Symmetry and Skylines

Posted on: 03 Sep 2019

I’ve done this race and blogged about it twice before;

“I am sat on lush green grass beside a babbling brook, its crystal clear waters, sparkling silver in the sunshine, splash skittishly across the stones. September sunshine, but with a warmth and depth to it that belongs to summer…” 

It is today (or rather was, on Sunday) exactly as it was when I wrote that back in 2015. An absolute stunner of a day, and I’m looking forward, anxiously this time, to what I know to be a real bruiser of a race.

“Two years ago it injured me so badly that I’m still running on that injury today.” I wrote about this race in 2015. This is my third attempt, and that injury from what is now fully six years back, on the first ever Great Oggie Run, still plagues me now, not just in running, but in every moment of my life. A literal pain in the ****!

You’d think I wouldn’t want to come back. A lot of people wouldn’t want to come back. This race gave me a kicking though, twice! So it, just like Whernside for smashing my knee, someday, somehow, is going to feel one landing on its chin from me. I’m not for lying down.

The athletes have turned up here today. Don’t think I’ve ever turned up at an event and felt like such a bloater. I know I’m not one, but such is the lean muscle mass of everyone around me I reckon if you put all 97 of ‘em together there’d not be any more fat on ‘em than I carry on my own. Calf muscles; I’ve never seen anything like ‘em – they look like they’ve half a cricket ball implanted under their skin!

Still, I was given a race number that made me smile, number 72. The year I was born. I like a bit of symmetry or significance in my race numbers, it makes me feel a little more at one with the universe when the numbers are working out.

Mind you, it didn’t work out last week. On the bank holiday weekend (Monday) I did a little race at Cilcain, up Moel Famau. It was the races 47th running and my 47th year. I thought a good run was written in the stars. It wasn’t. Got a couple of good photographs from it though. Don’t normally like photographs of me, but high speed cornering is ok.

Anyway, this is meant to be about Church Stretton.

Wanna know something weird? I mean like, really weird....

Its 44 miles by car from home to Church Stretton. Yet the hills themselves have travelled further to be there that day than I have travelled to run upon them!

The amazing geology round here, that gives you the sharp, steep, volcanic mounds of Ragleth Hill, Caer Caradog, and the Lawley to the east of the village, began it's life millenia ago, (560 million years - ish) when the Church Stretton fault was formed - in a shallow sea, somewhere not too far away from the South Pole 😳🤯.

As the volcanoes spewed out their lavas and their ash, sediment was laid down in the waters across the other side of the fault, and as the land slowly made its way north, these sediments formed the Long Mynd to the village's west.

Alternate spells above ground and beneath the waves, and who knows how many ice ages along the way, have left us with the hills we see now. I'm very glad that I am able to enjoy them here - wouldn't have fancied them when they were at the south pole. How volatile that must have been, volcanoes erupting amongst ice.

So off we set running up Carding Mill Valley, a steady climb onto the Long Mynd, then down towards Little Stretton. There was a bit more of the old me running down this section today. One guy was about to overtake me, he'd caught me on the little up, wouldn't have mattered if he'd gone past. But we turned down, and the hill got steeper; "Oh ****" he said, and started braking. I relaxed, and pulled away.

Bit of tarmac, cross the A49, then the first of those steep climbs, Ragleth Hill. You can see me in the background here...

... Like I said, steep.

Down again we go, turn left at the rock, over a stile and into the woods. There's 3 of us close together, one goes left, one goes right, and I jump straight through the middle of a split tree trunk 😀. Geronimo!!

Onto the lanes we go, before what is essentially a farm track lifts us at an ever increasing incline, hard yards running up here, towards the biggest climb of the 3 steep ones, Caer Caradoc - a belter of a hill that you can see from all sorts of places in Shropshire. Whip out my jelly babies, share them round, we're all struggling.

Brutal downhill. I'm mesmerised by the guy infront of me who's just popping over the stiles like they're not there. It's quite a laboured affair getting over them for me.

Have a really nice chat with an interesting lad from Shifnal, another Shropshire town, on the way up the Lawley. Last time I was on this hill was sharing a sandwich, a story, and a can of Hobgoblin with Molly. Its a windy place for doing that. Its a windy place today, even if the weather is lovely.

Then the long slog, over the fields, back over the road, over the railway line, and eventually, up the Long Mynd again. I hoped I'd be strong enough to run up it, but I wasn't. Still, I did what I could.

It was very welcome news to be told, eventually, "downhill to the finish now" 😊. My legs were shot. It was a careful descent back through Carding Mill Valley, being tired and having scars from a tumble here once before. It didn't matter that I was descending slowly now.

At the top I'd glanced my watch, and seen I had almost half an hour to drop down the valley to the village and cross that line on the cricket field. I wanted to get there full of running, but I was happy enough as it was. I could pretty much walk it now and still come home with something I never believed I would see....

Before I smashed my knee, my fastest trip round this 19 mile race, with its 4,000 plus feet of climb, was near as damn it 3 and 1/2 hrs. 

I finished in 3:22.

Race number - 72 - the year of my birth - and my finish position - 37th - on the 37th running of the race. Symmetry 😊. All is well 😊. 

Now I don't normally write about times, and honestly, they don't really bother me. But this one does. This one matters. Because this one says absolutely, that after a pig of an injury, smashing that knee - I'm still here - I'm still capable - and there is most definitely life in the old dog yet 🤠.

And if that is true for me - then its true for everyone else too 👍!

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