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Wife Carrying and Leith Hill Halfing

"In the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love."

But it's not quite spring yet, so something a bit heavier is called for. What, though? I know! How about wife-carrying?!

Nobody quite understands Rob's invisible-bow-and-arrow mime, but nobody's quite rude enough to say so.

Slightly ominous cloud in the background, but the sun is shining here as the leaders leap the final hay bales. This is something of a pleasant surprise as the forecast has been pretty awful.

But who needs rain when you have a small army of enthusiastic bucket wielders!

Goodness! Rob has another new wife! He'll be making Henry VIII turn in his grave at this rate!

The shoulder carry is good for helmet-cam footage, but slow, which is why none of the serious contenders use it. However, this has the hidden advantage that the buckets are almost empty by the time you get to them. One is never entirely sure quite how much Rob tells his wives about what's going to happen, which may explain the quickie divorce every time.

Later finishers get an honour guard of earlier ones.

This is the second of two all-female teams, and we've had every possible combination in the past (including bigamy), so when the Daily Mail calls this "The most gloriously un-PC sporting event in Britain", one suspects they haven't quite been paying attention.

Still, press interest in the event is growing every year, as shown by the number of photographers and videographers turning up. I may have to get a bigger lens if I want to impress the ladies in future!

There are prizes for last finisher and heaviest wife, and it's not surprising that they are often the same couple.

The winners have come all the way from Wales specially to take part, and are keen to represent Britain at the world championships in Finland this year. And if you look carefully, you'll see Amanda in the background, wrapped up warm. We have no plans to enter this event ourselves.

And so the Leith Hill Half begins. The hay bales are in bounds for anyone who wants to show off, but nobody does that I can see.

Amanda has some kind of lurgy, so she's going to take it very easy. Any worse and she'd have pulled out, but she reckons she should be able to get round.

Wotcha Nige!

There are times when if one didn't know better, one might wonder about his proclivities...

A few other supporters have taken the same muddy trail from the start as me. It's flatter and more direct than the race route, but even more wet and slippery, and it's a good job Amanda isn't a younger man or I'd never get there in time.

Here she is, a bit isolated towards the rear when she'd normally be in the thick of the main pack.

Back at the start, they're clearing up the hay bales. I'd offer to help but I have to jump in the car and head to Leith Hill. Well that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

For the first time, I'm taking some pictures from the top of the tower. The sun has come back out and the views are superb.

And here's the first lady. We will later learn that she is Georgie Bruinvels, who made some headlines in 2015 by winning the female prize in the Manchester Marathon by a seven-minute margin despite never having run the distance before in her life. Shades of Julia Bleasdale who shattered our very own Greensand Marathon record in 2013 in her first ever 26.2.

Through the trees, you can see the turnaround point and the view the runners have if they're not too knackered to appreciate it.

From here I can check out the women's bald patches...

...and the men's cleavage...

It's pretty windy on the tower, and I want some more conventional angles, so back down I come.

"No funny faces, Nigel?" "I'm too bloody knackered!"

Amanda is just beginning the return half now. We'd agreed that if she didn't feel up to continuing, she'd stop here, but although she's definitely finding it tough, she's carrying on.

See you later!

I go back down to the car park and start my return, thinking how lucky we've been with the weather, and at the very moment I have that thought, it starts raining. Oops, sorry folks, my apologies for tempting the weather gods. Up on the hills I gather they even get a bit of hail :-(((

But wouldn't you know it, by the time I'm ready to take some more pictures, it's stopped and it's all looking pretty again.

Approaching the top of The Nower. It looks a bit like I've hit a dead end, but there is a narrow (and muddy, of course) path here.

The final climb up the Nower steps is a real killer.

Even with a dog to pull you up, it's still not easy.

Still, it's surprising how cheerful people can be, even when they're accusing me of outrageous cruelty for taking pictures at this point. I explain that I am simply an evil man: my mother never loved me and I'm taking it out on them.

She looks positively frisky!

Amanda struggles a bit up the steps and needs to stop for a couple of puffs on her inhaler before continuing. But now that she's on the flat she's all smiles again and she's off; and even in her weakened state I can't keep up for long.

She begins the final descent. With a combination of a short cut and the fact that I can run faster than her downhill, I almost catch up by the finish.

So there it is. A substantial PW for the course, but she's finished without mishap and despite being convinced she would be dead last, there are still plenty behind her.

Love to all,


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