G3 series to be exact. These are billed as three tough and hilly races of about 10km. I decided that 10km was just about as far as I'd want to run cross country at the moment, and how 'tough and hilly' could it be?
The answer to that question is: very! We arrived at Newlands Corner while it was still dark, parked, registered and made use of the loos (not portaloos so that was a bonus!) and then sat in the car to keep warm. The car park was right next to the start so we waited until very near the 8.30am start time before emerging to shiver with all the other runners. Today was one of the very few times that I haven't arrived a race and bumped into loads of people I have met before either at other races or in online running communities. I knew 2 people today, my chauffeur for the morning and my head of department who lives nearby and was running with her running club.
And then we were off. Downhill at first, which was nice, but thick, squishy mud from the outset made for slow going even here. My chauffeur fell over quite early on, but was OK. I ploughed on, swearing rather a lot! It was impossible to go faster than a snails pace a lot of the time due to the mud, the narrowness of some of the paths. For taller runners, low hanging branches may also have hampered their progress. And then came Martha's Hill for the first time. Running up that steep hill on sand (yes, really, deep yellow sand that would be lovely on a beach in the sunshine type sand) was a challenge. I ran, albeit very slowly at times to the very top where a photographer was waiting to capture our red faces for posterity next to the very pretty St Martha's on the Hill Church .
The next section proved to be my downfall - quite literally! On the steep downhill section my ankle hit the ground at a strange angle and oh boy how it hurt! The irony was that because I was going down hill and couldn't put too much weight on that poor foot I couldn't stop! I had to just keep going until I got to the bottom. It hurt if I ran, but it hurt just as much if I walked - so given that I was half way around it seemed sensible to carry on. But I slowed right down and walked the steepest uphills and the very steep downhills (running downhill on sand is a bit scary!) We had to go up Martha's Hill a second time, what joy! The views, even in the cloudy weather, were stunning. The marshals on this very well marked out course were friendly and helpful - as were the several bemused dog walkers we encountered! The distance markers were fairly arbitrarily placed. I passed the 9km marker as my Garmin pinged to tell me I'd run 6miles (and yes, I know GPS is sometimes a bit off, but that is quite a difference!)
At one point we ran along a little path separated from a road by a hedge and all I could think was 'There's a perfectly good bit of tarmac there, why am I running in mud?' During the run I chatted with lots of other runners - so many friendly people - which passed the time. A lovely German man who is returning to Canada next week (that's one way to get out of running the next to races, but a tad extreme) and lots of people who all seemed to know my boss! The very final section saw us running back through the mud we'd run through at the start. It was now ankle deep and churned up from all the feet that had been through it. But the end was now in sight - thankfully! Standing at the finish waiting for my chauffeur to finish was a wee bit chilly, as the wind picked up and it started to rain properly, but soon we were collecting medals (my first of the year) and a slice of flapjack (*) and making our way to Tillings for a well deserved cup of tea and breakfast.
There is a reason that you get a discount for signing up for all three races: if I hadn't signed up for all three at the start I very much doubt I'd be coming back for more. That is no reflection on the race or the organisation (which was superb), I just don't enjoy cross country. Maybe I'll find the love if I do a bit more (I do hope so as I have an off road marathon in June), after all there was a time when I hated running full stop! By the time I'd finished breakfast I'd gone from 'never again' to 'next time I need to consider x, y and z' (One of those factors being my eyesight - I was struggling to see properly at some points!) so maybe by the end of 2015 I'll love the mud!
Huge thanks to my chauffeur and to my boss for inviting us to join the fitstuff gang for post run breakfast! I think this is the toughest race I have ever run.
(*) I loved not having a goody bag! Much nice to get a selection of food to choose from (banana, brownies and flapjack) than a bag containing flyers and advertising bumf!