19 July 2017
Tonight’s RR10 adventure was at Janesmoor Pond in the New Forest, although there was some slight confusion, at least on my part because I thought it was across the road at Stoney Cross. Luckily Commando knew where we were going and we managed to pull into the correct car park alongside several other Spitfires who arrived at around the same time. The first job was erecting the tent and flag. This proved slightly more difficult than expected.
Janesmoor Pond is a large flat area of heathland with a few sparse trees and gorse bushes, great for a surreptitious wee but not very good as shelter from the wind. The tent threatened to blow away almost as soon as it was up. Bags had to be hastily put inside and even then it billowed about dangerously. As for the flag, it plain refused to stay upright and looking as if it might well become a kite without someone anchoring it down. Eventually, with the help of several men and a big hammer, a pole was inserted far enough into the ground to keep the flag earthbound. Several more bags were piled around it just in case. Where the big hammer came from is a mystery. Who carries a hammer about just in case?
The other thing about Janesmoor Pond, or at least the RR10 course, is the stupidly steep hill just before the finish line. The start of the race is at the bottom of the hill, meaning the race has far more ups than downs, which is never a good thing for a runner, especially if it’s muddy. This was one of the races Commando wasn’t able to run last year, due to his broken leg, but he remembered the long slog back up the hill from the start line all too well. Oddly it didn’t put him, or all the other Spitfires who turned up, off running. Maybe it’s like childbirth, you forget the pain and stupidly do it all again. To be fair, a few of them hadn’t run it before and didn’t know what they were letting themselves in for.
Once the team photo was taken all the runners set off for the long walk down the hill. They seemed in surprisingly good spirits considering. The cheer team, including Tori and Maria who’d kindly agreed to collect the finishing tickets, dithered. None of us could decide whether to walk down the hill to watch the start, knowing we’d only have to climb back up again a few minutes later, or stay put near the finish line. After a lengthy discussion we decided to risk walking down.
In the end this proved to be both a good descision and a bad one in equal measure. About half way down we came across a foal munching away amongst the undergrowth. The poor thing was quite bedraggled and had bracken and moss caught up in her mane. Perhaps we should have tried to remove it for her but she seemed quite happy as she was and the chances are she’d have run off if we got too close. These are semi wild animals after all.
The further we descended the muddier it got. The ground hadn’t had a chance to dry out from the recent rain and things began to get a little on the slippery side. When we got to a large patch of really boggy ground we all agreed it was silly to continue. Experience told me there’d be little chance of decent photos of the start anyway and slipping over and getting injured didn’t seem worth the risk. Runners, including a few late Spitfire arrivals, were still streaming down the hill as we turned back. At least their trail shoes helped them negotiate the mud.
We slowly climbed back to the top of the hill, feeling quite glad we didn’t have to run up it, especially once the mud had been churned up by hundreds of other feet. Back on the windy field there was at least some sun to stand and chat in, although it was sinking lower and the shadows getting longer by the minute.
The first runners began to appear over the top of the hill surprisingly quickly, given they’d just run around five miles, most of it up hill. The order of the first Spitfires was fairly predictable, Ian, Andy, Gerry and Sam were first. They seemed to deal with the hill with relative ease. There was also a lot less mud on legs than I’d expected, although none of them could be exactly called clean. To their credit, the Spitfires all ran up the hill, although the same couldn’t be said for all the runners taking part. Some seemed to run out of steam half way up the steepest part and almost crawled to the top.
As expected, Commando was a little further towards the back of the pack than he would normally be. His fitness is slowly coming back but nowhere near as fast as he’d like. Once he’d crossed the finish line he joined me and the rest of the finishers turned cheerers and grumbled about how slow he was. No amount of pointing out that most people who’d been as ill as he has wouldn’t be running at all, never mind tackling a hill I could barely walk up, made any difference. Neither did pointing out how many perfectly fit people were still out on the course and would love to be able to run as fast as he just had.
We stood together and watched the rest of the runners appear over the brow of the hill. As more and more finishers joined us there were a lot of mumbles of ‘never again’ and ‘I’m booking my holiday for this time next year so I don’t have to run this one.’ Given the muddy course and the horrible hills there were a lot of smiling faces on the finish straight and quite a few astonishing sprint finishes.
Janesmoor Pond is, as far as I can see, the toughest of the RR10 courses and tonight the Spitfires tackled it with guts and gusto from the first to the last. The sun was sinking as we strolled back across the field towards the cars. This was one race everyone was glad to have behind them but I’m pretty sure they’ll all be back next year just the same. They’re Spitfires after all.
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