For years I’ve heard runners in my area talking about The Trunce, a challenging 3.8 mile cross-country / fell race.
I’ve listened to the horror stories about the steep climb, the mud, the treacherous descent, not to mention the three crossings of the River Don, and how runners have had to swim across. I’ve heard it called the ankle snapper, and just plain dangerous.
I’ve also heard runners rave about it.
‘It’s the best race in the area,’ one runner told me. ‘Nothing comes close to The Trunce. It’s fantastic, good fun and a great atmosphere.’
One of my club mates summed it up perfectly. ‘The Trunce is like marmite,’ he said. ‘You either love it or hate it, there’s no in-between.’
With the race being held on Monday nights, I’d always struggled to get there in time. Now that I’m freelance, I didn’t have an excuse. So, in March this year, I made my Trunce debut.
I ran cautiously, unsure what was coming next. It felt like an obstacle course; one thing after another was thrown at me. I scrambled up the hill. I tiptoed down it. I made it safely across the river crossings. The second crossing was a bit tricky, and there was a moment where I almost fell in, but apart from that everything went well. I loved it. I couldn’t wait for the next race in the series.
I was ready for race two. I’d bought a new pair of fell shoes, I knew the route and felt confident. I went for it, smashing my PB by a few minutes. It was great.
The weeks before race three were stormy and wet. It was sunny when we arrived for the race, but as we stood on the start-line, the rain started, not just a light drizzle, more a torrential downpour. The ground was saturated. It was going to be tough. I was worried about the descent through the wood. I was worried about crossing two. I was worried I’d fall.
In the end the doubt was my downfall. Men and women were flying past me. The river was high. Crossing two was horrible. A man fell and injured his ankle. My love of the Trunce vanished. ‘Conditions were life-threatening,’ I told my friends. ‘I hated it!’
But I was doing well in the race series, so I didn’t want to give up. The next few races were drier. I set another PB, and started competing for points. I was always much slower than on the roads, but I was doing well. Crossing two and the descent through the wood were always going to terrify me, but I survived.
Then mid-season, when I was fifth in the table, I raced the Broomhead Chase fell race as part of my club’s championship. I gave it everything and managed (despite getting lost) to finish second lady. That was the day before the Trunce. Racing two days in a row is difficult, but I wanted to try. Racing up the first hill, it felt like my legs were still in Broomhead. I was struggling. I made it through crossing one and was just starting to feel my legs again when the girl in front of me had a funny turn.
I stopped to help. She’d given blood in the afternoon and was feeling faint. We sat down and watched all the runners go past us. I thought we would walk back to the start but, like all runners, she was determined to finish the race. When she was feeling better, we jogged round together. We were at the back of the field. Spectators were clapping and cheering; it was a lovely atmosphere. Most of the runners had gone home, showered and were probably in bed by the time we crossed the line.
After that, I missed two races, mainly because of other commitments, but maybe, if I’m honest, there was an element of fear creeping in, which is why I was so determined to take part in the last race of the season.
The last race of the season is special. It’s fancy dress, and my club always makes an effort. This year it was Hawaii style. My friend, Fiona, dashed off to the local market and came home with grass skirts and plastic coconut bras. Fiona is an elite runner, and very small. When she showed me the skirt I wondered if I’d manage to fit one leg into it.
‘It’s one size fits all,’ she said. ‘A long skirt for me and a mini skirt for you.’
Whilst Fiona raced at the front of the field, I decided to jog with my club-mates. I’d raced over 10k the day before and got a PB, so I wanted to enjoy the race. As always, my dithering on the downhill meant I was at the back. At one point I was overtaken by the rear end of a pantomime horse, which was sprinting to try and catch the front end. My team waited for me and we all finished together, managing to catch the pantomime horse, which had been reunited with its front end.
It was good fun. We won sweets, chocolates and wine for our fancy dress efforts. It was a nice reward for completing my first Trunce season. Now when I hear runners talking about the Trunce, I understand what they mean. Nothing comes close to it. I may not love it. I certainly don’t hate it. I think I’m in-between. But I will definitely be back next year.
If anyone has any tips for fell running, I’d love to hear them. I need to conquer my fear.
For more details of The Trunce visit: http://www.undeadmonkey.org.uk/trunce/category/latest-news/
Watch the second river crossing here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMPVNejt69Q
Team Kingstone at the Trunce: http://www.kingstonerunners.co.uk/page5.html