For the past couple of summers I have taken part in a local running series called Country Trail Races. These involve starting at a local pub, getting a list of instructions and self-guiding yourself around a 10k run on local trails. These are less about racing, more about running somewhere new with friends and tend to finish with a great pub dinner.
I’ve had a great time taking part in the series, they are what first got me into running off road and becoming a member of #TeamNature.
Some of my favourite country trail moments include getting drenched in a very localised shower in Thorner with Charlie and Monica. We arrived back to the pub to see everyone else dry, giving us strange looks, puzzled as to why we’d come back soaking wet. Another funny memory was out of trails of Bardsey with Rob, Robin and Matty where every couple of minutes after the 4 mile marker was declared as Rob’s longest run ever. ‘Did you know this is the furthest I’ve ever run?’ On a Good Friday in Sicklinghall me and Matty stuffed our faces with hot cross buns after getting a bit lost following instruction ‘cross field to gate’ with numerous fields and gates to choose from. It was just funny watching several runners circling round trying all the exits of the field to find the right one.
With such happy memories and a now a big love of trail running I thought it would be great to organise one as part of my 30 list. So where to start?
- 1. Get help from people who know more than you I procured a list of race organising instructions from the original organiser of the series and persuaded trail running extraordinaire Robin to help.
- 2. Decide on a pub to start at We decided on the Abbey Inn at Kirkstall as it is between both our houses and also gave us a good excuse to meet at the pub for a Saturday afternoon drink! (We did need to do our research.)
- 3. Decide on a route Use this as an excuse to have some very slow very chatty runs, trying out all the little trails and paths around the area.
- 4. Record the route instructions on a dictaphone Make sure you are ok listening to your own voice back, if you’re not get someone else to do it. Thanks Robin!
- 5. Get someone to test out instructions Note to self; try not to offend said friends who have agreed to test these instructions by saying you want someone who is pretty good at navigation (John) and someone who isn’t (sorry Caroline). The reccie was pretty successful and in fact Caroline proved to have some exceptional navigation skills. With only a few notes in need of tweaking we felt confident that the instructions could get people round without anyone getting too lost.
- 6. Decide on a witty name, alliteration preferable ‘The Forge Frolic’ (Credit: Robin Culshaw)
- 7. Do the boring serious stuff Do a risk assessment, apply for a race license and inform the local police of the event.
- 8. Rope in other helpers With Caroline and John now initiated into the Forge Frolic Dream Team rope in additional recruits Rob and Matty (aka The Other Half’s). Make sure they know the consequences if they refuse.
- 9. Have a serious planning meeting Plan the trail race for about 15 minutes then spend the rest of the time eating pizza and watching athletics. Also assign anyone absent the worst jobs, sorry Caroline you’re on car park duty!
- 10. Scout out the competition Go to another country trail race and steal all their good ideas. Any excuse for a lovely chatty run and another pub dinner.
With all the steps followed then came the big day. Prep included getting repetitive strain injury from stuffing 200 sheets of paper into plastic wallets, a last minute trip for emergency ink cartridges and Matty using ASDA’s canteen change machine to get a float of pound coins after the bank had ran out, What??!!
The team got to the pub in plenty of time ready to greet the first runners and set up for registration.
Drama number one happened in the first 20 minutes of being there. I had walked up the road to put out a ‘caution runners’ sign when a bunch of kids started asking what I was doing. I told them all about the race and seemed to have a nice chat but as I left I had a very bad feeling they were going to steal the sign! As Robin was on her way down I asked her to keep an eye out for the sign, which by the time she came down was nowhere to be seen. We went back up and searched around and sure enough we found it thrown behind 2 sets of barbed wire, luckily I had worn some long leggings and despite my usual ability to injury myself I managed to retrieve the sign unscathed.
Back to the pub to see registration in full flow. Registration team Matty and Caroline had a slick operation working together to take forms, give out numbers, instructions and make sure everyone knew to inform us if they retired from the race. We were desperately trying to avoid having to put on our head torches and run through the woods looking for someone who was likely already home and tucked up in bed. Then came drama number two! We had ran out of registration forms. We thought we had printed enough but hadn’t counted the number off the printer and we were missing some. After a minor flap by both Caroline and I Matty just threw us some paper and pens and said ‘You’re going to have to make some’. We threw together some make shift forms as about 20 more runners turned up wanting to register.
Now time to set off the runners. Timing tag team Robin and John had both a computer and a hand written system to ensure we had back up of the results. John was in his element with watch at the ready telling people when they were allowed to go and doing a countdown for each group. They did a great job setting all the runners off quickly, even when they had to set off larger groups of 10 and 12 all at once.
Now started the stressful wait to see if everyone returned safely. I have never been so happy to see that first runner come in. Most had a story to tell about some bits where they had got a bit lost but strangely all in different places. Then the runners started to come in thick and fast with Caroline joining the timing team to shout out numbers and make an additional set of results. This came in particularly useful at the end when John believed we had 2 still not back, Robin had 3 still not back none of which were the same but when we consulted Caroline’s list they had actually all returned safely. There was a massive cheer from us all, we didn’t have to go searching for people in the dark yey!
With everyone back we got to have a chat with more people who had ran the race. Everyone’s feedback was great. Most people had got lost at some point but had got themselves back on track and had really enjoyed the route. My favourite comment was when a group of runners spotted Rob and said ‘that’s the little elf from the woods’. They then proceeded to show me a group photo they have taken of them in the woods all surrounding the happy little woodland elf, brilliant.
As I head towards my 30’s I feel I must be doing something right to have such a great bunch of friends who will help me out and support me when I come up with these things I want to do. Thanks so much to Robin, Rob, John, Caroline and Matty for being the best race crew and also for the Hyde Park Harriers for showing up in their masses to support. An extra bonus is we raised £364.15 to go into the run club funds.