The thirty-fifth Riddlesdown parkrun was awesome.
However, before I start with all of the me me me stuff, the event would not have been possible without the dedication of today's team of volunteers, who clearly must be a hell of a lot madder than the people that turn up to run.
On official camera duty today was Pete - Thanks for letting me use your photos again, I hope you like the collages that I put together!
|riddlesdown [photos: Pete Gibson]
Temperature: -5 or -6 or -7, depending on who you ask.
Wind: Not even a whisper of a breeze.
Conditions: Lying snow (approx 5 inches), most paths trodden.
Before this I had only run in snow once before. However, on that occasion (in Germany and Belgium) most of the pavements had been cleared and only part of the route actually involved me running on/in/through the snow.
|forty-five runners turned up [photo: Pete Gibson]
Upon arrival at the downs I was greeted with what you might call a 'winter wonderland'. I've tried to think of some other names but that really does sum it up best.
By this point I was already in danger of missing the start of the run, but thankfully once I had trotted over to the start line I managed to join the other forty-four parkrunners just in time to hear the pre-run announcements.
|towards the end of the trail section [photo: Pete Gibson]
Starting from the back again, I moved on through the snow. My usual plan to sail past as many runners as possible during the first kilometre thwarted by the fact that only a very narrow trodden path existed and any attempts to deviate from it resulted in a doubling of the effort required to travel the same distance.
However, I was impatient and took the path less (never) trodden in my desperate attempt to break through the congestion. Ultimately it worked, and I found myself in some clear air for brief periods before having to resort to the previous plan a few more times.
|riddlesdown (again) [photos: Pete Gibson]
The course may have been harder work, but you could not fail to notice how stunning the downs look in their winter coat.
I was glad that one of the marshals, Mark, was on duty at (take a deep breath) 'the sharp corner at the bottom of the short incline to Condon corner', as on both laps he managed to save me from hurtling straight into the hedge, skillfully predicting my poor attempt at cornering on the compact, slippery snow, and realigning me onto the correct trajectory. (If you are reading this - thanks!)
Apart from that one tricky corner, I managed to pick my way around the course without incident, there were a few icy sections, but again, extremely well-placed marshals were on hand to warn of ice ahead.
|getting some air [photo: Pete Gibson]
At one section of the course (just after 2km) we had lost our usual path to the five or so inches of powdery snow, and in its place had appeared a choice of two meandering paths, which had evolved over the course of the week through various dog walkers and possibly the odd volunteer before the start of the run. To be honest, I didn't realise we had a choice until I was already on one path, and even though the other looked more direct, it wouldn't have been worth the extra effort of crossing the deeper snow to get there.
I wasn't racing this week and really, why would I want to? The scenery was amazing, there was no wind at all - which only added to the experience (in a good way, of course), plus I was enjoying myself out there and wanted to drag the experience out for a little longer.
|i'm sure it was this way last week [photo: Pete Gibson]
After the run, we went to the Horseshoe pub for our post-run natter and coffee. Although, because I am trying to break my dependency on coffee, I settled for an orange juice instead. The pub is nice enough but it seems to have a few grumpy regulars who don't seem to like us invading their space. Also the drinks are more expensive than at the good companions, my orange juice and Mrs7t's green tea weighed in at £4.65. We had some lunch too, which meant shelling out another £20 on two deconstructed veggie burgers. They were nice enough, but were they worth that much? Probably not.
|team7t [photo: Nicki Clark]
Good Companions - Please hurry up and finish your redecoration thing. You don't have an open fire place (or maybe you do, but not where we sit) and all the fancy accessories that the Horseshoe has, but it feels more like home. I even miss the dodgy taps in the gents!
This run will definitely go down as one of my favourites. I (and the rest of the runners) owe a great deal to those who got out of bed early enough to make the event happen, especially as it would have been so easy to have cancelled it altogether.