The trials of a trail race organiser.
Howard sorted out the courses on Tuesday and we had them checked on Wednesday. Between Tuesday and Wednesday a fallen tree in the route description had been chain sawed away. Most of this was done in the pouring rain. So it was great to arrive on a beautiful sunny morning.
We found ourselves a nice spot out of the wind (in the bar) and set every one off with no hassle. When the first runners came back we discovered that from Wednesday to Thursday a stony path was now a fast flowing stream and a ”follow the crop edge” now had a spanking new fence.
Other than running the course in the morning there’s not much we could have done and in fact on one of Howard’s trails many years ago he ran to the event crossed a footbridge on the course and then before any runners got there the farmer had hoiked the bridge away.
Thankfully we know what a lovely bunch of people you lot are and no one objected too much at the finish and most said they had enjoyed the course.
The new manager at the Cricketers made us all welcome and we will obviously return next year.
Well done to the winners Allen and Shukila on the longer run and Phil and newcomer Imogen on the slightly longer than advertised shorter route.
PS Julia have you looked further down the results sheet?
Howard wrote the route up in the snow, I checked it in the snow and luckily the snow was still there for the race, which meant everyone came home with clean shoes. I think it was a nice route anyway but much more Christmassy like this.
A third of the entries didn’t make it to the start line so it was an elite field of 46 who set off into the wintry scene leaving me and Howard in our own wintry scene. Unfortunately the pub is closing (at least for now) due to the ill health of Terry the landlord so the pub was fully booked for regular customers to give him a send-off. As they didn’t want to lose the heat from the pub before they all arrived with runners coming and going we were set up in the lean to next to the pub and provided with a flask of coffee and a small Calor gas fire.
When Leah came bounding in as first one back (and winner) we knew the instructions were OK (for most people). In fact the ladies did well with Karen fifth overall and Shukila eighth. The Tiptree men were second, third and fourth with Bob beating Mark and Lee.
We stayed outside for the last finishers but apologise to Malcolm as he had to come in the pub and find us. Mark easily won the burr collecting competition.
It was a real shame that this clashed with a cross country and several regulars missed a nice snowy run on what might be the final race from this welcoming pub. Hopefully it will re-open in the not too distant future.
A JOLLY GOOD RUN
Mid Essex Casuals’ Christmas Trail attracted another healthy sized field at Little Baddow on Sunday. Billed as a 10.30 start I can’t say I was surprised that when I turned up at 9.50 there were elves everywhere and with instructions in their hands.
I changed my shoes and joined the short queue and was off almost immediately. The first mile or so was downhill or flat, really enjoyable running. As I left Blakes Wood two Little Baddow ladies were running towards me. Afterwards I found out that a lot of the runners on the short course made the same diversion.
All of this area is familiar territory to me, as I have run here every week for over 30 years, so I don’t like to read ahead in the instructions. When I turned through a kissing gate in Danbury Park I found to my dismay that there were three sheets of instructions and not two as I had assumed. A good 30 seconds spent faffing about trying to get the sheet back in the sleeve.
I took a chocolate at the drink station and regretted it for the next mile or so as it stuck to the roof of my mouth. Then through Backwarden and onto Danbury Common where I had my only scratch the head moment. Large oak tree indeed; reminded me of the infamous TL when plane flies overhead at one of Yan’s races near Stansted Airport.
The only bit of the course I didn’t know was the run through the housing estate to get to Runsell Lane and the woods again. I hadn’t seen a runner since leaving Blakes Wood, but now they came thick and fast (or slow) in the opposite direction.
The last bit of the woods was festooned with Christmas baubles which are always a feature of Katy and Sharon’s races and there was another chocolate stop which I decided to leave alone this time. A really enjoyable run for me (I don’t usually do 8.7 miles on my trips through these woods and hills).
It was nice and warm back at the pub and it was good to chat with a lot of smiley people. Thanks again to Katy and Sharon.
Pickles Trail was written up in the heavy rain, checked in the heavy rain and woken up to in the morning to heavy rain.
Come 10am race time the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the temperature ideal for running and even warm enough for an outdoor registration. However due to bright sunshine and Howard not being able to see his screen we moved indoors for the start.
After some recent disappointingly low entries the last two events have brought out very decent numbers. Hopefully this a sign that we might all be getting back to normal. Quite a bit of the route was new to me or not been run for a very long time, so I enjoyed the course although I covered nearly nine miles when I wrote it up during the week. I struggled to find the way in and the way out of the wood, then came to the farm where a footpath diversion is in the offing but not yet official, so had to make up a route round the farm, which Howard okayed with the farm when he checked the route on Saturday. He also as you now know found the footpath out of the wood which I couldn’t find.
Most of you got round with no trouble and we had many comments on what a lovely route it was. The landlord made us welcome and it was great to be back at the Butchers Arms after it being closed for a few years.
We had a couple of new names taking the prizes this time with Phil just pipping John and Adam, and Leah (2nd overall) well clear of Lynn and Shukila.
There is a short video from Graham Lee in the comments of one of our facebook posts.
MYSTERY IN THE FOG
I organised this event under the auspices of Springfield Striders so would firstly like to thank Howard (Grange Farm), Yan (Mid Essex Casuals) and Helen (wifey) for their help with course checking and on the day. Also thanks to Dave and family who make us very welcome at the Horse & Groom.
When I wrote the instruction “SA aX grass to snapped dead tree” I hadn’t banked on fog, but I stand by the instruction as did several people whose tracks I followed today who had gone SA aX grass to snapped dead tree.
As for the other point of digression from the route “TR on RHFE. Pass MP. SA on RHFE. In FC TL on RHFE.” Yan brought this up; as I’m sure he told you all yesterday, when he kindly checked the route for me.
