It was still raining when we left the cafe but we both agreed to keep going. We really couldn’t get much wetter after all. We passed the pretty little cottages of Shawford and chose the road beside the railway viaduct rather than the overgrown trail. Barely able to see through the rain, I left the road a little too early and took the narrow muddy trail rather than going through the gate a little further on. It wasn’t a major problem and added zero distance but it showed how easy it is to become confused in bad weather.
Today was the first chance Kim and I had for a proper long walk since our soggy attempt at twelve miles on the Thunder Run course. Of course we’d both been squeezing in shorter walks as and when we could but, if we were going to get through the Clarendon Marathon in under eight hours, we really needed to get going with the long miles. The plan for today was to catch a train to Winchester and walk back home. All in all it should be about fourteen miles, give or take.
A while ago I told you about the saga of the locked gates on the river near the boardwalk. Some time ago I discovered the gates to the waterside walkway behind the Millennium Flats, once part of my daily walk to work, had been suddenly locked, apparently due to antisocial behaviour on the path. The residents of the flats then applied to the council for permission to lock the gates permanently. The case was heard on 16 July. Permission was denied. The residents were told the gates must be kept open, at least during daylight hours. Reason had, it seemed, prevailed. Today I thought I’d take a little walk to see if the locks had been removed.
The heatwave, complete with stupidly high humidity, is continuing and I have to admit it’s getting a bit wearing now. Every walk is a battle to defeat legs that feel like lead, a brain that feels like it’s filled with cotton wool and skin that seems to be leaking at an alarming rate. It’s not just me that’s suffering either, flowers and leaves everywhere are desiccated and sorry for themselves. More or less how I’ve been feeling.
Finding houses on Portswood Road was never going to be easy. For a start, quite a few are shops and don’t have house numbers. There are also many gaps where houses used to be but have disappeared, either through modernisation, bombing or a combination of the two. To compound the issue we soon realised that if 368 was opposite 535 we were going to have to concentrate hard. We had four houses to find but it was clear from the outset we would be lucky to find any still standing.
This morning we finally set out to find the last of the Portswood Titanic crew houses. It was yet another stupidly hot muggy day, not a cloud in the sky or a hint of wind, probably not the best for walking the streets looking for houses. We only had eleven to find though and a fairly small area to cover. Roadworks on the corner near Bitterne Park Triangle meant a short detour and a walk on the park side of the bridge rather than the railway side. It made no real difference to distance but gave us different views to admire. The little houseboats moored on the bank seemed especially appealing in the searing heat of the morning.
The rain held off for parkrun but, by the time we got back to Catton Park it looked as if the clouds were gathering. This was not good news for the Thunder Runners or for Kim and I who’d been planning to walk a couple of laps of the course for our Clarendon training.
Sleeping in a tent in the rain isn’t easy. This year though, we’d dispensed with the, frankly, useless air beds that never seem to stay inflated for more than an hour or two and bought proper camp beds with us. They looked narrow and uncomfortable but were surprisingly good to sleep on. Because of the rain and the fading light we’d gone to bed quite early and I woke equally early. Commando was still sleeping but I sneaked out of the tent and went off for a wander. It was just after five in the morning.
Summer came late this year but, when it hit, it hit hard with weeks of high temperatures and high humidity. The thought of a little camping at Thunder Run in mid July was a bright spot on the horizon. Both Rob and Commando said they were going to take things easy this year, do a few laps but also relax a little. We didn’t really believe them but I still imagined Kim and I chilling in the gazebo in the sun, sipping cool drinks and walking a lap or two ourselves.
As we set off for the Wyvern 10k this morning I felt unusually light of heart. Previous versions of this event have felt a little like hell on Earth, standing in blistering heat, camera in hand, desperately trying to get photos of runners crossing the finish line. They had to be good photos too, no funny faces or wobbly flesh, just flying feet and smiles. There was never any time to go wandering, just an aching back, arms and legs from standing still for so long and maybe a bit of sunburn.