Bill and I set off from Norwich at 4 in the morning to get to Walesby near Nottingham. We arrived in good time at the Walesby sports club.
After a quick registration at 7am it was time to decide how many layers to put on. Although the weather was pleasant, the forecast for the afternoon was rain and more rain. I reminded Bill “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only soft people”.
I decided to forego my longsleeve Under Armour top and just wear my merino wool t-shirt. I packed my Montane Featherlite smock and fearing the worst also packed a disposable poncho.
According to the website this was not to be an orienteering exercise, we were provided with detailed maps and a route description before the event. I carried these in my vest but expected route markings to be fairly clear and to probably not need them…
After a very quick and concise briefing we gathered outside and set off at 8am heading west. Bill overheard someone at the start saying they knew the route, so when we realised they were running a similar pace to us we fell in behind them and stuck to them like glue. We needn’t have worried as the first section was well marked and fairly obvious anyway.
Nice scenery straightaway, and nice surface for running on too. All the way to checkpoint 1 at about 8 or 9 miles in.
A quick jaffacake or 3 and we headed off for the loop into Sherwood forest.
Here the path turned gravelly and after a short while Bill started to hobbling. We stopped and Bill found that a stone had managed to puncture the sole of his New Balance MT10 and had gone all the way through! Having stopped for a few minutes to sort out the stone and having a wee, we’d lost our navigator.
We could see a couple of runners up ahead and we were following them, when we heard a shout from behind. We had just missed a turning onto some heath land. Thanks to the helpful runner we managed to avoid getting lost this time. The trail after this point was thankfully fairly easy to follow. At mile 14 I managed to catch my foot on a root and took a tumble into some stinging nettles. Banged my left knee, a few scratches and stings. Ouch!
I popped an ibuprofen and carried on.
Apart from that is was a fairly uneventful run back to checkpoint 2, which was checkpoint 1 again. 18 miles done, nearly half way, all good so far. After more jaffacakes and filling up our water supplies we headed out.
There was a lot of road running on the next section, but the roads were all very quiet. At a couple of points we waited for runners with maps to help guide us.
At around 23 miles we entered the village of Holbeck Woodhouse. On our own at this point and with no route markers in sight, we were relying on the route description which said to “turn right into tree lined path past the church”. Heading into the village we couldn’t find the church. Getting the maps out we quickly realised we’d overshot the track and had to retrace our steps. We were looking for a path which was past a church, but the instructions meant that we would pass a church when we had got onto the correct path.
From this point on we kept the maps to hand!
Over some fields and down a hill, past a photographer and into Creswell Crags. Checkpoint 3 at mile 24 and I’m starting to tire, we begin a run/walk strategy from here on, running for 20 minutes and walking for 5. That’s the plan at least, the only exception is for hills which we walk no matter what. This strategy seems to work for us and we spend the rest of the race overtaking some of the people who had overtaken us earlier on.
Clumber park looks like a nice spot for a relaxing day out with the family, but head-down and struggling a little, we soldiered on. As we entered the picturesque village of Hardwick the heavens opened. Sheltering in a handy bus stop I pulled on the disposable poncho and carried on. 5 minutes later the downpour stopped and we had drizzle from then on.
Checkpoint 4 and around 34 miles completed, we stopped for a good 5 minutes to chat, refill our bottles and eat jelly babies. We were now on the home-straight, with “only” 6 miles to go.
We managed to get lost again at a recycling centre were we circled round it in an anti-clockwise direction through a wood and across some fields, when we should have gone clockwise. With all the rain our map had turned to mush, so we followed the instructions which said “Cross river at Foot Bridge and turn right at recycling plant” which we took to mean turn right after crossing the bridge. But I think they meant cross the bridge, go left until you reach the entrance to the recycling plant and then go right… Navigation not our strong point, but the instructions could have been clearer.
Taking less time walking now we made the final push to the finish and running as fast as we could at this point we made it back to the Walesby sports club in a time of 7 hours and 28 minutes, coming 35th out of 60 finishers.
Coffee, meat pie, peas and mint sauce – lovely.
All in all: a good run, through nice countryside, friendly runners and marshals, nice t-shirt, good food at the end. We were really lucky with the weather too. Our navigation skills could have been better, but the route descriptions could have been a bit clearer too, this would have made the run even more enjoyable.
Thanks to the organisers.