Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christams Eve Run with Grantham Running Club

It's a tradition apparently.
The gang at Muston

The Christmas Eve run has taken place each year since at least 1985. The history of this great event can be found here. This year's run began in Barrowby, to the west of Grantham. Some 15 runners met at a club members house for mince pies and mulled wine before running 10 miles in attrocious conditions to the pub.
It's about five miles to Barrowby and rather than run through Grantham dressed as Father Christmas, potentially ruining children's dreams, I decided to get the bus. I haven't caught a bus in Grantham before and I had little confidence that the online timetable would be accurate. If the bus didn't turn up I would have had to take a taxi. Thankfully Dudley Road is full of running folk and as I wandered sleepily along I was more than grateful when the Rev Nicky pulled alongside to offer me a lift.  My first bus trip would have to wait for another day.
I  arrived in Barrowby by 9.30am. Nicky had got out of the car at Asda and would meet us later in the day further along the route. Her partner dropped me off along with her baggage. This event was well organised. Whilst we ran, a baggage car dropped our bags at the pub so we could change later ahead of the food. The Fisher's hospitality before the start at Barrowby was welcome. It was a little after 9.30am but I felt obliged to drink mulled wine and eat mince pies, it was Christmas Eve after all.
Surprise View - Keith hopes to be rescued. 
Gradually other club folk  arrived at Barrowby, many dressed in festive costumes. The Christmas atmosphere built as we sat eating and drinking and discussing the weather that we were about to encounter. It's rained a lot recently in Grantham and  most of the field are flooded. I got a second sense that event organiser Geach was quietly concerned about the route coupled with the weather which was going to make the going soft. This was to be an enjoyable run at a leisurely pace,  for anyone of any ability. That, mixed with the weather conditions had some responsibility attached to it.
A little after 10.45 I was changed in to my Father Christmas outfit and gathered with the others for a photo before the off. We ran collectively into the rain some five minutes later. It was wet in the sky, wet in the air and wet on the ground. Everywhere was wet. Sadly, a comrade became a cropper just as we left Barrowby and she had to turn back. Along with a club mate we questioned whether we wished it was us that had strained our muscle so we could escape the ensuing misery but sadly we both felt relatively fine as we plundered across the cricket field.
At the end of the cricket field we met Eric. Eric is a wolfhound of mixed description owned by a club runner. A big grey dog with bandy powerful legs. Eric has relentless energy which was displayed impressively as he bounded toward us across the field. Eric was  to accompany us on the entire ten mile run from Barrowby to Staunton in the Vale and proved to be inspirational company in boggy fields when we all began to tire.
We headed out over surprise view and on to the Grantham canal and west towards "The Dirty Duck" near Woolsthorpe by Belvoir. It continued to rain. The santa costumes were quickly soaked through, I hadn't realised that 'felt' has such impressive water holding qualities. Organiser Geach, also dressed as Father Christmas had wired up a stereo and the speakers were strapped to his rear via his belt. The speakers played Christmas carols which added a seasonal tone to the fun. I bet the others that the speakers wouldn't survive the rain and I suggested to Gordon that he was likely to be taking an electric shock at anytime soon. The speakers did however survive the entire trip which is testiment to Gordon's electric wiring capabalities. It was very atmospheric running through  flooded ploughed fields in the middle of nowhere dressed as Father Christmas, next to another Farther Chritsmas all whilst Andy William's "It's the most wonderful time of the year" belted out as we splashed through the mud.
Helen Brown in the early stages of an epic run
At Muston we met some up other folk who didn't want to run the entire route. I was reunited with the Rev Nicky who had turned out in summer kit wearing nothing but shorts and a running vest to fend off the continuing tough conditions. We ran on towards Bottesford and I was grateful for a bit of road - at least you have a vague idea of the likely foot plant destination as you splosh through puddles on tarmac. We were generally running strong by half way but spirits were beginning to deteriorate. One anonymous, particularly demoralised member of the group who was happy to pose for photos earlier in the run, was reduced to slowly raising her wet bedraggled head and muttering expletives as I aimed the camera at her in the mid to latter stages! (Helen)             
Lucy avoided the temptation of  her warm house at Bottesford. Instead of retiring to a seat in front of the fire she decided to troop on and beat this treacherous run into submission. After Bottesford things got more interesting. Up until now we had encountered canal paths, trails and a bit of road but the field fun  was about to begin. The fields were literally soaked. Ploughed mud mixed nicely with 'felt' at the bottom of the Santa trousers making everything heavier. I watched organiser Geach as he wandered off into the midst of one of the fields and I tried to shout him back. I was reassured that he knew what he was doing. It looked like he'd lost the plot. I half expected to him fall with exhaustion but he's stronger than that and later he explained he had just taken the 'official' route.
Lucy negotiates another wet field as Eric looks on.
By now we were closing in on destination Staunton and thoughts turned to the roaring log fire, real ales and food which were to reward the weary runners at the finish. I chanced another photo with  Helen who was being chivied on by partner Mark. I got a faint smile in return. Gordon's tracks continued to belt out impressively as everybody trooped stoically on through the worst the terrain could throw at us. Eric the K9 bounded on undeterred,  he seemed to love his day out and it was impressive to watch as he leaped the stiles with gusto. Eventually a view of Staunton appeared agonisingly close in the distance and the pace increased ever so gradually as runners anticipated the finish.
A welcome finish
We made it to the excellent Staunton Arms and despite being in various states of bedragglement we had participated and conquered an excellent festive run. Spirits were lifted by the warm  log fire as club member's children toasted marsh mellows in the roaring flames and runners sampled home made pork scratchings. Spirits were raised further with food and drink before we retired for a pre arranged quiz courtesy of quiz master Hillson. Ian Fisher our morning host, won the Ian Fisher trophy for daftness displayed during the previouos year. (Ian had been posted to a marshall point at the summer solstice race but went to the wrong location off the course before phoning race control some 50 minutes later to ask where the front runners were). The day ended in the comfort of the bar drinking and chatting and generally looking forward to Christmas day and looking back on an epic run in which we had all taken part. Thanks to everyone who helped to organise this great day and thanks to the Staunton Arms for their hospitality. Happy Christmas blog readers!  


