There is a reason I don't do team sports. I don't want to be the person who lets the team down by being, you know, a bit crap. This is the reason I like running. The only person who I am letting down if I have a bad day is myself. Running is perfect. So obviously when I saw a Facebook post asking if anyone was free to make up a relay team I ignored it didn't I? Obviously… not!
Part of the appeal was that it meant I didn't have to get out at sparrow fart to travel up to London with Husbando - one of my team mates offered to pick me up at 8am, which gave me a lie in. A group of runners had arranged to take part in The Three Molehills and a member of one of the teams had dropped out through injury. The upshot was that I found myself travelling to Dorking to meet a load of new people. What could be better? Hills and people I don't know - two things I find stressful. Just to add to the sense of joy it was raining. Not a gentle drizzle or a light misting of rain, but proper miserable rain.
We arrived at Denbies near Dorking and were directed to park on a muddy field and walked up the road to the race HQ in the restaurant/cafe/conference place. One huge benefit of this venue is the proper loos and the restaurant right near the start. We collected race numbers, drank tea, had nervous wees, made impulse purchases (see later) etc. before going outside to listen to the run brief - we sheltered under an overhang to listen to this and to be honest I didn't really listen as I was trying to keep warm. There were course changes mentioned - due to flooding on the route - and I decided to stick with my road shoes as my leg was on road for all bar 600m.
After this our first runner was off, and the rest of us vanished back into the warm. I had bought a pair of sleeves after having a bit of a wardrobe crisis. It was cold out there - too cold for setting off in short sleeves, but I knew I would get too warm if I wore layers. I've never owned 'sleeves' before and they are a revelation! I love them. Hanging around was a bit odd. You normally turn up for a race and just run… I had to wait for the other 2 members of my team to finish before I got my turn. I stood under the overhang to watch for my team mate while mentally calculating the shortest possible route to the transition area avoiding as many puddles as possible.
My leg was billed as 2 miles out and 2 miles back - up hill all the way out and down hill on the way back. It was odd to start a race all by myself. I found it hard to settle into a rhythm, and boy, was it ever going to stop raining? I ran up through the vineyard overtaking (yes really) people even though I ran the fist mile in 9.30min/mile pace! I looked at my Garmin just once and saw how slow I was running and decided not to look again and just do my best. The course was twisty and turny, not overly steep but relentlessly up hill. It was almost all on roads or hard paths, and there were some stunning views over Dorking, or would have been if we hadn't been peering through clouds! We ran past a pretty church where I had to avoid being ploughed down by a shiny black Range Rover whose driver obviously didn't trust his car's ability to deviate from the centre of the road at all! Then there was the 600m on 'grass!' It wasn't grass, it wasn't even mud - it was a swamp! I had to walk - in road shoes there was no grip at all! Then we turned around and it was downhill all the way. Lovely!
Lovely to encourage all the other runners as they trudged up the hill. I couldn't really let fly down the hill - wet concrete paths, covered with wet fallen leaves and a fair amount of mud made for treacherous conditions - add into that some really tight turns and a bit of caution was called for. That said I made up a lot of time on the downhill bringing my overall pace down to 8.20min/mile. (6.18min/mile for the last half mile must have brought the average down a bit!) The marshals were so cheerful and encouraging, it must be really miserable standing for hours in the rain but they just kept smiling.
I didn't pay much attention to the clock as I crossed the line - but knew it was around 1hr 56mins (actually 1hr 56mins 32sec) which isn't too shabby for 15 hilly miles. I crossed the line, picked up my medal, chocolate bar and bottle of wine before rejoining the everyone in the restaurant, drinking a cup of tea, getting changed into dry clothes and sharing war stories. The first leg, up and down Box Hill, sounded brutal - with 270 steps to be negotiated.
After every one of my new friends was back in, warmed through and photographs had been taken we went our separate ways. Four of us stopping for a pub lunch (roast pork with all the trimmings which included Yorkshire pudding) on the way home.
A great day out. Definitely one I'd consider doing next year - maybe even the individual challenge rather than the relay. Although if the weather is anything like it was today I may well stay in bed!