Early on a cold Saturday morning in February I found myself donning my race kit and heading out the door to once again face the hills of Pippingford Park. I had been asked by a lovely lady from RPCC to run a race with her, and I agreed to sign up to the 10 mile option of the Eliminator race. Unfortunately the lady I was supposed to be running with picked up an injury and couldn’t race, but there was a still a reasonable sized group of RPCCers making the trip to run either 5 or 10 miles.
The Eliminator race is a trail run with only natural obstacles, there was a 5 or 10 mile option on the Saturday, and a full marathon option on the Sunday. Having raced a few times at Pippingford before I knew this was going to be very hilly and testing terrain, and not your average 10 mile run (not that I often pop out for a 10 mile jog!) It was very cold waiting at the top of the hill, and I was very grateful for my dry robe and Dirty Dozen bobble hat. We were there really early and hung around drinking tea and watching the kids race (and taking a few selfies – since that’s what we do). Eventually though it was time to get ready to race, the dry robes were reluctantly removed and we headed to get warmed up.
We set off down a hill, before swiftly being taken up the other side of the valley, then after what felt like a long and slow slog to the top of the hill it was through the first bit of icy water, with shards of ice floating around and hidden logs submerged below the surface.
As the race wound up and down killer hills I found myself “playing tag” with a few people that I knew, so although running by myself I never felt on my own. As we splashed through yet another section of water I noticed that my friend Graeme Harrison was behind we, with a photographer up ahead so we grabbed a quick hug in the water for a photo before carrying on.
Every so often I would come across a marshal or spectator that I knew and the encouraging shouts (and high five from Mark Leinster) helped keep my running, as well as Graeme, Dave Cartwright and Ben Sallows who were all running near me for most of the race for a kind word.
As the mile markers slowly trickled passed, with more and more hills to navigate, some which almost had me crawling, trees to clamber over, weave round and crawl under, water to wade through and an amusing moment when I climbed over a gate, following the person in front of me, when it swung open with me sat on top of it, I was feeling tired and a few little injury niggles started to make themselves felt.
As we reached the final mile, the course was mostly through a wooded section that reduced running to a slow jog as you tried to navigate safely, and it felt like the longest mile in the world. Eventually you came across a marker saying 10 miles, this was the most demoralising marker in the world, I was only supposed to be running 10 miles, how much further was it going to be? Thankfully not much!
They were not going to make it easy to finish though, with a long slog up a hill to reach the finish line, I found myself walking most of this, despite my best efforts telling myself to run. Then Graeme was beside me again urging me to give a strong finish, and together we ran the final stretch of the hill to the finish line to collect our medals.
The Eliminator was one tough race, the cold and terrain taking their toll as you ran. It felt like a massive achievement to complete it, and I have so much awe and respect for the people who went out the next day to run the full marathon distance.
It was a privileged to then watch as my other friends finished the race, all having given their all and completed the tough course. With lots of hugs at the finish, and then finally heading back home for the longest bath I’ve ever taken to get warm again.