Slaughterford 9 January 29th 2012

I had been dreading this race for weeks, ever since I entered it in fact. I had wussed out of entering it for the past 2 years, and in December 2011 decided this was the year I would do it. It is, after all, the closest race to my home. In fact I regularly run part of the route of the race as one of my ‘short’ routes. 
 
So why so scared? 
 
Well, this race has a formidable reputation. Just beyond where I live is a very steep valley which I avoid when I run because its just too steep. And muddy. And I’m sure wild animals live out there. In fact the stretch of the route that I run is the track where I was attacked by a ‘psycho pheasant’ last year. Proof! The route of the race goes right down to the bottom of the valley, back up part way, even further down then practically vertically up to the finish. An uphill finish – how cruel! In between all these hills the route is mostly off-road, which at this time of year means lots of mud. Oh, and the 100 metres along the over-knee-height By Brook is, erm, refreshing to say the least.
 
So, it was with very mixed feelings I arrived at race HQ, and parked in a muddy field, with the temperature at 1C and gazed around at the fog. Not so much of the view-admiring to day then!

See – I did make it there – and I have a rather cool race number to show for it!

The race went as I’d expected. My family had cycled from home and cheered me on around 2 miles, complete with my hat which I’d inadvertently left at home, but which I no longer felt the need for. At about 3 miles we ran through Slaughterford itself, and on seeing my friend who lives there I managed to drop off my gloves as amazingly even my hands were warm by that point. After that, the hills started. My trail shoes were rubbish – I slipped and slithered up (and down) the muddy hills (although to be fair – everyone else was as well, so maybe it was just too muddy even for trail shoes!)

Although I was running on my own, there was a group of about 6 of us running at around the same pace so we did chat a little when we had the breath to do so. I was glad of the company, as the fog meant I completely lost my sense of direction and after Slaughterford had no idea where I was. I was extremely appreciative of the marshals. I’ve never been so pleased to see a hi-viz vest appearing on the far side of a field through the fog. They must have been freezing standing still for so long, but were all cheering and encouraging. Hoorah for them!

The stream-wading was breath taking. Literally. I’m not good at cold water, and the gasps I emitted as I got in must have been highly amusing for everyone else. It was a mud slide down to the brook, but fortunately the stream bed was stony so no chance of slipping once I was in. The limbo under the over hanging tree branch was a nice touch, but the quagmire as we got out of the stream was shoe-suckingly-tastic.

The final hill was nearly too much for me. Even walking up it I had to stop for a second to catch my breath. It was lovely to see my family again at the top, waiting to accompany me up the final hill to the finish line. I even managed to run this last bit (just in case there was a photographer at the finish line!)

So it is with pride that I am (still) wearing the T-shirt that I really did feel I earned. However I think I need to make an addition with a permanent pen under it, saying

“NO I FLIPPING DIDN’T!”

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