Ryde Harriers Cross Country Series 2018 By Sue Clerkin

I was told that the Ryde Harriers Cross Country series, had the tradition of running “proper” cross-country courses and described as a ‘mudfest’, and that this year’s new course out towards Nunwell House has already gained popularity compared to previous courses, with its interesting new feature ‘Screaming Woman Wood’ and some of the old favours like ‘hard slog around the orchard’ and ‘gate with a puddle’.

“I think I’ll have a go at a cross country run” I said. “Is that wise, you’re 70 not 17”, I was told. “It may be safer if you do your crochet and make octopus for premature babies”. “That’s it I’m going to do it” I thought. I asked advice and was told “You’re short so the puddles and water will come up to your waist”. “Oh no, should I wear a tri suit”, I wondered. “Don’t forget to scream in the woods” I was told.

On the morning of the run I announced to Facebook that I was frightened. “Don’t be frightened, you’ll love it” I was told. I was ready and had decided not to tape on my trail shoes with duct tape. I arrived to see a mass of excited runners all looking very fit and strong and busy talking about their cross country runs. My “vintage” Harriers vest was admired by all.

It was time to go out for the start and I was pleased that I had time to go to the toilet at least three times before “Just in case”. Yes mother I did put clean underwear on in case of an emergency and I was taken to hospital.

And we’re off. It had started. Running round the perimeter of the Smallbrook Stadium playing fields I slipped and swayed in the mud. “Crikey, what have I done, maybe I should pull out now” I thought. I plodded on and we reached the Ashey Road, then turned left down a gravel track. Onwards, I followed the person in front thinking “Keep them in sight, you know you always get lost”. There were plenty of tape markers and signs and cheerful encouraging marshals who lied and said “Not far to go, well done”. How could they stand there all that time in the freezing cold and still be happy, laughing and supportive. Thank you.

Just look at the beautiful catkins on the trees, the scenery was fantastic, the mud was horrendous. I wish I had my secateurs and not left them in my rucksack. I needed them now to hack back the brambles. Don’t be silly this is a Harriers Cross Country Run not a walk with the Ramblers. I was sinking in the mud being pulled back by the weight of the mud clogging on the shoes. I was calling out to God and laughing all the time.

As the fast runners flew past me in the opposite direction, their feet hardly touching the mud; they shouted out encouragement. I needed it. It was easier to climb over gates rather than to struggle trying to wade through mud and water and heave open the gates. Over streams, roads and hellish fields I went, still calling out to God.

Now I could see the woods. I was told it was compulsory to scream loudly. I screamed and shouted out to the marshal whom I had been told would have coffee and cakes. I slipped and slid and hung on to brambles, thin twigs and ivy leaves all the time screaming out for refreshments and cake. There was no answer. I had to hoist myself up over a large fallen tree trunk but had seen runners just jumping over. How did they manage that I thought as I skidded back down the slope. “Refreshments and cake please Mr Marshal” I shouted but he just laughed. Back down through the woods we went screaming out to God. Across the hideous farmers field. Thank God I’m on my way back. “The pain, I think I’m having a baby” a voice shouted. “Good Lord, Did I hear correctly” I thought looking round the muddy field in the middle of nowhere. Surely not. Not here by the farmers hedge. I needed my phone and secateurs which had been left in my rucksack for safety. “Is this possible?” I asked “Shall I go back to get the St John’s Ambulance people?” I had seen the Ambulance parked by the roadside, the First Aiders were drinking nice hot cups of tea and hoping for victims of the run. I was told that the pain had stopped so we continued plodding through the mud until the footpath went through a farmyard.

This was so much fun now that I could see the road and knew the Stadium and finish line was near. “Quick run fast now” I called out. People were looking and cheering. They will think we are fast and that I did not have to slip, slide, plod and walk most of the route. The finish line was in sight and the timekeepers looked frozen and anxious as we had to complete the run round the perimeter of the Smallbrook Stadium playing field. “Was you frightened and did you enjoy it?” I was asked. “Yes, I really did love it and it made me laugh and scream so much” I replied. ” I knew you would love it” Rosie said. The room was noisy and there was lots of loud laughter as the runners told of their experiences of the run. Nina from Wight Tri was showing her shoe which had fallen apart during the run with the sole flapping thru the mud.

Later I was informed that 178 runners took part in the Cross-country races this year. 20, or even 10 years ago and that it was a struggled to get even 20 runners.