Lest we forget, after my recent run of alcohol-soaked blogging, that the whole point of this blog is to try to balance the good with the good. That’s the good (to eat and drink) with the good (for me and my continued longevity). And the thing that has best represented my increased interest in my fitness and wellbeing since I began this blog has been running. I am doing significantly more of it than I ever was before starting this blog and last Sunday I was at it again.
Last Sunday was the first in the 2015 series of Cheddar Gorge Challenges, put on by Relish Running Races. Last year I did my first ever 5k race with Relish at nearby Killerton and followed it up with my first 10k race at Cheddar. And this year I was back again, ready to test myself once more on the Hell Steps.
(Cue dramatic sound effects; perhaps a clap of thunder and some maniacal laughing)
The route was almost exactly the same as last year’s event, with a slight change to the start/finish position, so I won’t linger on the details (you can read a much longer description of the run if you follow the above link to last year’s post). Instead, I thought I would focus on a few key revelations from the run.
They have the best marshals
Full credit to the guy standing at the top of the last hill shouting “go on mate, you can do it, it’s the last hill, go on!” Thank you, you got me up that hill just that little bit quicker than I would have otherwise managed it.
They have the worst marshals
It was very clearly not the last hill. You lied sir, you lied. (In his defence, it was the last big hill…)
There is always time to embarrass yourself
There is an out-and-back section on the course, meaning that you get to pass lots of other runners heading in the opposite direction. Should one of them run towards you beaming and giving you the thumbs-up, then it is only polite to give them the thumbs-up in return. If you then realise that they’re actually giving the thumbs-up to their mate, who is running right on your shoulder, then it is incumbent upon you to run for the next half a mile (at least) with your thumb fixed rigidly in the thumbs-up position, as if you always run like that and were, in no way, caught in some awkward I-thought-that-was-meant-for-me embarrassing situation.
They are a friendly bunch
That includes the other runners (chatting before, during and after the race), the organisers (checking the names at the finishing line to call out personalised “well done [insert name here]” messages) and the spectators.
The Hell Steps are appropriately named
Appropriately named that is, unless you had taken it literally; they don’t actually lead to Tartarus. But they are an unwelcome intrusion seven and a half kilometres into the run. I was, at least, prepared for them this year.
No jacket was the correct decision
Although it was bitingly cold in the wind across the first kilometre and a bit (running across the fields above the gorge), the day and I both warmed up and I was sweating freely by the end. A good decision.
I am getting quicker
A return visit is always a boon to a runner. You know the course, know what to expect, and can pace yourself a little better as a result. Last year I was annoyingly just the wrong side of an hour. This year I managed it in 52:13, coming home in 14th place. Which was a nice boost.
They have really good medals
I’ve said it before, but if it’s not all about the medals then what is is all about? Okay, okay, apart from the health benefits and the sense of satisfaction and the challenge and the great countryside and the camaraderie and the free chocolate bar, then what is it all about? (With apologies to Monty Python).