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The Fire Is Not Out!

Back what seems like years ago - mainly because it was indeed years ago - there was a chap named Terry who was a firefighter at Leatherhead. Together with a bunch of his Red Watch mates, he used to organise a 10k in support of local charities. As you might expect, the event always ran like clockwork, and Amanda never failed to marvel at the efficiency of the marshals getting runners across some pretty busy roads. Granted, it's not everyone who can stop traffic by parking a fire engine sideways, but even without such advantages, these guys knew what they were doing.

I gather, though, that while greatly loved by the participants, the event was tolerated rather than enthusiastically supported by senior management, and in 2014 it proved impossible to put on. It was hoped that it would return in 2015, then 2016, then... well, we all kind of assumed that it was gone forever.

But no! Here we are in 2019 and Terry's brought it back! It's moved from Autumn to Spring, but that's fine, especially as Amanda's since taken to running the Beckenham Trail 10k on the former date of Remembrance Sunday.

And here we are; just as we remember it, it's like we've never been away.

And inside, the ladies selling cakes just as they always did. (Of course, the original series ended before I started writing these race reports, so unless you were there yourself, it will all be new to you.)

It's very windy and the race start is delayed slightly, as we're told that a tree has blown down across the route! But if anyone is ready to deal with such unexpected hazards, it's got to be the Fire Brigade.

We'll leave everybody milling around just before the start, because it's not a great spot for pictures. The route turns a corner almost immediately, so there's nowhere you can get a clear view of the start itself and be able to get half-decent photos of any but the first and last runners, because most of the pack will still be too tight.

See, they really do have a fire engine to stop the traffic!

Here they come, round that first corner, with Amanda in the same shot as Steve W; which it's no shame to admit is unlikely to be the case much longer!

The route is a mixture of roads and mostly tarmac'ed forest trails. It has a few rougher sections, I understand, and there are some definitely hilly bits, but it's still a pretty fast course.

There's Sara behind Amanda for now, but she's bound to overtake. She seems to like starting a bit further back.

Ok, that's more or less the back of the field, time to move on.

Another thing I wasn't really doing back in 2013 was using my bike to get around at races, so I've only got a car-based plan for this one. I did ponder a bike plan, but then the weather forecast was pretty horrible so I decided to be lazy. In the event, it's turned out better than predicted, barring the odd treefall, but I'm just going to have to destroy the planet and be non-green now.

I pull in for a few minutes at the entrance to Bocketts Farm Park, which is a place we've never actually visited. Dr Rob says his DMVAC clubmate Bruce is a pretty fast guy, but he looks like he's concentrating on staying ahead of Steve and has no spare energy to pose for the camera.

Bocketts Farm Park, you may be interested to know, has twice-daily pig racing!

It's not a very photogenic spot. I thought it might be good to get the marshals in action dealing with traffic on the roundabout here, but it's really just too scrappy a composition.

"Dear Highways Agency,

I write to inform you of the aesthetically suboptimal situation that obtains at the junction of the A246 and B2122 near Leatherhead."

Hmm... maybe not...

Ok, onward to the other side of Norbury Park, and a more picturesque vista.


It's too long since we had a cow in a race report, most remiss of me.

Item: one cow.

Oh yes, that's Steve in the background behind the hedge, but we've seen him lots of times. He's pulled out a bit of a lead, too.

First Straggler, I think. Have to watch out for them now that Amanda's one, although most of them probably don't know that yet.

"Obstacle Mud Runner Magazine", her vest says. Right... Don't quite know what she's doing here when she wasn't at Leith Hill last week!

Ah, Sara's overtaken Amanda as expected, and we've got Natasha at the back of this shot too.

The long sweeping downhill (past the cows, but you can't quite see them from this angle).

Recognise this woman rushing towards me with arms open wide? She was in last month's Chessington report, where I mentioned she seemed familiar and had been in the previous year's too. Well now that my attention has been drawn, I've been doing a little research and she's everywhere! Her name is Ceara and she's been in loads of races with Amanda and I've got loads of pictures of her. I'm slightly surprised now that we've never actually spoken, and I can't recall noticing her before or after a race. Maybe she's really shy when the endorphins aren't in full flood.

Mind, I wouldn't want you to think it's only women I notice flaunting themselves at me. Equal-opportunity flauntee, that's me.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em! (And plan to beat 'em next time!)

Back to the water station where I've parked the car. When I first arrived here, it was before any of the runners had appeared, and the marshals were slightly relieved that I could confirm they were in the right place.

Pretty much all but the real tail-enders are through here by the time I leave. I've calculated that I should have plenty of time to get back before Amanda, but I'm not sure about anybody else.

Aha, Sara's just got to the final straight ahead of me.

As I follow after her, I meet Steve heading out. "Did you win?" I ask. "Yes", he says, "but it was really tough!" Well you didn't make it look tough is all I can say!

And speaking of tough, Natasha looks fierce! She's just put on a final spurt to catch the woman in front of her, and then I blow it by shouting "Well done, you can take her!" loudly enough for 'her' to hear and realise the danger in time to speed up. Oops... I am mortified, but fortunately Natasha will smile and forgive me afterwards.

Amanda passes the last fire engine before the finish line.

And we're done.

Just got to buy a few cakes now. No, not the whole plate!

And a star jump in front of a fire engine. (You can probably work that out without a caption.)

The results will later show that Amanda is third in her category, with Sara first and Ceara between them. Natasha will be third in hers, too, so well done all. (Oh, and if Natasha had pipped that other woman at the post, it wouldn't have made a category position difference so I don't feel quite so bad. As it happens, number two in VW40 will be Ms Obstacle Mud Runner Magazine, nearly two whole minutes ahead.)

So will it be back again next year? Let's hope so; let's hope we can keep the Leatherhead home fires burning!

Love to all,


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