September 19th saw the third annual Great North to South R#n return with the promise of good company, amazing views and, of course, some drink! When Sally approached me with the entry form a few months ago I immediately said no, thinking it would be way too tough for me. However, after some mild coercion along with the inspiration from reading a book about an ultra runner, I decided I could put in some mileage before and give it a go. Life got in the way of my foolproof plan and the day crept up on me with the furthest I’d ran being a half marathon.
After a sleepy car journey to Cowes we were met by a group of people in blindingly bright t-shirts, getting lost in the morning fog certainly wouldn’t be a problem because, when stood together, we were emitting such a luminous aura, we were probably visible from space. There were a good turn out of Ryde Harriers; myself, Philippa, Sally, Rosie, Sam, Elaine, Zoe, Trevor x 2, Bridget, Karen and Pete. We were drilled on the rules and regulations of a hash run: follow the sawdust and arrows, sign in and out at each pub and don’t worry if anyone seems to be calling each other foul names because that’s their hash name (e.g. Swollen Colon).
The first leg was the longest, at 7 miles, and featured some road, track and forest sections. We stuck to the road and small footpath sections for the first few miles and then dipped into Parkhurst forest where the ground became increasingly muddy as we weaved in and out of giant puddles and stinging nettles, eventually emerging on Forest Road. The sun had come out by this point and everyone was still in high spirits, excited for the day ahead. We reached the Blacksmith Arms and, clearly not concerned about the next 13 miles we had to run, the Hash House Harriers lived up to their name and had a quick pint and a packet of crisps before setting off. Being a newbie to distance, I stuck to water and set off fairly quickly, eager to get the first two longest sections of the day under my belt.
The next leg was my favourite, a six mile route which led us through some lovely rolling fields with amazing views. Obviously I had absolutely no idea where I was at the time (this was not my neck of the woods and I’m very good at getting myself, and others, lost on even the simplest of runs) but for the benefit of this report I’ve checked the route and now know we ran through Bowcombe, Gatcombe and Chillerton. We reached the Chequers Inn at the half marathon mark and stopped for a little longer to refuel and be social as that is the Hash House Harrier way after all!
After a group photo and some good chat (and another beer for some!) we headed off for the third leg of the route. The first few steps were fairly painful and starting up a hill meant there was a lot of groaning as creaky joints and seized muscles desperately tried to get going again. I kept telling myself that this leg was just 4 miles, anyone could do 4 miles, and then I could rest, stretch and rehydrate again. However, this was a tough 4 miles. The closest comparison I can think of is this scene in Forest Gump.
Okay, so it wasn’t waist high but it was ankle deep and extremely muddy! My legs were very heavy and the terrain meant we had to walk some of it which made it even longer. Again, having referred to my map, we were in fact not in ‘Naam but skirting around Godshill and eventually we dropped into Whitwell where we finally arrived at The White Lion. I was feeling totally exhausted but again the Hashers were on top form, they were still full of beans and were enjoying their third (fourth?) pint of the day, seemingly unfazed by the running!
I didn’t stop here for long, my legs were feeling very concrete-like and I was struggling to stay as chipper as the Hashers (maybe the beer was having a numbing effect on their legs, maybe I should have drank after all). I set off in a little Ryde Harriers group with Philippa, Sally, Rosie and Zoe and we were determined to finish, despite our agony as we started to run. Philippa and Sally had started off walking as they waited for us to sign out, so I sidled past them, trying to hide my pain, obviously I didn’t do a good job as Philippa started openly laughing at me. Anyway, despite her taunting, Philippa did prove helpful later on in this last, 3 mile stage. She took charge and navigated which was no easy task as the sawdust and arrows seemed to have become few and far between. Finally we could see the lighthouse and, although we had taken a slight detour, arrived there to see lots of other luminous ants running down the hill towards it!
We dragged ourselves up to The Buddle to find lots of Hashers happily glugging pints and welcoming us in. I was delighted to have finished although I was feeling a little tarnished! Overall it was a lovely day and although it was tough, the Hash House Harriers made it a welcoming and cheery event. The route was absolutely idyllic and the company wasn’t half bad either, maybe next year I’ll even try the Hash House Harrier beer-numbing technique!