News

Hilly Helmet Update

Please see below the message from Race Director Robin.

We would still love to support this event so we encourage you to enter and get working on your helmets.

I’m very sad I’ve had to make the difficult decision to cancel Hilly Helmet as a mass participation event this year due to the Covid-19 situation.
With 40 sign ups ready and looking forward to this years’ event and to give us a good chance to continue to make a good donation to Brain Tumour Support, the charity benefitting from the annual event, we have converted to a virtual event for this year only.
So far the response to this is really encouraging and I’m writing to let you know in the hope you may also join in this year and maybe get the whole family involved.
The format is simple. Decide on how you want your helmet to look then get designing! Enter our virtual event and then run a 4.25 mile route in your neighbourhood, around the distance of Hilly Helmet and wear your helmet while doing so. If you can find a hill to incorporate even better, but we recognise you may not be able to so depending on where you live. When you’re done, please send us your proof you’ve done it, a photo of your watch or fitness app will be great and also send us pics of you doing your workout in your helmet.
This year there will be 4, yes FOUR prizes for the best helmet, one for each category, male, female, junior male and junior female, so we look forward to seeing who can stretch their imagination to impress us.
We’ve priced the event entry as follows with EVERY PENNY of your entry fee going to Brain Tumour Support as usual.
Adults £12
Juniors £5
Family ticket £30 (2 adults and 2 juniors)
To ensure everybody stays safe, please follow government advice with regard to social distancing and your daily exercise quota. Please also ensure any juniors you sign up are accompanied where appropriate and capable of taking part without over exerting themselves. Everyone can walk or run, it’s your choice, it’s not a race just a fun event the whole family can do together or a run you may usually do that you can now do and help a charity at the same time.
All entrants will receive one of our legendary pottery mementos with artwork to reflect the unusual nature of this years’ event and the first 200 entries will also receive a drinks bottle courtesy of Wessex Water.
Remember, once you’ve entered you’re good to go and do your run any time up until 12th August 2020. Please let us know when you’ve completed it by emailing your pics and proof to robin@orangehelmetevents.org.uk
As mementos are ordered for a delivery in August, it’s likely it’ll be around the same time we receive them this year but we’ll do what we can to get them earlier. As soon as we do, we’ll arrange distribution to get yours to you as soon as we can.
We hope you do choose to join in and we look forward to seeing your entries and pictures on completion of Hilly Helmet – The Lock Down!

Weekly Review – Week Ending 10th May

It’s another week of record mileage and activities as we’re up to 367 totalling 1,954 miles. And we also had 8 people who managed at least 7 runs this week. And we had our regular parkrunners as always, keeping up the Saturday morning ritual.

We had another 2 virtual races this week.

Dave Townsend did the 10K Twister and in his own words – A virtual 10K with a difference – for every 25m climb you take a minute off your finishing time. So with 300 metres of ascent my modest 56 min 16s becomes 44.16 – a PB for this year! Fantastic time.

David and Susan Mackie (or Damian Fall and Nicky Slinks) did the Lakeland Trails Stay at Home Staveley virtual race, finishing in a 1-2 and inspired by some of Inov-8’s finest athletes.

And the real Damian Hall also did his own version of it too on a similar route.

The One Mile Club are continuing their trek down the United Kingdom and are now at 375 miles and are into England. Are more importantly, the fundraising is up to £1,165. Please donate HERE

The One Mile Club and some of our members commemorated the 75th anniversary of VE Day by doing a scavenger hunt and looking for something representing each of the letters. Their efforts can be seen at the bottom of this post.

Vicky and Stuart Henderson tried something to keep their run interesting, as they found 16 post boxes in a 14 mile run.

We of course had our regularly scheduled Thursday night activities of the class with Jane Clarke and then a virtual meeting at the Scoop Inn, both are keeping steady numbers but there’s always room for more so come and join in.

And now I hand over to two other members for some important updates-

A note from Jan Forsyth, the Welfare Officer:

I hope you are all keeping well both physically and mentally during this difficult time and finding something to keep you active, be it running, cycling, PE with Joe, Strength and Conditioning with our lovely Jane Clarke or even a walk around the block! Looking at Strava, it is great to see how many of our members are managing to get out in some way or another. I feel it is important to say that if you aren’t able to run your usual miles or effort sessions right now then you are not alone. But rest assured CRC will have something to suit everyone in terms of group sessions when we finally get back together again in person.

