Route: Reedham to Norwich, 26.74 miles
We’re off!! Felt really good to be started after 9 months of planning, discussing and training. Thankfully the weather gods were smiling on us, to provide a sunny but breezy day for our first effort. Blue skies, gold-green fields and river banks tightly packed with reeds greeted us as we set off from Reedham Touring Park (A great place to stay with good food in the pub next door!).
Tentatively wandering up to the adjacent chain ferry, with little clue on crossing times but knowing that this was essential part of the plan just to get started, looked around for information. Finding only a small sign displaying fees, we must have looked slightly bemused, prompting a kindly shout from the pub,
“Are you wanting to cross? Just hope on board”
Introducing Richard, the ferry master, who not only transported us across the River Yare for a small sum of 50p each but also humoured us by taking our first photo of the day. Just to prove that we had started this challenge. Our route pretty much follows the Wherryman’s Way all the way into Norwich and taking the ferry across the River Yare is part of this route so Richard must shuttle several thousand walkers each year. What I love so much about being in the outdoors are the people and conversations that you can have so easily with strangers from all backgrounds; simply because you share a passion for these beautiful places. Conversation fell naturally to what we were planning for that day. However, when we tried to explain the purpose of our adventure that day, proudly showing our white Park Discoverers running vests with the map of the National Parks, Richards’s response was simply “that’s nice, is this for charity?”.
A good question, since most people seem to assume that we will be raising money at the same time and we have had a fair few kind offers of donations. However, we did not want to diminish our key purposes of firstly trying to encourage people to get out into these special places as well as increase awareness of being able to learn Science and Physics through the outdoors. So apologies to all those worthy causes out there; instead, we would like people to pledge time to visit and explore our National Parks. Time seems to be a precious commodity these days and the benefits of just being outdoors can be so easily overlooked in today’s fast paced society.
In each park we are looking to identify one or two applications, which highlight key Science concepts that can be used to generate education resources. In addition, we are also collecting data on how our bodies hold up to the challenge of nearly 400 miles of running. Since Claire is the stronger runner of the two of us, I will be our ‘pacer’ and heart rate guinea pig. Basically if my heart rate starts complaining too much, we slow down. Training and research has shown that keeping your heart rate low is important to sustain pace over long distances. Our goal is to keep it below 150BPM, sometimes a lot harder than you think. Even the small inclines or ankle twisting terrain can cause my watch to start frantically vibrating ‘high alert’ messages. Note to selves, not to get overexcited at the start and go off too fast, far too easy to do but we will pay for it later!
So at 9:05am, ferry banking on the other side of the river and waving our thanks to Richard, we officially started this National Park Challenge! The Norfolk Broads is basically a network of meandering rivers and small country lanes, criss-crossing the flat fertile plains. The beginning section of our run was therefore along such country roads, lined with tall hedges bursting full of autumn berries; the type of roads that make foreign drivers very nervous of colliding with a tractor, herd of cows or some speedy local. With a similar survival mind set, we were also on high alert, ready to dive into the hedges if we needed to.
We had to have a check on our progress at mile five as we realised that it had taken us 1.5 hours to get that far! We were guilty of being too easily distracted by the scenery with its multiple photo opportunities and our animated discussions of science possibilities (an awesome rope playground is a good example), we had lost track of time. At this rate, we would have been looking at a very late train back, not something we wanted. So a new agreement was made; to keep distractions to necessary minimum on running days and focus on collecting most of our Science data on our days off. We were still going to continue with our focus for the day though, to take body temperature readings using an electronic thermometer. By the oral readings option!!!
Since this is the first marathon, we were keen to make it a strong one so keeping hydrated was a key factor. Dehydration and possible hyperthermia would not only make the running significantly more difficult but also potentially very dangerous, especially in warm sunny conditions. By monitoring our body temperature and urine volume/colour, we would be able to gauge whether we were pushing too hard and not refuelling/hydrating correctly. We have other physiological tests that we are willing to subject ourselves to in later runs but purposely pushing for heat stroke and hyperthermia is not on our bucket list! This is also where monitoring heart rate is important. Dehydration results in lower blood volume so your heart needs to work harder. It will pump faster to push blood with essential oxygen, glucose, hormones and other nutrients to your screaming muscles, resulting in an increase in heart rate. However, it is important to note that a balance in water, electrolytic drinks and food is necessary to get optimum (and safe) performance. We’ll try to discuss this more in a later blog.
If we had to choose three words that describe the sights and experience of running the Wherryman’s Way, they would be sailing, windmills and nettles! The first two are iconic to this National Park, providing an additional romance to the stunning stretches of rivers and broads. The latter was an uncomfortable surprise along the Hardley section of the river after the unhindered running through the country lanes and wide trails we had encountered so far.
“Claire, mind the nettles!” I shouted over my shoulder as I hopped inelegantly over the little blighters.
Hmmm, guess my warning was a little too late…..
Talking about the Hardley section, there is lovely disused mill, called Hardley Mill that is open for viewings. Unfortunately, we did not have the time to look around but it would definitely be a place that looks an interesting activity for a weekend or holiday. From a Physicists point of view, the engineering and science involved in the workings of this amazing structure is exciting. It taps into a huge amount of topics within forces, motion, energy as well as providing a historical link to modern wind turbines and all of the physics relating to those. The activity of sailing also brings together so many different aspects of physics, which is why it will be the focus for one of our educational resources. Watch this space!
Final note of today’s blog… thank you to the helpful and friendly lass who kindly took our photo outside Norwich station at the end of our 26.74 miles (far sweatier and more dishevelled than the first photo taken on the ferry!). Also to all the friendly faces that waved and smiled encouragingly at us along the way.