4 May 2016
When Commando said he’d be running the RR10 at Stoney across tonight I had no idea what he was talking about.
“What’s an RR10?” I asked.
“A race,” he answered, rather unhelpfully I thought.
“I gathered that, but what does it mean?”
“Ah,” he looked a little sheepish. “I don’t actually know. It might mean road race but it isn’t on the road so maybe not. There are ten of them though, one every two weeks.”
I was none the wiser but, as long as no one expected me to run, I thought I might as well go along and take some photos. Maybe I’d be able to find out what it was when I got there.
The race was due to start at 7.15 so it was always going to be tight, time wise, for Commando as he had to go to work afterwards.
“I’ll probably have to leave you there and get one of the other runners to bring you home. There’s bound to be someone coming this way.”
Not exactly confidence inspiring but I guessed I could always walk back if I really had to. It was only thirteen miles after all. Mind you, in the dark it might not be all that much fun.
We got there early, unsure if we’d be able to find anywhere to park. A few of the Shetland ponies I’d seen on my last visit were wandering around as we headed for Janesmoor Pond. I wondered what they’d make of all the runners about to decend on their quiet corner of the New Forest. As it was we found a parking space straight away. None of the other runners had arrived so we stood around for a bit watching the sun slowly sinking over the New Forest. There were worse things we could have been doing.
After a bit a few people began to arrive and began putting up pop up tents and flags. Pretty soon the grassy area near Janesmoor Pond was rapidly filling up with running club tents, flags and runners. There was an air of expectation and building excitement. This would be the first RR10 for Commando but everyone seemed clear about the distance, four to five miles, and the course, cross country, probably muddy in places and some challenging hills. Wandering around taking to people I discovered this was one of a series of ten, fortnightly races all over Hampshire. Even so, no one I spoke to could tell me what the RR stood for. Perhaps I was asking the wrong people.
When someone suggested a warm up might be a good plan Commando jumped at the chance. By now any stray ponies had made themselves scarce. Instead runners streamed off onto the empty field and went galloping round in circles. I particularly liked the bit where they all skipped like children in a playground and jumped high into the air swinging their arms. It looked like great fun and reminded me of some of the warm ups I’ve seen before football matches.
Pretty soon people began meandering towards the start finish line. The race was about to begin. When we set out I thought I might be able to have a little wander amongst the trees while Commando was running but I got caught up with the other spectators and the results collectors. Slowly I was discovering more about this RR10 business. It turned out this was not a normal race with timing chips. In fact no one was timing anyone, which was probably a good thing as Commando had forgotten his Garmin. Results would be based on finish position, with everyone picking up a token as they crossed the line. The sum of each club’s results would be the team score.
Once all the runners disappeared into the distance we stood around batting off midges and chatting. This was mostly certainly the easy option. When the first runners eventually began to appear it was clear it had been a very challenging course. They all looked shattered when they came in and there was some muttering about a hill at the end.
Due to a decided lack of height and an increasingly crowded finish line, it was hard to see what was going on. With so many hot, sweaty runners about the midges were having a field day but it did mean they were staying away from me in favour of fitter, juicier flesh.
With the sun turning the field to liquid gold the trickle of of runners turned to a flood, some gasping and dropping to their knees with the effort they’d put in, others looking at their race tokens with varying degrees of happiness or disappointment. The results collectors, with their clipboards, had a job to keep up for a while.
Amongst them was Commando. He’d crossed the finish line without me even noticing and was hot and slightly out of breath but fairly happy with his place. As more and more people finished and the crowds began to thin a little, we all made our way to the side of the course a hundred yards or so from the finish and shouted encouragement to runners tired from the punishing final hill. Final spurts of speed were put on, energy dragged from the depths, positions were gained and lost in the last few yards. Legs and voices struggled.
All too soon Commando was looking at his phone. It was time for him to go if he didn’t want to be late for work. Hastily, a lift was arranged with some kindly runner friends so walking home was avoided. Then he walked off into the sunset with a wave and left me to my cheering.
The rest of us stayed to cheer the very last runner in. When it was all over we meandered back to the car park admiring the sunset over Stoney Cross. Finally the ponies could have their peacefully corner of the New Forest back. I can’t help wondering what they made of the strange human invasion? Oh, and I still don’t know what the RR stands for!