Having signed up for the Round the Island race with XNRG in July, I follow them on twitter to see what they’re up to. Last week, they tweeted about needing a sweeper on day 2 of the Pilgrims Way race. For some reason I thought that finished in Canterbury so whilst a bit far, I got in touch and said, yep, happy to do it. It didn’t finish in Canterbury as it turns out but in Farnham which is a lot nearer to home.
Normally with a 50k race (for me at least), I have a bit of a plan beforehand in terms of rest and arriving ready to go. This time I just carried on as normal, normal running sessions, swimming Friday, rugby Saturday and then the race Sunday. I’d thrown some stuff in a bag before heading up Saturday night and was finding it a little tricky getting my mind right as I wasn’t competing as such but still had to do 53km which irrespective is still more than a walk to the shops.
Anyway after a lovely nights sleep (after Match of the Day of course), in the Travelodge in Redhill, I got my gear sorted and wandered down to the start.
Not entirely sure the runderwear pants needed to be quite so much on view, apologies for that, but at least they’re clean !
At the start, I’d missed the early risers (7am start), saw the mass start (8am) and hovered around having a coffee whilst waiting for the elite runners to go at 9. Had a very funny chat with the eventual ladies winners, other half! They all left and I got to meet my fellow sweeper, Davo! We were armed with a bin bag and a pair of snips and about 9:30 we got on our merry way taking down signs, tape, glowsticks etc and taking them to the next checkpoint, dumping them there and starting again.
Davo in action:
I’d never met Davo before and hadn’t really considered spending 10 hours with a chap I didn’t know, but in no way was conversation going to be a problem! I like a chat and he liked a chat as well so I’m not sure there was any silence over the 53km’s! Maybe when we went up Denbies Hill… We did cover practically every conversational topic under the sun and laughed a hell of a lot!!! He’s done 1 million marathons, actually I think it was 169, which is just a little bit impressive. He’s also a walking talking race reviewer so I got to know loads of races I’d never heard of.
He’d also completed Day 1 of the Pilgrims Way race and I think was feeling it at times. But, having done so many marathons previously he knew what he could and couldn’t do and mentally just smashed through it!
The course itself is lovely, not quite as remote as the south downs (or at least the bits I’ve done) but a similar number of hills, mud, more hills and more mud!!!
I don’t know why I thought of this during the walk but can you imagine Mr North Downs Way and Mr South Downs Way sat in a pub, wearing proper hiking wear and stout walking boots and of course some sort of stick whittled by their fair hand, whilst drinking a pint of mild (would have to be) with some sort of salty snack arguing about which one was best North or South! Well I’ve got Box Hill, well I’ve got Butser Hill, well North is higher than South so it must be better etc etc. The conversation getting louder and louder, more and more pints drunk then they walk out hugging and go for a kebab!!! That may have been an insight too far… so changing tack quickly, Davo in some mud:
Please note he gave me permission to use his image in the blog as I told him my blog was read by millions and women would be falling at his feet wherever he went. Some of that may have been a lie…
Some photos of the views:
A photo of me to prove I actually did some of the course:
As sweepers we did fail in one regard… we didn’t catch anyone up! Every time we got near people, they pulled out of the race !!! I know out chat wasn’t particularly high brow or entertaining and our personal hygiene may have needed a freshen up, but that wasn’t a reason to ask the marshals for a lift to the end!
Anyway , it was a lovely way to spend a Sunday. The XNRG guys were great, the checkpoint teams waited for us with fully stocked tables, (the chocolate brownies and sausage rolls at checkpoint 3 were amazing) and I got to meet some new people, especially Davo who made the day fly by.
Would recommend the race as a good ultra, I only did day 2 so I don’t know what it would be like doing the course one day and then heading back the same way on day 2 but maybe I’ll give it a go next year.
Finally, massive thank you to Neil and the XNRG crew. Having done some races where I’m at the back and you get to the finish and the arch has been taken down and you’re basically treated as a hindrance, I was really pleased (more so for Davo having done the two days – 66 miles), that the arch was still up, floodlights on and the team there to greet us in with our medals and some cheering. That to me is one of the small things that make a race and show the thought for the runners rather than just races trying to make money. (I was nearly on my soapbox then, sorry about that!)
The sweeping team at the finish!
Not the most flattering photo of me… I look like I’ve just eaten a small child whilst wearing a bra crop top thing!!!