After January’s race (Slaughterford 9), I was struck down by the lurgy. A lung-coughing-up, temperature-fluctuating, razor-blades-in-the-throat, voice-losing, 2-days-off-work-sick, “I think this might actually be flu” lurgy. It was horrible, I felt very ill and really sorry for myself. I also didn’t run for 2 weeks because of it.
Roll on February, and I realised that the last race of the Off Road League was coming up. The most difficult race of the season, with the weather becoming much colder again, and very little training having been done. Ummm.
Yet again, it took the support, (i.e. nagging) of my club’s fellow off-road racers to make sure I entered this race, and that I actually turned up on the day. I can also say I was, if not dragged round the course, definitely walked around the course by my top running buddy Liz.
This was a seriously tough race, I had heard it was fairly gentle in the first half, then had 3 sharp hills & a “free shoe wash” in the second half. This was all sort of true, although I definitely counted FOUR steep hands-and-knees hills, and a bog as well.
The bog was a black stream followed by shoe-stealing mud. There was a rope strung across the stream which looked helpful, and determined not to be a wuss I laughed at a team mate trying to find a shorter route across and launched myself in ahead of Liz. Last laugh was on them – half way across I lost my footing for the first time ever when running, and went into the black lagoon right up to my waist.
The worst part was emerging (dripping) from the other side, running up the hill into the wind with the disconcerting feeling that I was naked from the waist down as the wind whistled right through my clothes.
The miles passed, and the route as promised got harder and hillier. The three sharp hills were actually four, with the last one being particularly cruel. As we ran towards a hedge we could see runners heading off to our right, but as we reached the hedge we were actually turned left, straight up the short but very steep hill, along a ridge for a short way and then straight back down again. At the top, as I was gasping for breath, I spotted that we were actually running around one of Wiltshire’s White Horses. Back on the ground I mentioned to Liz how great it was to be so close to a White Horse, and she said “what White Horse?” I replied “Look behind you!” Seeing it on Strava makes me thinks it might be the cruellest segment I’ve ever seen, particularly in a race.
and the photo of me at the top is yet another classic “shoot me now” face.
We eventually made it back into Pewsey, and as we ran along a road we could see marshals standing by a small bridge. Of course, the “shoe wash”. The road goes over the stream, but of course in this race we had to go off the road, down the bank, through the stream, and then scramble back up the other side and onto the road again.
As we finally could see the school building in the distance we knew we had nearly made it back. Fortunately as we came around a corner and onto the school fields we could see the finish line right there, because if we’d had to run round the field first I might have cried. Similarly, it was just as well there was plenty of cake left as I’m sure I’d have found the energy for a tantrum if there hadn’t have been (two slices of really good lemon drizzle for £1 – bargain!). I even wore my new t-shirt to celebrate whilst holding cake in one hand and the team trophy in the other (Wiltshire Off-Road League champions once again!) side by side with best running buddy Liz who faithfully kept me going right to the end.
So, Terminator race – you did not disappoint. I checked after the race, and that 12 miles is the furthest I have run since my last marathon in October 2015. You were certainly the hardest off-road race I’ve ever run, and you lived up to your reputation. The race memento was impressive, but I’m unsure as to whether I’ll be back …
P.S. Huge thanks to the tail runner from Pewsey Vale Running Club who helped me find my car afterwards. That’ll teach me to chat whilst walking from car park to race HQ!