Running The Cotswold Way – by Aysha (logistics)

As part of our preparation for Emma to run across Africa, Emma suggested that we did a practice run of 100 miles! Its really hard to take someone seriously when they are utterly casual about a huge endurance event. On Wednesday 26th March we met up, looked at the Cotswold way, thought about things we needed and that was it. Thursday, I travelled to Norfolk and bought the 21 year old car we are taking to Africa and named her Cleopatra. Two weeks later we drove to Bristol to stay the night with a friend of Emma’s and start the trail in the morning. Emma’s running, Mike’s on a bike as support, and I’m in the car.

Friday (35 miles)

As soon as the 6.30am alarm goes off, I’m up making porridge and tea. Emma’s a sleepy bug in the morning which gives me a chance to get everything ready. Mike eats all of his and some of Emma’s too, I think, which is satisfying for me as the cook. When we get to Cleopatra, we notice a small green oily/viscous puddle under the front nearside wheel. I’m worried. I take some photos and send them to Lukas for a diagnosis. Its 7.30am so we get going whilst we wait for a reply.

Bath is beautiful but it feels odd. Emma’s about to do something epic and there’s no-one to see except Mike and I. I guess that happens a lot in the world. Emma, wanders off to the fudge shop.

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Emma coming back from checking out the fudge shop, “I saw a light on, there’s someone in there” she says, hopefully. Nope, fully shut, but I went back later for her and it made her happy at first break.
Shall we start?
At the start

Emma and Mike set off appearing very relaxed and I skedaddle to get things we need and chat to Lukas over the phone about Cleo. He diagnoses the fluid is grease from the front axle air vent and tells me where to look. I love poking around under the bonnet. It’s a giant toy. Lukas tells me I should be fine until I get it back, he’s a little concerned when I tell him I’ve got 500 miles to go. I’m a little worried by his concern and drive more carefully.

Cleo’s cigarette lighter doesn’t work, which means we can’t charge the sat nav (or phones) and her compass always points north. I navigate my way out of Bath by using the sun – seriously – I head east and then when I feel roughly out of Bath I head North looking for signs for villages near the first check point. And I make it! However, its way past the time so I hazard a guess that Emma and Mike have carried on and head on into the higgledy piggledy land of the Cotswolds and get lost. Well and truly.

Gorgeous single track roads handily meant that cars couldn't pass me without giving me directions
Gorgeous single track roads handily meant that cars couldn’t pass me without giving me directions

Me “Excuse me, could you tell me where I am and where I’m going?”

Them “You’re off the map, about here, take the next left, its signposted Nowhere [or some place like that]”

The next left didn’t have a signpost.

This becomes a general theme of the trip. Fortunately, Emma and Mike are two of the most easy going people you can meet and are just happy to see me, even when I get to check points after them. They never complain about anything. Not once. Mike is a bit concerned about the amount we’re spending on food at one point. I like my food. And Emma, on Saturday night, gets serious about starting early in the morning. That’s as demanding as they get.

Happily, this time, I am early for lunch. Its a gorgeous sunny day and the birds are nattering away. A few minutes later, Emma and Mike appear trundling down across the field and Hayley (our guest for the day) pulls up in a car. It’s idyllic. I feel there should be more drama on a 100 mile run, not chilling in the sun. Lunch is delicious. Chicken, avocado, basil, tomato, salt and pepper – I made it myself. Mike falls asleep and Hayley and Emma are busy catching up and laughing.

Lunch break
Lunch break views

After lunch Hayley and I head to the campsite and arrive at around 6pm at what looks like a stately home, (after an unquantifiable several mile road works detour, inability to find the campsite, food shop and a panic over Cleo puffing out smoke).

