Never before have I been so apathetic about racing. Maybe it was the frigid weather and the prospect of a very wet course, maybe it was one race too many this season, maybe it was the whisky I was drinking in front of the fire the night before. Probably it was all three.
I’m not convinced that this type of racing should be called ‘trail running’. Trail implies forest pathways or rocky mountain passes. The race involved pathless routes across flooded, muddy and rutted fields. Lots of gates, stiles, cows and sheep. And the added flavour of a few rivers to run through.
After collecting my race number from HQ I went and sat in my car with the heaters on full blast. I contemplated turning on the engine and driving home. I was sure I could come up with a convincing reason for a DNS.
I made my way to the start line and bumped into a friend who was marshalling. He had a good laugh about how wet we’d all get wading through the rivers. This cheered me up.
I decided to just treat it like a hard training run. I ran the first half of the race at a slightly conservative pace to overcome my negativity. You can’t quit if it feels ok. I crashed into the river and attempted to run through it. When the water was knee deep it was just possible to run, once it reached thigh level I had to wade. Most other people seemed content to walk so I overtook a few.
At halfway I saw my friend the marshall. He was delighted to report that I was in 9th. I think there were around 300 people in the race. I high-fived him and felt motivated to hold on to my top 10 position.
For the final 10K I ran the knife edge of endurance – going hard without blowing up. Up hills, down hills, into sticky bogs where I had to run on my toes to avoid losing a shoe and through brambles that cut my legs, all the while slipping and tripping. I overtook one person. I heard the moment that he blew up on a hill. The slamming noises of gates behind me grew quieter.
For the last few miles I had open countryside behind me. And I kept up with the two guys in front. Overtaking didn’t feel an option, just keeping up was enough. I finished the race in 8th.
The race medals were edible. I shared it with my kids. I’d be speaking to my wife the night before about the wastefulness of event T-shirt’s and medals. So it was nice to do an event that was conscious of that. A chocolate medal was a great idea.