“You get a medal just for running FIVE miles?” spluttered my husband, as he staggered in after cycling 103 miles (minus a medal). However he had had beans on toast, tea and cake provided at his event so I don’t know why he was moaning, really. The five miles in question, were the “Fearless 5” race which was part of the “Flying Monk” race, held at Charlton Park near Malmesbury, Wiltshire. It was an off road course, around fields, tracks, woods and parts of the estate. It was beautiful, the sun was shining, runners and marshalls were smiling, and yet despite the weather we’d still been promised some mud. The muddy sections had been conveniently named and signposted so we’d know when we were approaching them. These had names like “Boggy Bottom”, “Abbot’s Aisle”, “Monastery Mile”, “Friar’s Frolic” and ”Monk’s Mayhem”. Setting off one chap charged forward like a canonball being fired, pulling faces for his family, whilst the rest of us slotted in behind and tried to find a good pace whilst running in single file around the edge of a field. Mile one was spent just marvelling at this fantastic sport, where you can spend Sunday morning in the company of like-minded souls, feeling your body working as it should, in the sunshine, in the countryside.
Track followed field, and woods followed field. As we came up to the first swamp (“Boggy Bottom” I believe) I could see canonball man flailing around, swearing loudly, having left a trainer behind in the mud. I tip-toped through the mud and left him to it – the sheer volume of his swearing told me he was fine. This unsporting moment was unfortunately captured by the race photographer:-
By mile two I was feeling very glad that I’d entered the “Fearless 5” (which was one lap of the course) rather than the full “Flying Monk 10” (two laps). By mile three I was wondering where the water station was – this race was warm! By mile four I was thinking if they’d had a quarter-length distance (the ‘Nervous Nun’?) I should have entered that. Just as I was thinking of giving running up as it was all too hard, we came round a field and I could hear the P.A. system at the finish line. I overtook one last runner, and was then in turn overtaken by someone else in the usual finish line sprint tit-for-tat. Finished! Medal, cup of water and orange in sweaty hand and suddenly I loved running again. My trainers bore witness to the boggy bits I’d encountered, and scratches on my leg and arm proved I’d found some brambles as well.
I was mightily pleased with my Garmin time of 48:08, and amazed when the official results were out. I was 6th Woman home, and 3rd in my Age Category! I had another chance to wear the beautiful badge my daughter made for me after my Parkrun debut.
I loved this race, and there was just one thing that bothered me about it. Why was it so poorly attended? Only 51 runners in the Fearless 5, and about the same in the Flying Monk 10. I’m guessing so many runners are nearing the end of their marathon training about now and they simply daren’t go to an off road race for fear of getting injured. However, although muddy in places, this course was pretty gentle. No killer hills, just a few inclines (although I do confess I walked up one slope through a wooded section because it was muddy, slippy and I was knackered). The shorter distance was in no way treated as a lesser race than the full 10 miles, and the great organisation and friendly marshalls would make it a perfect introduction to running and racing off-tarmac. There. Rant over. Might just go and polish my medal again.