Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Monday, 12 January 2015

26th October: Rivington Dogging.

Mind where you park for a run!

I just ran the Trail26 Rivington Marathon, and in my normal way of doing things I drove off to the event the night before to park-up and kip in the back of the van so I’m as close as I can be to the start when I wake.

The event, on the edge of the Lancashire village of Chorley, is merely a couple of miles from where the in-laws live, but with me not getting to the location till 00:30 it would have been rude to ask them to keep a bed made for me. With the time spent around these parts I know a bit of the route for the race from having run it before as it begins by taking in Rivington Park, the Pike, Winter Hill and the surrounding land. The base for the race is a school and is locked for the night as a consequence, so I went a little way down the road and with my bit of local knowledge, I pulled in to Rivington Country park; plenty of parking to be had and perfectly flat!

As I turned off the ignition, I watched as a car slowly drove past and parked just along from me so cursing them I pulled away and drove a little further and parked again with the front facing the road… As I sat there and decompressed after the 250 mile journey, I noticed a slow occasional stream of cars would drive along, slowing all the more as they went past the van, some would park-up for a few minutes before driving off - then it dawned on me; I had chosen to park for the night in the local ‘dogging’ spot!

I jumped in to the back of the van and tried to hide as the cars always put their lights on full beam as they approached - it seems they do this to see if there was any willing participant to be spotted! Then I had the next dilemma… god I was dying for a leak having not gone for several hours and consequently my bladder was nearing explosion. I held it as long as I could but I needed to go. I took my chance when there were no cars and burst out the back doors, ran to the nearest tree and relieved myself against it all the while looking out for anyone lurking in the nearby undergrowth looking for a bit of ‘fun’. With all the relief I felt I high-tailed it back in to the van and faced the next issue: As soon as I opened the rear doors the lights inside turned on… just as another car approached! Diving through the doors I scrambled through the van and managed to turn the light off before the car could get too close and I was able to watch it slow to a crawl as it passed in darkness.

Waiting in the back of the van for the car to go, I had to face my next quandary: How do you pump-up an air-bed without making the van shake around like something is going on in the back? The answer is wait for a gap in the lights and as quickly as you can before stopping as the next one comes along. Eventually I was able to get my head down and fall asleep to the sound of the occasional passing car.

Perhaps some detailed local knowledge can go a long way rather than just the geographic knowledge I had!

I woke the next morning and when the school grounds was opened I drove in and registered for the event.

I had only entered a few weeks previously as I had not realised it was being run this year, or at this time of year as previously a similar event in October has been organised by a different company. With alternative plans brewing for next October I was in the position that this may be my only chance to run the race for the next 2 years, perhaps longer. Unfortunately my run-in to this run had been a bit rubbish - since the Brutal I had been laid-low for the first time in years with the lurgy, even being reduced to my first visit to the doctor in several years and being put on a prescription of antibiotics, which I was part way through.

Still feeling rank I lined-up for the start with everyone and jogged-off out of the school in the midst of the pack, then straight on to the side of the hill leading up to Rivington Pike. Within 5 minutes I was sweating like Ian Huntley stoking a boiler and rapidly moving backwards through the field. I could also feel a couple of potential hot-spots starting on my little toes, so I stopped to vaseline them some more before starting again… In dead last place by a good few minutes!

The view from the back of the field.
I know I’m a slow runner, but I am not a DFL (Dead Fucking Last) candidate since my first ever official marathon, so I just smiled (grimaced?) to myself and just carried-on going at my own pace up the hill and past the pike. It took me to about 2.5 miles before I began to reel-in some of my fellow runners and edge my way up the field.

Bolton's Macron Stadium (formerly the Reebok)
As we topped-out on the course’s highest point by the TV antenna at the summit of Winter Hill we hit my territory: a good couple of miles of downhill, which was great, although I was still struggling to make any pace at all, however I did manage to overtake a few people as I descended to the first of the aid stations.

The TV transmitter atop Winter Hill.
The memorial plaque to the Winter Hill air disaster.
The aid stations were all well stocked with a plentiful variety of food stuffs to cater for all tastes, which spoiled us for choice and for me, feeling rough as a badger’s arse-hole, they offered a welcome respite. All thoughts of putting in a good show had well and truly flown out the window over this first leg and my thoughts were merely of getting round as soon as I could in one piece rather than not finishing, or crossing the line in several pieces.

The terrain we were covering was a mix of moorland, the occasional bit of forest and farmers fields, with the autumn colours well and truly in full effect, the slopes of the moors turning from lush green to brown.

The stretch from here to the next aid station was a route skirting round the reservoir to the west of Egerton to the outskirts of Darwen, passing a couple more reservoirs and looking back on the summit of Winter Hill. It was here that I first noticed the motivational signs that had been left lurking around for us runners, which made me crack a smile every time I passed one.

As we ventured over the moorland to the south west of Darwen, we could see a lone point on the horizon: Darwen’s Jubilee Tower, slowly getting bigger as we wound our way across the tracks and trails eventually finding ourselves at its foot, and finding the wind blowing a hoolie at this pretty exposed juncture!.. Rounding the monument we began our descent off the moor to the next aid station and a welcome respite from the blowing wind.

The Jubilee Tower.
The next stretch took us along woodland paths, country lanes and farm tracks in the majority till we hit the final stretch around the reservoirs at Anglezarke and Rivington. By the time I reached here I had clawed my way up a fifth of the field, but I was feeling rough as a badger’s arse, still sweating like Michael Jackson on Sesame Street and just looking forward to the end of the run as running with the large had sucked all the fun out of the run for me and it was merely about putting one foot in front of the other until I reached the end.

A ray of sunshine... The only one from memory on the whole run!
Running slowly through the park at Rivington and out the other side I crossed the road and in to the school for the finish; over an hour down on the time I would have hoped for especially after the strong showing (by my standards) at the Glencoe Marathon and the Brutal run the other week. It just goes to show what the lurgy takes out of you.

I can now safely say that being ill whilst running really takes the enjoyment out of the day, as you are just not able to perform at the level you know you are capable of, whatever that level may be! Coughing and hacking away like a tubercular dog, whilst light headed and enduring the sweats is an 'interesting' experience and one I hope not to repeat again… Despite the event being a wash-out for me personally I can still say that it is very well organised, the aid stations are very good and the course is fairly demanding, although certainly not the toughest I have run. The views of the moors and looking off from them are great as you journey between some of Lancashire’s mill towns and appreciate the open spaces that there are in this part of the country… Something you appreciate all the more when you live in the over-developed south of the country. I don't run events for the swag, but the t-shirt is a good sober one you can wear any time and the goody bag had a toffee apple (it is almost halloween after all) and one of the excellent Chia Charge flapjacks within it.

I'm pretty sure I'll be back at some point to run the course again, only doing myself justice over the route the next time... Still, onwards and upwards to the next race.

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