Yesterday, I returned to a section of the Beachy Head Marathon. My goal: to try out trail running above the snow line for the first time.
I’m lucky to have a solid background in winter mountaineering in Scotland, including mid-grade climbs (to IV, 5) and of operating and navigating in severe storm force winds for 12 hr + days. My goal now is to close the gap between winter mountaineer and winter hill runner.
Yesterday was a perfect introduction. I warmed up by walk-running from Seaford to Cuckmere Haven, where I tried but failed to find a river crossing before the road bridge near Exceat. I ran back, only stopping to talk to an octogenarian ex-special services officer who suggested with a hint of a smile that I could have taken my shoes and crossed in bare feet. (This was in an air temperature of -1.5 c with significant windchill on top because of a stiff 15 mph wind).
The ground was iron hard, frozen turf with a covering of sugar snow. Hardly a soul was out. My shoes were very capable in these conditions and held well even on the short sections of looser, unconsolidated snow.
Next I ran from the Birling Gap – far more blustery than Cuckmere Haven – to Beachy Head and back. I was well warmed up and after gritting my teeth for the climb from Birling Gap to the old lighthouse (now a home) I enjoyed the ever-easier rhythm of running along with my new Karrimor OMM 32 litre rucksack, a very snug fit.
I was road-testing this with extra kit that I didn’t need and I’m already convinced it’s definitely worthwhile having a running-specific rucksack.
Highlight of the day: little snowfields everywhere, covered in hare tracks, but few human footprints. Also, wavelets developing in some patches of snow – I love how snow has so many forms.
This is my first mobile blog post. I’m heading for north Wales on very empty roads in light snow and am looking forward to a high-level mountain run tomorrow.