I won’t go on too much about the current weather. It’s a national pastime and needless to say currently I’m ‘aware’ of the ******* weather! Running to work as a Londoner puts you more in contact with the climate than the average commuter who relies on pubic (I mean public) transport. Running to work at 6:30 am with cats and dogs teaming on you makes you aware of your surroundings and environment. Believe me. It’s masochistical!
This weekend sucked on that front. Right? Well, yes and no. Sure, I’d like to be running under bluebird skies and through bright green and yellow fields. Of course it’s better to be hopping and running over dry, sturdy, styles rather than slamming the crotch down after slipping on a mossy wet one. And a crystal clear babbling brook accompanied by smartly tweed clad fisherman is better than a rain filled stormy green number.
So this weekend at the Houghton 11km trail race should’ve scored negative points on the fun front? Well, not at all! The girlfriend and I debated hard on Sunday morning about the merits of the drive down to rainy Hampshire with the Met Office issuing ‘Amber Alerts’. Suggestions of a ‘warm morning at RedHotYoga’ were mooted over early morning tea and toast and looking in a fed up manner at the grey, grey, skies. However, ‘backbone’ kicked in and having done this for 2 from the last 3 years, we knew how much of a cracking course it is and what eccentric middle England fun it can be. And this year was no exception. The 10.15 a.m. start was put back 30 mins as cars struggled to park in the local field. Some kind folk with his tractor lifted and spread hay bales over the field for wheel traction. A nice chap in his wax barbour pointed the low wheel base cars to park elsewhere with a smile, all whilst suffering a pestilence of rain unleashed on him.
The start line was at the periphery of a very packed, shivering, Houghton village hall. Lovely old ladies from the community had prepared smashing cakes to keep the spirits up, and a nice gentleman reeled off regular updates over the microphone in between ‘500 miles’ by The Proclaimers blasting through the speakers to keep the mood warm. Friendly running types were interspersed with the occasional regional running hero and both looked to be in the right arena. Everyone in Houghton who owned a dog owned a healthy looking, but wet, Labrador. And some people ran with them.
At 10:45 we were off: a few hundred runners (and a couple of dogs) started up the country lane making shapes through the mud and mulch like Bambi on ice and waving arms for balance sake like an octopus falling out of a tree. This was seriously treacherous stuff! And the rain continued; the sky grew darker and the wind just wouldn’t leave it alone. But all along the 11km of mud, tracks, fields and farms stood really cheery marshals wishing us well as we went past. To be honest, some looked so wet I wanted to stop and towel dry them. But they gave no hint of misery
The girlfriend has been off running since tearing ankle ligaments during Hellrunner last November. So aside a few recent trots around the Surrey downs, this is the first proper run. So we didn’t trouble the scorers as we plodded around together. But that wasn’t the point of this run. This race brought a community together in glorious English countryside. Eager runners from neighbouring villages mingled and chatted, keen to run a beautiful track organised by people who loved what they were doing and were passionate about what they were there for. And for the princely sum of a tenner! Sure there were teething problems, but there are no ‘airs and graces’ here and it’s just good, eccentric, quaint, middle England fun. The polar opposite of The Demon Run the weekend before, organised by a money making company who need these things to run like clockwork.
I can’t believe that anyone would have finished with their race number still pinned to their vests. The rain was that hard it washed mine off after a couple of km’s. A measure of the eccentricity of this run was having to holler your number to the race organiser as you crossed the finished line. And it’s 11km, not 10km. Why? Brilliant, quirky, stuff!
Well done Houghton! Keep it up. It’s back to running to work this week; not over slippery styles and paths and fields and tracks and there’ll be no-one cheering me at Hyde Park when I’m feeling a bit glum.
Oh, and any chance of getting some of that cake delivered to my gym in Soho? Please?