As we arrived at the rugby club to sign on it was a scene of flash-mobbing with 200 odd other runners chatting patiently in a snaking line up to the top of the rugby club car park. The race which takes in 1200 ft of ascent got underway half an hour later. It’s a race that takes no prisoners if you run hard. It climbs up the forest track then through boggy ground up through the wood, up again up the side of an old quarry appearing at the top where runners can catch their breath for half a mile along the top track before plunging down a steep and often muddy slope through the fir trees with boulders strewn here in poor light under a blanket of pine needles and cones. A nice combination of forest run, heart straining slope and atmospheric technical descent.
There’s a small crowd some years and studs are a must. After the first lap I was around 18th and passed a group of 3 including 2 Hartlepools and a runner who looked familiar. That was enough to spur me onto his heels where I sat for the 2nd lap passing a NYM runner who had pulled out having come adrift on the descent. The familiar runner was, I think, Joe McCready (DFR) who'd beaten me earlier in the month but with no club vest on I wasn't sure. He got away from me a little halfway through the second lap where I found my mind wandering about the quality of the photos that several of the photographers scattered around the course would get and I had to snap back into race mode. I managed to catch him on the first rise of the 3rd lap. At this point as you find yourself dredging the forest floor for reserves and I gave myself the usual silent lecture about being in good shape, having a good record on this run, that I was being chased down – in fact anything that might stop me from thinking I could ease off.
As we started the steep climb we passed a Loftus runner who had pulled up, but he re-commenced behind me and joined us at the top making a group of 3 with me sitting at the back. We had begun to lap a few runners at this point. As we started to run along the wide and firm gravelly track on the top I knew that it was going to be impossible to pass either runner on the downhill unless I had a Harry Potter moment and I knew that I had to get a gap before the start of the descent.
Afterwards I treated my two guests to a J2O at the presentation and three bottles of wine for 1st M45 was a nice surprise from the master of ceremonies DP and his Crimbo wine cellar. Thanks D. We celebrated by going via the car-wash where someone had left 3 minutes still on the machine. Now that was a Christmas gift. Paul Lowe (NYM) won from Bulman and Sanderson (NFR). Cath Williamson of Loftus won the Ladies Race. Piles of photos now on the Esk Valley Club gallery. Results to come.