Sunday 23 November – race report from Bruce Devlin Race Director
“Great fun!” was the most heard comment as the runners crossed the finish line, put their hands on their knees and then started steaming as the torrential rain battered against the finish line gazebo. The post-race headquarters was filled with damp runners, enjoying free cake, bacon rolls, and a hot drink an excited buzz of stories while the events of the morning were relayed and tales of mud, swollen rivers and heroic feats were exchanged.
A wide range of competitors lined up for the first event. Blind paralympian Louise Simpson showed outstanding courage and determination in the difficult conditions. Overall fastest runner Duncan Craig and fastest woman Dawn Elley showed that despite the rain and mud that it was possible to clear the course with impressive speed. Local runners were joined by Cambridge, Bristol, London and teams from neighbouring towns. Ages ranged from teenagers to retired gentle-folk who showed that a little determination can generate a huge amount of fun.
The first run-forest-run.co.uk was a great success. The goal was to have a friendly adventure race in the beautiful Surrey countryside that appealed to beginners and experts alike. Easier than a Toughmudder but more challenging than a flat, Tarmac 10k … and they got it with extra rain. The runners were set off in groups of 20 to ensure that everyone was nicely spaced out for the single track elements in the forest. At 09:40 in heavy rain, the first group were under way and just before the 1km point they discovered the “Not a Hill – it’s an undulation”. Now stretched into a long line, the runners entered the Mill Lane bridle path that was masquerading as a swamp. Anyone who was precious about keeping their feet dry no longer cared as they left the clay trail and climbed the Tarmac road into Frillinghurst Farm. Through the gate and into Frillinghurst Wood, the runners had to be careful with their footing as the squishy, slippery clay hid tree roots and gulleys. The continual rain was causing the water level to rise slowly with every passing minute and the runners literally steamed their way through the mud and onto the forest track towards Fowlshatch Copse and the obstacle course.
“The video on the website made this look easy” said several runners as the wet conditions made the over-under obstacles much more difficult on the day. Down the slippery slope to the Log Carry the runners were finding that the steep slope up to the log drop needed some advanced scrambling techniques to keep forward momentum. Some runners loved their logs so much that they kept hold of them all the way down to the river jump. What had been a gentle 52 inch deep trickle on Saturday was now a knee deep torrent that was more than a little daunting for many runners. Despite a few slips and falls, nearly everyone managed to clear the obstacle course with nothing more than a cold dunking. The ambulance staff stayed warm and dry and kept watch without having to act.
Retracing their steps, the runners made their way back to the picturesque village of Chiddingfold where the local football club let us use their pavilion for warm showers after a tough race. Jane’s awesome lemon drizzle cake was even more popular than the bacon rolls Runners, now warmed, all left smiling and looking forwards to next year’s race on the 22nd Nov 2015. Early bird entries open on the 1st December at http://run-forest-run.co.uk.
A huge thanks to all the marshals for giving up their Sunday mornings and a massive thank you to my co-race-organiser Jane. See you all next year!