Regular readers will know that I have only just come around to the idea of racing – I am mainly motivated by race bling, having an excuse to run in new places and what may prove to be an eternal struggle to get my time under 60 minutes. Tonight though there no reward for the finishers, I was running locally and had the knowledge that with hills, stiles and kissing gates, I would inevitably run a rubbish time. Tonight, I was motivated only by treasure. I was so motivated by treasure that I forced myself to ignore the nagging feeling that there was a very good chance that I would finish last. This isn’t false modesty or fishing for compliments on my part, merely the fact that I looked at the previous results and the relatively small fields (about 150) were made up of mostly club runners.
Today at work, I was tethered to my desk – every time I sauntered past the window, I peered at the steady downpour, sighed and wondered what I was letting myself in for.
I arrived at the race in plenty of time to register and collected my race number. As the nice lady handed over number 34, the panic set in. Thirty-four. Three four. That’s quite a low number. I went to sit in the car and listen to some calming Radio Four.
I watched the steady stream of very wiry men in very short shorts and sent increasingly distressed text messages to Ginge. My main concern was that I was going to be left further and further behind whilst the rest of the race became tinier specks in the distance. It was going to be just like school cross-country all over again. Except that I wouldn’t be doing it in gym knickers. The SOS texts peaked with “I AM THE ONLY PERSON HERE WITH MORE THAN 5% BODY FAT”.
I went back to lurking at race HQ and was rewarded by a lovely chap telling me not to worry, it was a race of mixed abilities and no matter what, the scenery was lovely and I should just enjoy it. He pointed out that even though it’s a small race, it draws people in from all over the northwest, so it must be worth doing. I distracted myself by looking at the schools’ collages and leaflets about the forthcoming beer festival while the start time grew ever closer.
The race organiser drew the start line across the path, I shuffled towards the back of the pack, had a chat with a lady who was on her own because her friends had jibbed on her and before I knew it, the airhorn was sounded and we were off.
I set off like a greyhound from a trap; an aging, portly greyhound, but the similarity was there. With the benefit of hindsight, I realise that I shouldn’t have set off at the pace that I did. With hindsight, I realised that the first half a mile was run about 30 sec/mile faster than the fastest pace I was aiming for. Oops. I managed to maintain a decent pace for the first mile or so (basically until we hit the first hill). I should know that the fact that the race was run in a valley should indicate that there will be a hill or two. Heck, I’ve run in the park before I know that there’s blooming great hills all over the show. I will confess to a bit of walking, then a bit more decent pace, then a bit more uphill walking. Around half way, I was overtaken by a pensioner with calves like billiard balls in a sock who powered past me up the incline.
The steady rain continued to pour down sapping my enthusiasm and my legs as we plodded across an exposed hillside, cows either side, the wind dragging the rain across us. There were no mile markers and my sense of direction went completely haywire leaving me with no idea where we were in relation to HQ. There were times when I couldn’t see the runners in front of me, but luckily the route was well marked and well supervised by stoical marshalls enduring the weather. With just over a mile to go, I spotted a familiar umbrella and there was Ginge to give me a cheer before he scooted down a shortcut and saw me stumble across the finish line.
I was soaked to the skin, my legs were complaining bitterly, I finished nearly last. Somehow I finished with a big smile across my chops and the knowledge that it’s a three race series and, if I wanted to, I could do it all over again next month. And the month after that.
So what was the treasure that saw me complete a race that has terrified me for years?
Well, this race used to be organised for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, but now raises funds for the Cuerden Valley Park Trust. Luckily for me they kept the name and so running the Badger 10k Trail Run ticked off number 52 suggested by both Jo and Rachel.
The lovely chap (who finished in the first 25 by the way) was spot on about the race – incredibly friendly, beautiful scenery and very well organised – I would heartily recommend it. Especially if you’re slower than I am. And you bring better weather.