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Running in the Rain, Frolicking in the Floods, Southwater in the Sun

So it was Race day last Sunday and the British weather did not disappoint… It was rainy and windy and having to get Fabian up and awake before 8am on a Sunday morning was challenge number 1. As we were travelling to Worthing, where the race was to start, we saw the poor Dark Star Marathon Runners braving the elements running along the River Adur (for a report go here.).  As we were remarking to each other that ‘they must be mad’ the irony wasn’t lost that we were about to run along Worthing seafront in January, in rain and wind ourselves. To non-runners or even some (sensible?) runners what we were about to do was also possibly quite high on the mad scale. But at least our run was only 4 miles and not 28 (thank god)!

There were surprisingly a lot of people at the starting point. Despite the awful weather it seemed that most of the local clubs had turned out to run on what was the first League race of the year. I was really nervous. It was only my second ever race and my first was back in 2012.  Having got quite into the trail, distance runs I (stupidly) thought that I might find it almost easy, and when we were first off I actually felt a little frustrated that people were in my way. However, as the race got more under way and the rain and wind became more apparent, my enthusiasm waned, and with it so did my pace. Fabian had passed me quite quickly, and despite being relatively new to running, and it being his first ever race he was soon way in front of me. This left me feeling quite alone and having gotten used to running with people in the club it felt a bit boring running on my own. It was with relief when I started to run back and could almost see in the grey murky distance the end point. Crossing the line and seeing Fabian waiting for me, made the weather and the hard work worth it. That is definitely the point for me, the feeling of achievement crossing the line, and although I didn’t find this race the most enjoyable I was still really glad that I had done it. Our team mates were, quite rightly, eager to head home as they, like us, were wet and cold, but Fabian and I decided to reward ourselves by going for a nice cooked breakfast (our first since returning to the UK) and headed back to the car to get changed. If those of you reading this have never had to strip off soaking wet running things in the passenger seat of an estate car, parked in a multi-storey car park with plenty of people milling about, I can certainly tell you it’s an experience.  But we weighed up the embarrassment of getting naked with the joy of being warm and dry… well the latter easily won. I can also report that a post-race fry up is the best kind of fry up.

As ever, seeking motivation I decided this week to buy a GPS running watch. I’ve done copious amounts of research online and was really pleased when it arrived on Wednesday, just in time for that evenings run. It had been a very long day at work, and having rushed out of the door to meet at the Leisure Centre and try out my new watch I had forgotten a vital tool that is required for my usual Wednesday night run across the downs – my torch. So although I had Bear, my Labrador, with me I decided I would take it a bit easier than an ‘if-your-feet-are-not-wet-then-it’s-not-a-proper-run’ trail run and do a village road run instead.  I ended up running with a new member to the club and was able to encourage her around the route. I remember all too well how hard it is to run without stopping or wanting to walk and she in fact did very well. It made a change for me to be the one doing the encouraging as I have gotten quite used to the men having to jolly me along on the longer Saturday morning routes.

Being conscious of the fact that the Steyning Stinger Half Marathon is only a few weeks away, when Hugh posted his run plan of 14 miles for Saturday I decided to give it a go. I was more than apprehensive as I hadn’t found last Sunday’s 4 mile race all that easy and I wouldn’t have the back up of being able to call Fabian to pick me up if it got too much (a service my darling husband has provided a few times during Saturday morning runs) as he had to work. I had eaten really badly all week, scoffing chocolates and biscuits given to us at work, and had also eaten a rather big dinner on the Friday night with a few drinks (of the alcoholic variety) as well so I was expecting to pay the price by struggling my way through. By some miracle I managed to pull myself out of bed and Bear and I were at the leisure centre in time for the 8am start. The weather had decided to be quite kind to us and by the time we had reached mile 3 or 4 the sun was actually shining. You never realise how much you miss blue sky until it’s finally back, and the feeling of sun on my face was wonderful.

It occurred to me briefly that I didn’t seem to be finding it too hard a run when we suddenly faced our first hurdle. The small road we had been running along was completely flooded.  There was some mention of “what should we do?” before the men began to wade straight through. The water was above knee height and not wanting to seem like a princess I waded in after them. The immediate feeling of cold was unbearable. By the time I was half way through the flood I couldn’t feel my feet and it was so painful I looked to my left and right to see if there was any other way through than well… through.  There was not, so I quickened my pace and when I finally got out at the other end, I felt sure that I would now feel cold and soggy throughout the run and would at this point start to struggle. However much to my surprise by the time we were running through Steyning village all thoughts of cold feet had passed and I was once again jogging happily along. The conversations on a Saturday morning are normally quite varied and, at times, a little saucey. As it is predominately men that run on a Saturday and Sue was at a wedding and Amanda recovering from the Dark Star Marathon, I was the only one of XX Chromosome. Keeping this in mind, I found it rather amusing that Derek almost apologised when he mentioned his dogs testicles (okay he didn’t use that term exactly…) or rather lack of them and once I had assured him that Testicle Talk is rather a speciality of mine given my Veterinary Nurse profession it seemed only right that I told him about an interesting case I saw this week: A hermaphrodite cat. Goodness knows what the passers-by thought as they heard snippets of conversations on this particular subject, leading on to Derek explaining the correct terms for different types of hermaphrodites. Naturally we questioned Derek on his unnatural amount of knowledge on the subject, all silently wondering if Derek could have been once a Diane.  His answer was all the more confusing- “Well I studied dentistry”. The mind cannot fathom why dentists would need an in depth knowledge of the reproductive system…. Anyway, I digress. This interesting topic soon had me through to mile 6 or 7 and I still wasn’t feeling too bad. By the time we had stopped at mile 8 for a quick drink and for me to have an even quicker wee (yes with 6 or so men in rather worryingly close proximity- thank god for very large trees – I can confirm I am able to pass urine in record speed) I was still feeling good. I was really enjoying being out in the fresh air and was even glad that there was still 6 miles to go. However, despite Hugh’s best efforts to plan a relatively dry run we were suddenly faced with yet another flooded track. This time the water reached my bottom and yet again I was so glad to reach the other side. The relief however was short lived. By this time we had reached the river and although the bank was still above water, within a mile it suddenly disappeared into water and when the men shouted at me to turn right I honestly thought they were joking. Unless Hugh had secretly stashed a boat somewhere this was not going to be good. Our path on the right was unrecognisable and it seemed that we had no choice but to get wet once again. Only this time it made the previous wades seem like puddles. The water was now up to my chest, and had it had been just a few centigrade warmer I definitely would have just swum as it would have been quicker. Bear took this all in his stride and swam across effortlessly. Unfortunately Max, Hugh’s dog, managed to get himself stuck in some brambles. I do sometimes wonder if Max does these things on purpose just to laugh at his master having to wade all the way back to free him.

