The race started at Newburgh sports centre, in typical low key LDWA style. I arrived, checked in with the organisers, collected my small cardboard number and piece of string to tie it around my neck, went for a pee, and then met Simon in the main hall/bar. Ed from SWAC was also running, and Rob, who was carrying an injury had set off an hour earlier with the walkers so the club was pretty well represented. Simon and I made our way into the car park, where we were sent off without much fanfare.
We quickly found ourselves at the front as we made our way down the street towards the canal, joking about being at the front and how we were almost certainly going to win. We trundled along the canal for a while, which was part of the stretch we’d recced, and immediately lost our race leader status when a guy in a blue top came blasting past us. Then we joked about how joint second would do, and how winning wasn’t everything. Then another chap came up behind and started running with us, he’d done the race a few times, and a few mental mountain ultras too, and we chatted with him for a bit, until we turned left off the canal towpath and started up the first hill of the day. We were onto a bit I hadn’t recced (although Simon knew where we were going), and we got a bit caught up in trying to keep up with the other guy we were running with, and by the time we got to the top we were gasping a bit. Then the guy we were trying to keep up with disappeared off the trail, leaving us on our own. Neither of us would have tried to keep up with him if we thought he was going to stop at the top, but it wasn’t too bad, we quickly got our breath back.
The next stretch was largely uneventful, we made it to the first checkpoint where it was warm enough for me to lose my jacket, and at the second one Simon lost his top – between the climbs and the weather it wasn’t cold at all. Then we hit the first major checkpoint where I scoffed down some cakes, Simon had some flapjack, and we chatted to a couple of other runners who’d come in behind us. We didn’t hang about too much, although we were there long enough for one girl to overtake us without us noticing until later.
We ran on, rejoining the bit of the course I’d recced just past a railway station station, which was reassuring. I’ve never really recced a route before but it was good to all of a sudden know what was left in terms of hills and distance.
All along the way we’d been saying hello to the walkers we’d been passing, as well as keeping a cheeky eye on where we were in relation to the guy in the blue top. We’d gotten used to being told he was miles ahead, and that we were the next ones behind him, still in second place, but then a group of walkers told us there were two people ahead of us. We couldn’t quite work out what had happened, but then a few minutes later we caught up with the girl that had passed us at the last checkpoint while we were stuffing our faces with cake. We had a little chat as we passed her, but managed to pull past her and eventually left her behind after a mile or two in as slow an overtaking move as you’ll ever see.
After that it was all quite straightforward. Running up and over Ashurst Beacon was a relief as it was the last real bump, and was downhill the rest of the way from there. We both knew the route for the last stretch, and despite a few glances over our shoulders when there was open ground behind us, nobody was anywhere near catching us and pinching our joint second place. We were also nowhere near catching the guy in blue, although there was a brief moment when we saw someone in blue walking ahead of us who we thought was him. We allowed ourselves a few unsportsmanlike minutes of thinking he might be injured so we could catch him and win, but it turned out to be the lead walker.
So with half a mile or so to go we came off the trails, and ran like champions along the road back to the sports hall at Newburgh. The streets were lined with thousands of local school children, people honking their horns at us, you could feel the joy and excitement in the crowd at the epic display of athletic prowess they were witnessing. A small boy, maybe about seven years old, handed us a SWAC flag which we took a corner of each and held aloft on our approach to the finish. As we ran up the driveway to the finish line, journalists and photographers were fighting to get the best spot for a shot of us coming in, and within seconds of crossing the line they had been replaced by a group of local residents who lifted us up on their shoulders and carried us, cheering, into the sports hall.
Ok, obviously this was an LDWA even so none of that last bit actually happened. There wasn’t even a finish line, just the car park we started in, and there was nobody there at all. We just stopped running, congratulated each other, and went inside where we gave our names in and got a pie and some sticky toffee pudding.
It felt really good to have come second, even if most of the people we beat were walkers, there was no medal or trophy for it, and nobody other than us cared at all, but even then there was no time to get big headed about it. We sat down to eat our pie with the guy who beat us easily, who told us how he was injured and half an hour slower than last year, and then the guy who came in behind us told us about the time he’d run from John O Groats to Land’s End, which sort of put things in perspective.
All in all though it was a good morning’s running. Good company, cake, loads of mud, and some good hill training. And we kicked those walkers’ butts.