Monday, 8 March 2010

Troller's Trot. Sat 06/03/2010.

This is my first ever 'race report' on a race I did not do. I changed my planned participation to a voluntary role instead for a bit of giving after all the years of mostly taking. Organiser John Sparshatt had put out a request for more volunteers. It was an ideal excuse for me to still go and soak up the atmosphere, and be useful in the process.

I set off at 05:30 on the 1.5-hour journey to Threshfield, to arrive in plenty of time for a pre-race chat with friends old and new. One of the first people to greet me was Chris Brown with the words: “Nick, I'm not used to seeing you with clothes on”. Cheeky sod. What he meant was, I didn't have my legs out like I normally do and I was wrapped up in readiness for checkpoint duty. I took my place in the check-in queue multiple times as I saw familiar faces for a friendly chat. There was a good turn-out of forumites from the FRA forum. It felt strange standing in that school hall so familiar for The Fellsman as well as Troller's Trot, and not be pumped up with post-race or pre-race adrenaline.

Just before 08:00 we sauntered outside to the road ready for the start. The sad announcement was made that, after 18 years of this wonderful and increasingly popular (with the runners) event, it will be no more unless someone else takes over as chief organiser. John is retiring from organising events now. I thank him and his army of volunteers for all their efforts and the joys and challenges they have given us for so long. It is very clear how much everyone appreciates it. When speaking to him afterwards he said he almost felt guilty about stopping. It's very understandable; I would feel the same way, but he has to draw the line somewhere. Let's hope someone else does step in to take on this big responsibility.

About half an hour after the start, the sweepers set off for a long day's saunter at the back of the pack. An hour later I joined John Stewart for the drive up to Waddy Lathe, the last checkpoint at mile 9 of the 12-mile walkers' route. We were joined by a Raynet man, who maintained communication with base, to await the arrival of our customers. The weather was overcast, cold and threatening to drizzle, but there was a permanent patch of sunlight and a rainbow in the valley below. As I waited, clip board at the ready, I chatted to the casual walkers who passed by, and set one couple on the right path via the hidden stile adjacent to our checkpoint (the first stile in the route description you're supposed to ignore). John stood by with the clipper to clip the tallies. It wasn't long before it seized up mid-clip. Thank goodness we were on the walkers' route; a runner would never have hung around for the minute it took to free punch from tally. Walkers are so laid back and chilled. John resorted to the scissor accessory on his personal multi tool / Swiss army knife / Leatherman-type thingy for the remaining 'punching'. Our 34th and final customer passed through before 11:30. The Raynet communication was very useful in telling us that there were no more to come and we could return to base, otherwise we would have stayed out for another hour.

As we pulled into the lane to the school we gave way to a runner who had just run up the hill and was a few seconds away from a comfortable sub-4-hour finish. I felt very envious. When I got into the hall to report to the timekeeper with our checkpoint data, I was amazed at the number of runners already finished, draped on chairs in various stages of sweaty recovery. The faster and more recovered ones were already forming a long queue for dinner. The even faster ones were already stuffing their faces. The racing snakes and whippets had probably long gone home ;-)

After more than 2.5 hours of chatting, drinking tea and getting all sorts of knee advice from those with 'previous form', I set off home, happy at having got to my first event in four weeks to serve and socialise, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not banish the sense of what was missing. I felt empty; I hadn't exercised or pushed myself to the limit of physical exertion like I have done every other time I have made that journey.

All the pictures are here.

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