I’d signed up to Race to the Stones, but I’d never run a trail run before. It was time to get some practice. Facebook kept prompting me with the Salomon Sunset Series adverts. A 10km around the infamous Box Hill. It was set up by Salomon as part of their Sunset Series across the UK, the race taking place at 8pm a night as the sunsets (duh!). I was in.
This is where I mixed it up a bit, I decided to combine the 10km trail experience with a long training run and also gain some experience of running in the dark (because I had no idea how long I’ll be out on the course for Race to the Stones!). So the plan was, head down to Box Hill, enjoy the afternoon, take part in the workshops (trail running, Yoga etc.), run the 10km, pick up my bag and run the 18 miles back home to London. Simple.
The event itself was great. It wasn’t a big crowd in the day, although numbers increased for the race start. I’d gone down to Box Hill early and had me a little wander. It was early afternoon and I just lay in the field, my eyes closed, enjoying the relaxation and wind before I realised I was getting bitten to pieces by an army of ants. Fuckers. Inside the race village there were some stalls and products available as well as workshops on trail running and yoga. I enjoyed both. The techniques for running up and down hills particularly useful! Afterwards it was time to grab some food and listen to the professional Salomon athletes talk in a Q and A session. There was something ironic about me sitting there eating a pie whilst listening to them talk training and nutrition. I was happy. Before long it was time to run.
Part 1 – The 10km race. This in itself was tough but manageable. It was good fun getting on the hills and properly testing my trail trainers. There were a few very steep sections that required ‘power marching’ – a technique taught in the workshops earlier that day – and I certainly felt the effort this required! Towards the end of the race though it started to rain, pretty heavily. There was no “Sunset” on this run. Finishing up at Salomon’s Memorial I decided not to stick around. I grabbed my finisher’s coaster (better than a medal!) and ran back to the baggage store and quickly getting changed and setting off for home…
Part 2 – the run home. This was going to be dull. It was dark. It was wet (very wet!). I was soaked before I’d even begun. I was committed though (I had miles to do!) and I had recently bought a waterproof jacket (OMM Kamleika Smock if you care!) so this was the perfect opportunity to also test running in that! There would be a lot of testing on this run!
Do you ever get that Deja-vu feeling? I’ve often experienced that in London, mostly being in a place I recognise from a drunken night out somewhere, well it happened here again. Many many years earlier I’d spent some time with a woman who lived out in Reigate. This one time she took me to a pub in the middle of nowhere where I had an awesome Chinese duck and plum sauce Pizza (I know right!). I never knew where that pub was (or even what it was called)…until my route home took me past it shortly after leaving the race village. It’s the Arkle Manor for those interested. Get involved.
As I continued running I soon realised I’d planned my route home based on roads, not necessarily those roads that were safe for pedestrians, never mind pedestrians in the pitch dark. I did not enjoy running those country roads in the dark and the rain, although I was so glad of my head torch.
After about 6 miles I took a stumble in the dark after a short detour through some paths in the woodlands. I stumped my toe pretty hard and now I was also grumpy bastard as well as wet and tired at this point. The rest of the run was uneventful though until I rocked up in Croydon shortly after midnight on a Saturday. Seeing all the drunk party-goers on their nights out spurred me on to get home to bed! Hah, how times had changed. I was home a few miles later. Finally.