By Mike Bullock
Susan and I set ourselves what felt like an impossible and painful challenge for October … to run seven Ultra Marathons and four 10ks between us. As trail races were easier to safely stage, we had decided to show our support to the trail-running community and particularly the guys who work so hard to stage these races.
Yesterday we completed it at the Spire Ultra ...my October tally is 4 Ultras and 2 10k's, Susan's is 3 Ultras and 2 10k's. I managed a 1st place and two 4th places, and Susan clocked up a 5th and a 10th place.
Yesterday's 53km race was the hardest of the lot, yet the most rewarding, even with 1452m of climbing
I grew up in Chesterfield in the Peak District as an 18 stone youth with no interest in the hills and forests around me. It has always rankled me to have missed running in such a beautiful part of the country, and when I saw there was an Ultra going round my hometown, I arranged for us to run it with a guy I've not seen since school in 1988, but he started running a year ago and is now hooked.
The race was postponed twice due to COVID, but finally went ahead yesterday, and I am totally humbled once again by race organisers that work so hard to get races going throughout this difficult year. I can’t imagine they make any money, with all the extra precautions they put on, but they are runners like us, who want to give something back to the sport they love. Also, I'm blown away by the marshalls that stand for 12 hours in awful conditions, and are always cheerful and selfless. They are like angels when your body is just screaming at you to stop running.
Once upon a time, a race organiser trekking us to the start line in a field in freezing rain, then announcing he had forgotten his stopwatch would have caused an uproar of disgruntled runners, but yesterday it was fantastic to see every single runner see the funny side that after negotiating all the way through COVID our race was hijacked by a missing stopwatch.....after he sprinted 20 minutes back to his car to get the watch, we could start, but it was a great opportunity to chat to other runners and make more running-friends.
When we eventually got underway in small groups, we missed our start time as Susan was chatting!! So we were allowed to start in the next group
Within the first two miles there were two river crossings (FREEZING AND DEEP) and more mud and slippery rocks than I've ever seen, and a course that just went up..down..up...down etc . All very treacherous, as proven when Susan face-planted in some particularly stinky mud, and bum-slid down a big hill.
A man with a tuba entertained us at mile 6 (although he refused to play me Xmas Carols) and so happy was I that I promptly fell in the mud on a treacherous downhill. According to Susan, it was a mid-air 360 followed by a very funny squelch!
Lovely lakes and reservoirs throughout meant too many selfies and not enough running! And Susan seemed to attract the attention of every cute puppy we encountered … She says it's her magnetism but I've a suspicion she just smells!!!
The remainder of the race was windy (40mph gusts), horizontal sheeting rain, endless stiles (I think I counted 65), and deep deep mud. Both my trainers disintegrated by mile 15, so stones, sticks and small animals spent their day sticking in the soles of my feet.
There was an awesome atmosphere throughout. Every runner was smiling and even though the weather was atrocious, everyone battled through to the end with no complaints … just happy to be running in beautiful scenery.
The race finished with a one mile hill at 30% gradient. Now I love a good joke but this was just not funny.
So a thoroughly enjoyable race, even though 2 toenails said a permanent farewell to me, but I can't wait to do it again (hopefully) next Spring!
The 12 Labours of Hercules
By Mike Bullock
This was a family fun (and free) running scavenger hunt organised last Saturday by myself and Susan for NHRR runners and a few chosen friends. As races are few and far between we wanted to run an event to brighten everyone’s weekend up!
We hosted the whole event in fancy dress as Zeus and Alcmene (Hercules mum). By the end we were totally exhausted keeping up with everyone’s dynamics.
It was indeed a splendid and hysterical day, beginning at 0800 with release of the attached 12 tasks that families needed to complete by 1800. Any families completing by the deadline gained entry to the Final Challenge of the Gods: a race to see who could complete the 13th challenge.
As it was the first event we’ve organised, we were delighted to get 28 teams entering, and the day was pure laughter, as teams did socially-distanced congas in Number 12’s, created their re-enactments of 80’s Athena Posters, ate cake and ice cream as messily as possible, camouflaged themselves in woodland, and raced to the top of the highest hills (our NHRR Mulligtawny was used) to plant flags, before group-singing Meatloaf and Grease songs. Most competitors spent the day in Togas. A special shout out to Jennie & Lindsey’s team, and Jo Sopala’s team who looked resplendent in togas, crowns and specially created swords and shields.
Tim Banting deserves a medal for his superb camouflage task. If you say you can spot Tim, then obviously his camouflage has failed.
Most groups ran over 12 miles during the day, and the best thing (apart from the great laughter) was that not only did lots of NHRR meet safely in small groups to tackle the challenge, but many families tackled it full-throttle with their families - the kids got as excited as the adults!
Everyone received a personalised Scroll from Zeus and Alcmene and Trophies were awarded to:
1. The fastest team
2. The funniest team (Matt Roberts’ family won this one)
3. The most brilliant family
4. The Champions of the Gods trophy
5. Herculean Effort trophy (went to Lindsey and Jenny)
6. Robert De Niro Acting Award
7. Lost In Action Award (this went to Tim Banting who got heroically lost on Pegsdon Hills)
Everyone enjoyed it so much, and you can see hundreds of silly videos and pictures on the Facebook Page (The 12 Labours of Hercules), that we’ve decided to run a follow-up event on 31st October, with a Halloween theme (details on the Facebook group), but we plan to offer the Halloween event to all NHRR members.
With social distancing rules slightly more relaxed, its looking good for running to be a little more sociable also. But before we get the go ahead from England Athletics to resume our club nights, we all need to continue to be mindful of government guidance.
In the meantime, since unlike other sports with dedicated grounds, running occurs in public places, we need to remain especially mindful of the contact a group of runners would have with the public they are passing and also the perception it might have on them. We would therefore like you to consider the following, for the safety of our club members, their families and the general public:
- Please stick to government guidelines that stipulate that we can meet in groups of up to six and socially distance as you run
- Please avoid meeting at Spirella
- Please be mindful on how you arrange your runs/sessions so you can stick to the group size without disappointing anyone being left out
- If you are running in a group of 6, please avoid running in Letchworth or Hitchin Town Centre. We don’t want to upset pedestrians by getting too close.
- Please also avoid the main part of the Greenway and Norton Common during busy times.
- Virtual Runs will continue (see forum) so please continue to post your results
We all miss you dearly and hopefully, we will soon be enjoying our club nights again!! But in the mean time stay safe everyone.
Happy Running with NHRR
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