Not long after, Emma and Mike arrive both looking shattered. Emma wraps herself in her sleeping bag in the tent and is still cold. This worries me. She’s run 35 miles and the food isn’t ready yet. Eventually, Emma goes for a shower to warm up. Mike gets busy helping us get the fire going. I’ve splashed out on the first meal,  and using the gas canister and the Kelly Kettle, Hayley and I manage to cook: mashed potatoes and broccoli, followed by steak and mushrooms. That’s better than I cook at home. But I believe food is important for this kind of thing. Emma is a lot better after food and a shower. The trickiest thing is persuading her that she doesn’t have to do anything, she’s running 100 miles. Kindly, North Nibley campsite lets us off £4 as a donation.

Saturday (33 miles)

I’ve forgotten how slow, cooking is, on a gas stove. The porridge is not boiling and the 8am start is not happening. There’s a general sleepy, happy, feeling. Emma is stretching and Mike gets a brew going.

Once we’re all off, I am swiftly lost and take up talking to myself. We get on remarkably well but an extra set of eyes to look at the map and road signs would be more useful than a split personality. “Uley” I shout with joy for no-one to hear (it’s a village that means I’m going in the right direction). And am 5 minutes late for mid-morning break. Emma and Mike are both quiet. They went in the wrong direction and its dampened both their spirits a bit. Emma’s cold again and I worry whether she’s getting enough food in her. I shouldn’t really though, when I next see them, they are both chipper. Its an odd relationship, me dipping in and out of their experience. After lunch, Emma wants to push on as far as she can and gives me 5 options where she might want to be picked up from. I get busy with finding accommodation nearby. Happily, I find some out the back of a friendly pub. Emma and Mike call me to come and collect them. I’m there first (woohoo!) and surprised when they both come bounding up to me – turns out they’re both rushing on CLIF gels.

Naturally, Emma and Mike are happy with the campsite.
Naturally, Emma and Mike are happy with the campsite. Its a handy bit of fate as we set fire to the kettle and the gas canister stops working. I suspect sabotage as it means we have to go to the pub for food and beer.
The friendly pub manager at the … Do you notice how red Mike's nose is? That's two pints for you.
The friendly pub manager at the Hungry Horse, Seven Springs. Mike has sunburn on his nose, in April!

Sunday (39 miles)

DSC00522Emma wants a quick, early start. We’ve no fuel for cooking so that’s easy. After the mid-morning break I have 3 hours until lunch. In my head, I plan a yoga session at the meeting point. But, decide I can’t miss Cleeve’s hill, the highest point on the Cotswold way, and there’s a chance I’ll see Emma and Mike and can cheer them on. I have a little faff parking the car, pick up my water, and not my phone, then set off upwards. Near the top, 1 metre above me, Emma runs by. That’s uncanny timing.

“Emma!”

She looks worried, “I can’t find Mike. He wasn’t at the checkpoint.”

On top of Cleeve's Hill
On top of Cleeve’s Hill

I pass her my waterbottle as Mike was carrying her water for her. She hasn’t had water for an hour. But, she’s much more worried about Mike. I promise I’ll call him and go back and look for him. I’ll be honest, I don’t think anything has happened to him, he wasn’t on a tricky part of the route. I’m expecting him to have moved on to the next check point. But Emma’s running a 100 miles and run about 80 miles at this point and I’m only going to do the thing that puts her mind at ease fastest. It takes me 40 minutes to get back to where Mike should be – no, I wasn’t lost, it was fiddly. I’m literally 2 minutes away (sigh!) when he calls to say Emma hasn’t arrived and he’s moved on to the next check point. I explain where I saw her, turn the car around and head for lunch. 30 minutes later Mike calls again. She’s not arrived. This is concerning. Have they missed each other again? Is she lost on the Cotswold way? Is she hurt? She hasn’t got water or communications, as her phone isn’t working. I go to the furthest point I think she could be, park the car and start walking back. I agree to meet Mike at a monument on the way but, he decides to wait a little longer. I’m asking everyone if they’ve seen a thirsty looking woman, with red curly hair, running the Cotswold way.

Where's Emma?
Where’s Emma?

Then, they are both coming towards me on the path. And there’s just a bit of an atmosphere.

