Last Sunday Simon and I participated in a local running competition called Rugged Radnage, which was organised in one of the nearby villages. I signed up to fill the hole that was left after completing the iconic Marlow half marathon and to make use of the last few days of the running season this year. This year’s competition was only the 2nd one in the village’s history and was featured in our local newspaper as well.
I have to say we have been very lucky so far with the weather and this is not something I can often say here in England where the seasons seem to change every day! Whilst my friends living in different parts of the world are complaining about maddeningly cold temperatures, we in England are merrily enjoying mild early winter days – perfect for running outdoors.
The race was in a tiny village in the picturesque Chiltern hills. When we arrived, there was already a big buzz around the town hall with just under 300 runners geared up and ready to conquer the mud and the forest! Learning from my experience at the Marlow half, this time I made sure I warmed up properly – it was so cold I was worried my toes would fall off! We bumped into a friend and his friend from my church who is also into running. It was nice to see a few familiar faces and I felt the awakening of my competitive senses I thought I had lost a long time ago.
When we were given the signal to start off, I hoped I would be able to achieve my target race time, sub 60 minutes. Simon and I agreed in advance that we would both run at our own pace rather than staying together all the way through.
I found myself a good pace after the first 1- 2km-s and was able to take in and enjoy the scenery that unravelled through the thick fog and mist in front of my eyes. Everything just reminded me of why I love this part of the country so much. Beautiful rolling hills, fragrant forests, the wet ground covered with the colourful tapestry of autumn leaves, the tranquility of country lanes guarded by tall hedges, small farms representing a lost era in these fast paced and noisy modern times. I actually secretely enjoyed not being allowed to wear my iPod throughout the race – this way all my senses were more alive and more ready to absorb all this beauty.
I found it funny that some people were breathing so heavily and laborously that if I hadn’t known they were human, I could have easily thought I was being chased by a group of horses and hound dogs! I was quite pleased that I was able to maintain good control over my breathing and for me that was a sign of good running economy. The air was so crisp and fresh, yet I felt warm and high on adrenaline.
I totally let myself roll with the shape of the terrain – power walked up steep hills and sprinted downhill, gained skill in jumping over puddles and tree roots and small branches and craftily overtook men. At certain points it truly felt like we were indeed a group of animals chasing our individual trophies. The pace I found myself was a challenging one, leaving me with just enough energy for a final burst through the finish line in 57 minutes and 2 seconds. I only allowed myself to look at my trainers once I got through the race – in fact, I could barely see them under the thick layer of mud, even though it had not rained for the whole week! Our friend and his friend arrived just 2 minutes before me and Simon came in at 61 minutes, which I thought was a very remarkable achievement for a first time runner. I had better watch out next time we run together in a competition because he may be greeting me first by the finish line!
Feeling happy about completing our first cross country race, we collected our well-deserved goody bags and medals and stayed for a bit to cool down, chat to our friends and grab a bite in the village hall bar and look at the photos that were taken during the race by a local company the organisers of the race hired. The photos can be viewed here.
This photo was actually taken the second time I did the race. It was as tough as the first time!
After the thrills of Rugged Radnage, I am on the hunt for a new challenge again. There is no denying now – I am addicted!