The Caythorpe Dash is a friendly, off-road half marathon now organised by the Parish Council. It cost £20 to enter the event which in my view is a bit steep. That said, I did have the opportunity to enter in advance for a £5 reduction. Races generally seem to be getting more expensive which is a shame if it deters entrants. I suppose the bottom line is that we have a choice. I exercised mine by handing over the entry fee so that I could punish myself through 13 miles of cold, wet, muddy Lincolnshire territory, there's never any sense involved in these decisions.
Snow had been forecast to coincide with the start of the race but at 11am in the quaint village of Caythorpe, Lincolnshire only rain fell from the sky. It was cold and wet, the kind of wet that hangs in the air all day. I've run this event under its previous banner, "the Caythopre Canter" today's event was run across a slightly amended version of the previous route. There was a low key race start after which perhaps 150 or so runners set off from Caythorpe through Stubton, Gelston, Hough and back to Caythorpe.
I started at a reasonable pace in the knowledge that the second half of this event is harder than the first. I watched as Stuart Sinclair, another Grantham runner shot off in the distance. My legs felt a bit heavy and lazy after a long training run the previous Thursday but the legs improved as the race progressed. Most of this route crosses rough tractor tracks and ploughed fields. The tyre trods on the tractor tracks which run parallel with each other were very muddy and the raised grassy part in between was similarly slippy. There is a skill to be used on these events in looking ahead to see the least muddy line whilst at the same time concentrating on your next footplant. Generally I preferred to take the route of the runner in front.
By Stubton my initial laziness was gone and I started to pass runners in front. At an extended section I could see perhaps six or seven runners and it seemed ambitious to try and pass all of them but the theme of today's race was that I felt steadily stronger as the race progressed. On the way to Gelston there was a nightmare of a hill. The track rose steadily at an incline which on a better day would have tested my ability to keep running. Today it was a quagmire of ploughed mud. Every step forward meant either a slip back or a slip to the side. The clods of mud gathered like a snowball around each foot. Again I watched my companions in front in the hope that they had picked the best line. I managed to pass another on the incline but only because the runner had come to an unintended stop ankle deep in the sludge.
I was more than grateful to reach the top and emerge in the village of Gelston. It was good to see Tracy, I wearily asked where I was, "Gelston" was the answer. I was non the wiser, I should have know better than to ask where I was in a place that I don't know. I was later to learn that as I wrestled up the nightmare hill, Stuart Sinclair who had sped off earlier was wrestling a dog a few minutes in front. The dog had emerged from a yard and run alongside Stuart before turning on him. Thankfully the K9 had gone by the time that I passed the same place a few minutes later and Stuart escaped injury.
|Top O''Th' Hill|
From Gelston a short section follows to Hough. The route continues to climb but along a more respectable path and a less severe incline. There was a gaggle of spectators in the village. I refused water, keen to hit the last section as hard as I could. The route crosses a grave yard. In more later news I was to learn that first placing Alan Oliver of Sleaford Striders (and last week's winner of the Rauceby Ripper) took a wrong turn after the church yard and ran a fair way in the wrong direction off the course. The "diversion" cost him the race win, I understand that he was a fair way in front at the time when he went the wrong way. Alan was understandably knarked off when I spoke to him at the finish. A consequence of having the talent to lead is that you can't follow those in front which can be a big handicap on these rural events.
I ran on down the slippery cobblestones towards the even more slippery wooden bridge. I had just passed two more Sleaford runners and as I ran off the wooden bridge I heard someone come to grief behind. One of the runners that I just overtaken slid clean off the wooden bridge. The bridge had no sides and he duly ended up in the stream! A quick query back confirmed that the runner was ok. As I glanced behind I got a momentary picture of the runner scrambling back on to the bridge which now seems funny (because I know he was alright).
|Stuart and I|
I had by now passed my intended targets. There was about two miles left to run up another gradual grassy incline back to Caythorpe. I hadn't expected to see anyone else up in front and I was surprised when I glanced ahead and saw the familiar green strip of Grantham Running Club. It was Stuart Sinclair and sadly he'd blown up. Stuart was a fair way in front and I doubted that I'd catch him but Stuart's was having a bad day, first the dog and now a blow up with less than a mile to go. I passed and offered as much encouragement as my laboured breath would allow. We crossed the final muddy field and I was grateful to reach the first tarmac road in Caythorpe. The final climb had taken it out of me and I hoped the route back through the village would be short. A few twists and turns and a shuttle down a passageway bought me to the final stretch to the finish. I think I finshed fifth (time and position tbc) and I collected a medal before greeting Stuart. I was grateful to finish today, I think we all were The race had been run in tough underfoot conditions requiring endurance rather than speed.
Any bad taste of the entry fee was off set to some extent by the excellent tasting food. Runners had the option of two delicious home made soups. I had carrot and corriander. Followed by Lincolnshire sausages served hot dog style with or without onions. Finally there was bread and butter pudding with custard, apple crumble or tart. The bread and butter pudding went down a treat. There were showers in the village hall which are always welcome and especially so today given the conditions. I chatted to the race winner, an American Air forceman based in the UK. Other Grantham runners returned to take part in the post race fun all grateful to be away from the cold outdoor conditions.