Saturday before race day I had a cold - shivery, snotty, tired – I wasn’t at all sure I’d be running. Watlington XC 10k isn’t an early start though and I’d already decided to drive rather than cycle so I decided to restrict myself to just the one beer and see how I felt in the morning. Sunday morning I had breakfast, didn’t feel too bad, more snot than weak and feeble. A look at facebook and it seemed Vegan Runners UK member Rafal had decided to enter last minute so that made my mind up and off I went eating a couple of paracetomol for luck.
In the start hall I collected my number and was pleased I’d brought safety pins as they had run out. Rafal wasn’t so lucky but a chap had a few spare so team VRUK settled for 3 each which was enough to do the job. I was only expecting to 10 minute mile it what with the hills and 1 hour 5 minutes sounded about right as I’d taken a hour last year and had been almost last at the Watlington Skyline only a few weeks ago. We got a runner to take a photo then jogged off to the start.
A chat then we got in our appropriate start positions, Rafal near the front, me not far from the back, and waited while more runners arrived and 10:30am – start time – came and went. Lots of people were going off for warm-ups and Rafal must have done an extra kilometre by the time a young man with an iPad leapt out of a large black vehicle at gone quarter to eleven. Technology now present the horn sounded and we were off.
I took it nice and easy up the track and along the rough surface of the Ridgeway heading north. My body seemed to have given up what with the wait and I didn’t feel at all energetic. After very gently climbing for a mile and a half we turned towards the Chiltern escarpment then climbed somewhat steeper till a bit after mile 2 I was walking the sharpest bit as expected. A couple of guys valiantly ran past me but I took the places back near the top when I started running but they’d given up.
We were hardly on the top road 10 seconds before turning right into a field and a good long, grassy,descent, a bit steep for me to let go in places but fun non-the-less. A not so young Thame Runner whizzed past me with the confidence of a fell runner. Along a bit of single track with plentiful trip hazards, skirting a wood. Then left onto tarmac, the same track we had started on but further up. Soon through a gap in large logs presumably placed to stop vehicles and soon enough I was walking the 2nd climb of the morning as was everyone around me. This one went on a bit so I got my walking speed up enough to gain a couple of places then into a field and I jogged the last bit of up before we joined the long track back down to the Ridgeway that runs parallel to the Watlington Hill road used for cycling hill climb competitions.
We’d been warned the landowner had cut a lot of wood back and moved the footpath. Every now and then the cut short stumps of coppice poked through the layer of leaves we descended through, fortunately painted orange but still demanding full attention. My specs kept steaming up which really didn’t help things. About halfway the surface improved and I opened up my stride aware from my Garmin, set only to show the time of day, that I was in with a chance of finishing under the hour. Steps fast behind and I wrongly guessed Thame Runners but he wasn’t far behind either and also passed me.
Still I was feeling good as we turned right back onto the Ridgeway and a glance at my watch when the finish came into sight suggested I had over 2 minutes to get there. In the bag I thought but still pushed my best remembering that this race was at least half a kilometre over distance. I was glad to finish but pleased.
Rafal had waited for me despite having finished in 47 minutes plus change. We wandered back to the cars both pleased with our efforts but a bit behind schedule what with the late start. When I did eventually bother to check my time on the Garmin it showed 1:00:08. Damn it how did that happen? Still a few seconds quicker than last year and a bit further up the field managing 94th of 150 finishers.
Still feeling fine I drove home. I had an unusual experience when a foreign chap I thought to be broken down flagged me down on the M40 slip road only to ask for money for petrol and food for his family. I gave him my emergency tenner – I can’t think this was the life he’d been hoping for when he headed for the UK
Jane also has this cold and didn’t fancy our usual Sunday afternoon visit to Wetherspoons but I didn’t feel too bad as I had a beer and headed for bed. Monday morning though I felt awful and took the day off. A bit better now, Wednesday, but still really tired, rather useless and mentally adrift with a fair amount of snot. Oh well – so it goes!