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High on the Hog

Amanda ran this race once before, in 2015, and I found it essentially impossible to cut across country to pop up on the race route. This year, then, I plan basically to follow the runners from the start and then do hare-and-tortoise with Amanda. As a road race, I should be able to get ahead of the field once they're out of Loseley Park without too much difficulty. That's the plan, anyway.

For whatever reason, Toby Jenkins and AAT are not organising the event this year, it's some company we've never heard of, "on behalf of" Guildford and Godalming Athletic Club, which is another name that doesn't ring any kind of bell. Advance publicity and information about the race seems distinctly thin, so we're just working on the basis of "assume it's the same as last time until we're told differently".

We do at least give ourselves more time to queue for the entrance from the road, and as a consequence get there before the queue is too bad. However, we can see it visibly lengthening behind us: I really don't know why they don't warn people. And it's not as if there's any convenient public transport nearby, so virtually everyone not in cycling distance is going to be coming by car.

We've also noticed the absence of the usual big "CAUTION: RUNNERS" signs you expect to see when races take place on public roads. We've seen some small kilometre markings for the runners themselves, but nothing to alert drivers to be careful or to let them know they might be held up.

Still, when we get to the race village, it all seems fairly well sorted.

In the background, you can see the St John Ambulance vehicle. Well, of course there's an ambulance, you think to yourself, what of it? But what you can't see are the three other vehicles off to the left of the picture, the veritable army of paramedics in attendance, or the other vehicles which will later be found out on the course!

I ask the St John people if they're expecting some kind of apocalyptic carnage today, and they tell me that they know nothing: this is simply what was requested by the organisers. Blimey! [We will later discover more about this, but will not become much the wiser despite being better informed.]

Amanda and Matthew get ready for the start.

Well the bunch in the green vests are this very club that we've never heard of - G&GAC - and they've obviously abused their privilege to take up all the front positions!

When I took virtually this exact same shot in 2015, Amanda later told me that she was a bit disappointed not to have run past the house! Not paying attention, I'm afraid. Hopefully this time she remembers that it's there, and it's the whole reason I'm standing where I am!

They all head off out of the park, and I follow.

Hmm... that plan I had to shoot past them on the roads... Even the frogs would have difficulty finding space here.

I squeeze through slowly on the bike, partly because I don't want to get in the runners' way, and partly because it's uphill and (as always) steeper than it looks. Mind, there's one bit that's really really steep, at a sharp switchback in the road, but I can't get off and push with everyone watching, now can I?!

I really doubt this is the derivation of the phrase "high on the hog", but it would be appropriate if it were.

Finally, the road widens a bit and I can get ahead of Amanda. Matthew is a little bit further up, and I haven't quite caught him yet.

Ah, at last, the kind of road I was expecting. Not too much traffic, but plenty wide enough to get some speed up.

Well, if it wasn't uphill again I could get some speed  up.

Coming up to the brow of a hill, but it's a false sense of security.

Ok, now we're at the top!

Hmm... not entirely sure I'd call this a road at all. More of a track, although it is tarmac'ed.

At least it's flat!

This isn't a road by any stretch of the imagination, it's definitely a track at best. I've not taken any pictures of the deep muddy puddles earlier, but believe me they were there.

Given that there is no higher ground to left or right, I think we must deduce that this is the Hog's Back itself we're now on. Interesting that there's no A31 here; I wonder why only the more westerly section became a major road.

[Goes to look up Wikipedia...]

Well, it would seem that in earlier times, the route from Farnham to Guildford did indeed pass this way, but the modern route is less direct and consequently less steep.

There are surprisingly few places where trees don't block the view, but this is what you see if you find one of them.

I'm not sure many of the runners even notice. It's a bit "blink and you'll miss it", and they aren't going to stop to look around like I am.

The real Ceara, we will later learn purely by accident, is running the last of David Denton's RonHill Surrey Classics today, but Matthew can do a good impression of her.

Amanda's a bit more demure.

It seems to be catching!

She's not one of our usual suspects, but she is a member of Guildford and Godalming AC, so consequently a legitimate object of scientific study.

Past Watt's Gallery. Well worth the visit, but sadly you can't see any of the interesting bits from this angle.

If you are a rap fan, you will be familiar with that classic album "Straight inta Compton" by R.W.A. - Runnaz wit Attitudes.

Back on the technically-a-road-but-still-really-narrow lanes.

Shortly after this, we'll again abandon all pretence of road on a track back into the park.

Matthew comes down the finishing straight shortly ahead of Amanda.

Who crosses the line a few seconds later.

Now you may recall that recently we had another classic race under new management, the Cabbage Patch 10. The key fact to note is that they retained Fullers as a sponsor, so free beer was still to be had. Last time here, the Hogs Back Brewery were sponsors, providing, you've guessed it, beer. Not today, though. No beer. This is definitely a retrograde step.

We get chatting to Ken Saunders, who like me has been on his bike, but he's been evaluating the route. He's a bit at a loss to understand how they can call it a 'road' race when so much of it is not on road. And he too is somewhat gobsmacked by the size of the St John army. Apparently that alone has cost the organisers about £3k, and this is not an expensive race to enter, so that's taking a huge chunk out of the budget. Their permit allows for 1200 runners, so on that basis they would need a reasonable medical presence, but they've only got some six or seven hundred in actuality, and even if they were full, he shares our thought that it's still a bit much.

Organisation-wise, this seems to have been a bit of a mixed bag, but whether through luck more than judgement or not, it's all worked out in the end.

As you can see, my bike is a bit muddy, but nothing remotely like Phoenix the other week! And as for me, why, I'm almost clean...

There is a Christmas tree in front of Loseley House, and there is an Amanda in front of the Christmas tree.

According to the weather forecast, there's going to be a few hours of clear blue sky beginning late morning, before the rain comes in again. We had thought we might visit Watts Gallery, but decide instead to drive to Winkworth Arboretum for a little stroll around there.

Being winter, it's mostly pretty bare, but there is still some colour to be found.

And we're confused by these water birds. They look a bit like fluffy babies, but it's surely far too late in the year for that, and they don't seem to have any parents. Can some more ornithologically experienced folk enlighten us?

These birds are a bit less unfathomable!

That then, is the end of the 2019 racing season. Not the end of the running year itself, but it's just parkruns and Santa fun-runs now until 2020 begins with the Knacker Cracker.

Everybody have a great Christmas and New Year!

Love to all,


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