So my last couple of posts have been suggesting that some runners have gone soft and often look for excuses to bail. All that was behind me though as I headed to the start of the Greensands marathon on a miserable morning in pouring rain.
Half the people registered didn't turn up.
This was the smallest field at Greensands I have ever seen in my 5 years of running this amazing event. I suspect Dr Robert sold his soul to the weather God over the last few years to ensure the glorious days we have had in the previous 4. However last week it looks like he hit some debt ceiling and now good weather had been shut down.
As usual we badly sung Jerusalem which was typically British, just like the weather and my train journey here which involved a rail replacement bus. I find that a rail replacement bus is rather like a breakfast with a sausage replacement mushroom.
At the start a load of people commented on my shiny spanking new Salomon Sense Mantra shoes which they sent me to try. They looked very nice but I couldn't quite figure out the lacing until my friend Michael (who I used to work with and probably helped him to get involved with this stuff) showed me how to stuff the lace wire things in under a flap on the tongue. Genius idea. People looked and laughed at this idiot with all the gear and no idea. They are right, except that usually I don't have the gear.
Off we went, up the hill and then into the melee of people only this year since there was only half a field it felt quite spacious. It was a bit cold and had been pissing down all morning but I soon got a bit warmed up. There was the usual "dance of the puddle dodgers" which makes me laugh. With water falling from the sky, falling from the trees, soaking the ground and even leaking from our skin why do people try and avoid puddles? Perhaps they are from Surrey.
Anyhoo as I said earlier I was testing some shoes and I thought of myself as having a job to to. Would Salomon prefer me to prance around in them like Nuryev or to smash through obstacles like a tank with no brakes? Well I was not really feeling like a ballerina so I had no choice but to plough through.
Leith Hill is the first sharp climb of the race at about 10k (after about 3 miles of gradual climb which you don't really notice because you are too excited). You have to get there in 70 minutes. A chap asked me how long it took as he had forgot his watch and I said I don't know as I didn't forget not to wear a watch but my guess is that it was about an hour. Then another chap with a Garmin turned and said it was exactly an hour. Yes, £300 saved by me again. WIN.
The course is a beautiful (even in these conditions) and is an out and back which means you get to see everyone ahead and everyone behind you, which is kind of cool except you feel compelled to say "well done" to the other 100 people in the race.
The first person heading back in the other direction was Ed Catmur, super nice guy, winner of the North Downs 100 earlier this year and on his way to a super fast 3.03 finish, probably because he was rushing to his nieces birthday party. While winning the race he has to say "well done" to 100 other people. It must be exhausting.
He was miles ahead and then a steady stream of others came splashing down and the "Well Done, Well Done, Thank You, Looking Good, Hi Mum" went on for quite a while until the turn around and then back to say "Well Done" to all the people behind. I saw Dave Ross who had not got last at this stage and soon after saw Oli Sinclair who would end up coming second and winning a bottle of wine which he would never hear about as he left too soon and it was given to me and is being drunk as I write this blog. Oli I owe you a bottle of wine :)
A minor embarrassment when I stopped for a wee and just went at the side of the trail facing the direction I was running, but then a runner come back the other way while I was effectively flashing him. "Pardon me" I said with a smile. "I was going to say well done but you might take it the wrong way" he replied. I laughed and thought to myself that in this cold weather there is nothing to celebrate here. Finally it stopped and I was treated to a lovely section where I was just jogging along on my own.
This is what I crave sometimes. Any man who has been married a long time will tell you that once married he often has to ration certain pleasurable activities, probably most significantly one beginning with "S".
But here I was now actually doing it. I was enjoying the best silence I had done for a long time. There was no one around and I was just running along in the pouring rain on beautiful trails and loving it.
The shoes were actually working out really well. I was not slipping all over the place and they actually feel very comfortable and the laces had not come out at all. I don't currently have a preferred trail shoe so am pleased when one works. I don't actually have a preferred road shoe now that stupid Brooks discontinued the green silence and replaces them with "pureflow" which are pretty much the same except about 3 inches taller. Anyhoo, so far so good with these shoes.
I ran a little with Dan De Belder and we spoke about how some of our friends here have improved massively. "Makes me angry when people improve, why can't we all just get along in a perpetual state of mediocrity". Both of us want to improve though neither seemed arsed enough to work for it.
Not long after Justin overtook me looking pretty solid, he was another one who I might be slightly responsible for here. I promised him it would not be very muddy and it was quite muddy. It wasn't Rotherham though.
Justin passed me without much effort but a few miles later I caught him again as he had knackered his ankle. He is too new to this game to have thought of excuses for quitting so it was obvious that wasn't going to happen. Luckily we were only about 3 miles from the end.
Those three miles you are reacquainted with the stuff you forgot in the first three miles cos you were too excited and involves steps. By that point the deal is done and it's just a nice downhill mile or so to the end where Dr Robert greets you with a carrot. I ate the carrot, it was the first fruit I had in ages. The fry up later was better.
So that was the 5th time I have done Greensands and I never regret getting up early in the morning to get out here and do this. It is an amazing race and I really hope it rains for 6 months now so that I don't get too crowded when out for a jog :)