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The “Not the Club Championship” Championship

To provide a bit of fun, and incentive to get out running over the next few months, members are invited to complete as many of the challenges listed below before the 22 Jan 21.

Super-duper prizes of some form will be awarded based on qualitative and quantitative assessment by the organising committee/cabal. The criteria for prizes will be complex, controversial, ambiguous and, to be honest, have not yet been determined; they will however recognise enthusiasm, endeavour, humour and originality as much as, if not more than, running ability. If clarity, certainty and transparency are what you are after, then please look elsewhere! In sum, anyone could top the “league”. The judges decisions will be final and probably wrong; there will be no route for appeal though.

When completing the challenges apply and follow whatever Covid-19 restrictions are in place on the date you complete them. For now the challenges will have to be done solo, with a running buddy or a family bubble. Hopefully restrictions will ease and permit more social outings at some point before 22 Jan.

Information of the challenges is provided below. They do not have to be done discreetly; some could be combined and done in a single outing. Please address any questions about the challenges, routes etc to: awayruns@corshamrunningclub.co.uk.

Record the challenges as you go and when done complete the form here by 22 Jan 21. Do as few or as many as you like, or are able to. If you are on Facebook please post and share your progress with other folk via the club’s FB page.

Challenge Description

  1. 5km Handicap (see below for details)
  2. Participate in one of Andrew Wood’s virtual Strength and Conditioning Sessions
  3. Run under a Full Moon*
  4. 100m Dash (vertical)**
  5. Carl’s Corsham 10km Lottery Run (see below for details)
  6. Visit a trig point on a run***
  7. Go for a run on New Years Day
  8. Canter round the Castle Combe away run route
  9. Complete Jane Clarke’s CRC Christmas Lights Challenge – details to follow separately
  10. Slaughterford 9 Prediction Run (see below for details)
  11. Do one minute of squats every day for seven days
  12. Become a Strava Local Legend
  13. Complete a sunrise (and/or sunset) run on the Winter Solstice, Mon 21 Dec 20
  14. Do a run in your favourite and/or oldest event vest/t-shirt/top
  15. Write an article about one of the above challenges, or anything else running related that takes your fancy, for Carl Zalek to publish on the club website
  16. In lieu of an “entry/admin fee” make a donation to a charity of your choice

* Full Moon dates are: 30th November; 30th December; 28th January
**Accumulate 100m of vertical ascent in the shortest distance. For example, ”The Sting” / aka “The Steep Bit (Stile to Stile)” on Strava is 49m of vertical ascent; you would need to complete it twice with a little bit extra to bag a 100m. Other hills are available
***There are a number of “trig points” in the local area: Wadswick; Castle Combe; Little Solsbury Hill; and, Bannerdown. If you are unsure what a trig point is and/or need specific location information contact awayruns@corshamrunningclub.co.uk

5km Handicap Run

  1. Plan your 5K running route. You can do this anywhere at any time. Run on the street, across the fields, around the garden, up and down your hallway or on the dreadmill, As long as it is 5k (3.1 miles in old money) and starts & finishes at the same point it counts. Not sure how to measure your route? There are multiple sites for doing this; eg Sports route planner UK. Runners, walkers, cyclists – map your routes.
  2. Run and Time your 5k. Run your chosen route and time it. Don’t need a fancy watch or app, but these help, an old fashioned stopwatch is fine, as long as you know it was definitely 5k and was timed accurately.
  3. Go to this form and fill in your details.
  4. Repeat 1-3. Yep do it all again but this time push harder and try and improve your time. When submitting the form again please use the same name and email address as you did for your previous runs so we can match them up.
  5. It is as simple as that. We will then keep track of your improvement by comparing your first run to your last and give you a percentage increase. Biggest percentage increase is the winner. Don’t cheat; Father Christmas (and the cabal) will know and penalise you accordingly.

Slaughterford 9 Prediction Run

Predict in advance your time to get round the Slaughterford 9 course (as slow or as fast as you like) and enter it in the form here before you run it. Then run the course, without looking at your watch at any time (this is important) and upload your finishing time via this form. The winner is the person who runs closest to their predicted time. Remember Father Christmas/the cabal is always watching so don’t cheat yourself; it’s just some running fun.

