This popular off-roader is a regular fixture on the club’s off-road race series and thus attracts a generous proportion of purple (one of the Dursley athletes commented that there were more Almost Athletes than Dursley & District Athletes last year) and this year was no exception.
You are promised 12 miles of mud and hills and you are not generally let down (I do recall the odd occasion where it was too cold to be muddy; that presented its own challenges); if you are a mud-lark or off-road junkie, this is definitely for you.
What I happened to be on this occasion was a recovering lurgy victim though, having been on a training run in the week and despite having almost coughed up a lung and gone into spasm afterwards, was feeling reasonably optimistic about getting around in one piece.
Taking the start of the race very steadily (not that I had much choice, you immediately climb from the word go) my optimism was still in place until the gradient relaxed a little. The first warning sign was a slight twinge in my left calf. Great – still 11-plus miles to go and my leg wants to cry off. I chose to ‘manage’ this by simply easing off, which appeared to be working to a degree.
After a meander up through Stinchcombe Wood, skirting around the far end of the local golf course, back down into, and up out of, the same wood one finally has a chance to stretch out a little on a flat road section. Sadly, my body did not agree with my assessment of this and refused to pick up the pace with those around me. By the time we entered another stretch of wood and a gently undulating track, I had lost quite a bit of ground on those I had accompanied out onto the top initially.
Things looked up slightly; whilst I still felt that I was fighting a battle between mind and body I was succeeding in keeping to the pace of those now around me. By the time we exited that particular stretch I felt reasonably happy that I would complete the course in one piece, so to speak.
We descended into another wooded section before a long steady climb. It became apparent that my legs were not enjoying downhill but were coping rather better with uphill though, from the waist up, I probably felt the opposite. However I was making up some ground on others during the ascent.
In flying the term What Goes Up Must Come Down is heard. In running I usually apply the opposite. For this race you simply go up and down and repeat… A very uneven and steep descent took us past the halfway point in the race, some treading like cows off a ramp, others skipping like mountain goats. My descent combined the recklessness of the latter with the panache of the former.
Another (steep) climb and more ground made up. I was actually going forward! We looped around a rocky section before another brief road stretch and another descent into another wooded section. We ‘undulated’ our way along a (very muddy in places) path where I made up more places, largely thanks to shoes with tractor-tyre-like lugs. And so to the final big climb.
It’s steep. It’s slippery. It requires a rope. We hauled our way up the rope climb through the wood before exiting and having to revert to leg power. One helpful supporter had a tub of sweets handy; unfortunately my coordination was sufficiently off that I grabbed a wine gum instead of a jelly baby and, finding it too much to chew on, had to spit it away.
Into the last couple of miles, though my body at this point had pretty much spent its energy. We skirted around the edge of the golf course again before revisiting the undulating section of woodland track. At about halfway along this we turn left – in the final mile! – and drop. My legs at this point were really not in the mood for this and each stride was accompanied by random expletives, sharp intakes of breath and low-volume yelps.
The race was completed in the town centre and I was just about ‘completed’ as well. Whilst not on a level with the midweek post-run, I did need to sit and gather myself for a few minutes (big thanks to those who hung around to make sure I was OK). Still, bearing in mind I was some way from fully fit I was ‘only’ 10 minutes off my time from last year.
Like hills? Like mud? Like Dursley.