I had entered Sundays Stirling 10k, but circumstances changed, and instead, I took the chance to turn out at the Thropton Show near Rothbury in the Cheviot foothills for the Simonside Fell Race. I've ran this twice before over the last few years and enjoyed the runnability of the course. The route is scenic and not too steep and there's even a wee bit of immersion across the River Coquet, not unlike the Traprain Hill Race (although, clearly, at 80 miles away that's a different river).
Having paid a very reasonable entry fee to get into the race, eyeing up the giant leeks and cabbages and watching the terriers do what terriers do, I collected my number and returned to the field where the car was parked. I was early so I put the chair back and continued my current read entitled 'I am Ozzy'. It's a lot easier read than my previous effort 'Silas Marner' -don't rush out! Peering up from time to time I spied the usual suspects, NFR's, Woolers, Tynedales and Alnwicks but as the car park continued to fill, I saw NSP's Vaughan Hemy, James Buis of Heaton, a guy wearing a dark peak vest and a small gang of Edinburgh AC's. It was the Thropton Show and seemingly everyone wanted a piece of the fell pie.
A very decent field of around 100 lined up in warm sunshine. I've been saving hard and just bought a baby no screen-ipod. Its tiny. With work this morning I was in a rush and realised that I had downloaded the young un's tunes by mistake. While she has a few of mine on, it was strangely devoid of my usual ear-splitting fell-bursting riffs. No matter.
As we crossed the river for the first time Horsley and Redman came past and I was surprised as I had started slow, but they soon pulled away in front leaving me with a taste of dust and the red vested Hemy ahead. I trailed him through the woods to the start of the crags before turning left.
People were appearing from all over the place at the top of the dense tree-line and I shouted a Claremont runner who was about to wander off for a fell run all of his own.
It was up the rocky path and across the ridge for 100 metres. You've barely got time to get your breath at the top and its back down at high speed watching out not to break your ankles or tumble on the grey gritstone as you pick your way through the scratchy brown heather before disappearing into the woods.
It was dry this year with only the odd boggy puddle to vault across and I caught sight of Graham Burns (DFR) appearing from out of the heather at the toe of the crags. I counted a 20 second deficit I had to make up to catch him, but with Taylor Swift, Pink and GleeClub picnicking in my eardrums, I couldn't get into my normal Van Halen -Frost*-Porcupine Tree driven trance and it took a couple of hurdling fences and gates to catch the motoring Burns halfway down. I was making good progress as we hit the low fields, but was never going to pass the 2 ahead who were perhaps a minute in front.
With 1k to go I crossed the bridge, the marshall pointed and I saw his lips move. Not hearing a word he'd said I nodded accordingly just before I headed off down the route of the old finish along the river which, had I been listening, I would have realised he was saying 'this year its back along the road and not back along the river,( you plonker)'.
I reappeared in the marshy field where the dog trials were taking place, and, if I say so myself, I responded well to the 'come-bys', 'left, left, left' and 'good lad' shouts that were coming my way. As I clambered out of the field, bone in mouth, the sheep were in the pen and people were patting my head but DFR man who had been 5 or 10 seconds behind was now 3 or 4 seconds in front and I was done in.
Let that be a lesson to all you who want to run with something in your ears.
I finished 9th around 52mins for the 6 mile route and was happy knowing my sense of direction is pants and that I am developing a unique ability to find extra dog-legs and get extra mileage out of races that many runners would envy. God help me if I try the Two Breweries or some of the longer races that are coming up. I could be out all night!
(I should add, though, that one farmer has booked me for 'One Man and his Dog' and that a well known dog food brand has been on the phone).