I apologise to people who turned left at the MP I intended you to pass and go SA on RHFE. The MP you all thought you had passed was a post on the RHFE track you were already on so I decided was not worth mentioning. In my defence nowhere did it say TL at MP. Anyway Sarah and Amy wouldn’t have seen a magnificent stag in the mist if they had gone the right way and the rest of you can look on it as extra mileage in the bank.
I would like to thank all the runners who entered. Numbers at all races have been down lately so it was really gratifying to get an entry of over 150.
Well done and kudos (that’s all you’re getting by the way) to the winners John and Nichola on the short route, and Antony and Nicole on the full Hobble.
We will have to change the name of Toppesfield to Torrential if our October visits to The Green Man continue with this shocking weather.
Howard sorted out the route in sunny dry conditions and had to change just about all of the planned “teaser” route as the paths were indiscernible across large fields. I checked out the new route on Thursday driving through floods and downpours both going and coming back. However my “run” was mostly in the dry.
I went wrong at the long field that caught so many of you out, so we rewrote the instructions to make it obvious that it was SA not BR. Unfortunately once a couple of earlier runners had gone right (wrong) the footprints tempted quite a few to follow. The confusion was not helped by the proliferation of electricity pylons which we shall combat by doing all future races in thick fog, (probably preferable to the rain).
The winner John used his trail experience to read ahead and realise that by going right at the long field there couldn’t possibly be a LHFE to follow afterwards. A great run from Tim secured second spot with Gary close behind. Lynn after running so well in Lanzarote on volcanic rock found no difficulty with Essex mud. Shukila and Julia were 10 minutes back.
Thanks to almost all the runners for not traipsing mud in the front door of the pub. Thanks also to the pub for yet again being so welcoming. It really is one of our favourite venues which is why we will be back again in the spring and maybe try out the teaser course.
What a beautiful morning for a run. Howard and I arrived and chose to operate the registration from the decking which was a good decision.
With an early start to avoid the pub’s busy lunchtime trade we still weren’t the first to arrive. Soon runners were appearing anxious to set off so the start was very prompt. First runner out and first runner back with a winning time of 47.53 was James who led home a sizeable contingent from Grange Farm & Dunmow Runners who were using the race as their club trail championship. First lady to start and finish was Shukila, the lone Halstead representative, who clocked 1.06.55. Not a bad time with an extra half mile added.
We heard early on that Pleshey church had gone missing, but it later returned for those that turned sharp left. One runner chose a different pub to start from and then when driving to the Rose & Crown ended up parking practically back at the pub he/she/they started at.
The bacon butties were very tasty and made for a special breakfast along with a pint of beer.
We received lots of compliments on the course and we were pleased ourselves with a route that despite encompassing bits of Essex Way, Writtle Wround and 17 Nights before Christmas made for an interesting and different run. And very fast too.
WHITE HORSE TRAIL
The White Horse trail brought back memories from many years ago. Justin and Nadine laid on a very scenic trail especially when the mist lifted.
I was first off so had the chance to see loads of people as they went past me. Despite recent rains still no mud, but the ground was noticeably softer. Round our way most of the fields are arable so most stiles can be by passed. No such luck around here with some scrambling skills required and care required to avoid barbed wire.
The lack of the abbreviation FSD didn’t stop a couple of stretches from being F###### Soul Destroying, particularly the long uphill track. All in all though a very enjoyable run in some nice countryside.
The pub was very accommodating despite the landlady trying to convince me, a hardened CAMRA member, that her keg beer was real ale but with gas pumped through it.
Another excellent Mid Essex Casuals production.
The Bimble was all very last minute so it was great to get such a good response. We normally don’t repeat routes, but due to time constraints we went ahead with a route we did four years ago from the Chequers.
When Howard did the first check he had to rewrite large chunks due to new marker posts, missing marker posts and overgrown paths. When I checked on Thursday I also came up with a sheet of corrections. There was slightly more Flitch Way than before which pleased some and not others.
It was a beautiful day for running and there were again some good times. There were also pleasingly quite a few new faces. The stairs of death claimed a few victims, but nothing too serious. And thanks to the farmer who slowed you all down a bit by ploughing his field.
Gary won the short event after having run to Felsted first (marathon training). First lady was Wendy. In the longer run Jimmy popped back to see us from Suffolk and claimed victory by just three seconds from Jackie who despite still suffering from Achilles problems keeps up her fine form.
One of the golden rules of trail running “Don’t follow anyone” was broken by a few people as the routes diverged at three miles. If you had followed someone on the Flitch Way you might have ended up in Dunmow or worse still Braintree.
Kelly the landlady thanks you all for being patient at the bar. Seeing the queue made me feel a bit better about my efforts last week.
McHILLY AND CHELMER
The Admiral McHilly attracted quite a few runners new to trail running and we hope you are now keen to try some more.
After some low numbers in recent weeks it was nice to see a crowd again. Even though we have experienced 35degrees plus lately it was still hot for running especially for the Chelmer Trail which had very little shelter.
There was some fast running on the still very firm ground with Tom, back from university, storming around Little Baddow and all the hills it has to offer in a time of 1.46.09. Second home was first lady Nikki in 2.02.49. The average time was about three hours which proves it is a tough 15 mile course.
In the Chelmer Trail John won yet again with Lynn also continuing her fine form in second spot.
My own shift behind the bar was the hardest effort by me for some time. Most popular drink was orange and lemonade followed closely by the excellent new barrel of Radio Wave. And I have now been shown how to work the ice machine.
TOUR OF TERLING
The Tour of Terling is always a popular event and the 35deg temperatures didn’t seem to put many people off.
