year index

Spring is in the Air

By 'spring', of course, I mean 'source of water'. Quite a lot of it. This time last week the sun was shining down on the warmest February day in the UK since records began, but that was then and this is now.

But what's a bit of wind, rain and mud when there's a Trionium event - or even two - to stage? Bring it on!

But first, a quick digression. (Me? Digress? I know, you can scarcely believe what you've just read, but it's true!)

This is my now sadly ex-colleague Ulya and her husband Sergei. They're from Belarus, and we've invited them to see some traditional English eccentricity. They both tick all the boxes for "no publicity", so I have to grab a quick photo when they're not expecting it!

So, back to wife-carrying.

We get more TV and press attention every year. At this rate, the media pack will outnumber the runners soon!

Here they come! The guy in front is leaping the hay bales with a fair degree of vigour, and we can only hope that his wife enjoys being held upside-down and shaken violently. Still, if that's her thing, who are we to judge? But has he peaked too soon? Will he be able to keep it up?

Bringing up the rear, we have a chap whose wife has clearly suffered an unfortunate accident, but the rules only stipulate a minimum weight of 50kg, there's no formal requirement to actually be alive.

The water buckets are bigger and better than ever too: no piddling little water pistols as we've sometimes had in the past. And it does look like the early leader has climaxed prematurely, these two are now well in front of everyone else.

This is known as the 'Dorking Hold'. Few attempt it, partly because it's very inefficient and partly because you do risk being arrested.

An advantage of being near the back is that the spectators have mostly shot their load before you arrive. The shoulder-carry position is ideal for those who like to watch.

And sometimes you put your foot in your mouth.

Meanwhile, at the finish line, the winning carrier is on his knee proposing to his race wife, so that she can be his real wife for the World Championship! Naturally I know nothing of this until it's way too late to take any pictures of the event, but fortunately somebody from the Press Association was paying more attention.

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But now, the media scrum dissolves and we are left with nothing but the crazy people who want to run up to Leith Hill and back. And the arguably even crazier people who support them in this endeavour, whether spectating or marshalling.

"Ulya and Sergei, do you know the words to our National Anthem?"

"No, why?"

Well because this is a Trionium race, of course, so we always start with the National Anthem.

Unfortunately, the rain is not swayed by patriotism, and continues to fall. This is looking like it's going to be a muddy day.

Amanda reaches out for the trekking pole I'm going to give her to help with the steep descent from the Nower. The idea is to hand it over when there's a bit more space after the start so she won't risk stabbing people or tripping them (or herself!) up. However, she's not quite at the edge of the field so I have to do a bit of dodging between the runners, but we manage ok.

And I'll take the pole back at the bottom of the hill on the other side. Cunning, eh?

Right, now back to the car and off to Coldharbour. I had been pondering doing things a bit differently this year, and maybe being able to get a good position on a part of Wolvern's Lane with really serious mud and puddles, but it's hard to make the logistics work if I want to get to other places as well. I might be able to do it with a combination of car and bike, but that's not compatible with having guests along, so I may think again next time.

You may recall that last year, I only just managed to get to the end of Wolvern's Lane as the race leader was coming through. This year, hosting duties naturally slow things down a bit, and the first picture I manage to get is of Steve Winder's back! He's in about fourth place, I think.

Aha, it's Phil and Jackie of Stragglers who are now Amanda's clubmates! She hasn't yet done anything other than the triathlon swimming training, but apparently everyone's very friendly and encouraging, and it can't be too long now before she bites the bullet and goes to a club evening at the Hawker Centre. Apparently I'm more than welcome to come along and have a beer while the rest of them go running - sounds good to me.

And here's Nigel looking very frisky!

People are generally still quite bouncy at this stage, having not had any of the really steep bits to contend with apart from going down the Nower steps.

Some people are really very bouncy! He obviously doesn't want to risk me not seeing him! The 4WD behind him has been sitting there for a while waiting for a bit of clear road, but he's going to be waiting a fair bit longer.

Aha, coming back already, the race leader with the number two guy just a little way behind. They're not going to waste energy poncing about for the camera, they've got some serious running to do.

Ok, here's Amanda, now we'll head up to Leith Hill Tower.

Walking back to the car, Steve Winder's front view!

Driving along the narrow roads, Ulya and Sergei have expressed surprise that they are not one-way but have traffic in both directions. Then when we take the even narrower part of Abinger Road after Coldharbour, they really think for a moment that this is definitely a one-way street until we meet an oncoming vehicle! I guess Belarus doesn't have the somewhat paradoxical densely populated rural areas that Surrey does.

I'd told them that they should climb up the Tower for the amazing views over Surrey, but by the time we're near the top of the hill it's obvious that landscape visibility is essentially zero.

Ok, the top of the tower is visible, but it's definitely murky even at this distance.

Trekking pole in hand, Amanda's ready for the descent now. It's a little hard to see at this scale, but her shirt is a new White Star Running design with a cow chasing a runner and the caption "All hail the trail!". Hmm... Rob once organised a "Man vs Bike" race here, but even WSR have never to the best of my knowledge had real cows taking part in a race. People dressed as cows, well obviously.

Time to reverse our route, and another look at the glorious view in the distance.

What with putting my camera in the warm car, taking it out into the cold rain, then repeating that process several times over, it keeps getting steamed up, and creates this rather artistic soft-focus vignette effect...

Nearly at my favourite photo spot for this race, the top of the Nower steps. It's not really the runners' favourite photo spot, but hey, can't please everyone.

Happy to be alive! Because still being alive after climbing those steps is not necessarily a given!

Remember, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Allegedly.

Still frisky? Ah, Nigel says he has just two words for me and the second one is "off".

She looks like she stopped for a bit of mud wrestling, which is normally Amanda's trick.

But no, Amanda is actually pretty much mud-free above calf level!

Unlike last year, I haven't twisted my ankle, and I've also left my backpack - which is awkward to run with - in the car. This means that I can get ahead of Amanda for the finish, which I couldn't then. Maybe this parkrun stuff is paying off, although given that I'd not already run nearly thirteen miles and took a shortcut too, I don't think I can quite claim to be Amanda's match in general just yet.

And across the line in what turns out not to be the PW she initially thinks it is when she misreads her Garmin. But there was a lorra lorra mud out there, so I doubt there have been many PBs today!

After Amanda's got changed and we've had some coffee back at the school, we return to where I've parked the car near the field and say goodbye to Rob, but there are still a few people coming in.

(More steamed-up lens effect!) And congratulations for finishing to Elizabeth Mason, who's even older than me and who only signed up this morning taking what was originally her son's place!

So ends our race report and cultural exchange visit.

Love to all,


year index