Sodbury Slog 2008
This race is pretty unique - the only thing I've done that comes close is the Hellrunner, but the course of the Slog seems a little more natural and less contrived. From the start on closed roads through Chipping Sodbury, you soon find yourself on muddy paths and crossing damp fields with water-filled trenches to negotiate when you cross from one field to the next. Later on there are serious sections of cloying mud and the "river" near the end, which takes a long while to wade down and is thigh-deep in places (make that neck-deep if you lose your footing in the slimey mud under the water). I went off fast deliberately, knowing that a field of 1000 odd runners would churn the ground up even more and make things tougher for those mid-pack than those at the front. I think this strategy paid off, as the photos definitely suggest the course gor a lot more messy as the race went on!
The start was beautiful - two minutes of silence in memory of the fallen, then the sounding of the last post. As I like to meditate at the start of a race anyway this was perfect for me, and I am always moved/choked/inspired by the last post. I found myself behind the quick pack, trading places for much of the race with a bunch of club runner guys (Almost Athletes, Team Bath, Weston AC etc.), a fancy-dress cowboy and the first and second ladies. The toughest section for me wasn't the mud or water, but the long haul around the edges of ploughed fields. I was wearing mudclaws and was very glad of the studs! I found myself having to kick off clods of clay from the shoes occasionally, but the traction was superb.
The hard start meant I was pretty hammered as the middle of the course came around, but I stuck at it and still had a little juice left to cope with the small climbs and hard, on-road descents that punctuated the succession of paths and fields, a lap of a lovely old manor house and the storming of the ramparts of an iron age hill fort. Then, at mile 6, I misread the sign and thought I was at mile 8! doh! Anyway, this made me surge thinking I was near the end and the 7-mile marker brought me back to earth. Soon after, around mile 8, I heard cheering and shouting ahead and soon we were approaching the "river" with its crowd of spectators eager to see us go down in the mud! The atmosphere was great, and the support (laced with irony) helped us on our long wade through ice cold mud and water. When I came out my legs seemed to have disappeared completely, numbed with cold, but at least itt washed off the farmyard slurry we had passed through earlier and I was soon speeding up again and negotiating muddy riverbanks and a brief road section to the finish.
Having been aiming at top-100 I was well chuffed to come 33rd and 7th vet 40 - it's mostly a club crowd, so the standard is pretty decent, but many are just there to have a laugh. Still, that's a good finish for me and my running resurgence seems to be continuing, so bring on the next race!
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