The latest edition of RunThrough’s evening run series took me to sunny Wimbledon, home of tennis and Wombles. I will admit that if I hadn’t got the season pass, I would probably have given this one a big miss as it is a trail run and I might have mentioned once or twice that I do not like trail running. In fact, the biggest draw for me was that they get some poor sod to dress up as a giant Womble and pose for selfies with the runners, and yes, I basically went all the way to the other side of London and did an awful run just to get a selfie with a Womble. Here it is:
The run itself was a scenic one-lap (for 5km, two for 10km) around the common starting and finishing in the Cannizaro Park area with absolutely no hills whatsoever but pretty much every terrain you could think of underfoot. The start was grass, then there was a hard mud track, then some soft squidgy mud (a recurring theme), then a small piece of tarmac (which I thought I’d be glad of, but it felt really weird in my ginormous trail shoes), then a smooth sandy path (the easiest bit), more mud, some woodchip, some really bad mud, another short piece of tarmac, the worst mud ever and then finally some gravel and the finish on totally unsuitable grass. I took some pictures on the way back and although they’re not part of the running route they are pretty representative:
I started out with a “just get round” mindset but after successfully running the first kilometre without walking, even the horrendously muddy bits, I got it into my head that I was going to run the whole thing, even if it was slower than walking pace, just to prove a point to myself. Besides, I had my new trail shoes on which automatically made me a trail runner, right? I remembered those smug weirdos along the Thames Path who didn’t try to avoid puddles but just sploshed through them like they weren’t there and tried to do the same. This seemed to work brilliant for the first few puddles but then I encountered a puddle that was actually deeper than my shoes and of course the water came in the top and I was left with wet muddy socks. Clearly just buying a pair of trail shoes does not make you an accomplished trail runner.
The closer I got to the finish, the more chaotic things got – the faster runners were starting to lap me (see “smug weirdos” above) and most of the people just ahead of me were doing the (rather more sensible) thing of running the easier bits and walking the hard bits, which meant I kept getting caught behind a queue of people tightroping along a ridge of mud and having to splash through another puddle to keep up my no-walking rule.
I was very glad to see the finish line, it had felt like a lot more than five kilometres! I would also like to apologise to the female Womble who tried to high five me on the approach but I had already used up all my high fiving skills high fiving Matt RunThrough and Male Womble earlier in the course and felt like trying to high five someone and do a sprint finish on gravel simultaneously would actually kill me. Please tell me it’s not just me that finds high-fiving a really difficult manoeuvre? It’s trying to hit a very small unstable object while you are moving at some pace and you know if it goes wrong you could end up slapping someone in the face! There’s a lot at stake!
My finish time was 41:15 which admittedly isn’t much faster than my all-walking time at Finsbury Park a couple of weeks ago, but given how hard the terrain was and the fact I did a 10k two days ago, I definitely feel that I am getting my fitness back. The next race is back at lovely smooth tarmaccy Hyde Park, so hopefully I’m going to start seeing some improvement in my times from now on. I don’t think I am ever going to fall in love with trail running, but there is definitely a certain sense of accomplishment that you get from putting yourself through an ordeal like that, and I’m quite looking forward to a trip to Hadleigh parkrun in a couple of weeks which has all the unsuitableness of terrain of Wimbledon plus the biggest fuck off hill in Essex.