The day dawned excessively early as Shakti and I were off to the Trailblazers event in the South Downs, Shakti was booked in for the 4 mile walk and I had opted for the 6 mile trail run. We both like to arrive places early so with each of us allowing for emergencies we arrived 2 hours too soon. We had a minor row on the way down as I made Shakti circumnavigate a roundabout a few times while I eenymeenyminymoed about which exit I was going to choose – the wrong one as it happened. She unreasonably questioned why someone would have no less than 3 GPS enabled gadgets and not actually use any of them.
No need to stress though, we were hardly threatening to miss the start. I had plenty of time to reassess my initial understanding of the phrase “Trail run”. When I signed up I was thinking trail = muddy, which I thought would be fun, when I arrived I was reminded of the alternative translation, trail = f’kin hills! Not quite so much fun.
It was a little tricky to find the start at this early hour, I spotted a group of women walking along a ridge and strode after them assuming them to be the running sisters of the Brighton and Hove Running Sisters fame. Shakti held me back and insisted on asking a passing Gurkha for directions. Turns out the women were doing Trailwalker. Sounds similar enough to Trailblazer but in practice it would have meant a difference of 90 km and more than 24 hrs. Lucky escape methinks.
The route was wonderful, it started with a cobbley incline but soon enough turned into a delightful downhill run on lush grass. This coincided with a great tune on my guest playlist – Redneck Woman by Gretchen Wilson and I am now convinced that Country music hits the spot for trail running. I was bounding along and felt like leaping in the air clicking my heels together. The spirit of Judy Garland obviously inhabited me for a moment.
Trouble with downhills is that they are too often replaced by uphills and the music changed to a very freaky song with lyrics along the line of “BannanaTerracotta” and knocked me out of my heel tapping mood. The next descent was steep. I’ve read fell running books and know to relax into the gradient but I very rapidly became a very rapid, out of control orange blur. I think I scared a number of exhausted Trailwalkers who must have thought they were going to be engulfed by a tango rhino. My thighs are going to make me suffer tomorrow.
I lost sight of all running bodies in death valley, not really the place to be abandoned and I had to climb the punishing Snake weaving in and out of the poor Trailwalking souls. They had covered about 90km by this stage and had been walking for more than 28 hrs which put my pain into perspective a bit and encouraged me to keep trogging up the hill.
I finally came in to the heroes welcome reserved only for the last runner plus a bit of jibing from Shakti who was basking in her second place in the walkers “race”. Unlike the race organisers, I knew there was one more runner out there – we had been battling for the back of the starting group before the gun. She has run every single Trailblazer event so I knew that regardless of how slow she seemed, she’d be steady and well aware of the challenges of the course. She would definately be finishing!
She crossed the line maybe 10 mins later, stealing the legitamcy of my blog title. Still, I believe in artistic licence and we are still in the TdF season so Lanterne Rouge is staying.
Great run, well organised, super friendly marshalls and its not often you get cheered on by Gurkhas.