Sunday, 29 November 2009

Gatliff 50 km - Race Report

The day started with the alarm awakening me at 5.15 am and I traipsed downstairs to put on my kit ready for the day's adventure. I had been told that it was going to be a very hard run made much more difficult by the bad rains, this prediction was soon to be proved right.

George dropped by at 6.00 am and we were soon on our way towards Edenbridge, Kent arriving at 6.45 am. Check in was easy, I seemed to place a £10 note on the table and in the time it took to write my name and address it had been converted to 2 x £1 coins, a map and a punch card. We scurried around getting our kit ready, greasing my feet with an extra layer of vaseline, two running tops, leggings, a waterproof jacket and a backpack. We were able to view a map of the course which confirmed that we were going to be going over some of the more choice hills in the area.

Stepping out of the door of the hall we were met by the first spatterings of rain in a cloudy, pre-dawn sky not perturbed we ventured out.

The route was not marked as per usual for these type of races but provided to us in LDWA navigation format which guides you through a route by landmark, path markings, bearings and styles, difficult at first but becomes clearer as you practice. Both of us worked well together checking each others decisions in a "measure twice, cut once" approach, this course was going to be hard enough without mistakes making it harder.

About 4 miles into the course, the rain came down with a vengeance on to rain soaked fields, rivers were swollen near breaking and in some sections were breached making us have to wade through the ice cold water to the other side to get onto paths and bridges. I had an unfortunate accident when I twisted my ankle on a submerged root but wasn't really aware of it as my feet were so cold but it would come back and haunt me later.

The recent rains had made the mud like glue and every step was made twice as hard with the effort of pulling my shoes out of the quagmire.

One of the funniest moments of the day was when we had to cross a field but to get to the other side we had to cross what appeared to be wide, shallow stream. How wrong we were when another runner shouted " It is pretty shallow where you are but a little deeper on the other side" Assuming that as he had crossed OK, I would be OK and so ventured forward to find myself groin deep in the stream and managed to struggle out the other side, I then heard what can best described as a whelp and looked around to see George belly deep in the stream with his arms up, trying to keep his map and Garmin dry, it then became apparent he had got his foot stuck under a pipe and I had to grab his arm so he could struggle free.

We had been told on good authority by a veteran of this run that the run did take us over ploughed hills and up major inclines which were hard normally but the weather had made it tougher, in fact running through mud that came halfway up your calf was just absolute madness.

Checkpoints were brilliant with tables full of sandwiches, fruit and sausage rolls, a choice of "red or yellow" soup (tomato or chicken) and tea and coffee out of your ears

So the run went on hill after hill, mile after mile each one filled with laughter and astonishment at the course, the views amazing with rainbows, herds of cows stampeding and thunder & lightning

A great run but before I close this report of daring do, some facts about the course and obstacles we crossed:

  1. Styles -105
  2. Bridges (purpose built) - 21
  3. Gates (Closed) - 40
  4. Kissing Gates - 11
and a map of the run