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Race Reports [Reports Index]

Harvest Trail Half
Sunday 16th September 2018
Dave Mail

Sunday morning was another “race” in my running rehabilitation. This one was the Harvest Trail Half at Royston.

After the previous Sunday’s undulating Harlow 10, I felt shattered for the next couple of days, so I didn’t know if I would attempt the Harvest Trail Half or Quarter, or neither. I decided when I turned up to register on the day. It was the Half!

Given my lack of running, my strategy was not to race but have a hilly distance run at a decent but not racing pace. I hoped I’d average about 10mm for about 2h15m (being a trail route not accurately measured, the distance is actually about 13.6 miles by Garmin). I ran this in 1h54m36s 3 years ago when I was moderately fit.

In my warm up, I questioned my wisdom (I don’t have any Wisdom Teeth, so perhaps that explains a lot!) since my legs felt very heavy. Perhaps I ought to go back to the Registration Tent and change to the Quarter which 6 of my club colleagues were doing?

I didn’t, and went to the start line.

I started off at my trademark steady pace. My heavy legs had disappeared. Well, the legs hadn’t disappeared, that would be Not a Good Thing, rather they were still there having decided to join me in the run but feeling alright and looking forward to the run (I must get some legs with a bit more intelligence!). However, they do sometimes have Gazelle like abilities!

The first 2½ gently undulating miles were at an average 9m30s pace. Then we went upwards, onto Cardiac Hill, where on the steep narrow track through the woods some people were walking so, even though I was managing only 11:30 pace, when there was an opportunity to overtake them I called out “Passing on the right/left”, thanking them as they allowed me to pass.

At the top of the hill at 3½ miles the Half and Quarter races split and I was pleasantly surprised by how many followed me onto the Half. I wasn’t going to be running by myself!

At 4 miles, a man joined me and after a bit of toing and froing we ran together talking. Just after 5 miles, we had slowly caught up with a Hunts AC runner so I asked her to join us and she did. The three of us chatted a lot over the next few miles which flew by because we were so engrossed in talking we didn’t notice the running.

I’d been checking behind to make sure we were still together and when we got to just before 10 miles, I noticed the Hunts lady had dropped off by a few yards, so I slowed a little to let her get back to us. She did, and I said “Well done for sticking with us” to which she responded “Thanks, but I’m sure you slowed up for me”. I didn’t confirm her suspicion. At this point another man had caught up with us so now we were 4.

The four of us were still together at 10½ miles when we crossed a road into a sugar beet field with lots of beets on the surface which didn’t impede me, I just floated over them like a gazelle being chased!

At the end of the field after a ¼ mile I looked behind me. The 2nd man was a few yards behind but the Hunts lady and the 1st man were some way off. The 2nd man and I went through a gate which I held open for him, and I hoped the other two might catch up.

I started chatting to the 2nd man. At 11 miles I told him about the impending short but steep hill which at this stage of the race most people walk up. “So you’ll bound effortlessly up it?” he asked. “No, but I won’t slow down as much as most others, you’ll catch me up afterwards” “I like your faith in me”.

I duly “ran” up the hill catching a group of 4 Royston Runners (the host club). “Do you get given a handicap for having local knowledge” I cheekily asked them.

Into the woods and the 2nd man caught me and we talked some more, including me explaining to him the remainder of the course. He said his plan was to take the 1st half slowly and then speed up so I encouraged him to go on and he did.

I must be a crossbreed because after using my gazelle like feet earlier I now had my mountain goat feet on, leaping over the tree roots through the woods, up and down gulleys.

Out onto the high open ground above the sports area finish with a 2/3rd mile curved loop to go. It’s all downhill now, there’s a lady just a few yards behind me and a man about 50 yards ahead. My gazelle feet were now back on and I flew down the slope skating over the uneven ground. I quickly caught the man and bounded down the rest of the hill and then onto the flat finish. I was glad I had no one near me and didn’t have to sprint to the funnel !

Finished in 2h8m59s, average 9:27 pace. 79th out of 122 finishers. I’m pleased with that.

The downhill man finished half a minute later, and I looked for my earlier companions, the 1st man and the Hunts AC lady. After 3 minutes I saw them together coming down the hill so I went back and jogged the last 50 yards with them. At the end, we all thanked each other for the company.

Running with someone else makes such a huge difference giving one a boost, with mutual encouragement, and it takes your mind off the running. Today, those middle 5½ miles with the 3 of us together seemed to fly by. Talking of flying, I barely noticed the strong breeze.

This is a gorgeous race, especially on a good day like Sunday (although I wouldn’t like to run it in muddy weather!). A very nicely organised event with tea and cake included at the end and excellent value for money. What more could one ask for?

Despite not being fully fit, I thoroughly enjoyed this run, even if I was 15 minutes slower than 3 years ago. It might even make me fitter. It certainly hasn’t killed me!

It’s nice being a sometime gazelle!

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