Friday, 28 December 2012

Staffordshire Moorlands Christmas Cracker 8mi. 16/12/2012.

It's been 4 years since I toed the line on this one. During my non attendance we 'enjoyed' some serious winter conditions that forced the route off The Roaches to a shorter loop around Tittesworth Reservoir. Even then it was a shuffle through deep snow, so I heard. This year it was back to normal - mild, wet and back onto the Roaches ridge. It wasn't raining and the sun was struggling to shine. I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn't in fancy dress otherwise I'd collapse from heat exhaustion. (Well, I did have a Santa hat but that soon came off once the race started.)

Fancy dress is a major theme of this event. There were the Elvis's, Father Christmas's, the Christmas cracker, Christmas pudding, the caveman, the cyclists (!)...... One of the Elvis's had a music machine around his waist that was playing Elvis hits at surprisingly high volume with decent sound quality. The sheep scattered as we ran up the first boggy field with "Love Me Tender" blaring out. He was soon out of earshot ahead as we ran along the road with the Roaches ridge beginning to loom to our right.

We turned sharp right onto the track for the stiff climb up to the ridge. The mist hung low as usual as we toiled across the rocky, technical terrain. Once onto the top it remained sufficiently riddled with trip hazards to necessitate a slowing of pace to maintain some composure. I picked my way carefully along the top to the eventual descent, getting overtaken a little along the way. 'I don't recall it being this long and tortuous', I thought to myself.

The 'easing back' along the top allowed a new lease of life once we descended to the sharp turn left back onto the road. We were now heading for home and the running was easy, at least it would have been had we not been pushing the pace as fast as we dared up to now. More photographers (there had been a few) waited to capture our suffering as we beasted ourselves back to the outward route via tracks and boggy fields to the finish. The road seemed surprisingly devoid of other runners. Was it because they were mostly ahead and I was bringing up the rear?

I didn't spare the effort to check my watch as I skidded my way down the field to the gate/stile in the dip (thank goodness for the hand rail), up the other side and down the hoof-holed, sloping, swilling field to the track. It became a survival blur after that as I ran with Lee Grant of Goyt Valley Striders along the path and across the grass to the finish line at the back of Tittesworth Visitors Centre. Looking at the pictures, Lee and I had run together on and off for most of the race. We got to choose between a bottle of beer or a pair of socks for our efforts. Many thanks to Staffordshire Moorlands Athletics Club for putting on an excellent event once again.

When I checked the time I was gob-smacked. Since 2006 they work out as follows:
2006: 1:13:59
2007: 1:13:45
2008: 1:13:47
2012: 1:10:53.

4th PB in December?! Something really is going right.

The picture below is from Bryan Dale's racephotos, taken on the road back to the finish. Mick Hall Photos also took a good crop.

Picture by Bryan Dale of racephotos.

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