AFTER last week’s blog debating whether or not I should return to racing if I’m not fit, all I could think about was racing.
I kept remembering all the happy times I’ve had on the local running scene – the camaraderie, the competition, that feeling of being exhausted but elated after a run. I’d entered a race but it’s not for eight weeks and that seemed a long time to wait. So, I decided to throw myself in at the deep end (quite literally as it turned out) and tackle one of the toughest races in the area.
The Trunce is a 3.8 mile fell race in Oxspring, Yorkshire, which takes place every month or so from April to September. The final race of the season is in fancy dress, and there’s always a great atmosphere. After so long away, I wanted to be part of it. But the Trunce is a bit of a devil, probably not the easiest race to ease yourself back into racing.
There are three crossing of the river to negotiate, two steep climbs and a hair-raising decent through the woods. ‘What the hell,’ I thought. ‘I’ll give it a bash.’
As we turned into the race car park, my heart started beating faster. ‘I’m nervous,’ I told Chris. ‘It’s a tough race.’
‘Why are you doing it?’ Chris asked, clearly bemused by my choice of race.
‘Because it’s fun. I want to enjoy it.’
‘I know,’ I said, suddenly feeling worried about what I’d let myself in for. ‘But I’ve set my mind on doing it, so I’ll do it.’
Without any further nattering I paid my £1.50 entry fee, attached my race number and started catching up with friends I’ve not seen for ages. Then, without any sort of warm up, I took my place towards the middle to back of the pack.
‘Will you stay with me,’ I asked a friend, who was dressed as Robin (no Batman in sight). ‘I’m terrified of that second water crossing.’
He nodded, and then we were off. With so many people running, I ended up on the grass verge behind a man carrying a carpet and a woman dressed as Wally of Where’s Wally fame. Robin was behind me. ‘You don’t look comfortable running on that grass,’ he shouted.
‘I’m not,’ I yelled, and elbowed him out-of-the-way so I could run on the path. I gave a little wave to Chris, who was snapping away with his camera. I wanted evidence to show that I was enjoying myself. Then we were under the bridge and up the rocky climb.
Without a warm up I was shattered before I’d even got into my stride, and for a second wondered what I was doing. ‘Enjoy it,’ I told myself, dismissing the feelings of doubt and pushing on towards the first river crossing.
There was a bit of a queue, but I got chatting to another runner, so that passed the time before we were running again and into the river. Given we’ve had the hottest summer on record, I’d thought the river would be low, just a puddle, evaporated in the heat. I thought wrong. It was the deepest I’ve ever seen it, which instantly made me panic. If the small crossing was like this, what on earth would crossing two be like?
‘One obstacle at a time,’ I told myself. So, it was out of the water, onto the road, then over a stile and down a hill before the main climb began.
It’s two years since I last did the Trunce, so I had forgotten how hard it is. The hill was steeper than I remembered. Afraid to look around in case I got dizzy, lost my balance and plummeted to my death, I kept my eyes focused on the ground, and up I went.
At the top, on the run towards the woods, I felt comfortable, but a fly seemed quite taken with my shiny earrings and would not leave me alone, buzzing about. I speeded up to shake it off. Next came the woods.
This is the worst part of the course. It’s a narrow and steep drop with rocks and tree roots that threaten to trip you up at every turn. I was so scared, I had to walk in places, standing to the side to let other runners get past.
‘You’ll probably catch me on the flat,’ one man said.
I laughed, but secretly it was my mission to catch everyone who had overtaken me on the downhill section, just so I could feel better about my incompetence at downhill running.
When I eventually made it to the bottom of the hill, all the other runners had crossed the river and were on the next climb. Robin was nowhere in sight. I was on my own. I stood on the riverbank and peered down into the murky water. It was so deep I couldn’t see the bottom.
Spectators and a photographer on the opposite side were shouting at me to jump in, but I didn’t know where to get in or what to do. I stood there dithering for what felt like ages until the runner behind caught me up and jumped in. I had no choice but to throw myself in at the deep end behind her.
‘That was the slowest crossing of the night,’ the photographer said as I staggered out.
Safely on dry land again, I fixed my eyes on the runners who had overtaken me, and the chase began. I was off. I caught one and then another, and then just kept working, enjoying the feeling of running fast.
Chris was waiting at the bridge, and tried to snap a photo, but I was just a blur. I raced towards the finish. It was fantastic. I felt so proud of myself. The return to racing had begun.