It was the last in the 2015 Runfurther series, which for David and I meant we just had to complete this one last run to make our Grand Slam. How hard can that be? Well harder than I imagined. In fairness my competitive spirit did not help matters. A fast run round Ramsbottom on hilly tarmac to get some points on the board for street O left my legs more tired than I had hoped and left one hamstring a bit sore. Added to the on-going achilles issue was the worry that whatever is wrong at the front of my right foot is now not a mortons neuroma? The consultant was positive it was but the ultrasound scan guy on Friday was sure it is not. I don't care what it is but I would like them to decide and sort it out for me.
We drove up to the borders on Friday and arrived in beautiful sunshine with time on our hands. We parked in Bowden and went for a walk up through the woods and onto the lowest and closest of the Eildon hills.
The views were great, the autumn colours in the woods were wonderful and the ground was firm and dry.
We had the added bonus of the local children setting up a mini race diversion over their playground swinging bridge. They were delighted when Bob followed their arrows and went over it. We found the rugby club easily and parked up for the weekend. Andy and I met with ROs Naoni and Angela to hand over Clif bars and put up the display boards. We camped next to the sculpture in honour of Hutton the father of geology. Bob and I settled down for an early night but the local youth had other ideas and entertained us with fireworks and handbrake turns across the car park. By midnight all was quiet.
Saturday morning saw us up bright and early putting up flags and banners before a hasty breakfast, registration and a quick chat with friends.
It was chilly but not really cold and so far the worrying forecast of rain, heavy at times, had not come true.
It was getting very hot in the rugby club and almost a relief to be herded out and across the road to the grassy mound. The ROs are potty - my proof was a loud warm up to YMCA complete with a huge dancing squirrel.
By 8.05 we were on our way and running north through the streets of Jedburgh. I tried not to go off too fast but as I was with Carmine I had clearly failed again. After a mile we turned off onto paths and lanes before a quick section of parkland, a suspension footbridge and the first woods. The whole course was marked with pink dayglo signs and easy to follow.
After the bouncy bridge we turned on to Dere Street which was much better than it appeared on the map. It was in places also much more muddy than the woods we explored the day before. Shortly after the sign commemorating the battle of Ancrum Moor the rain arrived and within minutes was heavy enough for me to stop and put my cag back on. Sadly I also buried my camera safely away and so missed the chance of some photos. 10 miles brought us to Maxton and the first CP. I needed neither food or water yet and so ran straight through and onto the river section. From here to beyond St Boswells we followed the river on a variety of paths. There was mud on the river bank, wooden walkways over boggy bits, steps up and steps down.
Some idiot had stolen one sign and a whole gang of us climbed masses of steps only to realise it was the wrong way after all. Carmine had by now vanished into the distance but Andy was still only just ahead. Crossing the A68 took a bit of time and by Rhymers Stone I was hungry. Walking and eating slowed me further but I knew I would need the energy.
I caught Andy again on the final climb onto the volcanoes but not for long. David joined us as we topped the last of the three and then they shot off on the descent into the woods.
I joined Andy again for the run through Bowden. The same children were insisting we all went over their play bridge and I think every runner humoured them.
I grabbed a couple of jelly babies and more water before remembering Bobs joke about Pant Well from the the day before (yes we were - Panting well).
As we hit the lane at Whitelee Andy pulled away again and it the last I saw of him. I did meet some great local runners though and Craig from Dumfries chatted away as we ran back along the river banks. I tried hard to use his encouragement and keep up but too much was hurting and I slowed to a walk along a flat section at the golf course. It was odd doing this section as an out and back but I struggled to remember what we had done that morning with any accuracy. Except the steps. Did I mention the steps? I think this are has as many wooden steps as Hardmoors 60!
I kept trying to run and used the relay runners that kept appearing as an extra incentive. A mix of walk and run brought me back to Maxton. I stopped and ate my rice pudding, plus I scrounged some orange pieces and refilled my water. It was then even harder work getting going again. The lane out of Maxton can only be about 2km but it was all uphill and I just could not move.
I did revive a little when we left the tarmac for the woods and Dere Street but the mud was slippery and slowed my progress a bit. The food started to work, I gained a couple of places (perhaps I should have eaten more and earlier) and I enjoyed the last section of wood before the suspension bridge.
Climbing over the kerb barrier on the A698 made me feel like an ancient granny but only 5km remained now. True there was yet more tarmac uphill but the end was in sight. In retrospect I wish I had shouted at myself more and made my body run all of the last 5km. To walk even flat bits seems to have failed badly and if I had run perhaps I would have scarped under the 7 hours. In fact if I had run more of the last 10 miles I would have been with either David or Andy and I am sure they would have shamed me into a run! What a relief it was to reach the grassy knoll again. Noanie and Angela were still bouncing up and down and another girl had the mike and was shouting and cheering every runner in. This race gets the prize for the most bonkers RO team. I looked for David to celebrate our Grand Slam but think he must have shot off to get changed. A few minutes later I started to chill badly and did the same. The hobble to the rugby showers was well worth the effort and a cup of soup started to revive me. Andy and I slowly hobbled back to the knoll for the prize-giving.
Well done to Ian, Ken and Kevin on 2nd, 3rd and 5th places. Big well done to Andy for 1st V60 and to Martin for 1st V50.
It was too cold to linger so we retired for more soup and were still sat there when Bob appeared. second race in a row to be sponsored by a brewery! I must be in a bad way because this time the beer is still in the bottle more than 24 hours later. Eventually we had all the flags and banners down and agreed to meet up in town. The pub was struggling with the crowds so we settled for fish and chips before going back for one quick drink. We were shattered and not long out of our beds. The year is complete. The Runfurther series is over. David and I both managed our Grand Slams and now our bodies can rest and repair.