Dave started it early, but even so it was 29deg at 9.20 when I started. Two early pulls up slopes ensured a slow start which I managed to maintain all the way round. There was shade on the course, but not much so not only did I carry some water I also availed myself of the drink station provided. I had soaked my buff like snood thing in water which kept my neck cool and was also useful for wiping away salty sweat.
I don’t think there are any paths we haven’t used over the years in this area, but don’t recall going up the lane from Ridley Hall which is a long drag. Having seen Gary earlier I knew the return route we would be taking and at least the downhill slope on the Essex Way to the road meant I passed the munching millions at the tea shop at my fastest speed of the day.
It was 33deg when I finished and I was glad I had hydrated properly over the previous 24 hours.
On Monday there had been notifications of rain and even hailstones from around the county but not a drop in Chelmsford or Terling when I arrived. Dave has in the past made some of the clippers on this navigator’s trail quite difficult to find, but after the first four I thought he was getting soft in his old age. Then I met about ten runners looking for number 5 which was rather more sneakily placed.
Maybe because the temperature was only in the high 20s I was much more comfortable and managed to run (shuffle) the whole way round and finish halfway up the field. Ten minutes after I finished it started to rain and continued all the way back to Chelmsford.
The non trail part of the Tour continues on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thanks again Dave for a great Mid Essex Casuals’ event
RED HOT ROUNDBUSH
Over 50 runners turned up to enjoy a glorious summer’s evening over a bumpy bit of Essex. We were in the cool shade of the gazebo, but temperatures were still high for even the later starters.
We used this course on a dark night back in January and thought you would actually enjoy seeing the view this time. As is usually the case to get a view you need to be at the top of something so we are sure you all thanked us for the climbs. The fields had been harvested but the paths were still obvious and even mown in some places.
The Roundbush again did us proud and we will be back in the winter for some more larks in the dark.
Fastest man was Phil who would have been quicker if he had finished through the open gate and not tried to get through the locked one right next to it.
Winning lady was again Lynn despite having her running companion Gary back this time. There were actually more ladies than men which is very encouraging.
We presented Dave Game with a bottle of red wine from our dusty cellar for his achievement of running 100 events (all with published results) this year. He doesn’t know what to do with himself now.
See you all at the Tour of Terling organised by Dave of course.
After chasing around we finally managed a small but perfectly formed field of 37 runners. It’s such a shame as this really is a lovely area to run (and drink) in.
Although we were in the shade while you toiled away in the heat we were wasp central but I think it was too hot for the wasps to be bothered to sting.
We taught some new paths to one or two locals and introduced the rest of you to the westernmost part of the county. In fact those of you on the longer route even trespassed into Hertfordshire. We do apologise.
We had a few finishers from the wrong direction meaning they’d missed the abseiling bit of the course and one group which started in the wrong direction. We also had some newbies who all seemed to cope for the most part very well.
Jon won the longer route in an excellent time of 1.12.25 with Lynn only 6 minutes back as first lady. Phil easily won the short course with newcomer Anne first lady home.
Although Taxus Baccata sounds like a Santana album of the 70’s all but one of you knew or bothered to google the latin name for the Yew Tree.
A great turnout at the Scouting trails as it returned to Hatfield Peverel after a couple of years at Earls Colne.
Dave had struggled to find clear paths in the weeks before but there were certainly no difficulties on the quarter marathon route. Quite a bit of new housing since we last ventured this way, but the paths are still there.
I continued my comeback, having run for ten minutes on Saturday (my first run for three months) I decided to run the first 15 minutes and walk the rest. I accomplished the first aim with the help of the downhill start and threw in a few more stretches of running as the wind blew me around the course. It was certainly a fortuitous wind direction coming back above the Chelmer valley from Boreham. It would have been very tough the other way round.
It was quite a dull day, but the humidity was high so I was well ready for my bottle of beer at the finish to wash down the salad.
No new paths today, but nice to reacquaint with Toppinghoehall Wood and World’s End Cottage.
Nice to see some new faces and some old ones.
Sue and John Clarke have organised 18 years now of the Huffer Puffer and I never get bored of the area or the pub. It was also gratifying to see 90 people turn up as entries have been waining lately.
On a perfect night for running after all the hot stuff recently Helen and I walked the course as we were both getting over Covid. Sue kindly let us start early. (Don’t tell John)
We were overtaken before the Chelmer crossing by a couple who obviously didn’t know there was a footbridge so splashed straight over.
It was into the second mile before the next people came by, then it became a steady stream. The route was not new to me but I hadn’t been on some of these paths for many years. All the fields we crossed had been harvested or were in the process of being done and we were within feet of being baled up ourselves as we got to Ford End.
I shouted back a group who decided not to ignore FP as instructed. There was still a steady stream of runners passing us as we passed the old brewery.
Back at the pub the garden was busy with happy runners.
Thanks again Sue and John. See you for the 19th year of the Huffer Puffer.
PHEW WHAT A SCORCHER
The third running of the Writtle Wround and the third different challenge provided by the weather. Year 1 was a mud bath, last brought thunderstorms and torrential rain for all but the fastest finishers and this year was probably the toughest of all with temperatures just hitting 30deg.
Due to the long dry spell there was a lot more harvesting completed than usual, although we only had to reroute to avoid two ploughed fields. The week of the race also brought some difficulties with Covid robbing us of chief number one caterer wifey Helen. But I’m sure you will all agree that Theresa, Sarah and Isobel did an excellent job.
One of the benefits of us using halls for checkpoints is that there are always toilet facilities, but the main bonus this year was the unlimited supply of cool water for drinking and dowsing. Again thanks to our splendid checkpoint marshals for some innovative cooling methods.
Back at the finish the hall was also pleasantly cool and shady and there was the chance to get a shower.
Pete became the star man of the day for many with his mobile drink station.
The early start was, not surprisingly, popular and almost double the size of the main start.
