When the name of a race contains the word “Challenge”, I always question whether this is a realistic race description for seasoned competitors like us. Take this example… an undulating race in the Vale of Belvoir, where the elevation range is only about 100 m and refreshments are provided every hour or so. How hard can it be? Well first, factor in that the race was a marathon (actually 26.4 miles) and second, that the Vale of Belvoir has a bedrock of mudstone. After the first few miles it becomes blatently obvious that this race is a ‘challenge’; the route is >90% off-road in fields and on tracks that comprise sticky, heavy, slippery, waterlogged clay! Sometimes the fields were grassy, which were a joy, but many of the fields contained crops and hence the footpaths were paved with bare mud. Some farmers had managed to pulverise their soil to a strange dry mud consistency, which at first looked pretty harmless, but after 5 more steps, it became apparent that this fine pulverised mud was even more sticky than the waterlogged stuff and resulted in a cm-scale wedge of mud being attached to your shoes with two effects; a) a huge weight increase and b) a complete loss of traction.
The race meandered through many small, quaint villages beginning at Harby and passing through Goadby, Chadwell, Waltham on the Wolds, Croxton Kerrial, Woolsthorpe, Belvoir and Stashern. The whole 26.4 miles was waymarked with small bits of ready salted tape (red and white) … I don’t envy those that staked out the route! It worked pretty well, in fact I only saw route-finding problems once when they manifested in a group just in front of me completing an entire lap of a field before finding the way on … just before I got there 🙂 . The notable parts of the race were the check points which were stashed full of cake (sorry no pictures), Belvoir Castle, which was pretty and errr… the mud, which I saw a lot of when trying to make forward progress rather than fall over!
Eventually the end came and I finished in 4 hrs 25, which wasn’t bad considering the mud! Richard had to walk half-way around because his hips/knees/ankles were not enjoying it very much. My legs were pretty tired, but actually my back aches the most and I think that is due to the constant effort required to stay upright when sliding on the mud.
Photos courtesy of Mark of the Peel Road Runners – well done to all the other Peelers who were challenged!
We probably would have stayed in bed on Sunday, but my back muscles just weren’t happy in a horizontal position, and it was the premier event on a new orienteering area near Ross on Wye. Our good friend Brian has spent the last 3 years mapping the woodland on the side of the M50, so we were keen to see how good the area was. I sensibly chose to walk around the light green course (3 km), which was devoid of too many slopes, tricky controls or stream crossings, whilst Richard chose to run around the black course (10k), which was rather more physical. I had a nice stroll and loosened up a little, whilst Richard struggled through half of his course with niggles in all the places where legs bend. Needless to say, we’ve been grazing all day and I’m still hungry!