There come a point in most British off-road races where you appreciate a really well built style. I discovered this about 20 miles into the last day of the Jurassic Coast challenge. Having acsended yet another ludicrous grassy hill I saw in the distance another high fence to cross. I approached the fence and imagined the back pain I'd suffer as I stumbled over a rickety piece of wood. However this one was different. This was possibly the most brilliantly crafted piece of fence crossing furniture I'd ever seen. It was an architectural wonder. It was the Michaelangelo's David of styles, carved beautifully out of the finest oak. Crossing this style was an honour. I would have crossed it even if there was no fence.
After 20 miles of pouring rain in the surrey hills near Leatherhead I was waiting for the same moment. Many times I had fallen. Many times I was stung. Many a style was covered with barbed wire, rotten wood, animals and mud. Many times I had slipped and fumbled my way over the courses numerous fields and hedges. Freezing my backside off in the pouring rain I hoped the time would come where I could celebrate a small victory of a beautiful style. That would make everything OK. Did it come?
Did it b*****ks.
The Tanners Marathon was actually a great race. It was my first long run since, erm.. my last long run. I'd not run more than 12 miles in one go since the union with the canal. I was a bit worried that I might fall apart.
LDWA events always start the same. Arrive at some sportsground at 9ish. Chat to people you recognise but didn't realise were running and then set off at 10ish when some guy shouts "Off you go - good luck".
The best thing about these runs is how sociable they are. That and the sausage rolls you get at checkpoints. Each time you end up with a different group of people and some written intructions on A4. Instead of mile markers (of which there will be none and even if there were they'd be wrong) events like this are run in paragraphs. You count how many paragraphs you have and then count them off as you progress. This always puts you in two minds. One the one hand when there is lots of clear straight path with no navigation you are quite pleased that navigation is quite easy, however you are not getting through the instructions much. On the other side, when climbing overs styles and fences and taking turns you think "I must be getting through a lot of words right now".
There were 5 checkpoints in this where we had to get a soggy piece of paper stamped. Normally they put on some sausage rolls and crisps, but for £4 entry there was no food at any of the points. Something to bear in mind if you are running this as I saw quite a few go hungry. Luckily I am fat enough to be able to store enough to get me round. I considered throwing a Jo-Lo tantrum similar to what I did in the GUCR but figured that I wouldn't get the same sympathy this time.
This route was really tough. There were 10/20 and 30 miles routes to choose from. It was much hillier than I expected and the rain did not help. I did my customary fall at about 6 miles and foolishly forgot to bring the belt to my shorts and spent all downhill sections holding them up. I had to say to Dave that if my shorts came down right in front of him then not to read in to it too much. Later on when I got too annoyed I ingeniously used a big twig and a loop in my shorts to keep them up. Twisting the twig around the loop and then putting the sticky out bit in my pocket. It worked. I could run without fear of losing my shorts again.
Normally you are completely at the mercy of your ability to convert written paragraphs into running directions in these events, however there was an abundance of small yellow arrows pointing the way around. They were hard to spot (which made it feel a bit less like cheating) but very helpful. For the first 15 miles they are fantastic, taking us all the places we wanted to go. I then suspected that the person pinning these arrows to various bits of wildlife realised that he was being too generous and running out. The arrows became less frequent and the instructions that we neglected for 2 hours were reduced to a mashed pulp. (Note, always take plastic, always).
This is when the problems start. We missed an obvious turn with an obvious arrow (cos we were looking at the soggy instructions) and ran downhill to the end of a road. The intructions said look out for a 60mph road sign which we thought would be on a busy road. Alas no. At the foot of a really big slope we then had to run back up a hill. A voluntary hill if you'd like.
Situations like this are bad because of the extra miles you have to run and the increased water get pelted on you. They are good because you get chatting to people and some teamwork starts. Similar to the scene in the Office (series 1 episode 4) with the chicken, fox and farmer. Why does the farmer have a fox in the first place? Just kill it. Anyway it's great to talk to others about what they are doing and why they are hear. So many different backgrounds an aspirations.
After getting lost a few more times we met up with a few more runners and caught up with a load of the walkers who had started much earlier and were doing the 20 mile route. It got easier from then. The rain stopped about 1 mile from the end. We were hoping that the rain would delay the Wimbledon final enogh so that we'd get to see some of it. Every cloud and all that.
A big difference between this and most LDWA events is that this actually had a finish line. Normally you'd just run into a building and try to find the person giving out the certificates where you self-add your time. I was suprised to be directed around the back of the buidling for a grandstand finish at Leatherhead FC football club. Everyone cheered, both of them.
I was so pleased that I got through a 30 odd mile run with no pain or injury. Apart from a bit of aching and hunger I managed just fine. After all, this is less than a quarter of what I did before. Why should I feel bad?
I watched the tennis and had a well earned pint of Guinness and then discovered that we had 10 minutes for a 10 minute walk to the train station. So we had to run, which is just what I needed. At least it was sunny.