22 June 2016
Today began with a text message from Vodafone to say the new phone I ordered a month ago had finally been delivered to the shop. So the first job of the day was to make sure all the photos on my current phone were downloaded onto my iPad. The second was a three mile walk into town with no photo stops because, once I got the new phone, they’d all be erased. Well, that was what I thought anyway.
As it happened I could have snapped away to my heart’s content because things didn’t go at all to plan. Firstly, there was a thirty minute wait to be served. This was no hardship because they took my name and I went off to Costa for a coffee to revive me from the hot, muggy march. When I got back though things began to go downhill fast. Forms were filled in, my driving licence taken and photocopied and then the salesman went away to get my phone. He was gone a long time…a very long time.
Eventually he came back shaking his head. My phone wasn’t there. He had no idea where it was or what had happened. Worse still he had no idea how long it would take to get another one. As I’d already waited a month I was not a happy bunny. On the plus side I spotted two fluffy little cygnets at Chessel Bay on the way home and a bee on the blackberries. Also, the forecast thunderstorm didn’t materialise while I was out walking although it certainly felt as if there was thunder in the air.
The threat of a storm was a bit of a worry because there was an RR10 tonight at Manor Farm Country Park. It was the ideal opportunity to test out the new camera on real runners in the wild but, with no case, I was worried about rain. In the end I took it but I also took my rucksack to put it in if the worst happened. Rain or no rain, this was one RR10 that should be easy to find. In fact, after getting more than a little lost there last summer, I was pretty sure I could find it without the aid of a map.
This time we didn’t get lost but all was not plain sailing. There was a big sign at the entrance saying RR10 and Commando drove slowly along the winding lane looking for a sign for the correct car park. There are four hundred acres of country park and lots and lots of little car parks all hidden behind trees. We got right to the other end of the lane, close to the little church in Botley I’d had such a lovely time looking round. There were no signs. Commando turned round and we drove slowly back to the place I thought I’d seen people in brightly coloured Lycra earlier. Thankfully it was the right car park.
Not long after we got there the tent arrived. This time it was the normal pop up tent so there was no need for the men to all disappear while the women struggled with poles. It was far simpler to put up but I have to admit to a certain fondness to the little kiddie tent we had last time. It was so bright and cheerful.
A few people went off for warm up runs and there was the usual standing around chatting waiting for the proceedings to start. The main topic of conversation was the course. There was talk of obstacles and gravel. Even walking it sounded worrying to me never mind running. The other topic of conversation was the ladder standing in the middle of the field. It was a puzzling oddity. I wondered if it might be one of the obstacles but kept my thoughts to myself.
Soon it was time for everyone to line up on the start line. I wandered off to find a good vantage point to test my new camera skills. Then the reason for the ladder became clear. The race starter climbed up it with his megaphone to do the pre race briefing. The megaphone didn’t seem to work very well because I couldn’t hear a word he said. Hopefully the runners did though.
Sadly, all my efforts to find a good spot came to nothing much. The first part of the course was rather narrow and, within moments, I’d had to dive into the undergrowth to avoid being trampled. After the lead runners went past everything ground to a halt. It was just too crowded to run and the rest of the course shuffled slowly forward until they passed the bottleneck.
A few minutes later John spotted runners through a distant gap in the trees. If only I’d known earlier I’d have been able to walk down there and get some decent action shots. As it was I stayed put and tested out the camera. The others ran down the grassy bank to cheer. I’m pretty sure I spotted Commando at one point but, at that distance, it was hard to tell.
Once the last runner had disappeared from view we wandered towards the finish line at the top of a gentle slope between some trees. John spotted some benches a little further down the slope so we all strolled down to them thinking we would have a better view and somewhere to sit. The benches were right next to a toilet block. The closer we got the more pungent the air became. I’m pretty sure there was something wrong with the drains.
It seemed an unfortunate place to have picnic benches so, while my nose acclimatised, I wandered off a little way to explore. The trail I found leading off into the trees was tempting. The sign said there were woods, farmland and riverside to be seen. This is most definitely somewhere to come back to when the place isn’t overflowing with runners. There were also some interesting looking wood sculptures but my exploring was cut short by cheering, the first runners were coming back.
The start of the race might not have been very exciting but the finish certainly was. I got back to the bench just in time to see the lead runner appear between the trees. A few yards behind was Commando’s friend Scott! As they ran up the slope towards the finish Scott seemed to be gaining but, with such a short distance and such a big gap it looked impossible. Then they disappeared into the trees again.
Obvioulsly I wasn’t quick enough to see them cross the finish line but I scurried up the slope to congratulate Scott on taking second place. Imagine my surprise when I reached the ticket collectors and a very fresh looking Scott to discover he’d actually come first!
Once I’d reported back, I returned to find a spot a little closer to the finish line action and away from the smelly loos. Now there was a steady stream of runners to cheer. My fancy pants camera to my eye and on sport mode I waited for Commando. Sadly, just as he got properly within range someone walked in front of me.
As more and more runners came in there were tales of mud, falls and even stepping stones to be negotiated on the course. Obviously all the talk of obstacles had not been a bluff. Everyone seemed to agree that the final, muddy hill was a killer and many said they only made it to the top because of all the cheers and support from the waiting crowd.
Finally, the last runner crossed the line and we all wandered back to the main field. The runners were muddy, tired but happy it was over. Looking around at the weary faces and muddy legs it seemed to me everyone who’d run tonight was a winner. Then the tent was packed away and another RR10 was ticked off the list.
As we walked back to the car I looked across the field hoping for a hint of sunset. The light was fading but the sky stayed resolutely grey. The best I could manage was a shot of golden clouds when I walked from the car to my own front door. Still, at least the forecast storm hadn’t come.
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