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Alton Sports Ambassadors – A trip to ‘The Runaway’ with New Balance

To most people Valentine’s Day means spending the day with a loved one and declaring your undying love, however… I went down the pub with several of my fellow Alton Sports Ambassador friends. We met at Farnham station, drank some coffee and boarded a train to London.

Today we were to be guests of New Balance at their pop up running pub for the London Marathon – The Runaway! We all felt like country mice running through London to the venue, there were so many people and traffic was very heavy, especially when you are used to rural country lanes. The run was just under a mile and we were all smiling, we arrived at the pub & immediately I felt like I was in an episode of Minder. Apart from the New Balance logos around the place it looks like a typical pub, down to the carpet that I think my nan & grandad had in the 70s.

We were met by three members of the New Balance team who took us round the Pub and also showed us the pub party trick of opening the duke box and revealing a staircase down to a basement. Down the stairs we saw perfection, the room was decked out with running machines, kettle bells, a yoga area and lockers so club runners can leave their kit while they went for a run.

Time for shoes! We  got to try on some of New Balances range and see their equipment designs for this year’s London Marathon. I tried the 1080 shoe from the current range & they were superb, very bouncy just as I like them, we will be going for a run later. After a coffee break, we were shown the marketing campaign for this year’s London Marathon. The campaign is based around real people actually using the equipment to train for a big event. The video was very inspiring and it was very refreshing to see normal people and not perfect bodied athletes making it look easy, the four months building up to a marathon are not easy!

After a moment of reflection on what New Balance have achieved we left the safety of the pub to go for a run around London. Wow lunch time sure is busy in our nation’s capital! The amount of people was just incredible, however we stayed together as a group and got lots of photos of the sights, we even saw the Queen! Or maybe she came out to see us?

We ran past Parliament and Buckingham Palace and just for me we did the final leg of the marathon. I am running the London Marathon 2019 and I am looking forward to it and doing that journey for real. We finally returned to the pub for a pub lunch and a gentle Q & A with the New Balance reps. I have to say that we all enjoyed our day out at the pub and I recommend if you find yourself in London before the Marathon, that you do check it out. What could be better – running and beer!

Dave Warman – Alton Sports Ambassador

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Silva Explore More Tour UK 2018 – Queen Elizabeth Country Park

We sent one of our Ambassadors along to the Silva Explore More Tour UK 2018 – take it away, Al….

Back at the Endure 24 race weekend I’d heard from the guys at Silva that they were planning to bring the concept of the ‘Explore More’ Tour of night runs to the UK in the Autumn of 2018. Tim Young, Silva UK Sales Manager, explains;

“The Explore More Tour is all about exploring new and challenging trails at night. The SILVA Explore More Tour nights are special runs: they are guided, they take in tough terrain and challenging trails. The latest generation of high powered running head torches are so good that you don’t have to be limited by darkness. The products we are running with this season are the SILVA Trail Runner 4, Cross Trail Ultra 5 and Exceed 2. We always finish up with a sticky bun and a hot drink and we invite a mix of industry people, athletes, ambassadors and event organisers” 

The first stop of the tour in 2018 was at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park in the South Downs National Park of Hampshire on fireworks night, there weren’t any bangs and flashes of the explosive type, but plenty of bright flashes from a gaggle of runners equipped with hyper-bright headtorches. 

QE Park is the venue for the next Maverick Dark race series on Saturday 24th November, where I’m planning on running the ‘long course’ race, so this more casual foray into the woods would hopefully serve as a good introduction to running there in the dark. Check out their site for more details. Silva will be at the races too with head torches to try out.

 We met up in the park main car park and straight away got on the coffee supplied out of the back of a cool Landrover Defender run by Brian from ‘HitchnHop’. The group was a great mix of trail running enthusiasts, all excited to be getting out on some great trails in the dark! Tim from Silva got everyone kitted up with the latest high tech headtorches. I donned an Exceed 2 light which boasted a maximum light output of 1500 lumens and an impressive minimum burn-time of 4 hours (@-5DegreesC, even better if it’s warmer!). The battery pack is a little chunky, but isn’t a problem to carry in a rucksack or technical vest, which is what most of the runners were doing. This approach does make the light on your head really nice and light though!

 After a quick intro to the lights from Tim and a run briefing from our guide Sam from Run With Karibu, who was in charge of making sure we all went in the right direction in the dark, we set off up into the park. Straight away it was clear that we weren’t lacking in light power, with the trail lit up like a stadium from the output of a dozen slightly car-like headlights! The first mile and a half were spent warming up nicely as we climbed steadily before hitting the first singletrack section. This where the running got interesting, with a bit of space between the runners the lights really showed their capabilities. I now had the Exceed 2 into max mode and the light it now put out allowed me to run as fast as I dared along the narrow, slightly greasy, rooty and leaf strewn trail. It still required 100% concentration to stay up right, but the feeling of speed as the trees whipped past in the dark was awesome! 

 We continued on stopping off for a quick spot of obstacle course play in the middle of the woods! An another stretch of climbing took us up to the high point of the run at just over 750ft. Now we were over in the back section of the country park which contains some of the lesser known but more technical trails! What followed simply wouldn’t have been possible at any sort of speed without the assistance of a lot of light… It was steep, loose, off-camber and rooty. Words don’t really do it justice, so check out the video (slightly epic music, but I think it deserves it!)…. It was a blast, such a cool feeling of zipping between the trees and even over a jump. The light was brilliant allowing me to pick out all the details on the trail in enough time to put my feet in the right place!

I was also getting a lot of confidence from the excellent Salomon Sense Ride shoes I was wearing (thanks to Scott at Alton Sports for the loan!). The Sense Rides were gripping plenty much everything, including the greasy chalk surfaces which are characteristic of the South Downs. The ability to put my foot down and know that it would most likely stay there coupled with the Exceed 2 light was a winning combination. The Sense Rides are also insanely comfortable to wear, plus they feel good on the road too, so all in all a great shoe. Definitely one on my Christmas list.

The remainder of the run was more gentle as we followed the South Downs Way and loop round back to the main car park, where great coffee buns and pastries awaited us! Everyone was buzzing and super impressed with what the Silva head torches enabled us to do in the dark. I can’t wait for the Maverick Dark race in a couple of weeks’ time!

Shop Silva on our site

Buy the Trail Runner 4 headlight here

You can follow Al’s running achievements on Strava / Instagram Twitter.