It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.
It all started Like the Wind. After a great evening at their pop-up talk in central London, where I met pretty much all the Centurion stalwarts chugging beer at the back plus a few other runners talking about running and stuff, I hopped on the train to Tring.
Being proper mentalists the PoS group had a great idea a few days before the race to also run the inaugural Tring Parkrun. I think it was Adams that suggested this. The run was only 5 miles away and although I had no way to get to the start of PoS (not being a driver), Mark Fox offered me a lift. I was also in the String mindset and thought this might play some part in this year’s pointlessness. I even went to the point of checking who the RD was just in case the Jameses had set this up as an elaborate hoax. The paranoia had started early this year.
As the Parkrun organisers started the briefing at 9am and proceeded to enjoy a good back-slapping exercise in front of the 100 or so morning runners, I had to leave the ongoing handshakes, cheque presentations and introductions of all the people who made this event possible at 9:15 to be able to get back to the start of PoS. So the first run of the day ended in a DNS.
Mark drove over due to a late breakfast and gave me a lift to the Village Hall in Wendover where I met many familiar faces and and donned the chicken suit. I’d told a few friends that I was running in the suit this year as the PoS is billed as a Fun Run, and I wanted to explore this aspect. Unfortunately as I wandered to the start line I realised I was only able to see through a postage-stamp size hole and was already sweating like a good ‘un. But not being one to give up on a mad plan, I persevered.
Level 1: Chain Hill
Nici Griffin was to be the ringmaster on this little bit of fun, and delighted in sending us on around 10 laps of Chain Hill (I lost count. It doesn’t pay to count things on PoS). We had to complete a lap on average every 15 minutes. Quite doable but tough on the quads. I estimated the hill to be a couple of hundred feet. So this was a quick 2 hour warm-up, 10k and 2000’ascent. Level 1 complete.
Level 2: More Hills
Returning back to Wendover we had a quick briefing from James Elson, which was exactly the same as the Level 1 briefing. Namely we had to run 14 minute miles across the Ridgeway to Goring. Oh goody. More hills. By now I was really starting to feel the effects of the heat, hills and chicken suit but being properly unstable I had vowed to keep it on the whole race. So back through town for the third time and more questioning looks from the Saturday morning shoppers.
|Getting chicky with it|
I was starting to flag.
I waved the other two on and took a slow hike up a particularly long hill.
In an attempt to catch them up again I put my foot down on the downhill. In the wrong place. A niggling knee injury twanged and I was reduced to walking. No problem as I’d done this in pretty much every race this season. Just walk it out and back to running in no time.
It was a race I didn’t win. As I plodded down a lane James Adams met me at the checkpoint. I was 15 minutes outside the cut-off though he did give me the option of returning, but I wasn’t going to be running again today and so took the DNF at about 15 miles. My shortest ever ultra.
Back to Wendover we picked up Debbie King who had got very lost and was waiting for us in a nearby pub. As I’d gambled on a long string again this year my train ticket home was for 7pm Sunday, so I asked if there was anything I could do to help. As a competitor turned volunteer it was fascinating to see the well-oiled meticulously planned PoS machine in action. I found my niche making tea and coffee and eating all the chocolate crack.
|Chillin' while Chain Hillin'|
My fellow Socialler, Mark Fox was limping badly due to twice twisting his ankle on Level 1 and was close to bailing. Luckily the next level was on the Grand Union Canal. Nice and flat, and so we persuaded him to pop out for another section. I was under strict instruction not to give anything away. So a nice flat GUC run it was then.
Level 3: A bit of canal and more Ridgeway
As it was now dark nav became a bit of an issue. That and the RDs forgetting to mention that the GUC had been drained for most of the section they were running so they couldn’t “follow the water” as usual. The Jameses swiftly and efficiently organised a text to all runners and we were back on track, and in the meantime it was time to brief for Level 4.
As it turned out most runners got through this section fine apart from Anna who managed to get pretty well lost and slipped from 3rd to 8th returning back at Wendover after 50-odd miles. We did lose Mark and Caroline after they missed the cut-off, so down to 6 runners.
Level 4: More hills
This was the beast section. The all-singing all-dancing James and James roadshow had found a looped track on a hillside in the nearby woods. Earlier in the day we’d asked the Twitterverse to vote trick or treat for each competitor. Some got 60% tricks, some got 100% tricks, though this useful experiment goes to prove that Twitter is full of sick, twisted individuals.
|Midnight in the woods, dancing to toonz..|
Which I’m sure they didn’t.
In a display of absolute grit and determination, every runner that we sent on another loop merely refilled with water and gels, then set off on the next lap. Most had twigged this was going to be a night of loops on the second lap so just looked at us quipped “another lap?” and set off up the hill again as we nodded.
Finally after 5 laps we could send the runners back to Wendover with a “good news / bad news” greeting.
The good news was back to the Hall.
The bad news – they’d get that back at the hall.
The bad news back at the hall was that it was all over.
We’re a little bit twisted like that.
So as one by one the runners were sent back down to finish it only left Anna out on the course. Tunes blaring, bopping away and giving Adams a hard time for this year’s “piece of piss” to be sent down the hill to finish. All done.
The best of times.