Carl’s Corsham 10km Lottery Run

Run the Corsham 10km route and forward your finish time to Carl Zalek, corshamrc.treasurer@gmail.com, along with a number of your choice between 1 and 100. That number will align to a “randomly” allocated 10km finish time. Whoevers’ actual time ends up closest to their randomly allocated time wins (with a “wooden spoon” to the furthest away).

Devizes Half Marathon by Gary Young

It was here! After a summer of virtual runs and about 10 medals to prove it, Sunday October 4th 2020 saw the Covid secure Devizes Half Marathon.

I’d entered the race sometime before and was really looking forward to running a race with people in a town that the race was actually supposed to be in, no more virtual Great North Run alone in the Wiltshire mecca of Melksham. My aim was sub 2 and nothing was going to stop me, not even the weather.

Arriving at the start in weather conditions that can best be described as monsoon like I made my way to the information tent and was greeted by two friendly, familiar faces, Mr Biggs and Mr Berry. After some last minute tactic talk I was ready for the off, already soaked to the skin I made my way to my starting bubble and we were off…

Having never run this half marathon before I’d heard varying reports about it and started with an open mind. Although because of Covid there were no spectators the atmosphere amongst runners and marshals was great and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was one of those runs that everything felt good in, legs, lungs and mental attitude. Checking my splits things were looking positive and on I went. (7.41/8.53/8.14/8.36 and so on).

Even being speed buzzed by Laura Midwinter and Chris Hunt as they ran past me didn’t dent my spirit and on I went.

I recall on parts of the run wading thorough water and battling driving wind but nothing was going to stop me, well nothing part from a farmer that decided to close the road to let his cows across much to the annoyance of a few hundred runners. Don’t get stressed I thought as I paused my Garmin and said to myself it won’t take long. After what seemed like an eternity a voice from nearby shouted, “move those f@#king cows or I will “. Everybody was thinking it but luckily a CRC member said it. (You know who you are).

We were off again and the weather didn’t let up, it got worse and some.
The last few miles were good, apart from a very muddy uphill off road track that I don’t recall hearing about but after conquering this I cruised to the finish line in 1:54:13.

I collected my medal and headed home, the job was done and little did I know I was about to make my first mistake of the day.
Cold, dehydrated, hot bath, hot tea = faint and blue light run to A&E in an ambulance having had your chest shaved in the process.

After 24hrs there, a Covid test and a full heart MOT by two doctors that were keen runners I was given the all clear and allowed home. Their advice to me, never stop running as you are!!
There is a bit more science involved in my collapse, I won’t send you to sleep with it now but I am willing to share it if you are remotely interested.

All joking aside my partner thought I’d had a heart attack and gave herself a nasty paper cut looking for my life Insurance policy.

Top tip – Normally after a long run if you are like me you need to eat and eat lots, imagine finding yourself in an A&E starving with no access to food. Smiling and using all the charm that you can muster = being kept in supply of as many NHS cheese and pickle sandwiches that you can physically eat. Result!!

Until the next race, stay safe and strong…

Vertically Challenged by Richard Moore

On initial reading of the “Not The Club Championship” events there was one in particular that stood out to me – the Vertical 100m Dash. As anyone who trains regularly with the club will know, Corsham is “blessed” with a range of hills for the Hill Sessions. In fact, it is impossible to plan even a 5k without encountering one. However, a hill with a 100m ascent is another matter.

Some folks, such as the fell runners Messrs Mackie & Wood, or the hill-lovin’ Stewart, clearly encounter such ascents frequently, often several in the course of a single run. But for me this is more of a rarity and the descriptive text stating that is just over 2 Stings-worth added to the intrigue. The challenge was on, to find single course 100m ascents in and around Corsham.

One question is whether the course should be short and brutal, or gentler but longer. Therefore, a bit of research was needed which led me to an article in Runner’s World (2015):

“There is an obscure, but cool-sounding, type of race called a “vertical kilometer,” where the idea is to race uphill as fast as possible until you gain 1,000 meters of elevation. The current men’s record is 29:42, set on a course in Switzerland that is 1,920 meters long with an average slope of 27.5 degrees; the women’s record is 36:04.

The question is: what type of course is best for such races (or, more generally, for gaining elevation as quickly as possible)? Should you find a relatively gentle slope where you can go fast? Or a steep slope where your progress will be slow and difficult, but you’ll gain lots of elevation with each step? Where is the sweet spot?