If you are out running alone please do remember to always carry a form of ID on you, just in case you have a fall or become unwell. If you are registered for Parkrun, they do a bar code tag for less than £5.00 with personal ID on it which simply attaches to your shoe laces, many Garmin watch/devices have a ICE page which you can fill in. Alternatively, you can carry your phone in an arm band or waist band bag – these don’t have to cost much and if purchasing online, most will let you know which phones fit in them!

Keep well everyone and I really look forward to seeing you all again once it is safe for us to do so!

CRC Championship update from the Club Captains:

England Athletics have suspended all athletics competitions in England to the 30 Jun 2020, and it is anticipated that a further update will be issued shortly.

The list below shows the races that have been affected by COVID-19.

  • Bowood 10K – Virtual Race
  • Devizes Half Marathon – Rescheduled 4th October
  • Westbury 5K series – May/June cancelled
  • Compton Bassett 5 – Rescheduled 23rd August
  • Great Chalfield 10K – Cancelled
  • Hilly Helmet – Virtual Race
  • Steeple Ashton 5K – Cancelled
  • Endure 24/Cotswold Way Relay/Avon Valley Relay – Cancelled.

Those races that have become Virtual Races will no longer count towards the CRC 2020 Championship, if you do still wish to take part in a virtual race we as a club fully support this and look forward to seeing your results and even race reports if you have to time to compose one. We would like to encourage our members to still support the Virtual Hilly Helmet race as this event raises vital funds for the Brain Tumour Support Charity, for those that do, please remember to upload your race picture (with helmets) onto our Facebook page.

Once we understand how the remaining years races will be impacted, the committee will make a decision to how we adapt. Take Care all and safe running. Regards, Carl & Laura

Weekly Review – Week Ending 3rd May

We’ve had 6 weeks of lockdown now but the members of CRC are still going.

We’re slightly down on miles this week but we’re up on activities and again we had 7 people managing a daily activity and some not-parkruns.

I would assume one of the main reasons the activity numbers are up is to do with the children of many of our members. The One Mile Club are attempting to run 1,000 miles cumulatively over 40 days and raise some money for NHS Charities, currently at £855.

As at Sunday lunchtime, the children had achieved 265 miles, which on a journey from John O’Groats to Land’s End would have them just past Pitlochry (The Gateway to the Highlands).

While some are continuing to run, others are using the time to enjoy some recuperation until we can meet again.

Consistency is key at the moment so the Thursday evening strengthening session with Jane C (and Milly) is proving ever popular and always followed by the gathering at the virtual Scoop Inn for a catch up chat and a drink of choice (BYOB)

And we have had a race this week (technically) as Gary Young completed the Virtual Great Bristol 10K. It looks like he’ll be pushing for the 50 minutes when regularly scheduled racing returns.

And finally, whether you are out running every day, or staying home and enjoying some down time, please look after yourselves, look after each other and reach out if you need some help. Keep sensible and keep healthy and we’ll all be back together again soon.

The (Nearly) Bowood (Pewsham Estate) Virtual 10km Run by Stewart Unsworth

The official Bowood 10k race fell victim to the coronavirus outbreak but the organisers, Calne Rotary Club and LPS Events kindly offered to post a medal to any entrant who completed a ‘virtual 10k’ by midnight on 12th April and sent proof by the 15th. The results were to be collated and a final ‘virtual finishing order’ announced. Therefore it would be prudent to seek out a fast, flat course to maximise the final position on the leaderboard. Luckily, I knew an alternative event organiser by the name of S.Unsworth who asserted it would be a race like no other. I suppose the ‘(Nearly) Bowood (Pewsham Estate) Virtual 10km Run’ does fit that description but perhaps not in the way envisaged.

The virtual run package contained the following promises/recommendations: 1. Personalised race number with chip timing. 2. Well stocked water station. 3. Professional start/finish line. 4. The ‘Infamous Bus Stop Chicane’. 5. Opportunity for a PB on a ‘flat course’. 6. Run at an appropriate time of day in order to get the best weather conditions. 7. Wear road shoes; not trail.

