Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The White Cliffs of Dover

Ali and I recently took the boys on summer vacation. Summers off is one of the biggest teacher perks!! This year we flew the boys to England to visit Ali's side of the family. Here is a blog post i started writing there, but never got a chance to finish...until now :)

We are about half way through our visit, and already feeling the same old "we just need a few more weeks over here" feelings we get each time we visit. There are so many things to see and do here! There are also a TON of beautiful places to run, walk, and hike.

Tuesday morning Ali asked if I'd be interested in running up on the White Cliffs of Dover. Of course I jumped on that opportunity! We love walking on the Cliffs...but I had never run there before. I knew I was in for a challenge, but I was ready. The weather was pretty cool (in the low 50's) and I knew it would be very windy up that high, so I was a little worried about how to dress. I decided on my Nike capris, Swiftwick arm sleeves, and a very thin Nike running jacket to help block the wind without making me too hot. I was wishing I owned a pair of trail running shoes, but my trusty Saucony Kinvaras worked out just fine.

Ali often runs from his parents house to the cliffs. It is only a few miles away. BUT on this day I was tagging along and I'm not fond of the incredibly steep roads leading up towards the Castle and Cliffs. We decided to drive instead. We got there before the gate house opened, so we didn't even have to pay admission. We were the only people around, but I knew that would quickly change as it got a little later (and warmer).

My goal was to run out to the South Foreland Lighthouse. This sign at the entrance to the main trail says that my goal was 2 miles away. I was determined to beat that 45 minute estimate though!! I'm sure that is an overestimate for casual walkers.

The first part of the trail is a little misleading. It is paved and flat. That quickly changes to a rocky, uneven grooves worn into the chalky ground. There are also some steep stairs to navigate down (and in the back of my mind, I knew I had to go back up those same stairs at the end of my run).

I stopped a few times to try and capture the views that I was seeing. It is so neat to be able to watch this port city in action from high upon the cliffs. I was able to watch the ferries come and go all morning from my running route. Last time we were here we took the boys on the ferry to France. We ran out of time this trip to repeat that adventure.

This run was a pretty tough one for me, as I haven't been doing much running lately...and certainly no hill training. By the first mile I was feeling the burn in my legs and when I got to this marker at about mile 1, I was tempted to head back to the left. Haha! I reminded myself that my goal was just ahead in the distance and trudged on up the next hill, and the next, and the next. This picture is a little grainy, but this point on my route is where I first caught a glimpse of the lighthouse in the distance.

And here you can see it even more clearly! My goal was in full view and the path became more of a slope than a steep hill, which made it easier to continue on. I also knew Ali should be doubling back from his run to find me at any given moment. I sure didn't want to have him catch me walking!! I picked up my pace a little.

I MADE IT!!!! If I knew how to cartwheel, I'd have done a dozen of them about this point. Just as I snapped this shot, Ali appeared from over the next hill. He was able to help me document the return run to the visitor center.

I took a minute to catch my breath and enjoy the view. I was a little disappointed that the lighthouse wasn't open yet. I would have liked to have gotten some pictures from the top. we decided to head back. Now, just all those hills back to where I began. Oh boy!!

One fantastic thing about these trails is the beauty of nature!! Those yellow fields of rape seed can brighten anyone's day!! They sure made me smile. It's like running next to a field of sunshine.

I really wanted to go to the cliff edge and get a super shot looking down, but Ali would have flipped his lid if he had seen me. I decided to sit near the edge and scoot towards the end for this shot. I was very aware of recent erosion, so I was very careful to avoid any ground that appeared cracked. I didn't want to end up at the bottom of the cliffs!

We continued on our way stopping now and then to marvel at the spectacular views. The weather was cold, and it was pretty windy up there. I still managed to get quite warm and even had to take off my jacket to cool off a little.

I knew I was nearly finished when I saw Dover Castle up ahead. I will NEVER get tired of looking at this castle.

This was one of my favorite runs ever. It took me just over an hour to finish the 4 miles, but I didn't stop my Garmin when I stopped to take pictures either. I'm guessing that my actual time would have been about 50 minutes.

Now that we are home, I find myself wishing we had been able to run there again before we left. Instead we got in a few hikes up in the Peak District. Stay tuned for more about that :)

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