Lord Pike’s Carisbrooke Castle XC Half of Awesomeness (a guide runner’s perspective) by Nigel Eldridge

Sunday the 10th February was the date chosen to hold a trial run of the IWRR future cross country event. Runners from Island running clubs were invited to sample a 13 mile route concocted by the IWRR’s inhouse punk rocker, Dean Pike.

If this new event wasn’t exciting enough, I had the added privilege of guide running with Sarah Probert for the first time.

The start of this epic race was held in the gatehouse of Carisbrooke Castle. As we stood and waited for the off, the cold wind howled through the ancient archway, chilling us to the bone. Luckily for Sarah the Gallant Duke, Sir Trevor McAlister, arrived back from his car with a windproof jacket for her to wear.
To say that I hadn’t had concerns about guiding for Sarah would be a lie but Nat and Sarah had let me tag along on a club 10k and I had been given full route details by both Lord Pike and his fellow Road Runner Tim Keyte, so I was carrying a marked OS Map compass, first aid kit, food, drink, foil blanket and whistle.

 

Off we all set down Castle Hill Road and down along Miller’s lane to Clatterford Road. The route then climbs and follows the ‘Walk the Wight’ route (Tennyson Trail) as far as the Cheverton farm turn off. This part was very exposed to the nagging February breeze. We were however going great guns as Sarah’s limited vision is better in daylight and the well maintained chalk tracks were smooth and easy to pick out.

To be honest all I had to do was voice my usual internal trail running dialogue to give Sarah the best surface to run on, avoiding fallen branches, puddles and horse poo, also to offer an arm and explanation when conditions got difficult.
We were greeted at Cheverton farm by a friendly, if not slightly shivering bunch of marshals at the drink station. After exchanging pleasantries, we set off down the hill, building up quite a pace, leaping over small gullies where the rain has carved it’s way through the chalk. A marshal ushered us across the road at the top of Shorwell Shute and we were into unknown territory.

As we crossed Chillerton down the wind was now on our backs and the sun was warming us. We passed under the TV station mast and were greeted by 800 meters of giant puddles resembling the great lakes of North America. We fearlessly decided to opt for the long grass instead. We were soon greeted by Lord Pike himself who guided us onto Garston’s Down, a place I have run on many occasions with the GHM, although usually under the cloak of darkness. Sarah was keen to do some high speed descending and I promised that this would be just the place with a long grassy slope with no rocks, unfortunately as we approached the brow of the hill I spotted the Island Bloodhounds approaching the bottom of the hill. The hounds the came baying up the slope followed by charging red suits on horseback, bugles sounding. The hounds then darted down into the quarry below us followed by the lead horses (almost as if the were chasing something) so I decided we would try to get down past the other horses. To be fair and leaving my personal views aside they were very polite, making way for us to pass and calling to the front riders to keep the hounds from chasing us. This was all very exciting but I did however feel cheated out of our speedy descent (Next time Sarah!).

It was then a slow muddy slope down to Froglands Lane, back down to the ford and back along Miller’s lane before climbing up to the rear entrance of the castle to be presented our medals and a warm welcome from our fellow runners.

To sum this up, it was more of an adventure than a regular race. I will certainly run this again. It’s an awesome route and I will use it for training. Bring on next years fully fledged event and I also look forward to being asked to guide again too for other runs and races in the future.

Flynn Powell 01:34:48 (2nd Overall)
Trevor McAlister 01:48:46
Rod Taylor 01:54:13
Graham Gardner 02:25:23
Rachel Powell 02:34:26
Sarah Probert 02:43:35
Nigel Eldridge 02:43:35
Bob Somers 02:44:12
Simon Levrier 02:46:21

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