The first blog post back after a break is really difficult. How do you start such a thing? Where do you pick up the thread? How rubbish will it be (writing needs practice and I’m sorely out of it…)
So, I thought I would cheat and start with a race report.
Well, when I say race report I really mean run report. This is not a fatuous remark about running so slowly it wouldn’t count as racing. I mean there were no marshals, race signage or timekeeping. The run in question was the Trust 10 – a 10k event run across various locations in the UK. Last Sunday we were at Polesden Lacey, the National Trust regional office for London and the South East.
Although there was a lack of race paraphenalia or organisation of any time, there were 66 slightly freezing folks dressed in various lycra outfits. We were huddled together like penguins waiting for something to happen at the advertised 9am start.
Just before 9, a youthful young man clutching a clipboard turned up and we added our names to the list. This would be the Brian Hanrahan safety procedure for the participating runners. Once all had done so, we were ushered out of the car park onto Polesden Road and waited for the safety briefing. I had glanced at the run route a few months earlier when we had intended to run but had not made it. Assuming the route was marked (and knowing the paths around the estate really well), I had not checked since. This, it turned out was my mistake.
There were way markers, shown below but they were (in my defence) small, very small.
We started with a ‘go’ and trotted off down the road towards the farm and eventually Ranmore Common.
There had been familiar faces present at the start, club mate Nigel and the infamous Dr Rob plus many former patrons of the shop. I had asked questions about the route prior to the start and has established that route markers would be scarse, the course was likely to be very muddy, if I reached Ranmore Church I had gone too far and the course initially followed the route of the Polesden 10k.
The field went off quickly and I found myself at the back almost immediately. I was dropped before we had travelled under the first of the two bridges in the Polesden Estate that traversed the road. A chap close to me turned and asked if I would be ok on my own – I replied in the positive. I was really confident in the area and happy to plod along at my own pace, much rather that than have to bust a gut to keep up or feel bad that I was slowing others down – he accepted my response and turned back to his own group to push on.
It was impossible not to be touched by his gesture though.
I knew before starting that the course was tough and was not short changed. The first climb up to the Ranmore Road was long, almost a mile. I settled into a run/walk, looking for familiar landmarks and stopping for a pee. I covered the ground quick enough to hang onto the coat tails of the ladies at the back of the main group. It was reasssuring to see them and occasionally, they would turn and wave. Reciprocating, I was content in the knowledge I was not totally on my own.
At the top the course turned almost immediately on itself parallel to the path just travelled. The ladies were about 30m away and squeeling with glee. Comprehension dawned when I reached the point. It was muddy and slippery and almost impossible to keep footing. The route was familiar up to that point, and going on I started to keep an eye out for the pink disks on finger posts whilst same time, running downhill, exhilirated and breathless. Just before Tanners Hatch Youth Hostel, I saw a runner cut across from right to left – he had made great time and had to be one of the leaders. So, at least I knew where the route would go later in the course. Now, almost at the bottom, my friendly ladies were again above me heading back on themselves and another climb back up to Ranmore.
I followed the path round and started the long trudge. We were all walking at this point. My new found friends were about 100m ahead and still waving sporadically, providing companionship from afar. At the crest, they ran on, I never saw them again. I took my time to reach the house at the top of the hill, which once suffered terribly from Japanese Knotweed. The red and white tape around the outer grounds was still evident. I passed the house and out of the woods to turn left on the path parallel to the Ranmore Road towards Dorking.
There are a number of paths that lead back into the woods. It was inevitable that we would do so to get back down to Tanners Hatch. Scouring each finger post for the disc, I kept going until I met two cyclists heading towards me on mountain bikes. It turns out one of them was a regular customer and we spent a few moments catching up before I asked if they’d seen runners on their travels.
They had not.
I was sure I couldn’t have missed it but heading in the direction I was going would lead me to Ranmore Church – the church ‘too far’. From there I could follow the Bookham 10k path back down to Bagden Farm and then head across the the field back towards the Youth Hostel. So, apparently not on the correct path but not lost – I pressed on with the plan. In any respects, I was having a wonderful time.
The solitude of being in the woods on my own was wonderful. It was peaceful and quiet and I just enjoyed the sensation of movement (downhill too – bonus!)
At Badgen there were a number of different options to get back to the house. I chose to pick up the original route and clambered back up the hill, which turned out to be a lot steeper than I’d anticipated.
When I eventually got back to the start, the man with the clipboard had gone. So much for safety! But I didn’t mind, I’d had a ball and headed back to G who was waiting in the cafe for me with a hot coffee and his own stories to tell.