Last night I did something I'd never done before.
No, it wasn't meeting up with a load of strangers that I only knew via the internet. I first did that in 1999, obviously lived to tell the tale and made some some very good friends.
Last night I met up with a group of strangers I knew via the internet, in a forest, in the dark to go for a trail run. Armed with a head torch, and accompanied by a friend, we arrived in the car park at Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP) in the pouring rain. I'd run at QECP before as it is the setting for one of the more challenging parkruns in the area, but I'd never run cross country in the dark before. It seemed that the rain was here to stay, so after a few brief hellos and a head count (there were 12 of us) we set off. We were led by Kiernan - who took us along the route of a race he is organising at the end of January - the Rubix Chilly Hilly.
The start, once we had run up hill from the car park to get there, was a gentle downhill, but that was soon to change, we went up hills, down hills that had become rivers in the rain, we slipped and ducked to avoid low branches. At times we walked up the really steep bits and, at every corner, we stopped and waited to make sure that there were still 12 of us and that we were all still happy. It was great fun. I am pretty sure that there were some stunning vistas from our run route, but it was dark and I was looking to see where the next firm(ish) bit of ground was. It will be nice to come back in daylight and I've put in an order for dry weather! The run wasn't fast - it would be silly to try to run too fast on such uneven ground in the dark, but it is the most fun I have had while running in a long time.
Back in the car park the runners dispersed fairly quickly. My friend and I took rather longer. She has a brand new car, so trailing mud into it would just be rude, and she was dropping me in Petersfield to meet Husbando and some friends for supper, so I figured I needed clean up a little bit. Balancing on one leg in the light shining from the courtesy light of the car and trying to maintain as much modesty (dignity went out of the window a long time ago) I managed to change into clean running kit. My feet were caked in the mud that had gone in over the top of my trainers, but clean socks and shoes felt fabulous.
Meeting friends for supper was one of those spur of the moment decisions we made while having coffee in the morning. We made a couple of 'phone calls and soon there were 5 of us going for supper at Annie Jones' in Petersfield. I'd been there twice before - once for tapas and once in the more formal restaurant. I did have a few qualms when I discovered we'd booked the restaurant as, although I much preferred it to the tapas, I was worried that having one member of the group turning up half an hour later and looking like a drowned rat (there is only so much one can do in a carpark with a hand towel, a wet wipe, a hair brush and a can of deodorant) might be frowned upon.
But it was fine. In fact it was more than fine. It was excellent. I had one of the best meals I have had in a very long time, in fact every single dish that came to the table was excellent, the waiter was attentive and helpful and didn't seem too put out by the bag of wet running gear I dumped on the floor under our table. The company was excellent too. We enjoyed a couple of bottles of wine, a fantastic meal and decided that we should do this more often.
All in all an excellent evening - a run that reminded me why I love running, and the company of good friends enjoying lovely food! A pretty good way to round off 2015 really!