Running the White Cliffs

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Last week I finally dragged myself out of London and spent a couple of days in the seaside town of Deal, on the Kentish (south-east) coast, just north of Dover. I was there mostly to visit family, and to enjoy a couple of days of luxurious Bed and Breakfast living after ten days at Stalag Russell Square.

(Aside: The B & B was totally brilliant. I had a whole room to myself, with a bed, and sink and mini fridge and tv and a bathroom right outside the door. And the breakfast! As I said in my Twitter: "Full English Breakfast: egg, toast, sausage, bacon, fried potato, fried tomato, fried mushrooms, fried slice. Coronary bypass optional. Yum.")

I treated Deal like a bit of a break after the hectic pace and spartan accomodations in London, and decided it would be a good chance to have a nice long run. Looking at a ridiculously large-scaled map, I realized that it might be quite possible to run all the way from Deal, through St Maragaret's to Dover, a distance of about 14 miles round trip. The day was overcast and threatening rain, so it was good running conditions and I thought it would be really cool to run all the way to a whole other town and back. That's not generally something that's possible to do in North America (Dwayne notwithstanding).

I set off on a nice paved seaside path, and made good time until I got here:

Fair enough, I thought. It doesn't say "Go away", it just says "Stay on the path". And the alternative was this:

So I took the sea-level path, and had a nice view of some old bunker sort of things behind a fence, until I came to a complete dead end. What I hadn't really thought through was that Dover is situated at some fairly well-known White Cliffs, and I was starting in a sea-level town, thus implying that eventually I'd have to deal with a fairly significant elevation gain. So I turned around and braced myself for the trip up the cliff. In fact, there was a public footpath and a stone staircase. (Of course, there was as staircase, because as I've mentioned before, the entire island has been completely inhabited or about a thousand years. Also, the English take their public right-of-ways very seriously. I was a bit surprised there was no escalator.)

Once I got up the stairs, it was clear that the whole run was going too be very very hilly. I walked some of the really hard uphills, and made pretty good time until I ran across a WWI monument and veered off course to have a look. Here's a look at the dedication; the monument itself was a tall spire.

Getting on from there I think I took a wrong turn and ended up wending my way through a bit of a small town, through back roads, across cattle gates and finally managed to get back to the cliffside path. I didn't make it all the way to Dover, but the path seemed to end, and I'd covered a bit more than 10k, so I took a break. I stopped for some pictures, and Twittered, "Running the white cliffs of Dover. Sitting on the edge right now, higher than the gulls, France through the mist. This is what it's about."

See? I was really there!

It was a really nice moment, sitting there thinking, "I'm really doing it. I've got here, I've seen things, I'm running. It's actually happening. I actually made it happen."

And then there was the trip back. I found the return path, so I didn't have to visit the cattle gates and back roads again, and I enjoyed the (mostly) downhill terrain. Here's a look at that monument, on the way back. How's that for a scenic long run?

The run back was tough - I'm really not used to that kind of terrain, and the weather was heavy and humid so I was completely drenched in sweat. Couple that with the dirt and scrapes I picked up from a small tumble on the path and I must have looked like I'd been on maneuvers for a week. I'm sure I was a bit of a sight for the genteel English dog-walkers and seaside strollers back in Deal. So, having no face left to lose, I took off my shoes and socks, and waded in the sea a bit to rinse off. The whole thing ended up being a tough workout, but how can you complain about a run that takes you past two castles along the coast of the English Channel? No complaints here.

P.S. Don't get used to the video business. That 24 second video took about half an hour to upload, and that was on a wired broad-band connection. That ain't gonna happen in many places...


Karen said...

Excellent run! Think of how great that training will be for Athens in November.

Karen said...

PS: Love that you were wearing your Canada shirt!

Kim and Ed said...

Wow! Amazing run and description. This is what life is all about.
Hi from Kim and Ed

Robert Hamilton said...

Nice video but you should say something! Folks back home who miss you would LOVE to hear your voice - even if you say someting silly like "this is the view of France in the Fog across the English Channel - Ta Ta for Now".

Rob H.

Ian Timshel said...


Mitch said...

I concur,
Bloody brilliant.

Chris said...

That must have been an amazing run...very jealous!

Lisa said... remain one of the coolest people I know!

Steve said...

Cool- I ran in Whittier Park today...(not really the same though).

Unknown said...

Wow, now that is a run... stunning.

Anonymous said...

Love, love , love the last picture Pam...sounds like a great workout.

Just finished the Inca about a workout!!


Gillian said...

Sorry, the last comment was from me...not anonymous...

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