When I heard about the Eridge Park 10 from a fellow running club member, I knew I had to do it. Ten miles of hilly trails, only I somewhat underestimated the hills….and the mud!
A few days earlier I opened the instructions and the route goes a little like this –
‘the New Gully leads the descent to the biggest of the three lakes Carp Baggers; the second Lake Serene sits at the foot of the first long climb taking you through the infamous Cheeky’s Bog… freewheeling down Heavenly Hill; open grassland takes you into the Lost Wood; to emerge at the base of the climb…before your descent past the Tomb of the Unknown Harrier and over the Leap of Death’ and on it goes. This race is organised by the Tunbridge Wells Harriers.
It had been raining heavily during the week so I had a sneaking suspicion this was going to be a muddy one.
The Day of Eridge Park 10
Cool, blue skies – a fantastic start to any day especially a race day. I headed out the door at 7.30, with coffee and a batch of ANZAC biscuits, to join some other folk from my club. Off we drove to Tunbridge Wells, in the heart of Kent. I have to admit I got a little nervous as we drove up and down hills. This was going to be interesting.
We arrived to enthusiastic marshals organising parking. We headed up to look at the map of the route, pick up our numbers, racing chips and t-shirt. It struck me that folks were happy and relaxed. It felt very different to many road races where I’m surrounded by a sense of mild anxiety and nervousness.
After a few quick pee breaks, we headed to the start line. The race started on a downhill. Off we went. There was a lot of passing as runners found their stride. I was somewhere towards the back. My intention going in this race was to enjoy it and laugh where I could. I’m doing Ealing Half in a fortnight and after almost a week of not running due to some knee pain, I didn’t want to push it.
We soon hit mud. On flats this is fine, on downhills, a bit of an adventure. We hit a bog or two, and then the hills. For the pace I was running, these were not hills for running. Everyone walked around me.
I did start having some minor gut issues. This had never happened to me on a race except that time I ate a banana 30 mins before a 10 miler and had nausea for 8 of those miles. Thankfully it wasn’t the type of gut issues that required finding the nearest bush – I just felt squidgy!
This was a race for runners – noone was complaining about the mud or the hills though there were a few expletives here and there. I figured what great benefits there’d be for my leg and butt muscles. My lower back did start to ache (I’ve slipped a disc twice and have facet joint issues around that disc) but nothing too bad – a good incentive to to get stronger at running hills and keep doing the core work including squats.
The weather started to change from muggy and sunny, to cloudy and cool.
There were stations along route stocked with water and jelly babies and supportive and enthusiastic volunteers.
There were a few folk I kept passing, and then they passed me. A few quick chats here and there. People gave way and I did the same. On the whole people ran music free. And here I’ll have a little rant as the only person I saw running plugged in wasn’t paying attention when I or others wanted to pass – even when I said ‘on your left’, he didn’t hear me. On portions of the route, there wasn’t much room to pass. There are really good reasons why most trail runs are music free!
The route was well marked which was a relief as by about mile 7, I was running pretty much solo. At one point, I stepped into the edge of a bog, my foot quickly sinking. I managed to pull out my foot with the shoe still attached which left me covered in a lovely aroma of swamp. And my response – to laugh. People pay good money for mud baths so I figured this was great value!
At 8 ½ miles I got my running buzz. You might know the one where you get a surge of energy – legs feeling strong and taking you as fast as you can go. Perhaps it was because I’d just passed 6 runners, or perhaps it was just one of those things. But was no sustaining an even stride – mud and bogs put a holt to that. At about 9 miles, the rain started. At 9 ½ miles, it started tipping down. And to the finish line I went.
I had done this 10 miles slower than I run halves!
The cake. The beer. The cake. Now this is a club that knows how to do cake. There were tables of the stuff. And beer. Some stretching on my part, then cake. The beer I left to others as I’m having a month or so booze free. There were chats, there was laughter.
A huge thanks to whoever made the Polenta Cake – it was delicious and I think went a long way to aiding my recovery as I’m feeling pretty good the day after.
Would I do this race again?
Yes, yes and yes.
- The enthusiasm of the organisers, marshals and station volunteers was infectious – they did a brilliant job
- The route was really well marked. There was no risk of getting lost even if you’ve no sense of direction
- The route was as described – this is a tough course
- The scenery was diverse and awe inspiring
- Great t-shirt
- The cake, the cake, the cake – an amazing array of homemade goodies
- And if you’re a fan of beer, there was some on tap!
If you do this race, I’d suggest you take clean shoes and socks to change into!
Thanks to the organisers and all the folks helping out along the way. It was a fab day!
What’s your favourite trail race?