That’s what researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder wanted to find out in a study just published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. The team … jerry-rigged a treadmill to be able to reach a slope of 45 degrees. For context, a typical gym treadmill can reach about 9 degrees, while a black diamond ski run is about 25 degrees. (In practice, runners had a hard time balancing at 45 degrees, so the study only went up to 39.2 degrees.)”

That brings a whole new dimension to the Dreadmill – 45⁰ – strewth!!

The basic upshot/conclusion is:
“But for all angles above 15 degrees, walking was actually more efficient than running. The sweet spot with the lowest energy expenditure was between about 20 and 35 degrees—which puts the 27.5-degree angle of the course where the record was set perfectly in the middle.”

Time for some caveats here. The trials involved quality athletes and to say that I am nowhere near that level is somewhat of an understatement. There are many runners in the club better than me at hills so I reckoned that slopes less than 20 degrees would be best. However, anyone who has run the Slaughterford 9 can take some reassurance that the most efficient way to ascend The Sting is to walk. I know that I have never got up it in a single run and am feeling slightly smug that I was right!

Now to find some local hills to test the theory. After some checking for routes using plotaroute.com I started with Quarry Hill out of Box. Running from the lowest point on the A4, starting towards Corsham then turning right into Bulls Lane and then continuing up Quarry Lane, and up, and up some more, it is possible to just achieve a 100m ascent past Woodland Adventures and White Ennox Lane (average gradient of 7.6% with some tasty bits).

Second Route – bit serendipitous as the Solstice Run takes in Solsbury Hill which has the initial ascent of more than 100m (average gradient of 13.6 degrees).

And lastly – of course the route suggested in the NTCC blurb…The Sting (twice and a bit)…gradient of 25%…gulp…

Comparative Gradients of the 3 Courses

First attempt – Quarry Hill. Warm up, short pause at the bottom of the A4 then go! Up the easy starting gradient then into the steep bit which always takes my breath (not in a good way). Onwards and upwards, round the bend past the entrance to Hazelbury and the run out past White Ennox Lane. This really felt like a huge effort and I needed a good recovery to say the least. Still, managed to get in the Strava top 10 so some consolation there.

Next the Solstice Run and the attempt on Solsbury Hill. Setting off in a small group with Jane C, Matt, Jake and Gary was great and set me up nicely. It was then a case of gritting my teeth, setting a good rhythm and keeping going. One advantage was having Jake running alongside, playing “Solsbury Hill” on his phone and it really distracted from the effort. Felt as good as is possible for such a climb and what a view as a reward!

So, the last (and first) course. Managing to pick the day after Storm Bella was perhaps not such a good move as I have never seen the Bybrook valley so sodden and muddy. After the initial warm-up, sloshing through mud and surface water, I stood at the bottom of The Sting which is intimidating enough when you have to do it just the once. Remembering the bit about walking being most efficient I set off at as best a pace as I could muster, knowing that I would have to do it again. First time up, not too bad but the psychology of turning left down the green lane back to the bottom, which was a fast-flowing cataract, was not great. Starting off the second time at least I had some recovery and knew where the slippery zones were, and so cresting the top was very satisfying.

The results – which course was best/worst? Strava shows the following times for me:

  • Quarry Hill – 8:26
  • Solsbury Hill – 5:53
  • The Sting (twice, ignoring the recovery descent) – 5:11

Ok, so if I had to do the Sting twice without any recovery it would have taken longer but the results do bear out the theory of a sweet spot at 27.5 degrees. Quarry Hill also rated highest on the vom-meter due to the long run out at the top to gain those final few metres.

In summary, hills close to 15% for running do seem to be the best option around here. Walking The Sting was surprisingly quick in comparison as well. But the main conclusion is that I have had enough of the 100m Vertical Challenge for 2020/21 and will leave it to others to push on and take up the mantle. Now to dry out my shoes, get back on the trails, and enjoy all the mud glorious mud that Corsham has to offer.

Christmas lights Challenge COVID 2020 version by Susan Mackie

This year Jane Clarke set a slightly different challenge for us to take part in, with group choral singing disallowed a COVID version was proposed:
The Christmas lights run has 2 parts!  
1. A scavenger hunt! Each runner takes their group to their favourite lights and takes a picture.  
Best group of illuminations posted on FB wins the honour of winning!!
2. Christmas Strava shape! Second part, run a route that looks like a Christmas shape in Strava!  
Your group can choose(!) to do both or either one.  
Of course Christmas outfits and lights are a must!!