Six Dales Circuit (Again)

I was concerned about the lack of training miles since the six dales circuit so I decided to do it again.
Just Before Hartington (anti clockwise)
I took a day off work to do a long run. It was an impulsive decision and because of the lack of time to prepare and think of route choices I decided to drive back to the Peak District and run round the six dales but in reverse and starting at Monyash. I couldn't tire of this route which involves long valleys flanked by streams, higher level fields with extensive views of the high peak and picturesque villages nestling in between .
The benefit of starting at Monyash is that you get the monotony of the Tissington Trail done first and arguably the best bit up Lathkill Dale leads back to the finish at Monyash. I was blessed with a glorious day. As I arrived in Monyash before 9am it was bitterly cold, there was a deep ground frost which made the surrounding landscape white, like a scene from a Christmas card but despite the cold and frost, the sun shone brightly. I could not have asked for a better day.    
Just before Wolfscote Dale
The run went well until I turned my ankle just before Middleton. Frustratingly I was just about to begin the aforementioned 'best bit' but as I was shuffling down a track the ankle turned with its customary popping sound leaving me to shout expletives at the on looking cows. Oddly enough, before the actual six dales event I had witnessed confusion before the start as there was a map displayed in the village hall with an highlighted route that seemed shorter than the actual event route. The organiser explained to those confused, that he had simply marked a short cut which avoided Lathkill dale and Braford Dale in case anybody was too tired to complete the whole thing. Conveniently the end of the short cut was just about where I turned my ankle so I retrieved the map from my ruc sac and navigated back to Monyash over the top of the fields above the dales below.
Wolfscote Dale
The shorter route meant that I missed the best parts of Lathkill Dale but I did run along some new trails and its always 'fun' using the map to find your way. Before Monyash I decided to drop back into Lathkill Dale for the final couple of miles. Although it was bitterly cold I had managed to keep warm by shuffling on because the pain from the swelling wasn't that bad.
I ran some 20 miles. at much less furious pace than during the event some three weeks earlier. It took ages but I had a great day and it was worth the effort to kick start a bit more serious training before getting engulfed by the Christmas party season. When I got back to the car I drove into the village and visited the excellent Smithy Cafe and drowned my ankle sorrows in tea with cake before the drive back to Grantham.