This time last year I wasn’t running. I had been ill for a while and only got to take part in my first event 5 months into 2017 after having to drop out of the Brighton Half Marathon and the London Marathon. When a Rural Running 10k came up last May I thought it would be the perfect race to get me started again. It was set in and around the grounds of Portchester Castle and the setting was beautiful, local to me and a mix of different terrain. Since then I’ve wanted to go back and run with them again as I enjoyed it so much but, by the time I had seen the details of the inaugural Wickham Torchlight 10k, the places had sold out!
Luckily, I managed to get a place through someone who could no longer make it (don’t worry … he was off for a holiday in Cyprus!). Rural Running are one of those great race organisers that allow their participants to sell on their places if they can’t make it anymore and the process couldn’t have been smoother. They had taken me off the waiting list and signed me up within minutes so I was definitely in for my first race of 2018.
The Wickham Torchlight 10k is an out and back route along the Meon Valley Trail which is a disused railway line. Mostly under the cover of trees, the trail takes you out to Soberton before you turn and make your way back. I had run on the trails in Wickham before but never at night, and the event I had done there previously hadn’t been preceded with heavy rainfall so I wasn’t sure how I would do. I was imagining still being there squelching through the mud hours after the start time so I was a little nervous.
We arrived with plenty of time to pick up my race number and fiddle with the safety pins I needed to attach it to myself (I must remember to bring my race number magnets with me!). I’d like to say I warmed up in the time that was left before the race started but I didn’t. I sat in the car instead. I know, I know, how terrible of me! The warmth of the car was just too tempting though as it was freezing up in the woods!
Unfortunately, I had to leave the comfort of the car when it was time for the pre-race briefing. Rural Running do this to make sure everyone stays safe which is especially important at an evening event like this (head torches were mandatory!). When the briefing was over we all made our way to the start line where I got a few comments on the duck headlamp I had borrowed for the evening. Everyone loved it!
As soon we started my nerves disappeared because all I could concentrate on was not slipping in the mud! I started out slow to avoid falling on my face – I knew it was fruitless but I tried my best to avoid the big puddles. However, as soon as I put my foot right in the middle of probably the biggest puddle on the route, I gave up and accepted that this was going to get dirty! That’s when the fun started because, once you’ve got a ton of mud in your trainers, you can just run without worrying about it.
It was quite spooky on the first stretch as your way is lit by the runners in front of you as well as your own head torch. You could just see spotlights bobbing in front of you along the route with just the sound of feet hitting water and mud. Once the faster runners had turned and were making their way back you also got the added light of their torches coming towards you. At the 5km mark Rural Running had set up a water station – huge thank you to those volunteers that stood in the mud to hydrate the runners!
On my way back I got chatting to some other runners on the course. One pair of ladies were talking about road running and they mentioned that the event would be one of their longest distances ever run. That’s pretty hard core to do a night time, muddy, trail run as your longest ever distance! I also got chatting to a man in a bright pink top. Definitely the right thing to wear in the dark!
At one point, about 2km from the finish, there was no one in front of me. If I hadn’t have seen the faster runners go back the other way I would have thought I was winning! At this point I put my foot in the same big puddle that had got me on the way out so I knew I was nearly back at the start. I finished in a time of 1:12.30 but my time didn’t matter. With events like this it’s all about the enjoyment and not looking at your watch.
As I headed back to the car I cheered on the runners still coming into the finish. I picked up my very pretty medal and goodies which included a big bag of The Food Doctor trail mix (the perfect product for a trail run!). I’m quite proud to say I ran the first ever Wickham Torchlight 10k as it was such a great event! I thoroughly enjoyed and it’s made me want to do more trail running in 2018.
Make sure you’re there!