It was a typical Saturday morning, with a 6.30am rise for the scheduled long run. For the last six years*, the significant majority of the long runs have been completed in an area that is labelled as Thetford Forest on some maps, but is actually much closer to Swaffham. There are many different routes that can be run here, and it is possible to go for well over three hours without covering the same ground twice while being on the (tarmac) road for less than five minutes. Perfect marathon training.
Today’s run was the same as it had been for the last couple of weeks; a straightforward 90 minute route that forms the core part of the longer runs when the duration approaches 3 hours.
I had run off ahead of the group with CP and emerged from a wooded area to join a section of gravelled track. The track ‘dog-legs’ left but, as we joined it, I noticed a Land Rover parked up facing directly towards us. We turned left about 100m ahead of the vehicle and noticed that it had begun to move in our direction. Fortunately myself and CP are not the slowest of runners but, despite unfavourable driving conditions, we are both unable to outrun a vehicle.
Its path changed as we turned the corner and there was now no question that it was heading for us. Our heart-rates increased together with the speed of the accelerating driver. It felt like a cross between Duel** and a game of ‘chicken’. Realising that aiming for us was naïve (just ask Zeno), it made a beeline for our path and tried to intercept our run.
The vehicle stopped sharply a couple of metres from us. A young farmer wound down the window and started shouting “You’re not allowed to run here. It’s private. The signs say ‘keep out’. I saw you here the last few weeks. And there were some others too.”
I figured we weren’t going to win this argument at this moment and we couldn’t realistically continue, so I played dumb.
“Oh, sorry” I said “where should we have gone?”
A brief dialogue soon established where he wanted us to go; as far away from his game shoot as possible.
A quick retrace of our steps to inform the rest of the party that continuing along that route was unwise (for today) and that we should find an alternative. But not before I carefully examined his signage hypothesis.
There was not one sign from the direction we had run. All along the route he had described, there were no signs. Paths leading back to the track had no signs. The devil in me proceeded to investigate the far side of the track, where there was a single hand-made sign that read “private road”. There was not a single other reference elsewhere. And nothing implied the “keep out” that the farmer had suggested.
I look forward to running there again soon to see if the signs have changed. I suspect I will be disappointed, but at least I will have more ammunition for a future argument.
*more than 150 runs since summer 2007
**Steven Spielberg’s early film is highly recommended