Sadly, the reality was as follows: 1. ‘Personalised number’ was one used in a previous race with the title for this race written over in biro; additionally there was no corresponding timing mat thus the chip was rendered useless. 2. The water station was a stool stationed at around 8km with one glass of water and a small plate of pointlessly wrapped sweets. 3. The start/finish line was a piece of paper stuck to someone’s front door with blu-tack. 4. The ‘Bus Stop Chicane’ was a bus stop that you could easily run past only serving to slow the runner down in an event that was marketed as a PB opportunity. 5. The course had as much elevation as the real Bowood 10k. 6. The start time was at 5pm; the hottest time of the day at 22 degrees. 7. No marshals. 8. No km markers. 9. Definitely no medical provision. 10. Part of the course was off-road and at the far end became a marshy quagmire that rendered road shoes unusable. The hapless organiser belatedly cut this part out meaning it became a short course. Therefore in the final mile the route was hastily changed on the hoof to correct the distance. 11. Despite winning the race (because no-one else was foolish enough to enter) no winners trophy or any other recognition of success was forthcoming.

Hopefully in the months to come I’ll do races organised professionally rather than by some inept cowboy. Stay safe everyone.

A Tale of Freedom Under Lockdown by Chris Nutt

Leaving the deceptive calm at the heart of the small South Cotswold village of Biddestone, warm with Bath Stone cottages and the sunshine of an April morning, I ran west along a lane lined with the gardens of Spring, simmering in the fresh, liquid light and quiet of another day. The world holding its collective breath, suspended as under intensive care or isolation. The houses and their plots an idyll of an England that exists only in the nostalgia of our culture or the writings of Laurie Lee.

The lane I chose heads West climbing gently to reach a fork, one tine of which points South to the busy Bath Road. The other, “less travelled by” curves West through open fields of winter barley and spring wheat climbing gradually into the sky to look down from the Cotswold plateau onto the valley where Brunel forged his line to Bristol through rocks and woods to carve the great tunnel at Box. This part of the run is light and open, more sky than earth with views that gaze out to the gentle beauty of Bath basking in a soft, blue horizon and surrounded by the ancient countryside of Wiltshire and Somerset, a landscape far removed from the urban frenzy and crisis shaking our city hospitals and their weary staff.

The track soon descends, falling more steeply now into darkening woods and undergrowth, broken by the weight of farm machinery carving the wet winter ground into scars that pain the unwary and twist the ankles as you struggle for grip. Here the woods climb steeply on either side of a lonely trail. Birdsong dazzles like crystal, piercing the undergrowth, shattering the silent calm of a world waking to this new reality. It is as though nature has sensed the great change and the warm green of wild garlic and deeper colours of early bluebells consume a fresher air made free of fumes and fuels burnt in a world before the great virus stopped us in our tracks and made us think. The land to the South opens onto a grass covered meadow clinging to the valley sides and pierced by an ancient spring that bursts above open ground like a fresh wound and soaks into the bound and bandaged soil of the pasture, thirsty from weeks of dry skies even after the wet of winter.

The track climbs now steeply, though still wooded and bordered on either side by hazel, ash and oak. Trees still light and grey but showing the first signs of new life as though a signal of a younger time to come and the resilience of a world we lost sight of. We are as Hockney tells us part of nature and no more able to control it than to control the seasons that these trees root themselves in. The run here is hard, the severity of the path and roughness of the ground taking a toll on tired limbs, but it has a quality that only off road running and open, unspoilt places can bring. Clay and darkened woodland soils give way to limestone and sand where the trail turns part back upon itself and eases open through a gate to a meadow to the North and a gentle curve of ground with moss green and velvet grass covered fields above the Bye Brook, a brighter, cleaner arm of the River Avon as it rolls through lower lands on its journey to Bath, Bristol and beyond.

Here the run gets easier and as I begin to enjoy the extra air and energy that these gentle fields share, a pair of Little Egrets dance up into the light, lifting themselves in waves like paper on the breeze to settle and perch in the branches of an ancient oak. These exotic creatures are blown to us on the airs of climate change. Once foreign visitors they now frequent the creeks and rivers of the South, feeding in the margins of lakes and streams where once only herons held command. Their sword like bills stab at prey in the shallows and shadows of the wetlands and now in April they pair and plan the spread of their kind North into the wider lands of England and the West.