After setting the main start off I went back to the hall to confirm numbers and had a panic after sorting out the 8.30 figures because I couldn’t find the 9.30 start list. After a few swear words I turned the 8.30 sheet over and hey presto there they were.
The next hours were spent making and receiving calls with checkpoints and marshals, washing apples, weighing the gazebo down when the wind tried to take it down the car park and generally keeping out of the sun.
We had news from Checkpoint 4 that the leader had left them, but he suffered a bit on the last leg so had us worried until finally he came in a bit worse for wear, but after some water, a sit down then a shower he was able to eat something. Well done Paul, keeping up Newmarket Joggers fine tradition in this race.
It was over half an hour later that the next two runners came in and it was Karen & Victoria of Halstead in an excellent time. Then young Andrew of Witham in his first ultra came in closely followed by a clutch of early starters Natalie and Julie of Grange Farm and Nicole from Pitsea.
The third man home was Ian C of Little Baddow just pipping teammate Ian B. Nicole of Springfield had a great run for third lady.
It was then a long wait as runners trickled in for the next two hours. Due to the extreme heat quite a few people did not make the official cut off times but we stayed to feed and water everyone. All that is apart from one who we arranged to meet at the Wheatsheaf. Stafford was doing the event the Wooden Spoon charity and helped raise £1500 so we thought he deserved his medal when he got there.
I think if I had opened entries for next year yesterday we wouldn’t have many takers from this year’s survivors, but with the mists of time maybe in a few weeks’ time?
River Stort (photo courtesy of Sarah Orley)
HOT BUT NOT TOO BOTHERED
A busy and hot weekend of trail racing and trail “gardening” for me. When I say racing, I was actually walking as I’m easing myself back after two months of foot problems. With the temperatures soaring I probably wouldn’t have run any quicker anyway.
Saturday morning was A Great Museum trail held before Mid Essex Casuals AGM. The Museum of Power is always a popular venue and area to run in. I was the first one off, but was soon caught by Richard Taylor. I was to meet Richard twice more later in the route.
We have done this area many times but with all the paths by the river it never gets boring. The first half was twiddlyish but the second half followed wide tracks through the farmland. A fire engine was on one of the tracks, but I didn’t see any fire, plenty of dust when they drove off though.
I was well pleased with my pace (quicker than 4mph), maybe I should walk more of these.
I didn’t hang around afterwards as I had to do some Writtle Wround shopping for next Sunday.
Justin had negotiated an earlier start for his race at The Mole Trap on Sunday. When I arrived most of the small field had already set off. My foot was a bit sore from yesterday but felt OK.
I passed the non-scary cows and Snig overtook me. Across some field paths that resembled an earthquake zone, then some rough field edges onto a track.
After the farm I passed the MP but didn’t see it. Looking back I did spot it so I took the correct left turn at the next MP. After two field edges Dave Game came running towards me which strangely confirmed I had taken the right (left) turn.
After putting Dave right, the course became more undulating. On reaching the bright yellow box full of bottles of water, I stopped and took a sip. Perhaps because the water station wasn’t mentioned in the instructions many people ran straight past it.
The final miles were a bit bumpier and I even started to catch some runners ahead. Then back along the road to the pub, I waved to Lynn and Gary on their way home.
Really nice to run in an area we haven’t been to for quite some time. I had a lovely pint of Citra (not cheap) and a chat with the usual suspects and it was still only 11.30.
On my way home I stopped off to check a bit of the Writtle Wround wroute and horror of horrors, not only had they harvested a large field (unlike this morning’s obvious paths through the crops) they have ploughed it. I will rewrite the instructions for next week to avoid. I took the secateurs for the next enclosed path, but all was clear.
I drove on to check another wheat field which at the moment is still there. I will have to check again next Saturday.
I am expecting another busy weekend at Writtle just hope the temperatures have eased a bit.
After not having done any exercise for over two months due to foot problems, I set off to walk the Wickham Whizz with a bit of trepidation. Also it was hot, but with a light northerly breeze conditions were OK for walking.
Wickham St Paul is a beautiful spot and surrounded by a myriad of paths and tracks, which although Sarah and David had done some” gardening”, were generally in excellent condition. There was some shade, but not much, so the two drink stations on the quarter marathon course were most welcome. A last minute rush to buy the water had resulted in fizzy rather than still, but I always find still water just sits in my stomach so fizzy was good.
We have trailed in this area several times but the course was still interesting and surprisingly not that hilly. There were not too many buildings on the course but the house with the pond and cannon and the village of Great Maplestead were well worth visiting.
I don’t normally wear shades, but decided that being in the sun and in cornfields it would be good for my eyes. However I couldn’t even see David clearly at the start as he was in the shade. At the instruction to go ahead on faint path at field corner to footbridge, I looked but couldn’t see a footbridge so carried on uphill and around the corner. Wendy and Heather shouted me back. When I got back to the field corner and took off my shades the footbridge was obvious. I went through the tall nettles then onto field and up the slope back almost to the point I had been called back from. Other than that I had no further navigational problems.
Back at the village hall everyone was in the shade being sensible. My feet felt fine although I waited until Monday to confirm this. However my bum hurts after walking almost seven miles at almost 4mph, which is not much slower than my running pace. I did actually overtake five people.
Thanks again to Sarah and David for an excellently organised race in lovely countryside.
Next week I shall be having a go at A Great Museum trail on Saturday and slowly Chasing the Mole at Justin’s event on Sunday.
The Ridley Round was originally a set walking route joining up Ridley pubs around the brewery. There is a copy of it on the wall of the Compasses. The brewery went several years ago but the round lives on albeit with the pubs changing from year to year. Some have closed for good some have gone and come back again.
