It was just under four miles to the Hotel Mercure where the monthly Run For Heroes is staged, so I left the house at 9:30 to run to the registration table which was supposed to close at 10. I arrived three minutes late after I took a loop trail that is not on my Ordnance Survey map:
The race director, Mike Buss, is an affable guy and seemed pleased that someone bothered to run to the race clocking up nearly 50% more miles than the race itself. This is something he seemed familiar with as an ultramarathoner that cheerfully does similar all-night warm-ups to travel by foot to marathon starts. Mad, I think, quite mad.
The race was touted as pancake flat and on good surface which I found true for about 75% of the route but there was this loop through a field that was lumpy and loaded with badger holes that was something of a struggle to keep pace on. From the start, the two guys that actually looked like runners shot away and I worked my way up to fourth place and locked onto the third place guy who seemed to have a comfortable 7:30 pace.
We left the field and headed off into a wooded network of hardpacked trails that were a welcome respite. The scenery was pleasant as the woods opened up regularly to show some of the gently undulating countryside but as we passed the 2 mile marker I realised that I must be a lot slower than I thought…we were 26 minutes into this thing! I decided to pick up the pace because I just didn’t have all day.
The last mile was odd. I passed loads of other runners but they must have shortcut the trail as I was now in third position. I spotted about a dozen folks standing around down at the finish and sped on to it and Mike called out 33:01. What the fuck? I thought, it is what it is but immediately chastised myself for thinking in cliché; two others I had been stratified with crossed the line and the race director started making apologies as someone had flipped one of the direction markers sending some of us on a loop of the field after the first kilometer. Ohhhhhh.
As much fun as it had been, I really wanted to grab a beer at the Wheatsheaf (the one I haven’t yet visited) so thanked the management and headed back onto the road. In the industrial estate along the way there is a long narrow fenced-in section of trail that made me feel even more discomfort than the now bleeding nipples.
Arriving at the Wheatsheaf at 11:40, I found that it opens at noon. Of course. Start the day getting lost on a straight trail, continue to get lost on a race course, and now the target of the series of runs doesn’t even open for another 20 minutes. I continued home and drank the last beer in the fridge.