Running is special to all of us who, obsessed or trapped by its rhythms seek out the isolation and the special spaces to enjoy its sense of freedom, of accomplishment and above all in these strangest of times the health and vigour it endows upon the routine of our crowded lives. It is for me the ultimate in mindful escape. High intensity training demands an unlikely concentration but leaves space to think, to observe, to live in the moments when only the steady breathing deep within our core and the sounds and sights of the world around us invade our inner selves. It is a privilege and not, especially in these times, a right which health and happiness grant us. At this stage on the route I begin to think about this contrast and the freedom under lockdown I am gifted to enjoy in this serene and silent corner of the world. Stories of bigotry and envy fill the media as I recall reports of runners having things thrown at them or uncompromising ‘ordinary, decent people’ berate the panting and the sweating of runners who they say have no thought for their passing safety. I know many runners. Although as every class of person is drawn from and reflects the wider communities in which we live, they are by and large generous, open-minded people who value freedom, believe in a community of purpose and respect the world we live in.
Yet prejudice is a light sleeper, especially in this brittle Britain with its divisive politics and the toxic nature of its social media. But we do not run to dwell on the problems of the world, rather to navigate, and to gain respite from them.

Forced back into the challenge before me I take the right-hand track which splits here where a deserted farmhouse rests quietly in the flood plain of the river. Home only to barn owls and the scuttling of mice, its roof long gone but its stone walls and pillars reminding us of a time when the wool trade thrived and the wealth and plenty of an older England shaped the beauty of the Cotswold Hills and the farms and houses that rest within its generous arms. The route is pressed now on either side between thick hedges of blackthorn and elder, like a gorge in miniature no way out on either side as the path once more lifts and winds its way back North to the old Weavern Lane, a drovers track long since given over to hikers or the soft feet of roe deer out before the boots and dogs of walkers shatter the silence of their secretive world. These quiet creatures one of the few large mammals left in our woods, share our countryside moving in when our eyes are closed or our backs turned to stalk softly between the dusk and dawn of each working day.

Led up onto the tarmac of the road on which I started I can move more freely now and pick up the pace to push myself back along the final miles of the route and on entering the house once more reflect on the great pandemic. Whilst breathing hard in recovery, like Hardy I watch “morning harden upon the wall.” My thoughts go to my wife a key worker, tackling her essential role in the fabric of our struggling society and the daily salvo of risks she and thousands of NHS staff march towards, day in day out. Oblivious to the personal dangers they are all that stand between us, pain and an enemy we know little about and less of how to control.

I look at my Garmin and consider how the miles compare and split times stack up. Real speed endurance is something I left behind in younger, fitter days and now an older hopefully wiser runner I look back on those times of energy and ease and like Housman’s “land of lost content, I see it shining plain. The happy highways where I went and shall not come again.”

Nevertheless I like many struggling to find time and space under lockdown enjoy my running. I relish the places it takes me to, figuratively and literally and reflect on its joys. We will run through this crisis of that I am sure. But like any hard and exhausting session we will need time to recover and the good sense not to set out on the same route until we know we are fit enough to do so.

Weekly Review – Week Ending 26th April

It’s a sad time at CRC as it should have been the Corsham 10K this weekend and obviously it didn’t take place. Luckily it’s been rescheduled for September 27th so Corsham 10K 2020 will hopefully still happen.

In total our members had another record breaking week on Strava, again we had exactly 100 members (I’m starting to think that Strava only shows the top 100), doing 1,948 miles in 349 activities (both records) and again we had 7 members doing at least 7 activities.

Some people did run the 10K route though as it was a glorious day again as we’re usually fortunate with the weather, even when the race doesn’t happen.

This weekend should also have seen the London marathon, which Stuart Henderson didn’t want to miss out on, so he did a loop from home. One bonus of not doing an official race was that he was able to stop and enjoy the scenery and take some pictures.

It did mean that Stuart didn’t do his weekly back garden parkrun. However Richard Biggs kept up his streak with Gastard parkrun #5.

Thursday evening again saw the exercise session with Jane Clarke (and Milly) and then all round to the virtual pub, The Scoop Inn, where we were joined by some chicks courtesy of Charlie Berry.

Jane Clarke has not only been promoting our well being on a Thursday evening, she has also been promoting CRC on Radio Wiltshire, talking about all of the great things we’ve been doing while our regular activities have been cancelled. Fast forward to around 1:46 to hear Jane’s interview on BBC Wiltshire (only available until 25th May)

There are many children of CRC members who are members of the One Mile Club and Humphry has rallied them to raise money for NHS charities. The idea is for 50 children to run 20 miles over 40 days, either as a single mile every other day, a half mile every day or any combination really that gets you to 20 miles.