I started by meandering home via local housing estates to see where I thought the lights were most prolific/best/gaudiest, on the way back from running the Anniversary Waltz route I spotted a Grinch, and made him my ‘starting point.’ Over the next few weeks I started making a mental note of likely places and began marking them on a map. I then got some tracing paper and started plotting routes, initially thinking a Santa in a sleigh, and then curbing my ambition to a slightly easier tree shape. I plotted a route and tacked the second half ‘home’ onto the end of my Corsham 10k run, unfortunately the cold weather caused a failure in my I-phone, so I trotted back as far as I could remember the route.

Work then got quite busy in the weeks before Christmas, and suddenly I was due to be leading a group round the route I had planned, it looked fine on the map, but how would it look on the all important Strava plot? It got to the day of the run and I decided that a quick walk round the route might be wise. I put the dogs on leads and started walking. Some minor tweaks meant I could get additional lights in and included cutting out a big loop that made my tree even wonkier than it already was. The dogs and I were pacing quicker and I had the last few Kms to go…the bit where my phone had died and time was rapidly marching on towards when we were due to leave.  
Disaster! A bit I had plotted was a dead end, so a quick reroute was needed on the fly, after thinking I had all afternoon I was back home at 6.20, ready for a quick change, a few tweaks and then out again to lead the group.  

We started in Corsham High Street to view the art installation set up in the town hall and then made a series of seemingly random tracks through to the Grinch.

We then ran on towards the new builds on Park Lane and saw a sparkling unicorn that beckoned us away from the prescribed path. Our ‘angel/star/shape at the top of the tree was a bit more elongated than planned.

We then wound our way through Katherine park to many ooh and aahs.  

Then over valley road and a Tramways meander found some more lights that scored high on size and visibility.

The final part of the run involved fewer lights, but was necessary for the bottom branches and then a voluntary trot along into Corsham Court to make the ‘base’ of the tree.  
The group were quite surprised that we had a vaguely tree shaped form at the end, albeit one drawn by a three year old.

Skirrid Fell Race Saturday 19th December 2020 by David Mackie

Summary: A splendid, short’n’sharp, muddy up, down, around, and back up and down the shapely outlier of the Black Mountains, Skirrid.

A Big Thumbs-Up for the Skirrid Fell Race, Ace Weather and the View.

Both Annika Davidson and Andrew Wood had sung the praises of last year’s Skirrid Fell Race so I duly entered the 2020 edition.

As has become the new normal, Covid-19 meant no mass start or pre and post race bantering; rather just a case of parking the car, picking up a race number and joining a small, socially distanced queue to start at 30 secs intervals. However, the wonderful Welsh countryside and a cracking route up, over, down, round and back up Skirrid before a swooping descent remained unchanged. It also offered incentive to turn my legs quicker than I had in a while.

Before getting to grips with the climb up Skirrid, a short lap of the start field provided a warm-up. Following a week of heavy rain, conditions underfoot were somewhat squidgy and my daps of choice, Mudclaws, were immediately put to good use; staying upright on the downhill sections was going to be a challenge.

Leaving the start/finish field, the way ahead was obvious with the shapely peak of Skirrid dominating the view. The gradient and effort level gradually increased as the route squelched its way across sodden fields to get to the open access slopes of Skirrid proper. Trying to catch up runners who had started in front, and stay ahead of those who started behind, provided further onward impetus.

After the Long Up from the Start, the First Down…

The ascent to Skirrid’s whaleback summit ridge was runnable for some but had me resorting to a “brisk as I could make it” walk for most of the way. The walking pace provided opportunity to take-in and relish the ever-expanding views as elevation was gained. Having reached the summit ridge, it was immediately left by a short descent and a technical, rocky traverse under Skirrid’s summit to reach its very steep North ridge.

The Sporty Hands and Feet Ascent of Skirrid’s North Ridge

‘Skirrid’ is derived from the Welsh ‘Ysgyryd’, which means to shake or tremble. The short, sharp hands and feet ascent of its North ridge to the summit trig point certainly had that effect on my legs. There was no respite though; the way on was an immediate, and equally steep, quad testing descent. Initially heather clad, the slope, whilst precipitous, was reasonably secure underfoot; in its lower reaches loose soil and bracken replaced the heather however, providing less stability and more entertainment. Thankfully the braken contained no bramble snagging hazards. From there, it was a simply splendid splish-splash, gravity assisted dash to the finish line.

