A few days ago we had the Spring Bank holiday and, to cut a long story short, I decided I would run an old route. I drove over there and parked my car at Preston, a pretty village on the top of a hill.
This run involved Charlton Hill Road, just outside Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Normally I would run in an anticlockwise direction having started at Preston and this means the first couple of miles is mostly down hill as far as Gosmore. It's then fairly flat until you turn onto Charlton Road. This was fine as I need to take at least 20 minutes to get warmed up these days, possibly more.
I was on the road for the entire run of about six miles. Traffic wise it was extremely quiet with only one or two cars, two motorbikes, two cyclists and one other runner.
Running along Charlton Road you're aware of the gentle gradient until you get to a wooded area where it then starts to climb (at the point of my above selfie).
I remembered how I used to do this run while I worked in Stevenage. It involved changing into my running gear before I left work and then driving there. This run was a wonderful way of blowing off some steam as I de-stressed and mentally relaxed myself. It generally worked well.
It is quite a hilly run with Charlton Hill being THE climb. At its steepest I think this is about 1:4 and this occurs when you're three quarters of the way around and probably the part nearest to West Wood in the above map. This climb is always very testing and generally enjoyable.
Having run this a number of times I think it's good to have a little energy still in the tank for a sprint once the road starts to level out - this will enable a runner to get a good Strava time on the segment which is there. My personal best for the "Charlton Hill Steep Bit" is 2:31 which puts me at 41 out of 262 runners. Not bad but I can't match that right now.
The difference in performance was absolutely amazing, I was astonished. On this run my average time per mile was a rather slow 8:50mins/mile. My fastest time on this route, in October 2015, was a mere 6:52mins/mile - almost two minutes faster for each mile! I toyed with some of the possible different factors. These could include obviously being a little older, perhaps a little heavier and the effects of having high blood pressure these days.
I could easily depress myself by dwelling on this too much; it had to happen sooner or later in terms of slowing down. Having said that I always think that the best is yet to come (as I'm a born optimist!).
By the time I was nearing the end of the run, the rain started and I thought this was utterly wonderful. I was quite hot and the rain was wonderfully refreshing. I spotted a friendly-looking cyclist and I held out my arms with the palms of my hands facing upward as I grinned. He shouted back "I know exactly what you mean, it's lovely!". Enough said.
Finally, here's a shot taken a couple of years ago with the Charlton Hill climb in the background.