Found her : )
Found her : )

Apparently, they were waiting for each other in different places. Emma’s frustrated,

“I don’t know if I can make it today now.”

“Shall we meet at Winchcombe or Hayles Fruit farm?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know if I can make it up the hill.”

I figure annoyance will power her to the second option (but, obviously, don’t say that). We make some quick decisions and I join them on the run back to the car.  Its gorgeous and I’m bounding with joy at being out in the fresh air and having found Emma. The tension quickly lifts. But don’t mistake me, that is not happening in Africa. I get back in the car and muddle around in single track lanes before arriving for lunch 2 minutes after Emma and Mike, who are both cheery when I meet up with them (I reckon they’ve been on the gels again).

My mum arrives with chocolate brownies, which makes everyone happy. Emma and Mike go for ice cream at the farm shop.

Me, looking like an escapee from an 80s brat pack film. I don't know what's going on with Mike, maybe in training for being a levitating leprechaun.
Me, looking like an escapee from an 80s brat pack film. I don’t know what’s going on with Mike, maybe in training for being a levitating leprechaun or hiding something.
lunchtime snooze. Mike refusing to be caught napping - he did though.
lunchtime snooze. Mike refusing to be caught napping – he did nap though.

After lunch, dinner and campsite are sorted quickly, I’m half an hour early in idyllic quiet Broadway, reading the manual for Cleopatra. Emma and Mike come companionably up the road. I join Emma and run to the start of a hill. Then, Mike and I scoot back to the car, load up the bike and drive to the top (cheeky). We’re all getting giddy, the end is so close.

Almost there!
Almost there!

Unpacking the bike. I wait to film Emma as the sun begins to set.

The fields are a gorgeous colour of yellow flowers, set against green, on one side of me is  a fading pink sky and on the other an almost full moon. Cars are rare and, mostly, all I can hear is the wind and the birds. I stop for a film shot, as I realise Emma will run right past me and then, race her the last 2 miles to the finish. Parking up the car in quiet and serene Chipping Campden, I head back down the Cotswold way with the camera.

Dusk, and Emma comes round the corner, friendly and smiling as normal. Jogging and filming is ridiculous. Emma’s more worried about me falling over whilst filming than the fact she’s run 40 miles in one day. You’d think she had run only a mile or maybe two. I run with her the last 100 yards. We can’t find where it officially finishes and wander around a bit confused. To be safe, Emma taps the War Memorial and Tourist Information. (The official point is the War Memorial.) 107 miles run in 3 days. Total running time: 23 hours and 38 minutes including detours and waiting.

Finished!!!! You're amazing Emma!
Finished!!!! You’re amazing Emma!

To celebrate we opt for beers and wine in the tent and, a lie in in the morning.

Special Thank yous to:

  • Hayley for putting us up and feeding us on Thursday night, helping me set up camp and cook, and bringing lots of laughter.
  • Lukas and Jay (Mini-Max Garage) for advising me on what to do with Cleopatra.
  • The owner of the Hungry Horse, Seven Springs for letting us sleep in the field next to his pub and charge phones.
  • My mum for brownies and pie.
  • Hayles Fruit Farm for letting us snooze in their car park and charging my phone.

Things I learnt:

  1. Emma is never allowed off on her own, I know she’s done it before in South Africa but its a risk I’m not willing to take.
  2. Emma needs a better water system so she can run and carry her own water.
  3. I need a warmer sleeping bag and coat.
  4. Mike needs regular brews.
  5. We need bigger cooking pots.
  6. We need a way to keep everything charged.
  7. The best map we can find is essential and don’t rely on electrical equipment.
  8. We’re a great team already. There will always be hiccups and annoyances but Emma and Mike are two of the nicest people you can meet. And Emma will always find a reason to laugh. They’re both pretty handy too.
  9. I need a friend in the car before this talking to myself or the car gets out of hand.

 

 

ShAFF

A blog post by all 3 of us! We’re experimenting.

