Harriers go North and Conquer!
As many of the East Hull ‘massive’ were taking part in the inaugural Burton Constable 10k, four intrepid Harriers carried the Red Standard to Dalby Forest, ready to take on the No Ego ‘Conquer the Forest’ challenges. Runners had the choice of a 10km or a Half Marathon, with a 1 mile Fun Run for juniors, through some of the park’s most challenging terrain, lots of which generally goes unseen by the public.
The ‘No Ego’ series is a relatively new addition to the race calendar. Consisting of ‘Head Torch’, ‘Trail’ and ‘Mud’ challenges in the North of England, the events are geared towards runners of all abilities, with the focus being more about the fun of getting muddy, whilst taking in some of the most picturesque landscapes in the UK, than on full-blooded racing. That said, as the events have grown in popularity, so has the intensity of the competition!
With heavy rain battering the car only half an hour before the gun, the organisers promise of ‘proper trail running’ was looking ever more enticing (let’s face it, it’s just not the same running on nice dry tracks!). Myself and Dave Dearing lined up at Adderstone with around 200 Half Marathoners, with Wayne Martindale and Dave Cracknell taking on the shorter course.
Thankfully, the weather cleared ahead of the start, and after a short sprint towards a very narrow entry into the woods, we were amongst the very best (worst?) that Dalby had to offer by way of twisting trails, forest, bogs, hill climbs, hill descents and fire roads. The early rain and subsequent sun made for scenery something akin to the setting for ‘Predator’, with heavy layers of mist rising under the canopies. Happily, I managed to resist the urge to shout ‘Get to da choppa’ in a thick Austrian accent. Probably because every accent I do comes out Geordie, but primarily because my lungs were bursting after the first climb.
As the organisers had promised, this was no trail ‘lite’. Although the course was very well marked out, we were faced with untrodden paths through every type of terrain, from leg sapping peat to the occasional bit of tarmac, with every effort required to stay upright amongst lots of trip hazards and greasy surfaces. Hill climbs were hard to judge as they wound upwards through dense tree cover, with no end in sight, with the descents being similarly challenging. The earlier rain meant that many climbs and drops came with their very own stream trickling down, and at one point, as we wound down a steep trail, runners were faced with a large fallen tree that required tarzen-esque skills to traverse. I later heard that for some of the runners further back, this caused a few minutes worth of back-log (Pun intended). There’s a good reason you sign a disclaimer before running these races!
Although we certainly weren’t ‘baby-sat’ through the race, there were plenty of marshalls and water stations to keep us safe and well oiled. Having done the Swaledale Marathon the previous month, this event was the perfect middle ground between those harder to navigate courses that require you to carry appropriate safety equipment, and the ‘can’t go wrong’ road races. It’s a great challenge for those that enjoy trail running, and with organisation as slick as this, I foresee this becoming a lot bigger over the coming years.
The four Harriers did what we do best, and grafted our way to very creditable finishes. I finished in 13th spot, 9 minutes behind the winner, with Dave D in 47th. Dave C and Wayne came in 27th and 53rd respectively in the 10k. Although the fields aren’t made up of the area’s best just yet, make no mistake, it took a lot of effort by all to battle our way around a course that for us East Yorkshire flood-plain dwellers, was a very challenging experience. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys our annual Hill Race at Brantingham, and encourage anyone to give it a go.
As an aside, I’ve noticed a certain (friendly) unspoken rivalry between the ‘trail-crowd’ and us ‘roadies’. I mixed with a few hardened ‘trail-junkies’ ahead of the race, many of which suggested they knew the place like the back of their hand, and were ready to give lots of advice on what I should and shouldn’t do. In the same way that snow-boarders mock skiers, I was duly obliged to take scathing/patronising criticism about the bagginess of my running shorts (apparently skin-tight lycra is the only way forward), my vest (‘very seventies’), my number position (‘you’re supposed to have it on your shorts, duh’), and even my perfectly good trail-running shoes (‘Aww, bless, look at your little New Balance’). I can only assume that mine and the other EHH roadies’ margin of kicking all of their arses would have been greater if we’d dressed as they had suggested 😉