After two years of using the same route we changed the course again as the Windmill is currently closed. Luckily the Butchers Arms has opened up again. Apart from the first field after the Butchers Arms most paths were in good condition and very dry underfoot.
Howard and I arrived at 8.45 to set up and then have breakfast. Almost an hour before start time the first runner appeared. All was calm and we set off the first competitors on time. In fact nothing of note really happened until the watering systems for the hanging baskets came on at 11. We had been warned.
It had gone 12 before the first runners came back so we were on our second pint. Oakham Ales’ “Citra” is one of our favourites and we were pleasantly surprised that is was still on late into the afternoon.
For the most part there were no problems with the route description until that field at the Butchers Arms. Unfortunately quite a few of the earlier runners had made a path by BR to the wrong tractor wheelings. The instructions were quite specific to TR to a path Howard had trodden leading to the correct ones. Nobody seemed too fussed and some were even pleased to get more miles for their money.
There weren’t too many tales of woe apart from the rising cost of soda and lime from pub to pub; 80p at the first, £1.20 next, then £1.50 and finally a mind blowing £2.50. We’d stick to beer in the future.
Thanks to everyone for parking out the back and for joining in with the spirit of the event. We will know the final amount raised for Cancer Research later this week.
WILLINGALE WINDY WANDER
The good news: Howard no longer has Covid, the bad news he smashed a wheel of his car in a giant pothole.
I have never tried getting the gazebo into my Fiesta before so it was with trepidation that I set off to pick up Howard and all the gear on Saturday morning. Amazingly it all fitted in, although I couldn’t change into first or second gear very easily and couldn’t reach the handbrake.
We arrived at the fete in brilliant sunshine and seemed to be in a wind protected position behind the marquee. We set up easily enough and all was peace and quiet until first the ice cream van parked next to us with its noisy motor, then the local radio/tannoy people put a speaker the other side of us. The music wasn’t too loud, but all the announcements were at a volume the CIA use to get prisoners to talk.
As the day wore on the skies clouded over and a brisk wind started to buffet us, however it seems it was still quite warm for the runners.
We pointed out the exit gate to everyone, but several chose not to take advantage. There were also some who ignored it on the way back as well. Main discussion point seemed to be about crossing road to TL at hidden FPS. This may have been slightly puzzling, but surely only someone with imagination would read this as TL on road. Apparently we have quite a few imaginative runners amongst us!
Then a disaster; “The Brick” which has never let us down (even when I dropped it on the floor once and another time when I smashed it into the ground as I slipped over at Chipping Ongar) let us down. It turned itself off and we had no finishing times. I later cobbled together some results. Please let us know if your time is significantly wrong.
It’s a shame this course didn’t attract more runners, mainly due to it being on a Saturday, but there is no venue for us to hold it on any other day than fete day. Most of the runners spent time at the fete and quite a few were seen walking off with their purchases.
Big thanks for coming and also to the farmers of the area who have kept the majority of the paths in excellent condition. No stingers unlike last week at Felsted.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
What started as a fraught weekend ended with the race going as smoothly as could be hoped and all on a fine day for running.
Last Monday Howard contracted Covid and had not finalised the course for the Chequered Flag. We were hoping he would be clear by Friday so that he could write up the route and I could check it on Saturday. Friday came and he was still positive. We contemplated cancelling the race, but decided to have another go on Saturday.
Saturday and with Howard still testing positive I set off to write up the course, using a map provided by Howard. It was still warm after Friday’s blistering heat as I hobbled off around the course. The first mile went smoothly, but the bridleway back up the hill was stingers central. I bashed my way through, then into the enclosed path. The track that followed was clear, but then the bridleway goes back into an enclosed section. I fought my way to the marker post then proceeded slowly through the nettles. After 50 metres I decided we couldn’t send people through this so scrambled out into a field. (We rerouted you on the RHFE to miss this section).
The next couple of miles were easy on mown paths and clear field edges. Then came stinger central’s big brother. I flailed about trying to make the path a bit easier, then came to the low branches which I got caught up on with my rucksack. Thinking that if even I could get through this obstacle it shouldn’t be a problem for you lot, I left it in.
When I emerged at the road I looked like I’d been shot in the arm as the blood was quite impressive. Being on blood thinners makes the tiniest scratch look gory. From here to the finish the paths were in excellent condition. As I plodded the long RHFE the rains came. I wrestled with an emergency pac a mac I found in the rucksack from a London Marathon many years ago. When I eventually got it on it was back to front so I tucked the hood down my front. For the next half hour I was desperately trying to keep my notes dry. The sun didn’t come out, but it got very warm so I ripped off my rainwear.
The scale of Howard’s map gave me some problems with a proliferation of paths at one point so I resorted to phoning him up. After a not too informative conversation, I was back on track. It started to rain again, but couldn’t be bothered with the mac and carried on rewardless.
After three and a half hours I was so knackered I didn’t even go to the pub, and drove home. I told Howard of the stingers and he went out later to do his best to flatten them.
Back home I now had to type up the route and knowing it wasn’t going to get checked took my time rereading it to make sure I hadn’t made any mistakes. You’ll never know how pleased I was when the first runner came home.
Sunday morning arrived and Howard still imprisoned, I packed the car and realised I’d left my phone on the table. I had come out without my house keys and last seeing Helen was in the shower I didn’t hold out much hope about her answering the doorbell. But luckily she answered immediately much to my relief.
I stopped by Howard’s to pick up the route descriptions (left at the gate for safety) had a little chat then drove the short distance to the Chequers.
Oh yes the race report. Declan and Arron were first home for the men and Lynn Higgs was first lady.
FUN IN THE SUN
The Farmhouse Inn, Monk Street welcomed us back again and what a fabulous evening. The temperature was ideal for sitting in the garden if somewhat warm for running and just about everyone stayed for a drink or a bite to eat.
