13 July 2016
The RR10’s are coming thick and fast this month with one almost every week. This week it was Whiteley, between Southampton and Portsmouth. It’s an odd place, until the mid 1980’s it was farmland with wooded areas once home to troops prior to the D Day landings. Then the powers that be decided to build a business park. The first houses went up in the late 1980’s and, now there are around six thousand residents, a retail park, restaurants, a cinema and a business park. The name Whiteley is a nod to one of the original farms.
Not being a great fan of out of town shopping, or shopping of any kind come to that, I had never been there. In fact, for a while, it looked as if I wouldn’t be going there for the RR10. Not only is Commando’s ankle still injured, but he had a fire warden course to attend at work. Luckily, the lovely Emma, my parkrun walking companion, stepped in. This would be her first RR10 since the birth of her beautiful little daughter Ellie. She wasn’t quite up to running yet but she was going to try to collect tickets at the end of the race, Ellie permitting. Did I want a lift? You bet I did.
An accident on the motorway held us up for a while and, when we finally got to the car park in the shopping centre, we discovered we had quite a walk to the start. This wasn’t something I was complaining about, although poor Ellie, bumped about in her pram on the rough, gravelly ground, may not have agreed. The trail seemed so firm and dry I wondered if all the pre race warnings of mud and advice that trail shoes were a must had been a joke. In fact I began to think this might be an area to come back and explore when there wasn’t a race on. There seemed to be some interesting looking trails.
Unlike previous RR10’s though, there were no open spaces. When we got to the start we discovered all the runners, their tents and flags, were crowded into a narrow side trail. There was barely room to move and certainly nowhere we could take a group photo. Still, we were there and little Ellie was certainly causing quite a stir.
The actual start turned out to be way back down the trail we’d walked up. Sadly, it was such a narrow trail that going back to the beginning and getting start line photos was impossible. Those of us who’d come to spectate stayed where we were and waited until the runners came past. Even then, getting decent photos proved a big ask in the cramped conditions. I did the best I could.
Pretty soon the last runner had gone by. This was a lovely lady called Annie who, despite a knee injury and, dare I say it, advancing years, was doing a sterling job at the rear. For all the fast boys and girls at the front, the runners like Annie are the ones I really admire. It takes a lot of guts to run when you know you’re probably going to come last.
As it happened, I needn’t have tried quite so hard with those first photos because the race turned out to be a two lap affair and, a little while later, runners began coming back down the trail towards us. With a turn of speed Commando would have been proud of, I dashed across the trail to get a good vantage point and snap the photos I should have got earlier.
Then, when all but one runner had passed, little Ellie decided sleeping wasn’t really her thing. Perhaps it was all the cheering that woke her. Annie came past, still smiling despite her bandaged knee, just as the front runners were about to lap her. They probably thought we were cheering for them but I, for one, was cheering for Annie.
Soon it was back to snapping photos of the runners as they ran the last yards to the finish. Some had looks of steely determination, some looked relieved it was almost over, others gave me cheeky grins as they passed. There was one epic battle for position between Jamie and Kali, with one just pipping the other to the post. Which it was I’ll leave to your imagination. There was also a very determined Jo, snatching a place from two Totton ladies. They tried their best but just couldn’t catch her.
As more and more finishers crowded the narrow lane it became harder and harder to get photos. In the end I had to dash back to the other side through a gap in the runners. By this time one of the ticket collectors had become slightly preoccupied with baby feeding. Luckily Michelle stepped in and saved the day and, along with Kylie, did a fabulous job of taking the finish ticket from each Spitfire and recording their position in the race.
Soon, all but one runner had crossed the line. There were a lot of muddy legs and a few muddy bottoms where runners had fallen. The pre race warning that trail shoes were a necessity was obviously not a joke. In fact Meeje, who had no trail shoes, said it wouldn’t have made any difference if she was wearing stilettos, the mud was so thick it was all she could do to keep her shoes on her feet.
Much as I’d have liked to stay to cheer brave Annie, it was time to pack up and go. There was a baby to put to bed after all. Hopefully Annie’s Hardly Runner team mates stayed to give her the applause she deserved. There was just time to snap a picture of the finish line crowd. The closet thing I could get to a team photo in the circumstances. Next week it’s back to Janesmoor Pond. Maybe there will be a reprise of the lovely sunset then.
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