Simon is the new Niall. OK so he doesn't talk with a foreign accent. And I don’t believe he is aspiring to emigrate to a nanny state European tax haven renowned for it’s cuckoo clocks and yodelling (or is that Austria?). But when it comes to appetite for trail running and exploring new footpaths Simon is now right up there with the greats: Ultra John, Niall and, dare I say it, my humble self. Even a barbwire barricade is no deterrent to Speirsy – although it did prove a bit much for Shorty Savage.
Today’s run was advertised as three miles easy, three miles fast (10K pace) followed by another three miles easy. Simon was the only buyer in the market although he left it late before fully committing himself.
I was struggling to decide on a route and left to my own devices wouldn't have ventured much beyond Harpenden's suburban fringe. Luckily Simon was more inspired and suggested a route out to Sandridge (original name "Saundruage" meaning a place of sandy soil serviced by bond tenants).
Three miles in and we're at one of the higher points of the run so the first tempo mile saw us tumbling at speed downhill. Into the village of Sandridge and left onto the gradual climb to Nomansland. Ten minutes later and I'm now heading across the common. Up front something is wrong. Simon is no longer a white dot getting ever smaller in the distance but is stationary. My watch says 2.5 miles. I catch up: 2.65 miles. I'm too exhausted to push on. "Oh well" says Simon cheerfully, "2.65 miles off-road is the equivalent to 3 miles on tarmac". I gladly buy it. It might even be true.
We ease off again in the direction of home; however, Simon is a changed man. The fast effort seems to have cleared last night’s alcohol from his system and he's full of energy like a playful puppy. "Ooh look a footpath! I bet that will take us through to Mud Lane" and he's off.
It did, although at first we went the wrong way on Ayres End Lane. We join Mud Lane (which wasn't) and then just before the railway he dives off onto a footpath to the right. New one on me – good call. But it isn't. The gap where the path joins Cross Lane resembles the perimeter of a prisoner of war camp. There's barbed wire everywhere (and probably a few land mines to boot). To the longer legged the hurdle is crossed with ease. I struggle. Snag my shorts a couple of times, get cut on both knees and we retreat.
East Common and the golf course are our allies as we return to civilisation. I'm a bit bloodied and muddied and we've gone over distance (see told you – the new Niall) but we will regroup and return to run another day (oh no – that will be tomorrow). Now where did I leave those wire cutters?