Aysha: So it turns out meeting a top director in the business of adventure media isn’t as hard as you would think. I sent Paul Diffley an email, he replied and after several months of not much contact I asked him if he was serious about working with us. He said maybe, offered us a camera to use and suggested we met at ShAFF. Which was why we went. I’d never heard of ShAFF (Sheffield Adventure Film Festival) before.

Over the hills to Sheffield

Mike: Its my first ride in the 4×4. Well done Aysha, for finding that beast. Big, spacious, comfortable. And, its great to have the team on a road trip. It was hard work getting into Sheffield because most of the roads into the center were closed for the (cancelled) half marathon.

Morning!
Morning!

Aysha: It’s the first time I’ve really spent time with Mike. I’m normally shy round people but we’re going to spend 5 months together which makes being shy a waste of time. We arrived in Sheffield almost an hour early and were stumped to discover all roads to our destination were blocked off. With Mike’s great navigation, we found a car park, after 45 minutes! Emma bounced out the car to help me park and then remembered she needed to pee and went into a weird cross-legged position, which still makes me giggle when I think about it, I wish I had a photo for you to see.

Emma: Yes, I did take on a Tina Turner like posture for some time due to pee-need.  We all have these problems! I loved seeing our team come together for the first time and I think we all really compliment each other.  Our truck ‘Cleo’ is the coolest thing ever, I love her dearly.

Paul Diffley’s talk on making films

Mike: I learnt lots of really good stuff from his lecture, like the rule of thirds and the 5 shot rule – take 5 different shots: establishing wide/mid shot; close up of hands; close up of face; point of view/over the shoulder shot; and a creative shot. How to set up interviews and where to stand when interviewing people.

Photo accidentally taken with a flash in a room full of media experts. Doh!
Photo accidentally taken with a flash in a room full of media experts. Doh!

Aysha: The biggest message, for me, was the importance of sound.

Emma: I felt completely out of my depth with all the technical talk.  I’m very glad I have the excuse of running for not doing too much filming!

Meeting Paul Diffley DSC00488

Aysha: I walked up to Paul, to introduce us all, expecting him to brush us off. Instead, he gave a friendly smile and said, “I’ve got a camera for you”. Which was a huge relief and delightful. Not everyone takes you seriously when you say you’re organizing a trip across Africa and you want to film it.

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Can you tell me again – how do I turn the camera on?

Mike: It was amazing to meet the Hot Ache’s guy and ace that he has lent us a camera for the training run on the Cotswold way. Just need to get some good footage now. I’m looking forward to getting to grips with filming.

Emma: Very scared of having a camera pointed in my face!

The running films

Mike: It was really cool to see the running movies, especially the one about the South African guy running in Namibia (The Penguin Runner). Seeing some of the terrain we will be going through and getting to speak to the guy who filmed it.

Aysha: The running films made me realise that we need to stick to one story: either its all about Emma, or our adventures as a team, or the people we meet along the way. But I don’t think it can be all three in one film.

Emma: I loved all of the films but ‘The Runners’ has inspired me to try and get people to chat to me (and a camera) when I go out for runs.

Favourite Films: The Runners a surprisingly intimate meeting with individuals who run; The Penguin Runner one very entertaining man running across Namibia unassisted; In the High Country a beautiful cinematic film.

Accelerate UK

Colin Papworth, Accelerate UK checking Emma's feet
Colin Papworth, Accelerate UK checking Emma’s feet

Aysha: There weren’t a lot of stalls to browse but this one was flippin’ brilliant. Emma’s been needing new shoes since January but not buying any, as she couldn’t afford them. We agreed to go halves on a pair, which then caused her agonizing pain in her foot after 5 miles. This hugely alarmed me (I still can’t run, I really don’t want to take her place). And we can’t afford to buy shoe after shoe until we find a pair that don’t hurt her feet. I’ve been arguing with her to go to a specialist shoe shop so I was dead pleased that Colin, in the photo, is a podiatrist. He talked through the problem with Emma, explaining lots of stuff and advising her what type of shoe to buy. We bought the pretty shoes in the facebook photo for the absolute bargain of £40!