By the time I was safely on the other side and able to be back on dry land I felt that being so wet and cold I had two options:  Be really miserable or laugh. It was much nicer to do the latter. In how many other running clubs would members almost require wet suits to complete runs? In what seemed like a blink of an eye we were back at the Leisure Centre and my nice new Garmin watch informed me we had run 14.05miles. My longest run ever and possibly the most fun I have had in ages. It also shows that I can never predict how I will feel during a run, and I can have really good runs when I least expect it. I might think about getting a snorkel and flippers for next time though… and I hope my shoes dry out in time for the next League race tomorrow…

They didn’t. Dry completely that is. But I figured that they would only get wet again. The alarm went off far too early this morning, mainly because Fab had set if by mistake for 6.30 rather than 7.30. I gingerly lowered my feet out of the bed waiting for the aching to start. With surprise they didn’t feel too bad. I woke myself up with a quick dog walk, enjoying the sun shine and early morning bunny rabbits hopping around. I didn’t feel as nervous today as I had for the Worthing Lido race. Mainly I guess because having done one race I sort of knew what to expect and it’s always the unknown that is most worrying. I was also perhaps still on a bit of a high from the enjoyment of yesterdays run. Fabian and I reached the race HQ early as to give ourselves time to use the toilets and find our other HJ team mates. Fabian was apprehensive as his knee had been hurting since last weeks race but he was looking forward to some off road running. The sun really was shining and the weather almost, but not quite, had a Spring-like feeling to it. Once Liz, Gill, Tina, Michelle and Cathy arrived it was almost time to go and we made our way up to the starting point. The race started promptly and almost immediately I realised that perhaps running 14 miles one day and then a race the next wasn’t the best idea. I wasn’t in pain as such  but it all felt like quite a lot of effort. Although mainly on country roads the course does also incorporate some off road and these areas were extremely muddy. It was amusing to watch how different runners approached the mud. Some more careful runners daintily tried to trot along the sides avoiding turning their trainers brown, others came crashing straight through the mud sending mud splatters everywhere. I decided that avoiding the mud was almost impossible and pretty pointless and I was sure to get muddy anyway so I just went as carefully as I could without being a princess. I was careful not to fall over as some did, and also sure to not lose my shoes in the mud as others did. Nevertheless, I emerged from the mud a bit damp and quite brown but still on two feet. It was a long 3 and a bit miles. Especially as you couldn’t really see the finish line until you were upon it. I tried to overtake a few people but felt I was being overtaken much more often. I tried to sprint the very last bit but my energy levels were pretty low. I was also a little bit irritated by the person running close to me whose breathing sounded like an asthmatic 80 year old chain smoker – well I was until I realised that it was me making all the noise. Very embarrassing! Finally over the finish line and I was really glad to have a nice cup of water. As ever, Fabian had already finished but unhappily so as his knee was really hurting him. Trying to be sympathetic as he talked of how slow he had run was rather hard, as he was still much faster than me. But I think that’s the thing


with these fun runs. No one, at least from our little group, was aiming to win, but we all had our personal goals and times that we wanted to beat.  The morning finished up with a lovely breakfast at The Orchards. It was really fun to have a post-race debrief as last week it had simply been to cold and wet for us all to sit together, and understandably most people didn’t want to get changed in the car like we had done (and did again today I hasten to add). We all agreed that we felt it had been a challenge and although some of us had found it quite difficult, no one, I believe, regretted it.

Having now been to two fun runs, I have to say that I wish more Henfield Joggers got involved. Most other teams were wearing their team colours, had many more team mates and some even had their own side-line supporters. I know racing isn’t for everyone but it really isn’t like a race in normal terms. It’s really a race against yourself and everyone taking part gains the club points. Gosh, who would have thought a few years ago I would be feeling passionate about my running club’s team presence. How things change, the only passion I used to have was for the next piece of cake. Anyway, will write more soon but for now I must ensure my husband hasn’t drowned in his post-race bath…