The drive to the village of Pattingham had been through lanes, winding and misty. Under ancient oak trees and hemmed in by high hedges. Rabbits darting into hedges and squawking pheasants flying up in alarm as I passed.
I met Rach at the village hall and we were told by a marshal to look out for the mass exodus a few minutes before the start. With about 10 minutes to go, the runners, drawn by some lemming-like instinct started to move forward. There didn’t appear to be any signal or sign, but the people in front of us started moving and we followed them. And the ones behind us followed Rach’s socks:
Left Leg Right LegDO ES
We spotted another friend, Frank, in the crowd at the start and had a quick chat before he disappeared up front and off into the mist. He was running this one hard. I was relieved to be with my friend. Today wasn’t a day for racing, but enjoying. For laughing at jokes, catching up with news, not eyeballing the competition and worrying about pacing. Not for us. Not today.
At the noise of the gun, the pack surged off into the mist, we couldn’t see far ahead – just bobbing heads and colourful club vests disappearing off into the mist. The ground beneath our feet was long grass and uneven mud, trampled by the runners ahead but wet and dewy. Soaking our feet. There were plenty of large puddles and I laughed at Rach, the open water swimming coach avoiding these.
Splash! She’d taken the bait and jumped with 2 feet into the largest, soaking everyone in the vicinity. We may have damp feet ... and damp legs ... and mud splashes on our faces, but we were having fun!
The route was gorgeous, twisting over different terrain and up hills which made it interesting. It wound around fields, up gravelled hills, over sandy paths and past lakes and secret pools.
The trails were soft under our feet and as the bright Autumn sun burned off the mist, the views across the fields opened up. It was a beautiful day. How lucky we were to have this as our running route this Sunday morning.
We passed a scout camp, tents up and a pow-wow circle under the trees, rows of logs. I remembered being sent to a camp while younger and being given a pan, a lump of lard and some raw sausages. Our small camping stove had burst into flames so we’d sat there eating raw sausages. I was 11. Old enough to know better but not knowing what else to do. Not convinced my cooking has improved much since. Anyone fancy coming over for dinner?
Running through one of the fields we met Debs who was running her first race. She’d not run further than 5 miles previously so this was to be a great achievement. She was doing brilliantly and chatting as she ran. We ran together, all three of us, enjoying the scenery.
The route circled the village, up a final hill and came back to the playing fields to finish to applause, a beautiful horse brass, a welcome cup of coffee and a 7 mile race PB for Rach.
A weekend of two halves
I’d also promised to take The Bear out for a run. The weather on the Monday was appalling, a complete contrast to the Pattingham Bells Run the previous day. Sideways rain, wind, horrendous. My choice of route wasn’t much better especially not for someone with a recently dislocated ankle.
We splashed through the mud.
We’d aimed for a pace of about 8 min/miles but had got carried away running. The quicker we finished these 3 miles, the quicker we’d be out of the rain.
“We’re going too fast!” I shouted through the wind. “I know!” He shouted back. Rach was following behind on the mountain bike, rain dripping down her neck.
We got to the first kissing gate, The Bear was through it, splashing across the puddles, I followed and then realised that Rach would have to get the bike through. I paused until she came into sight, letting Bear go on ahead. I waved and pointed the direction we were going.
Over a bridge, through the mud, over another bridge, through a kissing gate ... I paused ... Sorry Rach!
I kept running, across the field, to be met by another kissing gate. Rach was going to KILL me ... and end up with massively strong arms lifting my bike over this lot. My route choice was NOT looking good.
The Hill. Capitals deserved. I followed The Bear up the hill almost catching him on the climb, keeping an eye behind us for Rach. No sign. He got to the top of the road. “Turn right!” I bellowed! “WHAT?” “Right!” I howled through the wind. He turned right.
Turning around, there was no sign of Rach. Crap. She hadn’t visited before and didn’t know the area. Who do I let get lost? Rach or Bear? I waited for Rach. I would have to put on a burst of speed to try and catch Bear before he got to the bottom of the hill and the drop down onto the canal. Where was Rach? Peering through the wind and rain, she finally appeared. I jumped up and down to get her attention and pointed right.
Sprinting to the road edge, I waited for the cars and crossed, putting on a burst of speed down the hill. No sign of Bear. I kept going expecting him to pop up any moment. No Bear.
Rach caught me up on the bike and we moved down the hill. At the bottom, where we had to turn right, there was no sign of Bear. Split up – he’ll have gone one of these ways: I went right on the canal and Rach went right on the road. One of us would catch him.
We met at the end. No sign of Bear.
He’s got a good sense of direction. He’ll probably be waiting for us at the house looking smug and asking us where we’d been, we told ourselves.
At the house. No sign of Bear.
We were a bit worried now. He’d dislocated his ankle about 2 weeks previously, had a nasty virus and now I’d taken him for a cross country run and promptly lost him.
Rach went into the house to put the kettle on and keep an eye on her phone and I got onto the bike to retrace the route. Rach suggested she drive around but there was no point losing both of them in Rugby and if we did that the house would be locked if he returned.
Cycling around in the rain, I retraced the route in reverse. No Bear. Then back the other way. Still no Bear. Then around the town. It was Bear-less.
Called Rach. He hadn’t turned up.
The rain dripping into my eyes and running down my neck I cycled on. A cross country run and now a bike ride in what was practically a river. I was TOTALLY counting this as a triathlon.
Phone beeped. He’s back. Cycled home and there was a smiling Rach and Bear drinking coffee in the house.
Smug git had netted himself a PB.