around Mitcham Common.

I think I’ve found one – a lovely cross-country route hugging the wooded edge of the common for a loop and a half before cutting across the scrub and past the Seven Islands pond to finish. Just don’t ask me for directions.

I need to find a race organiser now and a way to appease the Mitcham Common conservators who may not be too keen on the idea of hordes of Saturday morning joggers.

It would be mighty convenient though.

Mitcham Common Adventurers

We set off in the direction of adventure and the uncharted waters of the eastern wedge of Mitcham Common. Unfortunately it didn’t prove to be entirely virgin territory and we had to endure quite substantial size-related abuse from the native youths walking their bull terriers.

It’s easy to overlook these scrub-like triangles of Mitcham Common, they can at times seem so grim and macabre that you want to hurry on by. I’ve grown quite fond of the area but there is always a sense of foreboding as you round another corner of the undergrowth.

It was a successful run today and despite finishing in a very peculiar and concerning shade of red, I did at least feel on form. Good job really, I’ve been slacking with Juneathon and the Great North Run is only round the corner. Training needs to step up a pace.


Juneathon 4/30 – Playtime

I’ve been looking for an excuse to play with my frisbee for months, so this evening I thought I could mix kids play with speed play and try a bit of fartlek on the common.

Mitcham Common didn’t prove to be the finest choice for unadulterated frisbee fun. It’s covered in long grasses, rabbit holes and strange moss covered rocks. An absolute ankle hazard when combined with the low light conditions around 10pm.

We enjoyed a short stint of frisbee but spent an excessive time retrieving the missile from within the gorse and called it off quite early promising to find a better pitch later in the week.

In total we ran 2.15 km.