Monkey business

Created: Friday, 31 January 2014 Written by Tamzin Renfew

Not being entirely sure of what I was getting into, I decided to take part in a 11 k trail run. Easy I thought, no need for extra training as I run this distance quite easily - and then discovered there was a climb of + 150m involved. After conferring with my “running guru” sister-in-law though, I realised that I run much harder hills at home, so no big deal. After dragging my family to support me and take photos last time, they all suddenly developed really pressing jobs to do at home and couldn’t make it, so off I nervously went.

On arriving at the previously sleepy hamlet I was surprised to see row upon row of cars, lycra clad people running everywhere and slightly dated pop music blaring from loud speakers in trees. And a man on the PA system shouting to be heard over the music. I hadn’t a clue what he was saying, so asked some of my fellow French competitors to enlighten me - but they didn’t know either! Then off to register, collect my number and free headband and try to work out where the start was. Everyone seems to have a different warm up routine - some stand about drinking coffee and chatting, while others either indulge in bizarre stretching exercises or run with their coach, doing laps around the car park until they are bright red and panting - and they haven’t even started yet..

I decided my warm up would be to tap out a facebook message to my ever supportive sister-in-law. I sent her photos of the disco/gym where we were all collecting, and she pinged back messages of encouragement. Then suddenly we were all collecting at the start and one more message came through “It’s not wet is it?”. And we were off.

What a race. It was so slippery that I could hardly stay upright, we had to jump ditches with fallen bodies in the bottom where runners had slipped over, and all I could hear was a chorus of “merde” ....”merde”. As we ran through the woods I felt like a monkey, swinging from tree to tree for support, but still managed to overtake a few ladies when we hit the road, before plunging into another ditch. Then down a steep muddy track, jumping from root to root (using my patented monkey technique), trying to get some grip and all the while thinking if we’re descending like this we will have to go back up!

And yes, we got to the bottom where a very scared looking young man was pointing to the 90° turn we had to take. I realised why he was so worried when the man in front of me tried to brake before turning and unceremoniously ploughed over him. We then climbed, me with my head down trying to find the best track. It was impossible to run it and I felt defeated, then looked up quickly and realised everyone was walking, so decided to break my rule and did the same. What a relief! As soon as we got to the top, off we went again - and by then I’d decided to adopt a degree of self preservation , try to keep up the speed but not fall over and drown in a puddle!

I had no idea of how far we had gone, and didn’t have an opportunity to look at my watch to check my speed - my eyes stayed on the ground watching for rocks, roots and fallen runners! Suddenly the finish line loomed - and it was over. Feeling slightly down at my performance, I grabbed a drink and an orange and wandered back to the car. I sent a message to my sister-in-law saying I glad it was over etc.... she said again “was it wet?”. “Yes” I replied, and she pinged back “you DIDN’T run in road trainers did you?” my reply “Um, yes”. Just then the man parked next to me asked how I got on – everyone seemed interested. ‘Slippery’ I said. He then looked at my shoes, laughed and said “no wonder’!

I decided to check the results out of interest, and was amazed to see I was 6th out of 55 women and 2nd in my class – the winner beating me by .05 seconds. Not so bad after all. And I’m off to Decathlon tomorrow to get some trail shoes. Look out mud - here I come!

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