Over the past couple of weeks or so I’ve been working away from home in different places and on various days of the week and I’ve recently found myself spending more than the odd day working just outside of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire (in South-West England).
I was here for a couple of nights last week and went running close to my hotel but even with the help of Google Maps I did not find a great route to follow (far too many roads to cross). This week I thought I’d try something else and try and tag along with a local running club. I know for sure that the clubs I’m members of (Ranelagh Harriers and The Stragglers) would let a runner visiting the area to join in on a club run so I thought I’d see if I could be that ‘visiting runner’ whilst in Cheltenham.
After hunting around for local running clubs I came across Cheltenham and County Harriers, a club that was thought to have been founded in around 1880. They organise group road running sessions on Tuesday nights from the Prince of Wales Stadium in Cheltenham (together with other training sessions during the week). I arrived about 6:45pm, introduced myself to a couple of other runners who after quizzing me on my 10k time suggested that I would be fine to run with them.
A group of six of us headed out on what was planned to be a run of around 9 miles or so. This was an ideal distance for me as I didn’t put in a particularly long run on Sunday (I managed 7 miles on the back of a 7 mile cross country race the day before). We set off along a long traffic free foot/cycle path towards Cheltenham Spa railway station and then headed onto the roads and pavements.
The route took us anti-clockwise around Cheltenham, and just after six miles in we ran past the lovely hotel that I’m currently staying in. The group dropped from 6 to 4 at this point, when Laura and Paul turned off to make it a slightly shorter route. This left Ray and Dave leading from the front, with myself and Rob (read his notes about the run at his blog) a few metres behind.
We then turned off onto Leckhampton Road road, which led slightly uphill before turning back and at around 9 miles (at this point Dave said that we’d probably be going a little further than 9 miles - well, my fate was in their hands as I was not sure whereabouts I was!) we headed towards a private estate. It started with quite a tough uphill climb before entering the estate but once we got there you were treated by some views over the town that were very impressive - they must be fantastic during the summer months (or perhaps during daylight hours!).
After we left the estate and onto the ‘public’ roads Ray sped up closely followed by Dave. I hung in there watching Dave a couple of hundred metres ahead - I couldn’t lose him else I’d be lost for sure in this area of town where I had no bearings of where I was! As I kept an eye on the runner ahead he thankfully kept looking back to make sure I was going the right way (probably made easier as we were both wearing flashing arm lights in the dark) and we eventually made it back to familiar territory and back to the Prince Of Wales Stadium. A few seconds after I got back Paul followed in.
I said my thank you’s etc. and we all headed our separate ways. After having a stretch and some well earned water I jumped back in the car and back to the hotel where I parked and then strolled up the road to find some dinner. At this point it was after 9pm and the two pubs I’d had good meals at previously were no longer serving so I ended up in one of the local Indian restaurants. Chicken Tikka Masala, a naan bread and a bottle of mineral water and all was good.
The overall distance covered by the run was a little under 12.5 miles and I ran this at an average of just under 7 minute mile pacing. A great run for a weekday evening.
If I’m back in town on a Tuesday night I will certainly stop by and run with the Harriers again as they were a lovely group of people and very welcoming.