Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Sweeper's Tale

Arriving at 6.00am at Detling last Sunday I entered the village hall to be met by a row of alert but tired Marshals who greeted me as if I was their long lost family member (Centurion Marshals are an incredible breed) I announced I was the Sweeper for the last 21 mile section and heard there were still a few out on the course so settled down for a cup of coffee and a chin wag until the runners came through.

"Good luck with those it is very slippery out there!"  was the last farewell I got whilst a Marshall grinned as I trotted off in my Monkey Feet.

The sun was up and the sky clear but we had all been told to wait for the remnants of Hurricane Bertha to hit the South-East of England directly over the path of the North Downs Way! I had come prepared with my kamleika smock and woolly hat in my backpack along with a first aid kit, Buff and spare cash.

Within 20 minutes of running the rain started, easy at first and then a little harder, then the wind until it was just another rainy Sunday in England. This section of the North Downs Way is tough and even after 5 miles I was amazed to think that some of the runners had ascended and descended the blasted hills which had me gasping, sliding and swearing as I went which was actually not that bad in my Monkey Feet as I could feel the ground and balance well in the awkward terrain.

At about 9.00am the full force of the remnants of Hurricane Bertha hit the North Downs and I was loving it with the windy gusts nearly knocking me off my feet crossing open fields, branches whipping my face, mud splashing over me such that the smock was on very soon and later the woolly hat. You know me, I was loving it, the Monkey Feet  holding up well in the conditions underfoot which were not totally happy on exposed wet chalk but is any other trail shoe?

I finally came across some tired or wounded runners and slowly walked in to the checkpoint with them to hand them over to the Aid Station staff but then discovered that they had missed the cut off big style such that I would have to go self-sufficient for the last 10 miles as the next Aid Station was to close soon. I cared not a jot, took extra water and went about my Sweeping knowing the last runner was now about 1 hour ahead.

I love these solo runs, the fun of helping others reach their goals, my independence for about 5 hours of my silly life, meeting a few old faces at the Aid Stations and my love of the North Downs.

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