2nd August 2017
“So why am I doing this, exactly?” I’m sure this a question we’ve all asked ourselves from time to time. In my case it usually coincides with dragging myself out of bed at stupid o’clock in the morning to go on a training run. However, this time was different. It was a Wednesday evening, I’d just left the M4 heading south to Pewsey, I was late, I had yet to register, I’d almost run out of fuel and it was raining. A lot.
The build-up started with a very long training run on Monday morning (albeit very slowly), after which I was feeling ‘a bit tired’ and there was no chance I was going to the race. However, things improved quickly and a call to the race organisers revealed on the day entries were being taken. There were quite a lot of Shrewtonians going, so what could be nicer than a gentle run around the country lanes of east Wiltshire?
After a late arrival I finally registered 20 minutes before kick-off and just had time to queue for the loos, where I met Rich and Andy. Err, that doesn’t sound quite right, but you know what I mean. I didn’t see the rest of the team but Rich said they’d been there ages. After a frantic (and unsuccessful) attempt to find my watch, I followed the crowds to the start line and arrived at the back of the race to find Rich, Sam, Judy, Roxy and Enid in a bunch, with Ian and Andy visible nearer the front.
The race started and we headed off at a nice-ish pace. I could see Ian about 10 seconds up ahead, which immediately forced me to make a decision. I knew that Ian and I were evenly matched pace-wise, so trying to keep up with him when I really wasn’t sure if my legs were fully recovered didn’t seem prudent. On the other hand, I was feeling ok and it was a points-scoring race. “Stuff it”, I thought, “you’re only middle-aged once”, and very gently hit the accelerator.
Easier said than done though. As we ambled around the leafy lanes being kept cool by the traditional English weather (which was actually very pleasant), Andy appeared up ahead. He’d started a bit quickly and was consolidating, so I took advantage of a downhill section to nip past, but was still not making much headway on Ian. The drinks station at half way came and went, as did a nice piece of road-kill. To be honest, I didn’t really notice it much, other than a grey furry lump in the road which I was later told was a badger, but it seems a few people found it had an adverse effect on their digestive system. Still, at least the rain would wash the aftermath away.
At mile 4 I finally pulled alongside Ian, and from then on it was a question of hanging on to the end, hoping the legs would last out. Fortunately the last few hundred yards were all downhill and we crossed the line together. Ian had to go to work, so I strolled back up the hill watching the rest of the team coming in. It was really impressive seeing how strong everyone looked. Roxy even managed a sprint finish.
Much of the post-race analysis centred on the strength of the field, which was hardly surprising as not that many people are likely to rush out from work on a very wet Wednesday unless they are really keen. I’m glad we did though, as this was a really nice run. I particularly liked the ‘stripped back’ nature of it. i.e. just a fiver to enter, no medal, T-shirt or goody-bag. Just go out and run. What really struck me was just how much running brings out the positive side in people. The marshals (and even the odd spectator) were stood in the pouring rain for an hour, and yet they were all so enthusiastic. Lovely stuff.