The Equally Sporty Descent from Skirrid’s Summit

There was of course no post-race hydration and sustenance at the Skirrid Inn; fingers crossed for a return to the full race experience in 2021…

Huge thanks go Andy Creber of Rogue Runs , and his team of merry helpers, for providing the opportunity to “race” amidst these uncertain times. Andy always provides memorable and entertaining race routes and Skirrid is no exception. Being a marked and relatively short course, it is also a great introduction to the pleasures (and pain) of South Wales fell racing; if you want to find out more, fellrace.com provides all you need to know about the entertainment on offer in
the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons…

Skirrid, Event Organiser Andy Creber (far right) and the Finish Line Team

All pictures courtesy of various ace marshalls out on the course.

A Review of Mad March (?) Mile 2020 by Charlie Berry

As the year draws to a close it is always a time to reflect and think about what we have achieved. This year has been one that none of us could have predicted and we have all faced some difficult times.

There have been lots of things cancelled and everything seems to have changed. Many of us have still however been able to run, sometimes together in small groups and sometimes alone.

Just before March several of us signed up for the Mad March Mile and committed to doing a mile a day for each day in March. I thought this was a tall order at the time but as Biggsy is very persuasive I signed up! We got a lovely pottery mug if we completed it so that was the clincher!!

Little did we know that as March went by we would go into a lockdown – something we had never experienced before. As March drew to a close many of us decided to continue MMM as we had a little more free time and were enjoying the exercise.

Well it is now almost Christmas and we are still going. Several of us have exercised everyday since the start of March – the longest March ever!! (I have to be honest and admit I missed one day when I was injured but only one!) It has meant that I have cycled over 2020 miles and ran over 2020 km this year. Who would have predicted that I could do that when I started running (well it wasn’t really running then!!) and cycling a couple of years ago? I might even be a real runner one day!

Doing this has helped me to stay somewhat sane through this weird year and I would like to thank everyone that has ran with me, cycled with me or encouraged me. Most of all I would like to thank members and committee of CRC. You have done so much to help us keep running during this pandemic. You have been forward thinking and very proactive. The booking system is brilliant, the range and number of run sessions fantastic and the friendship continues throughout everything we do.

I am proud to be part of such a great club and would like to wish everyone a good (if different) Christmas and all the best for 2021. Here’s to more running next year, maybe some competitions , but who knows, and let’s see how long March 2020 continues on for!

Westonbirt 10K Report by Michael Luff

This was only the 2nd actual race I’d done this year so anticipation was running high!
It was an excellently organised race and the marshals were awesome! Seems likely that, due to the wave starts, they were standing out in the torrential rain for even longer than for a ‘normal’ race. The chap standing by the entrance to the garden was amazing – you could hear him shouting encouragement for ages before and after you passed him. I’ve not done this race before but the course was apparently different as it was 3 laps rather than 2 and all on the Westonbirt grounds.

The wave starts are a novel addition to races to stop large groups of people congregating (you’re only supposed to arrive at the start a few minutes before your allocated time) and, naturally, have their pros and cons:
• On the upside, as there are runners of different paces starting at different times, you get to pass (and be passed by!) lots of different people so you get to greet runners you wouldn’t normally see.
• On the downside, there were a number of people I knew running the race but I only got to meet a couple who had similar start and/or finish times. It’s also slightly odd not knowing who you’re actually racing against, is that person in front on their 1st, 2nd or 3rd lap? Am I ahead of them or not? That person that just passed me, can I get them on the final lap or are they just finishing?

Did I mention the rain? That also meant a significant amount of mud too, the course was all traffic free (apart from a random car near the drinks station – not sure what that was about), undulating and mainly off-track as well around the playing fields so the new Mud Claws were an essential aid to staying upright and moving forwards; I saw several runners heading off on interesting tangents, hope they made it home safely!
In summary – It was wet, it was muddy, we had fun 😊

Postponement of Corsham 10K and 2K

The Corsham 10K scheduled for 26 April 20 was deferred to October 20 due to the pandemic and once again was deferred to 25 April 21 for the same reason. We are now in the position where Covid restrictions have been extended and there is no knowing whether they will be relaxed by April 21. The likelihood is that the restrictions on mass gatherings will still be in place and even if they have been relaxed many people may still be uncomfortable attending mass gatherings.


