Jelly legs and jaffa cakes - Trail Quest Spring Series 2017

I am, what I would describe as, an unnatural runner. But, one with anaspiration to be a competent long(ish) distance trail runner. I don’t crave winning races or beating world records, I just want to have the fitness to run along stunning mountain tracks and exhilarating peninsulas. I want to be #alpinefit enough to run up any mountain and enjoy the view.

I have a long way to go.

After a few weeks of improvement in my running, I decided to sign up for my first Trail Quest (short). I have had a go at the MTB Trail Quest before which was equally fun!

These events are fantastically organised - the pre-race info is superb; there is nothing missed out, the signage is spot on and the staff are fantastic and totally on it. All that is left for you to worry about, is the actual running.

So, I rocked up at Bradfield Village Hall fully prepped with my minimum compulsory kit (water, phone, Gravitas, Filoment). I was relieved to find that, given it was 13C, they weren’t being strict on carrying emergency kit today (for the short race at least). I pottered over to the start of my course with 10 mins to spare. The atmosphere was relaxed with varying abilities taking part - there were those who were in it pretty seriously, limbering up at the sidelines, those who were prepping for longer events, those that were just there for a laugh and a Sunday morning out. Now, I certainly was not in it to win it - my aim was to get round without stopping in a respectable time. I have issues with pacing myself and tend to go too fast for myself and burn out.

9.35 and we we're off. I settle in behind a couple of runners who seem to be keeping a nice steady pace - faster runners quickly overtake. I remind myself; legs feel good now, pace yourself… I figure that if I can just follow the steady legs in front of me, that will do. [Retrospectively: Big Mistake].

I keep following the feet, thoughts running through my mind - ‘Ugh, my legs aren’t warming up as quickly as I hoped. Perhaps I shouldn’t have stayed up till midnight dancing to that Fleetwood Mac Tribute band. Just stick with the runners in front’

We approach the dam around the midway point and I start feeling a little queasy: ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have had all those jaffa cakes for breakfast. Perhaps these runners in front are speeding up quicker than I thought’ [Retrospectively: Well, yeah, of course they are - it's a race].

I slow to stop on the dam and take the opportunity to observe the views. A few people overtake. One of the great things about this event are the staggered start times really take the pressure off. As I started at one of the earlier times, I could take my time without worrying that there would be a collection of race organisers stood at the finishing line looking at their watches.

I start again trying to focus on my own pace and not follow anyone else. However, my jelly legs and queasy tummy were having none of it - I had burned myself out - doh. I kept a gentle jog up with a couple of walking breaks and I was okay with that. Despite my competitive nature, I was never in this event to win it and I was okay with that. The structure of the Trail Quests make it really easy to get what you want from it; be that competition or just a fab experience trail running in the Peaks with like-minded people. As I plodded along, I pondered over what I had already learnt from this event so far: 1. Don’t assume other runners will be pacing how you want; 2. Don’t dance till midnight; 3. Don’t eat all the jaffa cakes. I watched the rowers gliding across the river and wondered who would win the Oxbridge Boat Race this afternoon [Spoiler: Turned out Oxford men and Cambridge women won]. At this point, a sign came up saying 1km to go - ‘nice, that went fast.’

I ran up the final stretch, towards the finishing line and the promise of cake. I fumbled with the dibber and registered my time. I had done better than I thought! Hurrah. My current 5km PR is about 31 mins so my 35.49 min time for 5.7 km was good enough. I did wish I had paced better and managed to keep going, but c’est la vie, there’s another round next month.

By Ashleigh Naysmith