A couple of people missed the 180 degree about turn, a few others added a bit extra and one runner read the take care barbed wire instruction after he collided with it. Otherwise most people had a straightforward run on mostly excellent paths in a beautiful part of the county.
The winning time of 42.51 by Antony Goodall was an excellent run especially considering the second place runner Jon Byford came in almost eight minutes behind. Terry Alabaster had a great run for third and was accompanied by the winning lady Keeley Jordan in 51.05. Second lady was Lynn Higgs with Wendy King in third spot.
With the odd exception the paths were in excellent condition, even mowed in places so a big thanks to the local farming community.
A couple of items of note; not one person said a word about approximately 6 miles turning out to be 6.5 and several people could not remember having run from this venue before until they arrived at the pub.
Due to Howard succumbing to Covid I had to call on the help of wifey Helen and thanks to Alan Sibthorp for stepping in as well.
The weather forecast had promised rain, but apart from a light shower we were spared. However it must have been one of the coldest end of May days for years. 64 entered, 64 turned up and 64 returned.
We had problems at the start with Howard’s lap top and reverted to old school watch, paper and pen. Luckily we sorted it whilst you were all out running.
There were some good times due to the underfoot conditions and not a speck of mud, unlike our last visit here when the heavens opened for the day. Allen Smalls just headed off Steve May who has just moved to the area, Keeley Jordan beat Emily Worboys by under a minute to win the ladies race.
It was nice to be in the bar with all the finishers for a change rather than out at the gazebo or in a different room. I apologise if I was more miserable than usual as my feet were and still are really swollen and sore, which is why Helen checked the course this week and at least made some attempt to bash the nettles.
We will be back as there are many paths to discover yet.
THE MAGIC ROUNDABOUT
We have run from the Horse & Groom many times and decided to make it a little more interesting this year with a technical start and finish. All technical really means is to do what the instructions say and maybe run a bit slower to take the instructions in as they come at you fast and furiously.
Well, where shall we start? Several runners did not turn right on the track at the beginning which made things somewhat difficult to follow. We didn’t have too many comments about the first mile although there were people not finding benches and others finding left turns which were not the “main” path.
But the most remarked upon instruction was the tree roundabout in the final mile. We called it a tree roundabout because it was a tree surrounded by high grass which you could go left or right around. If we had put bear left before tree it would not have helped a great deal with the choice of trees available. We had no trouble with the tree roundabout instruction at Purleigh earlier in the year. We had runners recording distances between 4.5 and 5.5 miles so on average you all got it right. Someone asked us what twiddly meant before they started. We think they know now.
Anyway it was good for the post race chat at the pub afterwards with people comparing routes and (mis)adventures. We think most of you enjoyed an interesting run on a lovely warn, sunny evening.
IN SEARCH OF THE BLUEBELLS
We were a little worried when we heard tales of people going to Newmarket, Harlow and Dunmow before finding the start. Another two got lost in Hatfield Forest as they cycled to the event. What hope of them all getting round a tricky (in places) course?
We needn’t have worried, a few added a bit extra and another trio managed a bit less (we did stress not to follow anyone). But in the main everyone got home with the right distance even though some definitely used different routes in the nature reserve. The swing in the reserve was also too much of a temptation for several runners, which might explain them running off in different directions afterwards.
We called the race In Search of the Bluebells and it proved to be a bit of a struggle to find as many as we would have liked. The best displays were to your left but we were surprised to be told by one runner that he hadn’t seen any despite there being “millions”.
With the ground so hard there were a few scrapes but everyone at least ran into the finish, where despite the lovely sunny weather Howard was a tad cold sat under the gazebo so he could see the laptop screen. Two steps forward where I stood it was lovely and warm.
The Castle were very accommodating again and with a huge free car park which all but one of the competitors found a space to park in, we will be back next year to explore more of this interesting area.
EASTER EGGSTRAVAGANZA 2022
What a great comeback from Covid for the Easter Eggstravaganza. Rarely have all four days had blue sky and sunshine. 258 competitors ran or walked. With 126 men and 132 women it proves how open to all this form of running is, from the out and out racer to the majority of us just enjoying some lovely countryside and welcoming pubs.
The bulk of the 258 runners only ran once but 23 did all four days and another 17 managed three, with a further 49 doing two.
On Friday Dave Game (Mid Essex Casuals) provided a choice of three distances. The longest of 13.2 miles was won by Chris Seymour (MEC) and Alan Hart of Stowmarket Striders. First lady was Christine Howard of Billericay Striders.
The quarter marathon attracted the biggest field and was won by Adam Jones (U/A). First lady was Lynn Higgs (MEC). The winners of the 4.5 mile race were Ronnie Williams (MEC) and Wendy Carter & Anna Bambridge both from Halstead.
Saturday’s race was organised by Andy Ritchings (Little Baddow Ridge Runners). The technical and hilly course was won for the host club by Liam Beavis. Anna Barclay (MEC) was first lady.
Howard Jardine (Grange Farm & Dunmow Runners) hosted two distances on Easter Sunday. Outright winner of the longer course was Jackie Stretton who made light work of a race that was 180 miles shorter than her last endeavour. First man was Jon Byford. The winners of the 5k were Poppy and Ian Gowers to give Springfield Striders a clean sweep on the day.
Day 4 saw the largest field (crème egg has a lot to do with it) and some very fast times. Antony Goodall and Nikki Woodyard sped around a fast course to keep the host club at the head of things.
Overall winners taking the best three results were Chris Hargraves of Little Baddow Ridge Runners and Lynn Higgs from Mid Essex Casuals. When the finances have been finalised the prize fund will be shared between the first 20 men and women overall.
