Yep, I don’t half choose ‘em. Two weeks ago I was battling 80 mile-an-hour winds and hail, on Sunday I was battling 80 degree temperatures and 4 feet deep water, at the first of the year’s Turbo X races. Proper mud, sweat and tears…
A buddy of mine at the Saab Salomon Outdoor Team had pre-entered me for this one, and so I was prepared for the trip to sunny Berkshire – the Royal county. A county of rolling, leafy lanes, of gentle forests and safe Tory seats for ‘round one’ in the Saab Salomon race series.
A walk in the park, compared to the real off-road world of mountains, fells and wilderness that is served up in some of the knarlier parts of this green and fair land that is the British Isles. Not a bit of it!
The Saab Salomon crew had found a great trail in Swinley Forest. They had also, it seemed, found some very stiff climbs, rocky descents and bogs. Bogs that you could could get lost in. Quite literally, as I found to my discomfort, along with the top International company of Hayley Yelling no less! Yelps and screams were order of the day as every 15 minutes of so we were guided into gloop, shallow rivers and marshes that swallow the whole of your leg.
The course was also pretty tricky to navigate. Yep, after around an hour of running a group of five of us kinda went off-course, very off-course, about three minutes off-course. If it had been one of Hayley’s many National XC titles I suspect that there would have a been a fair bit more anger flying about. As it was we all just shrugged our shoulders, laughed a bit and retraced our footsteps until we came upon a train of runners once again.
This type of racing isn’t for everyone. For a start it’s 10 miles – hardly a fun run. Secondly, if you are looking for a fast off-road course that presents little in the way of stride hindrance, then look elsewhere. Thirdly, if you are a bit squeamish when it comes to mud, boggy stuff and dark and dingy ponds, best stay away. And finally, if you like your races to be serious affairs, where it’s a battle and no glances shall be exchanged until you loll back into your car after a race of solitude, then quite frankly, save your money.
No, this type of racing is fun, tough, challenging, full of camaraderie, all shapes, sizes, and abilities come to test themselves against, well, themselves. They also come with a smile and leave with a big cheesy grin.
I have to admit that I used to be a bit serious about my racing. I used to be that man, the one who didn’t exchange too many pleasantries at races. I was there to compete, I was there, at the sharp-end. Often going home grumpy, if it didn’t go to plan. Not anymore. Life is too short for all of that, life is for embracing, enjoying and just getting stuck in, with a smile if possible and events like this just prove to underline that.
If nothing else Turbo X has reminded me that I love running, I love off-road running and I have probably finally succumbed to the mid-life realisation that I am destined to get slower from here on. But you know I quite like it, the lack of pressure that is. I also like the fact that I am not completely obsessed with my watch, miles spilts and so on, so much so that I forgot to stop my watch after the finish – so engrossed was I in taking in the finish line atmosphere, and setting that cheesy grin off!
For the record I was 34th from around 700 other joyful off-roaders, beaten by the former European XC champion in the run-in, who won the women’s section by a country mile. I expect we will see a bit more of Hayley in this world, such was her cheesy grin.
So, next time you are wondering why you bother with all of this running lark, next time you are searching for a bit of motivation, get your name down for one of these you’ll be cleaning the dirt from crevices and wiping a big smile off your face for many days afterwards.