Running To Barcelona

My Journey on foot from Wilmslow, Cheshire to Las Ramblas, Barcelona (well, sort of)

By Rick Ashworth MSc and Ultra-runner

Week 1

Idly passing the time away on the sofa during the Christmas break looking at training goals for the year, I fell upon the endurance training app Strava and their challenge of running 1,000 miles within the year. A quick bit of mental calculation and I decided that 30 miles-a-week was potentially possible; a quick check on the calculator and I decided that running a little under 20 miles-a-week was even better. Whilst on the site, I checked my stats for 2017 and was confident that the 133.5 miles I’d run in total last year would set me up well (one of those runs 50 miles on the Lakeland 50 so, basically, I was averaging out at a less than impressive 1.6 miles-per-week). I had a feeling that a touch more motivation was necessary. Unknown

Therefore, calling myself an ultra-runner was a little bit grandiose but then but I had completed an ultra-marathon last year, and finished in the top 10% in so doing, so perhaps I wasn’t quite so far off [if you’re not in fits of laughter and wondering quite what the hell I’m doing, yet, then it must take a bit to make you crack]?

I promised myself a run on the first day of the year to get off on the right foot, so to speak, and get that motivation moving; I only really wanted to unzip the tent at base camp and take a slight peak at the snow on the top but I do like a good sleeping bag. So, I didn’t drink more than a couple glasses of champagne leading up to the fireworks and I got my head down shortly after and was even greeted by sunshine in the morning! It was all set up for the flying start I’d wished for. I laced up my trainers, opened the front door…and took the dog out for a good long walk before spending most of the day watching football and saying: ‘I’ll head out in a bit’.

That ‘bit’ turned out to be Wednesday afternoon just as it was getting dark and my calculation of needing to do 20 miles-a-week that seemed so ‘do-able’ was suddenly looking more like 20 miles in four days and 1,000 miles in about 20 months, which isn’t quite the challenge.

Trainers on and a road run commenced in a flattering fluorescent yellow jacket due to the failing light. Eight miles later and at a good pace I was feeling happy; I’d taken it easy and got over the rolling roads and back home in about 50 mins – only 992 miles left.

I stretched, sat down on the sofa and promptly fell asleep. I have a feeling that this is what qualifies as recovery in your forties, not a easy bike ride, swim or walk back when I was nearly a good competitive triathlete. However, upon waking and out of curiosity, I decided to find where 1,000 miles of actual running would take me.

I bit of trawling around a popular mapping app and my course was set: starting in Wilmslow, down to St. Albans, through London and onto Brighton, across the English Channel to Paris, Vichy,

Toulouse, Carcassonne, through Andorra and on to Perpignan before the finish in Barcelona and I’d managed to tac-on an extra 93 miles to do it but with a generous amount of culture too (because, you know, there needs to be something to take in when you’re running on the same roads time-and-again and pretending to be in the Andorran mountains…?).

I was all set, all I needed to do was get out there and plod my way through Southern Cheshire and not mention about the next morning when I wondered whether I’d ever be able to walk again. I’d forgotten the pain and stiffness that a long run can cause, my thoughts on what constitutes a long run had quickly been altered but after using the banister to help me downstairs some movement was possible without looking like an extra from a low-budget zombie horror.

I scheduled the next run for Friday and despite my legs still doing their best impression of 2-by-4s I duly knocked off a 3 miler and as the weather forecast for Sunday was dry and bright but rather icy I cancelled my usual bike ride and decided on another ‘long run’ to catch up the 10 miles I was currently short.

At this point you can pretty much refer back to New Year’s Day except you can add a couple of beers and several glasses of wine to the previous evening and me not getting out of bed until getting on for 10am, not a good start but after breakfast and a dog walk it was still only early afternoon and the day was looking beautiful. So beautiful in fact that I wrapped myself up warm, mentally prepared and spent the next hour slipping between sleep and the FA Cup 3rd round on the BBC.

Week One distance achieved – approximately 11 miles

Distance to Barcelona – approximately 1,082 miles

Virtual Location – Just north of Bosley, Cheshire on the A523

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