Posted: 01/02/2016 at 15:41
Right ... report time
Each of the clubs is given a place to line up on the nice wide start line. We are right next to Thames Valley Harriers, who are lining up behind their top couple of guys. I feel like a bit of a fraud standing next to these chaps on the start line, as I’m sure they’re going to be featuring in the top 20-30, so I hover about a metre behind the line. Despite my attempted encouragement, none of my clubmates want to stand in front of me, so reluctantly, when it becomes clear that the gun is about to go, I shuffle forward and stand on the start line with the proper runners. I kick my legs forward, in an attempt to dislodge the significant amounts of mud that have already accumulated on the spikes on the walk to the start line, but the mud flies into the air and then arcs backwards towards the eager faces of the other runners, so I swiftly abandon that endeavour.
There is a brief moment of peace, where we collectively stare upwards and contemplate the task ahead - a 300m hill rapidly funnelling down to a narrow gap through the trees. The peak of the hill is the Russian guns, and we are each of us a thoroughbred steed, bred for our power and endurance. Our flanks glisten, our manes billow proudly in the wind, and our nostrils flare in anticipation. Each of us is ridden by a tiny hussar, a hussar called determination. We are ready to face our destiny. At this point, the analogy breaks down and the race begins.
I am swiftly swamped on all sides by people streaming past, buffeted around like a pensioner at a Limp Bizkit concert. I concentrate solely on not falling over and avoiding the involuntary acupuncture that would inevitably follow. I survive the start, and enter the trees at the top of the hill, and I’m through to the other side and the free-flowing running that must surely follow and OH MY GOD WHAT IS ALL THIS SHIT?! Straight away we’re into an absolute quagmire of foot deep sticky mud stretching for hundreds of metres with no obvious firmer ground round the edges. With people crowded round on either side, you just plough through as best you can and hope for the best, but each time you pull your foot out is a supreme effort. Finally out onto firmer ground, but the great clods of mud make my shoes feel like diving boots, so it’s hard to take advantage. However, it gives a rare opportunity to look around, see who I can recognise and check where I am in the race.
Some way back is the answer. Time to work.
The first lap is extremely wearing, but the novelty of the route helps to some extent. More mud slicks follow, as well as climbs and descents in the woods (also a mud slick) with some wonderful bumps and dips hidden beneath the surface of said mud. Garggh, I just want to run fast!
Lap one of three comes to an end, and my spirits are briefly raised as I hear the hysterical shrieks of my legions of nubile fans. They shower me in rose petals as I pass and scream my name. I shall bed several of them later, and make a mental note to check their IDs this time.