Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Cardington Cracker

Picking Mike up at 7.30 felt no different from any other Sunday morning run - no fog of tiredness to contend with this time... The drive up to Church Stretton was getting familiar - anticipation and growing enthusiasms.

Tap back into the exitement of heading away for the day on another micro adventure.

I'd been banging on about the joys of this race for too long to Mike. Had I blown it out of proportion? I was nervous it wouldn't live up to the build up.

"Alright, away you go then." No frills from the starter.

Across the field, bottleneck through the stile, squelch up a soggy lane and then start to find some rhythm across the fields.

Drop down through the wood with its carpet of larch needles and come out the other side to get the first view of The Lawley, the lead runners already getting on for half way up the slope.

Hands on knees, steady away, plenty more to come yet. Here's the guy I staggered up the last long incline of the Stretton Skyline with. We say hellos then break off the conversation to go onto all fours and grab grass to deal with a steeper bit. A dozen or so spectators sit in a line on the skyline and I turn around to take in the view they're enjoying.

Touch the pole on the top and then force legs back into a running action along the ridge. It's a long and gradual descent and I trade a few places on the way down. Ahead an Eryri runner's feet slide out in front of him and he falls down full onto his back, but there's no harm done and he's up and moving again right away.

Through the dark field in the shadow of the Caradoc. An ancient oak tree becoming a ghost.

Up the side of Caradoc I manage a direct line and make a few places. The view over to the Long Mynd is particularly fine.

Through the ancient ramparts on the top, Al Tye is there taking photographs...

... and then again, force the legs into a running action along the gradual drop that eventually steepens. The welsh guy who I finished the Cleevewold with comes flying past - not bad for a vet 60

Through the stream then a boggy bit and then onto the killer track, only a gradual incline but I know from experience that it can be sapping. Low gear. I run it all and overtake the Welsh guy again.

I'm closing the gap on the guys in front and catch them just below three fingers rock.

Over the next series of short climbs and descents on lovely springy turf I can see runners still coming down off Caradoc - at least I won't be last.

"36" "Thank you" voices called into the wind at the last checkpoint and then the last steep descent down through the muddy bracken.

Welsh guy comes flying past again.

I power walk the last long drag up through the fields and as a woman I passed ages ago comes past me again, I realise that I'm not really pushing myself as hard as I might. Somehow my brain is still telling me to pace myself.

Fields full of beet. Stiles. Sight of the church tower of Cardington.

Into the final field and someone says, "Now. Go!" So I do that, and really feel the disbenefits of missing all those sessions down the track with the Almosts.

The bloody finising line just never seems to get any nearer. But eventually I get there and feel like i've at least half earned the claps and the "well done"s. The plastic cup of water tastes great in the goodwill of post race chatter.

Mike's in a few minutes later, somwhat breathless after a balls-out sprint through the final fields.

There's a leg wash in a algenous cattle trough. There's a cup of delicious carrot and coriander soup and the warm ambience of the prizegiving in the village hall.

Mighty fine race. Mighty fine event. Mike liked it - but I don't think he would have had the heart to tell me if he hadn't!

52nd overall, 12th MV40 in a time of 1.34.19 - about three mins up on the previous year. Mike: 1.40.35.


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