Today was the day of the Extreme Running: London to Brighton race and I felt really sorry for the runners, including Cliff and Pete, who were tackling this 90km / 56 mile monster, especially as it was the wettest day since the day I ran with Cliff and Dai out from Lewes. It was chucking it down for hours on end and I was very glad to be inside, looking out.
Alas, I had told Cliff that I would definitely venture out with some moral support as they would be passing within miles of the house on the way through. Short of getting a heavy afternoon cold, there was no getting out of it!
So around 4.45pm Kim pushed me out of the car in Wivelsfield Green so that I could run a section with them. The worst of the storm had actually blown away by then and it was quite a good temperature for running but oh boy, was it ever wet underfoot!
The first thing I realised was that Cliff had some hangers on… on account of the fact that he alone seemed to be able to read the map. Shortly after this revelation, I came to the conclusion that whoever had decided the route must have been inhaling laughing gas. The short section that I did was blithely labelled the ‘easiest part of the course’ but even now I cannot link up the points on a map that I know we passed. It was convoluted in the extreme, to the point of torture, added to which sections were actually under water.
Mind you, I’m sure that’s not the main reason it took two hours to cover somewhere under 6 miles. Ah yes, I feel I must mention my fellow runners, though prefacing whatever cheeky comments I’m about to make by reminding you that in the preceding nine plus hours, they had just run 45 miles: if you have run a marathon, some 20 miles shy of this distance, you can at least begin to understand how they were feeling.
The wusses! Staggering along like they had zimmer frames! Even I could keep up! Although I too would have got hopelessly lost if it weren’t for Cliff’s map reading! Even though even he managed to miss the correct path up the scarp slope to the Beacon, involving us in a slightly more, er, direct ascent!
Actually, Cliff looked in pretty good shape and Pete, who really wasn’t, had a genuine excuse: he ran in the barking mad Mont Blanc ultra marathon only a few short weeks ago. In this company I appear decidedly sane for a change!
Anyway, we eventually reached the Beacon at 6.45pm with the light fast fading and I let the boys motor on while I turned gratefully for home. And as I dropped off the Beacon, I finally picked up some speed. But by the time I reached Ditchling it was dark and I had a stark choice: Run back the normal way, which I know to be tricky even in daylight, run back on the road despite wearing a non-reflective black jacket, or call for reinforcements, which was very appealing under the circumstances.
I’d like to say that I ran all the way back without stopping. I would like to, and I did. If Cliff and Pete, along with Dave and the other hangers-on, could run the last few miles to Brighton after a completely mental day, I could hardly wimp out now. In fact, I managed the 5.15 miles in just 44 minutes, around 7mph. Not at all bad considering I could hardly see a thing! Note to self though: black jacket invisible to motorists at night: it was only fortunate that I was wearing shorts and they could see my legs!
Kim finally called to check I was okay when I was about five minutes from home… the advantage of which was that the remnants of Friday night’s Bolognese was already bubbling on the stove when I finally walked in.