Accordingly the decision has now been made to defer once again the Event to 26 September 21 when it is hoped things may be normalised. We considered other options, but felt that it’s the other competitors and the supporters which make the Corsham 10K special.


Of course we realise that this may not be desirable or possible for some entrants and a refund of 70% of the entry fee will be provided upon request for those that wish to withdraw. We are sorry for the shortfall but hope entrants who choose this option will understand that we have incurred costs already and the process of refunding also encounters costs. Another option if you are unable to take part is to cancel your entry and donate the balance to our chosen charity, Wiltshire Air Ambulance.


We regret having to take this course of action and believe postponement is the best way forward as it preserves the prospect of a truly competitive event.
Likewise, the 2K has been postponed twice and the situation is similarly uncertain for April 2021. So, because of this and because it occurs hand in hand with the 10K, it has also been decided to plan to hold this event on 26 September 21.


However, the rescheduling will happen in a slightly different way. Because of the age of the entrants, and because 18 months is a comparatively long time over which many things may have changed or will change, the current entrant list will be cancelled and a date for new registrations will be announced in due course. Many children will have changed age group, some will have passed the upper age limit, others will have become eligible and individual interests and preferences may have changed.


Of course, some expense has already been incurred, and so we hope you understand why we say that the refund will be 70% (i.e. £3.50), made automatically. You also have the option to donate your fee to our chosen charity, Wiltshire Air Ambulance.


We do, of course, regret that we must take this course of action, but look forward to the prospect of a safe and exciting race next September.

Ebb and Flow Round A Run With No Witty Name (ARWNWN) – Saturday 10th October

In a year of turmoil ARWNWN provided a constant; now in its third year, Crooked Tracks’s event provides a delightful, circular, rural, 50km route starting and finishing at Tisbury.

The postponement of a long-planned-for event in the Lake District meant Sue and I were able to take advantage of a couple of last minute places in ARWNWN. It offered a slightly shorter and less hilly alternative but having completed it before we both knew it would provide a fab’ autumnal day out in the rolling hills of South Wiltshire.

An 8:30am start time from Tisbury meant a crack of dawn departure from Corsham. The compensation was the delight of an incredible sunrise over Salisbury Plain. Also on the plus side it indicated that the forecast decent weather was fact rather than fiction, with running conditions nigh on perfect. (Disappointing though for Race Director par excellence, Neil Turnbull, who much prefers to provide his punters with attritional rain-lashed muddy affairs.)

Super Sunrise over Salisbury Plain

Covid-19 required some tinkering with the format of the race in terms of admin and phased start times. The only change in the business part of the day was reversing the ARWNWN route of the previous two years. There were a few familiar AVR faces in our start wave and the race crew; it was great to catch-up with folk we had not seen for many months in the absence of racing.

As is the way with Crooked Tracks our wave of runners were away without faff or fanfare. The gentle incline from the start quickly spread out the runners and I fell in step with Andrew Jeffries from AVR. We enjoyed a bit of banter and followed the faster runners in front, which was a mistake. Within ten minutes of the start it transpired we had missed a turn and were off track. The correct marked trail was thankfully recovered without too much extra distance or loss of time; a good early reminder to pay attention to navigation.

The reversing of the route provided some entertainment outside of the opportunity for navigational blunders. Uphills that were long and emotional at the end of the route in the previous two years’ became brief downhill canters this year. Of course it also meant the reverse would be true later in the day…

Andrew J was keen to make progress so I let him go and stuck to my own pacing strategy, which was intended to get me round in under six hours. The phased starts meant a fair bit of solo running although with ace holloways (A holloway is a sunken path characteristic of the rounded hills of southern England; a route that centuries of footfall, hoof-hit, wheel-roll and rain-rush have harrowed down into the bedrock) and beautiful autumnal colours to enjoy the miles romped by. In what felt like no time at all the first picnic station arrived along with some morale boosting CRC support from Andrew Wood. As with previous years Crooked Tracks did not disappoint on the food front and there were a fine array of tasty treats available. Unusually nothing really appealed so I took a couple of jam and peanut butter wraps to force down on the hoof and bid farewell to Andrew W.

