Tuesday, 19 September 2017
Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud: Hursley 10k
Sunday was Hursley 10k race day. A nice, off-road 6 miles through forest and field. I'd planned to take it steady and use it as a test run to see how the knee would hold up to the distance, it being only a fortnight since I'd limped the last mile home in tears at The Beast. The intervening fortnight has been spent doing daily muscle-strengthening exercises working primarily on lateral muscles (glutes) which the physio tells me are working. Once those muscles are properly up to speed they should do a better job of supporting the knee, meaning I shouldn't get any more pain in it.
Dire warnings about horrendous conditions had been issued all week by the race organisers, culminating on Saturday afternoon with one that read: conditions are so bad we've had to alter the course because one section has become too dangerous to run through. PLEASE take care when running! I went for trail shoes because my mudclaws were stiff as boards after the soaking they got on The Beast. M, rather more sensibly, plumped for his fells.
When we arrived with F and J as the cheerleading party in tow, the first people we saw were Mike and Sue with whom we'd travelled down to The Beast. Once we'd picked up numbers and t-shirts (stopping to speak to friend Amanda who, as one of the organisers, confirmed that the course was now largely mud after all the rain that's fallen recently) we found a whole host of Romsey Road Runners at the start in their blue-and-yellow race tops. We huddled in for a club photo.
More and more running events are offering a pre-race mass warm-up to music. These are invariably led by Sergeant Majors disguised as lycra-clad fitness enthusiasts who take everyone through a brisk ten minutes of marching, star jumps, side steps, arm waving etc with no time left between movements for actually breathing. I get hopeless giggles whenever we do these as M's co-ordination leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, most of the chaps gamely bouncing about in the field to moves like jagger looked like everyone's idea of Dad Dancing, while the ladies made it look effortless and elegant. F was busy videoing M who was gamely jiggling about and managing to stay at least two seconds behind everyone else. I could see F laughing so hard at this he was crying.
We funnelled into the start area, Ray and I discussing how much the conditions would affect peoples' times, and then we were off. The first section was over the field. The grass was long and wet so we were all soaked within seconds. Then it wound up a lane a short way before peeling off into the woods. Cue the mud. The base here is clay so you can imagine what it was like. By the time 500 runners had gone through it was a quagmire. I was in the top 200 and it was pretty boggy by the time I got into it. You could tell who was used to off road running and who wasn't just by watching how people tackled the mud: those of us who run off road went straight through the middle of the mud and the puddles, no messing about, and remained on our feet as a result- those who weren't used to it tried their very best to edge around it. A hopeless cause; they were slipping and sliding and falling over all over the place.
I overtook more people by running through the middle of the mud than at any other time on the course. The same thing happened on the downhills- people were being so cautious they ended up walking (and sliding shrieking) so by sailing through (reasonably confident that my shoes and taking the direct route would keep me upright and it did) I made up some time on an otherwise fairly steady race. On one stretch I edged past a chap who was clinging to the fence in an effort to avoid getting muddy. The ground sloped down into the mud and as I went by he plopped straight over into the thickest bit of gloop around. I asked him if he was OK as he righted himself and he said in a very sad voice this is the third time I've fallen over. Bless him, he looked so comical with mud entirely plastering one side of his body that I had to run on quickly so he didn't hear my giggles.
Eventually, we came out of the mud and back onto forest tracks. I fell in with a couple of guys for the next mile. One of them was running his first 10k and I congratulated him on choosing a particularly tough off-road race to start with. His friend, an experienced triathlete was coaching him round and doing a brilliant job of encouraging and keeping him steady pace-wise. As we ran down the hill a horse and rider appeared to our right. The horse took one look at the runners and bolted along beside them, the rider bouncing about in such a way I was convinced she was coming off. Luckily she managed to regain control and disaster was averted. She peeled off into the trees and we carried on.
I'd set an approximate time target of an hour to get round, taking into account the conditions and my knee and was pleased to see that I was going to beat the time. The knee was aching mildly but nothing horrendous and I decided to see if I could pick up the pace a little and overtake the three people ahead of me as I came down the final grassy stretch. I like the feeling of accelerating to the finish, it's exhilarating. I got past the three ahead and crossed the line in under an hour, pleased with the way the race had gone. My lower legs from knees down were more caked in mud than they have ever been. You should have seen the state of the shower later! But my knee held up well and as there's still a fortnight till the Clarendon half marathon I remain hopeful that I'll be able to get round, even if it means doing it slowly.
Today, a three miler round the fields. It was Hard Work all the way. Ironically, having managed to stay on my feet in far worse conditions on Sunday, today I tripped over a flint on the relatively dry Chalk and sprawled onto the ground at the 2nd km. Ted came back all anxious to see if I was OK while Pop just looked over her shoulder as if to say what are you lying on the ground for?
Hope you're all well.