Today was a convenient start as the campsite I was staying at was just across the road. However, I don’t know whether it was the thought of the forecast heat of the day and another relatively long run (18 miles), or 9 continuous days’ running taking their toll, but felt a bit nauseous just before and as I started the run. I tried to drink small sips of the still cool fluid from my bag and to focus on the task in hand. This seemed to do the trick.
The first 3 or so miles were very close to the river along mainly shady paths with trees providing much needed shade from the heat. There was also a slight breeze, which also helped. As I approached Shepperton, there were two choices, either take the Ferry across the water to continue on the path on the other side, or take the alternative route completely on dry land. I was tempted by the former, but it seemed an inauthentic choice to make, so I opted for the latter, which unfortunately took me inland for a bit, around the closed gates of the private sailing club that would have kept me closer to the river and then through Shepperton itself, before reverting down a wooded area back to the river.
This seemed straight-forward for a while, until I lost the path through the wood and ended up at a dead end. I had to retrace some of my steps back up, to join a road than went around the top of the wood and through a village called Halliford, where there were many closed gates to private residences and an inaccessible meadow, denying any access. The road eventully joined the Thames at the end of the road, where I had to cross the quite spectacular modern Walton bridge. This was quite a significant point in the route, as I knew that from then on the path would keep close to the river until Richmond.
The bridge as its name suggests, takes you to Walton-on-Thames on the other side. This stretches quite far along the river, along tree-lined paths, for at least 3 miles, until the Water Treatment Works, which are alongside Moseley Reservoir and Nature Reserve. Sadly, I couldn’t catch a glimpse of the latter, which from my satellite view, look pretty amazing and worth a return visit.
Trees continued to line my path for a short while until I reached Hurst Park and Meadows, which opened out into the heat of the sun. By this time I was eager to reach Hampton Court Bridge, another significant point in my journey at around 11 miles and a route I know well. I was aware of a niggling lower back pain, every time I stopped and I was starting to wonder whether I would make it all the way to Richmond, but I crossed Hampton Court Bridge, when I reached it and persevered with my journey. The 3 mile stretch to Kingston Bridge would normally be a realtively easy run on flattish ground, directly alongside the river. It’s a bit more exposed, but also has areas of shade. Today, at mile 11-14, it seemed somewhat more arduous.
I tried to keep my energy levels up by downing a sports gel and an energy bar, but it’s difficult with the former not to get the sticky fluid all over your hands and I find it difficult to eat anything solid whilst running. Both are necessary however.
After crossing the bridge at Kingston, I knew I only had about 4 more miles to go. After a very short stretch along a road beside the river, the path is woody and tree-lined until Teddington lock and Weir, and then re-entered the welcome shade of a tree-lined path again. Every now and then I found a spot to dip my running cap into the river, to cool me down, a stragetegy I have found very helpful these last few warm days. The last stretch wound its way past Ham House and Gardens, though of course you can’t really see them from the path. From this point I really knew I didn’t have much further to go. The path opened through Petersham Meadows at mile 17, which meant only a mile to go!
As The river looped a bit to the left, I saw Richmond Bridge in the distance and a number of outdoor cafes that I knew would provide welcome relief once I had stopped. Tomorrow’s run to Waterloo will continue familar territory, for a very welcome shorter distance of about 15 miles. The warm weather however, is set to continue…