20 miles, ah sorry Gem about 30 actually (hope we can still be friends!!)

With TDS and Across Wales looming it was time to cram a few miles in!

So after a little persuasion and reassurance from Martin (Womaniser Williams) and I (Romeo Rouse) Gemma (Man Eater Mallet) was convinced that there was not a law against being awake before 7am on a Sunday and that later in the day, when the sun got up to full strength she would be glad of an early start.

Just after 7am Martin picked me up, apologising for being late, apparently it was due to bladder issues! He assured me this was the bladder in his back pack and not some age related personal issue! We collected a rather confused/bemused looking Gemma and headed for Kington .

I had run from Kington to Hay along the Herefordshire trail, taking in the dog leg to Eardisley and returning to Kington along the dyke a number of times in the past. Not wanting to put off my tarmac loving acquaintances for the day I made sure the route included a hint or two of the black stuff, I also devised a route to avoid the dogs leg to Eardisley, resulting in a reduction of around 5 miles and to reverse the route so that the lasting memory of the route was not the heart breaking and seemingly endless climb out of Gladestry to the summit of Hergest Ridge.

We reached the top of Hergest Ridge from the Kington side without too many issues, except that Gemma informed us she was getting sweat in her eyes due to having forgotten to bring her sweat band and had no other means of keeping the sweat out, as she was travelling light due to the hot weather forecast for the day.

At this point Martin ‘David Bailey’ Williams was busy taking photos of the scenery from the ridge with his new camera, come on Mart we’re meant to being running!  After a bit of banter while we had our photos taken with the back drop of the ridge my navigation was impaired and we descended into Galdestry by a Rather steep route, much to the tarmac lovers dismay, but nose bleeds were averted due to the feeling of tarmac under their for a mile or so.

As we climbed another hill I assured my counterparts this was the last hill, a sigh of relief was heard, only for me to continue….until the next hill! I don’t think this helped matters, but at this stage everyone still had their sense of humour and so a HINT of laughter was heard!

As we approached Hay the sun was really starting to beat down, (This being the weekend when two of the soldiers undertaking selection training for the reservist SAS unfortunately succumbed to the heat and died on the Brecon Beacons). I had a quick paddle in the Wye to cool off. At this point I think Gemma began to wonder what and who she had got herself mixed up with for the day!

As we entered Hay Gemma informed me that her Garmin watch had recorded 14.5 miles. Possibly due to the passage of time I had convinced myself that the complete route was around 25 miles and by missing out the dog leg at Eardisley the route would be around 20 miles, this I had also convinced my companions. It was at this point it dawned on me that a little commonsense would have reminded me that the Offas Dyke race was 15miles, the route of which we’d just followed and so the true distance of the overall route was going to be 28 to 30 miles!  I felt this was a minor detail and would only distract my fellow runners from their cola and Callipo ice lollies they had just purchased from Spar (later to become a staple for the day). As we headed out of town I spotted an ice cream parlour, Martin and I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss! Gemma took this opportunity to re-apply some sun cream and despite the offers from her gentlemanly company for the day we were assured that she was more than capable of applying it herself and we should concentrate on our ice creams!

The first section of the return run involves somewhat of a meandering route along the banks of the river Wye (following The Herefordshire trail/ Wye Valley Walk). It was somewhere along this section that Gemma excitedly told me we only had 4 miles left to go! It was at this point I felt I needed to come clean. It was also at this point we all decided we wish we had taken the lead of our fellow ‘Cross Wales’ entrant, Irina and opted for a day at the beach instead! Even the charm of ‘Romeo Rouse’ didn’t seem to be enough and so I decided it was time to pull out all the stops and at Whitney bridge open my wallet and invest in Callipo lollies and Cola, which had become somewhat of an addiction for Gemma! This seemed to work and Gemma informed me that the only reason I wasn’t hit when I came clean was that she didn’t have the energy, but that we were still friends and if it wasn’t so hot it would be a lovely route.

We left the Wye Valley walk and followed the Herefordshire trail to Brilley. Martins recent foray into the world of longer distances really showed as he appeared to get stronger as the miles were ticked off. As expected and in true Croft style a few minor navigational issues were encountered when we left the Herefordshire trail in order to avoid the additional miles to Eardisley. Soon we were back on the Herefordshire trail and heading back into Kington. Martin was strong throughout and Gemma proved how tough and strong  both mentally and physically she really is by digging deep and sticking to the task in hand that would have stopped so many others in their tracks if only to take out their aggression on the route planner!! Two more future ultra marathon runners for the club!?

Once back in Kington Gemma and I, running a little way behind Martin cut short of running to the car park and ran straight into the Co op for more cola and ice lollies. When we returned to the car Martin was nowhere to be seen, but was then spotted coming out of Nisa with more cola and ice lollies!! After a little rest and refreshment I received much ribbing for my ‘minor’ mileage error and we appeared to have all survived pretty much unscathed. As Gemma was dropped off at home I gave her a copy of the route map, so she could relive the run! She later informed me she’d shown her father this and he had questioned his daughter’s sanity. It is still not known if Gemma will be allowed to be taken for a day out with those strange men again!

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