“The ground is firm” said race organiser Vicky Fawcett at the start of the latest and fifth race in the Stockton Council 5km winter trails. Having not raced in an event for a while due to one thing or another I decided to get the running shoes back on and try out the 5km trail race at Summerhill in Hartlepool.
Having been in contact with Vicky over the previous weeks and seeing some of her posts on Facebook. I saw a stream that cut across the course so I knew this was going to be a muddy, hilly and wet! This is right up my street though as I love getting off the roads and hitting the trails.
On the morning of the race I woke up to find the weather had taking a turn for the worst – snow, rain, sleet, wind and it was bloody freezing. GREAT WEATHER FOR MY FIRST RUN BACK!
I arrived at Summerhill early as it’s not a place I am familiar with. I registered in the nice warm visitors centre and got my race number. Whilst warming up I had chance to take in the Junior race, which unfortunately didn’t go to plan but all the kids seemed to enjoy it and I thought it was great to put on a junior event to get more kids interested and participating in events.
The senior race set off at a fast pace – I think everyone wanted to get started and finished as by this time the weather was getting a bit baltic. I decided to start at the front rather than at the back so I didn’t get stuck in the masses. The word undulating must have been invented for Summerhill, the course took in two laps – a long outer circuit on the trails and shorter inner circle on part trails part gravel tracks.
Going up the 1st of two big hills my lungs felt like bursting, hard work at the best of times getting up but coupled together with the mud, driving rain, sleet and wind made it extra hard. After scrambling to the top it was a quick recovery before coming back down the hill. As I got further down the hill I could see that the stream was at the bottom then SPLASH GET IN THERE! Quick scamper up the bank sliding all over the place and that was the stream crossed. By this time all I could hear was the squelching noise of my trail shoes, looking down there were about 5 inches of mud stuck to the bottom which made it feel like my feet where stuck in concrete.
On to the second loop and no more streams to cross but just as hard. It was shorter and on a harder surface with fewer gradients, but by this time the mud was getting thicker and thicker and it was getting colder with a biting north sea wind coming straight up from the coast. Coming down the last bank I could see the finish line in sight so I decided to have a little kick try and finish strong which I did and not a bad time for a trail race.
I wish I had known about the Stockton Winter Trail Series earlier as it was a well organised and well supported event and for the price of only £3 for affiliated club members and £5 for unattached runners you can’t really go wrong. Take it from me it was great fun in the mud, a great course and great turn out.