“A Coventry Way” is an officially recognised long distance countryside route, circumnavigating the city of Coventry.
Put together in the early seventies from existing public rights of way, many of which at the time were not used and had fallen into disrepair and were completely overgrown, and in some places impassable, it is 40 miles long, it is 40 miles long and features on modern Ordnance Survey maps.
Never more than 5 miles or so from the centre of Coventry the majority of the route is off-road, and passes through mainly agricultural land in Warwickshire and Solihull.
There is an annual race on this route: https://www.acoventryway.org.uk/challenge/ Anyone reporting an FKT will need to beat the race record.
Editor's note: Sue Harrison recorded the time of 6 hours 32 minutes 15 seconds on 9 June 2021. Sue's run was supported but not in an official race.
Here's Sue's report:
After 10 months of recceing the route in preparation, I finally decided it was time to attempt the whole Coventry Way in one go. So, at 9:58am on Wednesday 9th June, I set off from outside the Queen’s Head pub in Meriden, straight up a flight of steps, across the B4101 Birmingham Road, and off into the countryside. The first mile, across the fields and through St. Laurence churchyard, was mostly uphill which, together with having to walk through a field of cattle, meant it was pretty slow. This was no bad thing, really, given I needed to save my legs for later on! I soon got into my rhythm and was feeling pretty good as I followed the path across the fields, onto Benton Green Lane, and then across more fields towards Spencer’s Lane. I remembered to take a crucial right turn in the path, where I’d gone wrong on one of my recce runs! Then through a pony paddock and out onto Spencer’s Lane at just over 3 miles.
The next section of the route runs along the road before joining the Kenilworth Greenway on Waste Lane. The path surface along the Greenway is excellent and I found myself bowling along really easily, with a smile on my face, loving being out in the countryside. Consequently, miles 5 to 8 along this section were a bit quicker than I was intending, and I probably paid for this later on in the run.
Emerging off the Greenway at Dalehouse Lane there was then a short steep pull uphill and onto a narrow path running behind the houses. There were places along here which were quite overgrown with stinging nettles, but nothing like what was to come later! This path took me across Kenilworth Golf Course – I was really wary here as on one of my recce runs I’d very nearly been whacked on the head by a golf ball! Across a few more fields and then out onto the top of the A46 slip road at around mile 10. Another short road section (Stoneleigh Road) and then back onto the fields towards Stoneleigh. This is one of my favourite sections of the route, crossing the River Sowe, through some new tree planting, across the Stoneleigh Road and then a lovely downhill run, over the River Avon and out onto Stareton Lane at mile 12. The countryside here is lovely and there was also some welcome shade through a wooded section, as the temperature was already beginning to get quite warm.
Another quick mile on the road, past Abbey Park business park and Tantara Lodge, to take another narrow, overgrown footpath alongside a barbed wire fence and off across the fields again. This mile (mile 14) must have the highest concentration of gates and stiles on the whole route – I think there’s about 12 in this one-mile section! Consequently this was another slower mile, but I was soon back into my running as I approached Bubbenhall, through St. Giles Churchyard, and through the village to the village hall where I met my coach, Les, for my first re-fuelling stop. I swapped my empty drinks bottles for full ones, replenished my stocks of GU energy gels and food, and was off on my way again. The underfoot conditions were still conducive to decent running – a stoney track, then a couple of fields before crossing the Oxford Road and a good path into the village of Ryton-on-Dunsmore. From here it was an underpass under the A45 London Road (17 miles), and a very short section along this road, before taking a flight of steps and back into the countryside again. The next section, through an old gravel working which has now been restored as a wildlife habitat with pools and reed beds, was very tranquil and a pleasant change from the farmland scenery. The path then winds its way around Wolston Community Centre and through the centre of the village, before joining Priory Road and heading back off across the fields again. Across some sheep fields, and a wooded section along the River Avon, the path then emerges onto the B4455 Fosse Way at around the halfway point (20.5 miles). This was where the fun and games started! The path runs adjacent to the B4455, on the other side of a hedge, in a narrow section hemmed in between the hedge and a wooden fence. As I entered through the kissing gate I found myself, quite literally, up to my armpits in vegetation! I battled my way through, cursing and swearing with every step as I was stung by nettles and ripped to shreds by brambles and thorns. In addition to this I knew from my recce runs that concealed beneath all this vegetation were hundreds of large rabbit holes! It was impossible to run, which was probably a good thing as at one point my foot went down a hole but thankfully, because I was moving relatively slowly, I didn’t do any damage to myself. It was with great relief, and much pain, that I emerged from this path almost in tears! Just after this I crossed Bretford Bridge and was cheered up by the workmen carrying out some repairs to the bridge, when they all wished me well on my run.
