It was hot I tell you. Damn hot!
The sun, today, had come out to play and all the clouds had scurried away.
Nevertheless I was looking forward to this run.
Firstly I like to do this one to remember Marcus. He was a wonderful person and was cruelly taken from us on 11th February 2016. I remember him as an excellent example of what person can be. He was generous, kind and always happy to help. There was a great deal of goodness in him and I see him as a fine example when I am striving to be a better person myself. Secondly, this is a course of many ups and downs and a great variety of terrain. It has road, soil, grass and sand. Yes, that’s right, this being near Newmarket there is a horses gallops section that has sand for the horses to run on.
We set off around the field and down the hill on the road. It felt nice and comfortable. This is a smallish race with just a few hundred people so there isn’t that shuffling first few kilometres that you get in the big city races. We turn left at the bottom and a bicycle came by with a car behind it. The car was going in to one of the farms down the road. The cyclist told everyone what the car was doing and it slotted in between the runners to reach its destination. The car driver even gave everyone a friendly wave as he/she turned left into the farmyard. All beautifully good natured and well managed. This was an open road race (that means that no roads were closed) and it is all too possible that drivers may not feel thrilled about having to share the road with a bunch of runners. I saw several drive by far too fast looking a little panicked by the situation but others just took it in their stride and stopped and waited if it looked like there might be a problem getting through. The runners also were mostly well behaved and kept to one side or other of the road, so allowing the cars to pass.
We reached two kilometres and were now going uphill. I was now beginning to suffer. This seemed a little surprising as two kilometres is a very short distance and you would have thought that I would be just about hitting my stride here. Instead I had sweat running into my eyes and the salt causing them to sting most outrageously. I was also blowing hard, sounding like a horse with asthma.
We turned right, dodging a blind lady making her way cautiously along the path. Her experience of going out for a stroll and encountering such a large number of stomping feet must have been quite surreal.
We then turned left along a soil and parched grass track. I thought this surface might be softer than the tarmac but was to be disappointed. There had been no rain on this for several weeks and it had the texture ground up concrete. No easy ride for my Saucony running shoes. It was almost a relief to hit the horse gallops sand and at least feel a little give in the running surface. OK, the give was mostly sideways underfoot and so didn’t really remove any impact but it did add variety.
The water station at 4.5 kilometres was a wondrous sight indeed. Inside my head, choirs of angels burst forth into song as the water station hove into view. I got one cup for my mouth and the other to pour over my hat. It felt absolutely delightful. There was the temptation to just stay there and spend more time pouring water over my head but I was less than half way through the race so figured that I should press on.
Underfoot it was all asphalt now and there was a fair bit of uphill. This was the first point at which I walked. It seemed ridiculous being reduced to a walk so early in the race but the sun and the incline were pretty brutal and the tricksy brain was whispering in my ear telling me that I had no chance to beat last year’s time so should just slow down and take it easy. A passing Newmarket Jogger begged to differ. ‘C’mon keep going, you can do it.’ I decided to listen to the Newmarket Jogger and started moving again.
We turned right and were now going downhill. This is a long stretch that takes us past six kilometres and well on the way to seven. This was probably my favourite section of the race. The sun was brutal but the downhill made me really feel as if I was making some progress. We turned left on to a flat section for a while and then the uphills were back and this time they really intended for us to suffer. Fortunately the 7.5 kilometre water station delayed the pain a little as I indulged in some more hat soaking but then there were more hills and so many of us there reduced our pace to a staggering walk.
I probably looked at my worst at this point and so of course it was here I saw someone that I recognised. I work with Jon and he’d been lead bike in this race to ensure that the race leaders went the right way. He had done this and the leaders were safely home. Now he was cycling back through the field to check that everyone was OK. He was looking bright and fresh and asking how I was was. I was grunting back at him probably seeming like I was doing some kind of Quasimodo impression and possibly sounding like I was raving about the bells. Maybe when I get into work on Monday I will find that he has suggested some kind f mental health assessment for me.
The hills went relentlessly up and I found myself doing more walking, especially when there was a bit of shade. The temptation to spend just a little more time in that shade was overwhelming.
Eventually I got to 9km and the support was fantastic. Everyone was urging me on and I was shaking my head saying that it seemed so much easier last time.
The marshall agreed, as she had run it last year and the weather was much cooler. She suggested that I set my sights on a short term target such as that white van on the hill. I set my sights and got the legs moving again. They gave out just before the white van but that spurt had put me much closer to the finish so I started running once more and ran into an overwhelming cacophony of small children screaming at the top of their lungs as they urged me on to the finish line. Kind of sweet but strange and a little frightening.
I was on to the field and could see the finish line and the counter. I was both disappointed in the time it was showing but was also surprised that it wasn’t worse. I pushed hard toward the line hoping to get there before the next minute ticked over but I was too late. However, I was fantastically pleased to have finished. I hung around near the finish for a few minutes and kept hearing that same words over and over again as people crossed the line.
THAT WAS BRUTAL!
and it was.
Looking forward to doing it again next year.