“Are you alright?” asks the marshal, as I hobble, wincing in pain down the steep rock strewn path. “only another mile to go, all flat. Can you make it?”
Two days before I’d met a very nice, no-nonsense osteopath, who had agreed that my leg was not right, but would be as long as I did nothing stupid. After explaining the need to run a 10k+ fell race in 48 hours time, we came up with a plan. Simply put I needed to do one thing – listen to my knee. When I felt the pain coming in I was to stop running and walk for 5 minutes no more, If the pain stayed then that was race over, if it subsided I could continue to run. To carry on regardless would result in a ‘tear’. A tear did not sound good.
Race day dawns blue clear skies, and we hop over the border to Cornwall and a small place called ‘Minions’ for the legendary 5 Tors Race, organised by the East Cornwall Harriers. It is worth the journey, the scenery is stunning and as we close in on Minions, it looks as though the Tors have some serious climbs and decent. Good job I managed to do ‘some’ training before a race this time. Mentally I have no deep concerns or fears, just a unkown as to how the knee will hold out and just how much of the course will be hard packed path.
The race is extremely well organised, good clear signage combined with adequate parking and cheerful marshals sets the tone for the day. There are lots of smiles all around and, despite being very well supported by the local running clubs, I did not at anytime feel as though I was intruding. The fact it was so well supported by local running clubs is a glowing recommendation of the course and the race organisers.
The Cornwall Search and Rescue Team were also in attendance, and it was good to stand and watch them setting up and deploying teams out onto the hill, there was a comforting familiarity about it all. I couldn’t resist a quick ‘radio check’ as I went past one of the teams, the call sign was recognised with a smile and a laugh. Next time you’re at the bar in a pub put your change in the Mountain Rescue tin, we really do need the money. And we don’t get paid. It isn’t a job. We volunteer. You fund us. Or you could donate here.
I check in at race control and get my number, fumble with pins, stress about layers and what to carry or not, a million stupid little stress inducing, vibe killing thoughts flood my brain, I’m panicking about my knee, I don’t want to fail in sight of the start line, I don’t want to DNF, I’m flapping and going round in circles. We bump into some fellow ORC runners and the distraction settles my nerves, I decide on what to carry – nothing, and what to wear – shorts and long top. To the start!
Waiting for the start is becoming familiar, I’m shivering and I can’t hear the race director as I’m surrounded by lots of people who’ve done this before so don’t need to listen. I catch one nugget about the course markers being quite close together, and something about film sets, then before my brain has a chance to quite work out what is going on everyone starts running.
My knee does not instantly explode on the start line, and half a km later it is still happy, a small glimmer of hope upon the horizon. The race is pure off-road moorland and I’m comfortable, I pass quite a few runners that aren’t as happy on the less defined ‘path’ still on an easy pace. I’m 3km in when I get the first signal from my knee as I’m climbing a slight gradient. I slow and the group I was running with drop me as I break into a walk. A few minutes later the signals disappear and I resume my run at a slower pace. The knee holds as I pass by the sectioned off film set and descend down to the start of the first major climb. I make the top with a mix of run/walk, then hurl myself into the decent. All the running down the local Tors pays off as I quick step downward passing other runners who are being more cautious over the rocks.
As I pass by every Marshal post I exchange cheerful pleasantries with all the volunteers is really is a great day and I’m having a grand time. I know I’m not going to break records and I have not a chance of winning any prize, but I care not I’m having a ball. I’m managing my knee, walking to rest it when it needs it, picking my way through the moor carefully so as to not twist it too much, but upon the final decent it cried enough.
I had made it to the old mine railway track, one mile to go, relatively flat all the way to the finish. I had a good laugh at the water station and set off. In the end I didn’t manage to break 2hrs, finishing in 2:06:34 placed 179/190, my average pace 15.49. I finished, I have my race number and a finishers neck warmer, I hope I made the day a bit brighter for all the people I met, because my day was made brighter by them.
The bonus of the day came at the end, when we stayed for the awards, and Our friend Mags won an award in her age group, her supporters fan club went suitably wild, we celebrated with whoops and hollers.
We ended the day in the only way we know how, by getting lost following the satnav, then filling our faces with a Burger King. Time to plan for the next race and maybe do some training.