Hopefully this will mean that overall the club will run 1,000 miles in the 40 days. If you’d like to sponsor them then please go to the LINK HERE

Egg-Cellent Adventure Virtual 10K by Laura Midwinter and Marie Vinolo-Young

The Tri-Island Egg-Cellent Adventure 10k was a charity race to be ran in the village of Rampside, Cumbria in aid of Get Leafy Home. Darren Leith suffered a stroke in 2017, which left him with Locked-in-Syndrome; Darren has been receiving care and therapy at a Neuro rehabilitation centre in Southport, which is a 200-mile trip from his home and family. The charity has been set up to adapt his home so that his family can care for him. The race raised nearly £800, well done to Tri-Island Running.
Race Day, Sunday 12 April 2020, Corsham Running Club members x 2 (Laura Midwinter (Shaw) & Marie-Letecia Vinolo-Young (Bath)).

LM

Laura’s 10K Race Route – Shaw

Laura’s Race Report

It is very difficult to find a flat 10k route in the village of Shaw, so I decided to counterbalance the hills with starting on a ¼-mile downhill, hoping I can maintain the speed of going downhill throughout the course (only in my dreams). Therefore, as expected it was flying start with me leading, which I maintained throughout, hey, I was in the lead on my course!

As it was early on Easter Sunday morning and the country is in lockdown the roads were quiet, so I did not have to wait at road junctions and I only had to cross over twice to comply with the 2m COVID-19 rule.

As I ran through Beanacre, my pace slowed slightly which was probably down to the slight incline and my mind knowing I had a sharp but short hill to attack at the end of Westlands Lane. I then hit the top of Whitley, I picked my pace up for the downhill section and with the motivation of the sun shining, and birds chorus, I maintained the pace for the final 3 miles. I approached the final stretch and I could see the finish (Shaw School Car Park), I dug deep and with a grunt or two sprinted through the finish line, cheered on by the birds singing in the blossom trees, applauded by nature.

Amazingly, this was my second fastest 10k time, so I am hopeful for the future that with continued dedicated training and running with the brilliant CRC I will achieve my personal set 10k goal.

MY

Marie’s 10K Race Route – Bath

Marie’s Race Report

Easter Sunday meant race day…this time for Tri-Island running which should have taken place in Barrow-in-Furness, my adopted town, the town of my first ultra! It was an egg-cellent adventure with the entry fee all going to a local charity. However, this race was to take place in the beautiful city of Bath.

6am start meant that you could forgive the easy distraction of the stunning sunrise, birdsong, peaceful streets and a time to take in all the sites one had seen a million times before but perhaps not really appreciated. Temperature was good and allowed the white pins to blind anyone who was unlucky to be glared at! This was shorts and t-shirt weather!

The course was undulating to keep it interesting and took in several burrows of the city including historic sites such as The Royal Crescent, The Abbey with the NHS flag flying proud and Royal Victoria Park, to name a few. A quick clap and thank you as the course made its way past the RUH. Pigeons and Seagulls adorned the streets and were very respectful spectators. Managed to stay out in front for the whole race and came home bringing the bronze at third lady and not even noticing Laura fly past to bring in the gold! So team Corsham again bringing home the prizes…time to get that cabinet!!

 

Not the Devizes 1/2 Race Report by Gary Young

So Sunday, 5th April should have been The Devizes Half Marathon. This along with many other races had been postponed until later in the year.
On Monday, 6th April at 7.21 am I crossed the start line for my solo “ Not The Devizes 1/2 half “ .
The course was a mixture of country lanes and road taking in Lacock, Gastard, Whitley, Shaw and Melksham, the weather conditions were perfect.
Race Highlights ( in no particular order ).
1. Seeing two care workers in Lacock outside a house putting on thier PPE and stopping briefly to clap them and tell them I loved them.
2. Bumping into Mr Biggs and his dog somewhere near Gastard and getting some motivational words as I ran past whilst social distancing. (a well needed boost and my fastest split time! )
3. Not being eaten alive by the Lacock Alligators. ( Who knew!! )
In 2hrs 7 mins the race was over, no medal, no T-shirt just the gift of running, good health and avoiding this horrible virus.
Stay safe and run….