Into the second half now, and the next mile was gradually uphill, along a bridleway enclosed by hedges and trees. Luckily the ground conditions had dried out considerably from when I last ran this section a few weeks ago, when it was ankle-deep in mud! Now it was very rutted but, luckily, much more runnable. I then had to negotiate another field of cattle before running around the Motte and Bailey castle in Brinklow. The route doubles back on itself through the picturesque village of Brinklow, before setting off across the fields again to join the Oxford Canal at Grimes Bridge just before 25 miles. It was starting to feel harder now and, although the canal towpath was flat, it was a very uneven, rutted surface which made it hard going. A steep flight of uneven wooden steps leads down off the canal and I had to be very careful not to trip and go hurtling headfirst down them! At mile 27 the route crosses a large arable field, which was the only wet section underfoot that I encountered. It was like running through a paddy field, splashing through mud and ankle-deep water. Although it was quite refreshing for my hot, sweaty feet, it was very hard running and afterwards my feet were slipping around in my squelching, soaking wet shoes and socks. This wasn’t great through the next section, beyond Ansty, which was through very rough fields of knee-high thistles and overgrown brambles. My toes were getting battered as my feet slithered round in my wet shoes, and I had to stop and disentangle my t-shirt from a vicious thorn! I was relieved to get to Barnacle, at just before the 29-mile point, for my next re-fuel stop.
Barnacle to Bedworth was fairly uneventful, apart from another section of painful overgrown nettles. By now I was beginning to struggle, paying for my over-ambitious early pace and finding it hard in the heat. Winding my way through the housing estates in Bedworth I thought I might make up some time, but I had to keep stopping for traffic when crossing roads! This is the only really urban section of the route, and has become more so with more and more housing being built in recent years. And then, as I passed under and along the Bedworth bypass at mile 32, there was yet another section of overgrown nettles and vegetation! I vowed never to do this route at this time of year again as my poor legs were subjected to yet more scratches and stings!
After Bedworth I set off across the fields again, but was struggling with fatigue, a bad stitch and finding the uneven underfoot conditions and overgrown vegetation hard going. The second half of this route is definitely harder running than the first, however I was determined to finish - there was never any doubt in my mind about that. I had a few slow miles where I was alternating running and walking and trying to take fuel on board and stay hydrated. One particularly hard section came at mile 34 - a huge arable field with some kind of very course grass crop. The path was non-evident, but luckily I knew which way to head to reach the gate at the top from my recce runs. However, it was like wading through water! The grass started at about knee-height, but got longer and was up to my thighs as I got further in. Added to this it was all uphill! Needless to say, it was impossible to run and I ended up walking as it was too energy-sapping to try to run! Seeing my support team at mile 35 was very welcome, and I tried really hard to make my tired legs run! The run / walk combo continued to Corley Ash, then there was a lovely downhill section through grassy meadows which got my legs going again. Up and over the M6 motorway, then downhill across the tussocky grass of the common to Corley Moor. I knew by now I was nearing the end and this uplifted me and seemed to give me a bit more energy (or maybe it was just the energy gel I had!). A bit of welcome shade came as I ran round the edge of Birchley Hays Wood and from there I managed to run pretty much all of the last couple of miles, apart from one field of horses at mile 39. I’d had an altercation with one of them previously and certainly wasn’t going to risk being kicked at again!
And then the final part, and another of my favourite bits of the route, down through the birch woodland of Meriden Shafts to the road at Eaves Green. I’ve seen this woodland change from the browns and russets of autumn, with its Fly Agaric fungi, to the vivid mass of bluebells in spring. Today it was the varying greens of early summer, and some more welcome shade, but I had to watch out for all the tree roots waiting to trip my tired legs! And then the final downhill stretch along the road to the finish, back where I’d started 6 hours, 32 minutes and 15 seconds earlier, outside the Queen’s Head pub in Meriden.
Despite the struggles with an ongoing stitch for most of the second half, and the battles with vegetation, I loved the run and am delighted to have completed the whole route. I’d like to say a massive thank you to my coach, Les, for all the recce trips he did with me, as well as his support on the day. Also, to my parents for coming out to support and encourage me during the run, and for the photos. And finally a huge thank you to Mizuno for their fantastic support and their Wave Daichi trail shoes, which were amazingly comfortable to wear and got me round the whole run without a single blister (despite the soaking at mile 27!).