Last night I dreamt I went to Gibside again. Which was prophetic, as this morning I set of with Fiona, Conrad and Mike to the place I spent the summer of 2007 working. It would be interesting charging around the trails and paths that were so familiar from the time I spent wandering along them with a notebook, camera, and a copy of ‘What Tree is This?’.
We arrived early and I was reassured to find the hall not in flames. We were so early there wasn’t even a queue for the toilets. As the start time approached more and more Striders appeared on the scene and formed a friendly purple haze around the avenue. The start itself is probably the widest one I can recall and it was good not having the usual corset-like squeeze that accompanies the beginning of most races. However at the end of the avenue we swung round a hairpin and the tree-lined superhighway became a narrow pot-holed soggy cart track. Moments later we stormed down the hard entrance road to the estate and the only downhill part of this trail race that could be described as ‘not very nice’.
Debs and me have been closely matched in recent race results and I was confident that I could steal the march on her in this event. Sure enough after about a mile I nudged past her and thought that was the end of the matter. As far as I was concerned the case was closed. This was at the bottom of the first hill. When we got to the top of the first hill Debs breezed by in what can only be described as ‘a lofty manner’, so I gritted my teeth, put my head down, and gave chase. For a short while she was in my sights but by the time we got to the half-way point and the drinks station she was nothing but a distant memory.
I’d heard many runners talk about the last long hill but the killer for me was the short steep chappie in the middle leading up to the monument. I try to subscribe to the Alan Purvis motto that states that Thy shalt not Walk any Hills so I settled for running up this one very very slowly. On the last hill I rallied a little and spied Debs ahead, but as we turned around the top corner she engaged full afterburner and stormed away to finish a good minute ahead of me.
We were all pretty much agreed that the finish was soul sapping. That long, long, long, straight, with the finish banner never getting any closer and the ground getting stickier with every step made it hard to keep the momentum going. A bit like the finish to the coastal run, but with less sand.
I joined the friendly splodge of purple that had cheered me in and watched the remainder of the Striders squelch home. A tough, well organised race with great scenery and variety.
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