Weekly Review – Week Ending 19th April

Another week has passed with no racing but still we’re keeping up with the running. Yet again we had exactly 100 runners, this time totalling 1,911 miles and 336 runs. Whether it was the beautiful weather at the start of the week, or the first wet days for weeks at the end, it was our highest totals since racing finished. We also had 7 runners who did at least one run a day.

Parkrun was sparsely attended this week (maybe the torrential downpour helped) with only Richard Biggs and his Gastard parkrun.

We did of course have our Thursday evening session with Jane Clarke (and Milly). They’ve got so popular that I had a request to join our Facebook group from someone wanting to be able to join in.

And after the exercise session, The Scoop Inn opened its doors for the first time on Zoom for everyone to connect with each other and catch up. Hopefully this will become a regular feature while we can’t meet together.

If you’ve applied for membership for 20/21 you should have received an email from Payzip requesting payment. Check your spam if you can’t find it, and if you’re sure you haven’t got it then please let Vicky Henderson know.

If you’ve forgotten to apply for membership then make sure you do HERE

Vale of Ewyas Race Report by David Mackie

Vale Of Ewyas Race* and Storm Dennis – 15th February 2020.

*The Valley of Ewyas is the steep-sided and secluded valley of the River Honddu. As well as its outstanding beauty, it is known for the ruins of Llanthony Priory

Early in January interest was piqued by a Facebook post for a new Fell Race in what has, thanks to Andrew Wood, come over the past year or so a regular stomping ground; the Black Mountains.

A reconnaissance of the route confirmed the sales pitch; Andrew and I committed and entered. There followed some weekends of excessively wet and windy weather as the UK was battered by a sequence of three storms. The third, Storm Dennis, coincided with the Vale of Ewyas race weekend. Numerous races were called off and the forecast was less than encouraging for the Black Mountains and Sugar Loaf…

However, the race director gave a green light for the event following a late Friday run round the route. Based on the conditions experienced they advised wearing two tops underneath a waterproof, at least one long sleeved. Having participated in a number of Fell Races with sporty weather and where other folk seem impervious to wind and rain, often enduring in just a running vest when I was wrapped up in full waterproofs and thermals, that advice indicated the outing would be a challenging one. The one positive was the temperature was above freezing, even with wind chill taken into account, so not excessively cold and no risk of slipping on ice either.

Saturday morning saw an early start just in case the Severn Bridges were closed. As it was the Prince of Wales bridge* remained open so there was plenty of time for a pit stop in Abergavenny. A quick scan of Tripadivsor identified an open greasy spoon and we dived in.

*Because of the more advanced aerodynamic design of the later bridge, the Second Crossing is far less prone to such restrictions caused by cross winds than the first Severn Bridge.

Amply fueled, and with Dennis starting to make his presence felt, we made the short drive to the Old Pandy Inn to register and gear up. Due to the inclement weather plus the length and nature of the race, there was not a big queue to register and in due course only 28 runners toed the start line.

For only the second time ever I started a race in full waterproofs; and not the usual running “crisp packet” waterproofs, but heavyweight mountaineering Gortex, generally reserved for full-on Scotish or Lake District outings in testing conditions.

On the sheltered, initial road section I felt a little overdressed. However, as soon as we climbed onto the open hillside and got into closer company with Dennis the decision was vindicated. Andrew’s choice of shoe was less ideal as he “wheelspan” his way up the waterlogged and steep grassy slope. As our pace / endurance was broadly similar, Andrew and I had decided to run as a pair and provide some safety in numbers given the conditions. His lack of traction therefore gave me an opportunity for a breather and helpfully to suggest he might have been better off with the studded shoes he chose to leave in the car.

Thankfully the exposure to wind driven hose pipe levels of moisture was brief as we headed up and over the first summit and checkpoint. From there it was onto the first navigation choice of the day. We did not follow the small herd in front of us but elected to drop more directly towards the valley bottom or a lower line we had used on the reconnaissance. It was six and two threes and we neither lost nor gained places. A short, steep climb led to the second high point and Checkpoint. It was not a day for views or lingering. So after having hearlity thanked the marshall for their endeavour, we pressed on.