Thank you to all the host clubs Mid Essex Casuals, Little Baddow Ridge Runners, Grange Farm & Dunmow Runners and Springfield Striders and to all the host pubs; the Bell at Panfield, the Generals Arms at Little Baddow, the Swan at Rayne and the Rose & Crown at Great Waltham.
But mostly thanks to all the runners for making it truly an Easter Eggstravaganza.
DAY 3 Day 3 and another beautiful morning for trail running. After two days I decided to walk with Helen today. Nothing to do with my tumble yesterday just my legs can’t cope with this hard ground for three consecutive days and I had already checked the route for Howard on Monday.
A lot of people had already started when we arrived which helped form a faint path across the first ploughed field. We were able to chat to loads of runners as they passed and also explained what was happening to some dog walkers.
When we got back to the pub the tables were full of happy runners basking in the sunshine and enjoying a drink. While chatting with Howard I noticed the gate with the bloody great sign “Please Shut The Gate” was open, so I went over and shut it. The sign was so the pub dog didn’t escape. Moments later it was open again and off I went to shut it again. The next time it was left open by a runner who was looking at her phone I moved the sign so you had to climb it to get through the gate. If this is what runners do when there is an enormous sign what the hell do they do out on the course. PLEASE SHUT ALL GATES.
You’ll be pleased to know there are no gates tomorrow so unless someone parks stupidly I should be of a more pleasant disposition. (Unlikely😀)
DAY 2 What a difference a week makes. On my usual Saturday run last week hardly a bluebell in sight, this week at Day 2 of the Easter Eggstravaganza from the same car park, loads of them.
I arrived early as it is Helen’s birthday today so had to get back for celebratory lunch. Andy kindly let me go early and said I should try not to get caught. After yesterday my legs were sore but with the first mile downhill I felt fine. Through the swamp that apparently Little Baddow Ridge Runners call chicken korma came the first short climb, then the long downhill on the narrow enclosed path. Through the horses and then down the new steps all was going well. The climb through the Serengeti slowed me somewhat and I even had to wait for traffic on the road in the estate before the main road.
I counted all my white topped posts, through a gate, passed a lone cow and on through Danbury Park. The instructions became quite fiddly but perfectly correct. Then the climb to Danbury church. Someone must think they are being helpful having gravelled the enclosed path. It was like climbing a scree gulley in the Lakes.
Four miles in and still no-one has come by. Down the steep track past the scout hut and up into Lingwood Common. A fallen tree gave me a good excuse to walk, but then downhill through the common and up to Scout Hut number two. Into the last mile and still clear.
I see Jon Byford, just starting, and give him a shout. I was thinking to myself that he could easily have tripped up by looking over at me and 20 metres on I did just that. The ground was very hard but unusually for me not much blood. Found my glasses which had flown off my head and picked myself up to run the last little bit up the lane to the finish.
I had done it, Leader in the clubhouse. Very shortly afterwards a steady stream of Little Baddow Ridge Runners followed me in. Well done Andy and Nick. See you tomorrow.
DAY 1 The Easter Eggstravaganza returned properly this year with Day 1 at the Bell at Panfield.
It was a glorious morning if a little warm. It is three years since we ran from here on a very similar day and as I plodded around it soon became clear that we were running the same course, although last time I clocked it at 7.14 and this time at 7.0 even with the minor detour around the fallen tree. It is a lovely route and well worth running around again.
With Panfield and Rayne (Sunday’s run) being so close I thought the routes might meet at some point, but you will pleased to know that you will be encountering entirely different scenery from The Swan. The paths are all rock hard at the moment and slightly softer in the woods so no doubt there will be some fast times.
Dave had originally advertised this as an 11am start (I completely missed the change to 10.30am) so I turned up at about 20 past eleven to see finishers cooling down after a hot run. There were still plenty of runners and walkers about though and still some out when I left the inviting beer garden to go home.
When I got home Facebook reminded me that this day last year we were allowed back into pubs after the lockdown. It is so nice to be getting back to something like normal.
DON'T GO WITH THE FLOW
We were really disappointed to have to change the first mile of the course, but everyone seemed to enjoy the courses on a lovely sunny day.
Howard finalised the course on Tuesday and all was fine. When I went round to check on Thursday, the heavy rain of the day before meant that a slipway from the river which would have been slippery anyway was now a torrent of fast flowing water. Three dry days passed but when Howard checked again early Sunday morning the water was still flowing across. We know you don’t mind getting your feet wet (you can’t do if you do our events) but we felt this was too risky to cross. We will endeavour to incorporate this section in a future event from the Stag.
The rest of the course however was in the main very dry although we had a few return with muddy knees. This area has been covered in the past but it was a long time ago, maybe 15 or 20 years so was new to most of the field. There were lots of daffodils and spring lambs especially on the shorter course.
There was also a worryingly high non starter rate as Covid seems to be taking its toll. I personally know of lots of cases, but it seems most people only have mild symptoms. We will continue to take precautions and continue for the time being with our no drink station or keybox policy.
Allen Smalls was a convincing winner of the longer run ahead of Jon Byford and Chris Hargraves. Keeley Jordan just pipped Lynn Higgs with Julia Binstead in third spot. In the short course Anna Barclay won outright from Myles Coulson. Next were Andrew and Rozlyn Smith. Caroliena Cameron was third lady and old hand Yan Stile was third man.
It was back to the Museum of Power again today for the first in the Mid Essex Casuals Quarter Marathon series. With Dave reverting to the pre Covid system of entry on the day, it was back to the long registration queue.
At least we were inside the Museum and the queue is always a very sociable part of the event. Well we were sociable; I’m not so sure about the Museum volunteer who was having a good old mutter to herself. I prefer the long sociable queue at the bar after the event where you can exchange views on the route and how good or bad the instructions were. The instructions as per usual were fine although quite a few people couldn’t be bothered to read the last line. And for all you pedants we didn’t cross two fallen trees, it was two branches of one fallen tree.
