This morning I set out to test a route for this Saturday 8.30am run with SLJ. The run was between 5 & 6 miles, one I had done before, admittedly some time ago. I grabbed a quick cup of tea and some granola, put the washing on, fired up the dishwasher and headed out of the door with Elma, my phone and my new wireless headphones and as you can imagine, a load of naff music!
As I had done the route before I didn't take the OS map but did have an email which Izzy, an SLJ member who has a photographic memory for routes, had sent me. My printer had run out of ink so I couldn't print the map she'd sent but I was sure it would be OK.
The first part of the run was glorious. It starts by the Kings Head in Bessels green and heads up a small footpath that you may not have even noticed before and out over 'Fields of Gold' as Helen described them. in her Facebook post. There was one footpath that I nearly missed, it was so overgrown you couldn't see the entrance but other than that by 3 miles into the 5 mile run I was happy that I had remembered the way and was looking forward to a cup of coffee back at Hollybush with a friend.
Not so fast.
I took the footpath into the woods near the Woodman Pub and found that the path had been heavily coppiced. I followed the directions on my phone ( battery now 20%) and came to a dead end. I retraced my steps and after 20 minutes ended up at a pheasant farm - Elma was very keen to investigate. Aware that I was now getting muddled about which direction to take, I decided to 'phone a friend'. Helen had also tested the route last night but although she answered, the signal was very poor and our conversation wasn't easy.
I decided to press on in what I thought must be the right direction, knowing that eventually I would come to the road. I turned when I heard a yelping sound, ( I had removed the new headphones as I was trying to conserve the phone battery) Elma was no where to be seen. I followed her cries and found her with a metal ring caught round her neck, she was trapped by a noose and couldn't move. At this point I was starting to wish I stayed in Knole Park!
Having freed her I headed off up a hill ( phone battery now 13%, sent text to friend to delay coffee - it didn't send, no signal!!) and after another mile found myself on a road called Penn Lane. I knocked at the door of two houses to ask where I was, one Russian cleaner "speak no Englis" and one no answer.
By now, I had a small lump in my throat, Elma was tired and there was no signal to even try Google Maps. A lady drove past me with a horse box so I flagged her down and asked if there was any chance she would take me to the main road. She was lovely and actually took me all the way to Gracious Lane bridge and from there we ran home. She actually asked about equestrian First Aid so that was a bonus! I finally made it back to Hollybush at 11.50, my friend had understandably gone as my message didn't send but Gerry revived me with a lovely cup of coffee and Nicki from Fitmums took me back to my car at Bessels Green.
So where did I go wrong?
I should have taken the map, it was stupid of me not to bother and if you don't run a route very often, it can look very different in each season. I did have my phone with me but when there is no signal on your planned route it is vital that someone knows roughly where you are going. Elma is still quite young and is happy doing a shortish run with me but 11 miles is far to far for her, luckily she had a rest in the car with the rescue lady and then we walked a bit too. Maybe water would have been a good idea, given the temperature but I don't normally drink if it's just 5 miles.
Helen and I are still planning to do this run on Saturday at 8.30 BUT rest assured the route will not be 11 miles, a steady 5-6 with coffee at the end for those who want it!