Random Thoughts DSC00492

Mike: It was really good to hear Aysha talk about the run and I’m learning lots from her.

Aysha: We work well together as a team. The fourth team member should probably be as chilled as Mike.

Emma: We are so lucky to have such great support from so many awesome people. Feet that have been in tights and boots don’t smell nice, sorry Colin.

4×4 for Dummies: Introduction

Whilst Emma has been running about in the hills, I have been to meet a 4×4 specialist.

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Graham Finch, at Ash Garage

I loved it. I love the smell of garages and learning new stuff. Our conversation largely went like this:

“You’ll be needing a ground anchor”
“A what?”
“A ground anchor.”

“You’ll need a CV joint.”
“What’s a CV joint?”

You get the gist. Happily, Graham, although initially confused by my lack of knowledge, managed to work out where to start: with warnings about what will kill; an equipment list and; a quick look at his medal cabinet. No point in having medals if you don’t get to show them to anyone, that’s my belief.

Things that will kill us and other advice

We will need a winch. But, after we have attached a wire winch to the car, we should take the wire cable off and replace it with a rope. If the rope snaps and hits you, it will hurt. If the wire cable snaps, it could kill you! If there is a knot in the wire cable, stop using it. That is where it will snap.

Don’t use the army technique for doing something I’ve gone and forgotten, as it’s too easy to get it wrong. But as I don’t want to do it, I think forgetting it, is simply being organizationally tidy in my head.

Don’t tie on to the back of another car with a kinetic rope at any point that might break off and ping back at you. The energy in the rope will whip it extra fast, possibly into your face (okay, he didn’t say that exactly but, he told a story where it narrowly missed someone’s face). In fact, to be on the safe side, don’t take a kinetic rope.

Keep your ropes free of mud and thorns.

In action
In action

And I learned how to wind a rope on a winch – I feel strangely chuffed about this knowledge. I have a practical and useful skill.

Kit list:

  • A CV joint
  • A recovery rope – bought from an off road place to make sure its strong enough
  • Lifting straps – (2 metre and 4/5 metre)
  • Winch Rope
  • Gloves (and don’t grip the winch rope, pinch it, else you could lose your hand or finger– is it just me or is there a theme emerging?)
  • Snatch block
  • Winch bumper with cow bar
  • GPS

*****

After this, I got to look at photos of cars vertical on a slope, with one wheel on the ground and various other crazy positions. Graham, himself, was brilliant – friendly, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, patient and seemed pretty excited by the trip. What more could you want in a teacher?

If you know about 4x4s feel free to get in touch and give more advice.

Advice: on cars

Jay tells me that driving a car at 4mph behind Emma whilst she runs (he does not know speedy Emma) is not good for cars. It might not be good for Emma – me, sitting comfortably in the 4×4 behind her, munching chocolate bars, whilst she is busting her knees. Jay runs the garage, Mini-max, where I shall soon be studying. He wants to know what my plan is as, “no car in the world can manage that”. Clearly a challenge for engineers everywhere, please design the slowest car ever – Oh, that’ll be a tank! Slow moving and potentially rhino proof.

Or a cheaper and friendlier option is the bike after all (We will still have a car, before anyone gets confused, it will be nearby, but the bike can be right beside her). This means, I will have to learn how to fix a bike too (no kidding, its something I’ve avoided learning for most of my life). They say, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks: if they can’t teach me, Emma will have a lot to do aside from running a marathon each day.

Other than that, during our Saturday night catch up, I learn that if you aren’t strong enough to loosen the wheel nuts when changing a tyre, you can use a spray or heat (he’s thinking of a blow torch, not charcoal from a log fire or equatorial sunshine).

I am feeling a little apprehensive about working in the garage in a few weeks time, I don’t like that part of learning when you are in a permanent state of confusion and even simple tasks start to elude you. Apparently, there’s no heating. I am going to be coooold.