Even with the windy weather I thought I would need my studded shoes, but the shorter course was easily negotiable in road shoes as the ground was hard. I believe the 11 milers did encounter some softer ground.
For the most part I knew the paths but Dave managed to find a couple of well dodgy stiles I hadn’t been over before. There were some nice views from the road above Beeleigh Abbey before the long descent down Abbey Turning to the falls.
Thanks to Dave and Sylv. See you all next week at Little Easton.
SUNNY SEASIDE SAUNTER
Well what a boring day. Apart from someone only having two right footed shoes to change into afterwards everything went perfectly. No tales of missed FBs or FPSs and no need of taxis to get to the finish and probably best of all no naked men.
When I checked the course in gale force winds last week I thought what an excellent mix of terrain Howard had found and it seems with the added bonus of blue skies and full on sunshine so did most of the runners. A RHFE is much more interesting when you can look over the surrounding waters.
The high winds had also dried out the course so made for some fast running. None faster than Allen Smalls who was the first one back and kept his lead in the clubhouse right through. Fellow Colchester Harrier Paul Dellar was the closest to the winner with another good run by John Sweeney of Castle Point in third spot. Anna Barclay was fourth overall beating fellow Mid Essex Casual Lyn Higgs into second spot with Emily Worboys in third.
If you have done Run the Island and our two trails you might think you’ve done all the footpaths on Mersea; well think again we still have some more to explore next year.
A REAL NIGHTMARE
I knew it was going to be a strange day when I passed a car sat on top of the crash barrier at Great Leighs bypass on my way to the race. Things only got stranger. To protect the innocent (guilty?) I’ll mention no names.
The slight chance of rain forecast by the Met Office turned into quite a prolonged downpour so we knew conditions were going to be tough and that was just the car park. We were going to make sure the runners didn’t traipse any mud into the carpeted bar when they finished, but the first person through the door for registration did just that.
The early starters set off in heavy rain and we had all sorts of tales about difficult journeys from all points of the county. We had a couple who thought the race was at the Horse & Groom, Galleywood and at 5.20pm looked at the final email to find that it was at the Horse & Groom, Cornish Hall End a further 25 miles away. They also didn’t realise that there was a meal afterwards which softened the blow.
The first runners began to return mud splattered before the final runner had started. He had travelled from North London and not realised quite how far from civilisation Cornish Hall End is. This was also his first navigation trail so we were a little worried we might be sending out search parties.
Talking of search parties we had two gentlemen who got so lost they arrived back at the finish by car. They had previously stopped at a house for help and were greeted by a man with just a towel around his middle. Apparently he pointed them in the right direction.
Talking of search parties one runner clocked up 10.76 miles (distance changed to protect identity) and has received quite a bit of stick since. He said he enjoyed it even though he didn’t see the boat.
Another runner dropped his keys in the mud on the first field edge and quite a few got a shock from a newly erected electric fence which obviously boosted ones performance as he finished high up in the results (not the air). There was also a conspicuous arrow which proved elusive to many.
Our runner from North London got round with little trouble so everyone was back safe and sound and we could relax. That is until we helped push a car out of the mud in the car park.
The pub did us proud with an excellent meal and good beer and can’t wait to have us back. If you are ever in this area please support this pub. Without us last night they probably wouldn’t have had any customers.
Well done to our winners Milly Presland and Simon Carrington and well done to you lot for turning up on such a horrible night and enjoying yourselves.
WET AND STICKY WICKET
What a difference a week makes. A really firm course turned into a mud bath with heavy overnight rain turning nice paths into streams and fields into no man’s land. Most of you seemed to enjoy it though. We really must do an event from here in the summer some time.
We expected a few drop outs but a still strong field turned up to enjoy the environs of Rickling Green on a course that had its fair share of open land and enclosed paths. Luckily the infant River Stort was still navigable and only slightly wetter than the path to it. Some early runners had to suffer another burst of rain, but the majority of the field had a dry if somewhat windy and slippery run.
We only heard of a few navigational errors and the two dog bins although 400m and two lines of instructions apart caused a few people a problem. Others were just people deciding that TR was TL and visa versa.
Congratulations to our winners (see results page) and thanks Sandra for the chocolate brownies.
PITCH BLACK IN PURLEIGH
The Roundbush is a favourite venue of ours and we feel it is worth the 500m out and back to get to the footpaths. The road back at least gives runners a chance to shake the mud off their shoes.
50 plus runners and walkers took on the Pitch Black in Purleigh challenge with over 400 feet of climbing and descents. Howard and I had a debate about which exit of the tree roundabout you should take and we also put up tape to guide through the common. Happily nobody went too far astray in the dark.
The Roundbush, as usual, was very welcoming and produced an excellent meal for everyone at the finish and a roaring fire. And of course excellent beer.
John Sweeney just pipped Darren Coates by three seconds to take the victory with Thomas Burman less than a minute behind in third spot. Lynn Higgs was fourth overall ahead of Shukila Jordan with Melanie Carrington, Julia Gardiner and Vicky Presland running together for third place.
We will be back in the summer so you can see the views you missed last night.
THE DAY AFTER THE DAY AFTER
Poor Howard went out several times in the week to try and rescue the 13 mile route, but other than adding a two mile road section he couldn’t find a way around the problem track. A byway which apparently is notoriously muddy had been covered in hard-core which Howard couldn’t even walk on. Presumably the council will run a roller over it in the future to make it fit for purpose.
However most entrants particularly those that had slipped and slithered around Ongar on Friday were more than happy to settle for the 7 mile route. Two hardy souls Paul Dellar and Melissa Dowell opted to do two laps. Chapeau.