Picnic Time!

The route onto the next picnic spot at Old Wardour Castle provided undulatling running alternating between woods and fields. The terrain was very much runnable, particularly at this relatively early juncture. I was therefore able to maintain target pace. The effort to do it though felt worryingly hard with well over half the distance to go. So following the ultra adage of “if in doubt eat something” I guzzled a gel, told myself to buck-up and pressed on.

ARWNWN On Route B&B Option

Scenery and paying attention to the route marking to stay on track provided distraction. Morale was also improved by a lucky find. In the best tradition of the Wombles I bent down to pick up a bit of litter, which on closer inspection turned out to be a twenty pound note. The temptation to divert off route at the next village and spend it at the pub was resisted; cola, jam/peanut butter wraps and Jaffa cakes were just around the corner beneath the towering ruins of Old Wardour Castle. The brief swoop down to, and the view of, the castle was one of the highlights of the day; I do like a bit of downhill.

Old Wardour Castle

Andrew Wood’s appearance also provided an additional boost at the picnic stop. Again I had no appetite for the fine fare on offer so I just grabbed some bits’n’pieces and pressed on for the second half. Distracted by my picnic on the go, I immediately took a wrong turn and had to back track a little. By this stage the start waves were beginning to overlap with slower runners in first wave being overtaken and the faster runners from the wave behind in turn overtaking me. Both provided opportunity for brief banter and mutual encouragement as is the way with ultras where the slower pace allows for conversation.

Plenty of this on the ARWNWN Route

Having struggled to put fuel in the tank, energy levels juddered a bit over the next few miles. My pace dropped accordingly as the undulations became a bit more pronounced and longer. A stiff, head-on breeze also helped to check momentum. The six hour target drifted out of reach despite my best effort to prevent it. Andrew Wood thankfully caught me up and provided much needed encouragement at a point where I could have easily stalled. With some nudges from him to eat and drink I ground on albeit more slowly than I had been aiming for. Also on the credit side, it was still a cracking day out in the countryside; the lake and parkland splendour of New Wardour Castle provided feast for the eyes and the route finding was relatively straight-forward and well marked.

New Wardour Castle

Andrew’s company helped overcome a couple of long, gradual climbs and we enjoyed trading places and chat with a few runners as we all headed toward the third picnic stop of the day. Andrew departed having seen me over the third quarter slump/hump. I briefly called in to the third and final checkpoint of the day to re-fill on water. The food unfortunately continued to hold no appeal. An ace gentle downhill in a joyous tunnel of autumnal hued and goldfinch crowned hedges did however. The busy hum of the A303 at its end added to the ebb and flow of the day; marking / marring the turn back south towards Tisbury and the finish.

Sue enjoying the downhill finish

Another recurring theme of the day was faster runners unfamiliar with route reovertaking having lost their way. It provided a regular reminder to keep focused on route finding and meant I shared the concluding miles with a runner who had already passed me three times. They had run a couple of extra miles in what was their first ultra and off-road event; they were keen to not add to that total and having established that I had experience of the route adjusted to my more sedate pacing to try and achieve that. Of course I immediately dented that misplaced confidence in my navigation skills by going the wrong way. Thankfully I quickly realised the error of ways and we were soon cantering down the finishing slope to rest weary legs, receive our super-duper “dog tag” finishing mementoes, enjoy a brew, and feast on ARWNWN’s traditional beanie stew with cheese topping and lush fresh buttered bread.

Crooked Tracks – Event organisers so good they even provide a rainbow finish?

The day’s entertainment was not quite over though. With a table booked at the Quarrymans Inn for post-event feasting and rehydration, Sue and I were keen to be on our way home. Unfortunately I had left the lights on in the car when parking up in the morning. The ensuing flat battery provided one final hurdle to overcome. Thankfully that was eventually achieved; with the help of motorhome hero and their jump leads we just made our booking at the QMs; where the pie (not a lie) and beer provided a champion end to a day that ebbed and flowed as the best ones do.

With great thanks to: Andrew Wood for support on route; the jump lead hero; and, most of all, Neil Turnbull and all the Crooked Tracks team for a tremendous trio of ARWNWN outings.

Dave Mackie

A Trio of ARWNWN 2018, 2019 and 2020