Faced with another navigation decision, we went with the majority this time. As a consequence we lucked out on a much more direct line than the one we had taken on our trial run. In no time at all, thanks to Storm Dennis wind assistance, Andrew was charging down to Llanthony Priory with the only interruption to his flow being the Checkpoint 3 marshall, who had sensibly elected to move to a lower, less exposed position. I lagged behind, blaming my slowness on steamed up glasses and lack of regular hill running. Andrew being the perfect gentleman duly waited for me at the gate off the fell and we enjoyed a frightfully skiddy descent down water-logged grassy field to the priory. By this stage the effects of the full fat breakfast were starting to wear off; the briefest of stops was made to top up energy levels ahead of the climb out of the valley. It also provided an opportunity to check on water levels as we crossed the River Honddu. It was already a mass of boiling muddy brown water, which did not bode well for the stream crossing awaiting us towards the end of route.

The path ascending from Llanthony up to Bal Mawr, the highest point of the day’s Type II fun*, is a beauty and provided welcome relief from the breeze. As we neared the top of the climb, Dennis, in the form of his howling could certainly be heard if not not felt. We were also approaching what the race director had advised would be the most exposed section of the route. We duly paused to don extra layers in preparation for the predicted battering. The reality, whilst pretty grim as the pictures above indicate, was manageable. The expected long drag into the prevailing teeth of Storm Dennis passed swiftly enough and was eased by being slightly downhill. That said, the weather was far from balmy and still warranted full waterproofs and the extra layers. We also started to haul in some runners ahead of us, which further improved morale and provided a bit of added impetus as we passed the halfway mark, marching onto the fifth checkpoint.

From there it was a long section of downhill and a bit of tarmac towards the brooding mass of Sugar Loaf. The 400 metres of height loss was immediately clawed back in the fruity, gradually steepening climb to the summit of the Loaf and another checkpoint. Writing nearly two months later this section still firmly falls into Type III fun* territory. The entertainment factor was further reduced on the descent from the wind and rain lashed summit of Sugar Loaf when I led us astray, having relied on instinct rather than the map over a part of the route we had not covered on our previous visit. An unnecessary loss of hard won places and added time and distance resulted in some colourful language. The moment was rapidly overtaken however by the desire to crack on and get to the dry embrace of the Old Pandy Inn. We were thankfully soon back on known, gentle downhill ground and equilibrium was restored.

*Type 2 fun = Miserable while it’s happening, but fun in retrospect.
*Type 3 fun = Not fun at all. Not even in retrospect. More information on the “fun scale” Here

The downhill concluded with the much anticipated stream crossing. Water flow was indeed a little boisterous. However, a bridging fencing arrangement gave something to hang onto and we both got across without too much drama. From there it was onto yet more Type III fun for the brutally abrupt and bramble strewn climb to the penultimate checkpoint; it was definitely a day that kept on giving.

Absolute stars of the day were the marshals who were in positions fully exposed to Dennis’s rough and moist embrace but unceasingly encouraging and cheery. The one at Checkpoint 8 was the best prepared and was fully ensconced in his bivvy shelter with just the electronic dibber showing; I was clearly getting tired as I faffed and took an age to “dib”. Having not found a decent descent path from this highpoint on our reconnaissance, I had identified a white house in the valley as the best point to aim for. So rather than following a path Andrew had found heading in the right direction, I stuck to Plan A and headed off to find the white house marker; unfortunately as we entered unfamiliar looking territory it transpired there was more than one white house in the valley. Thankfully it was not too much of an excursion but did generate a bit more effing and jeffing verbalisation on my part.

The Old Pandy Inn was now tantalisingly close as the crow flew. We were not crows though and in a lovely quirk of route setting there was one last little bump to negotiate before the canter back to dry clothes, shelter and oodles of cake some two hours after the winner; despite my navigational blunders we did finish in the top 25 though.

On entering the pub I was mightily surprised to be identified as the first V50 home. My reward was a pack of dry socks, which was both marvellous and farsighted given how we found Andrew’s car when we left the pub…

A twenty plus mile outing over the Black Mountains in mid-February is always going to provide memorably good sport. The Vale of Ewyas in combination with Storm Dennis certainly did not disappoint in that regard. Very many thanks go to the race director Tim and his brilliant band of helpers from the Mynydd Du fell running club for putting on the event, and the trust they put in the judgement and ability of the runners in doing so.

Writing this some two months on as the sun shines and Covid-19 impacts, the winter hills of South Wales and racing already seem like another age. However, “what was has been will be again”* and that is sustainment enough while Covid-19 is overcome.

*Ecclesiastes 1-9