Parbold Hill Race by Karen Moorfield.
This is one of my favourite races and I know it clashes with cross country but I’ve done this race every year since I started running, that’s not some record as its only 3 years for those who don’t know me. On the warm up some guy said it was ten years since he had last done this race and when I hear things like that I am always amazed and it makes me wish I had started running much sooner in life.
The weather was cold but dry at least and I was seriously thinking I’d made the wrong choice in just a vest and shorts. Everyone else seemed to be wearing pants and long sleeve tops, some even with vests over long sleeve tops and there was the odd jacket about. Warren did his usual to put my mind at ease, I can’t help it I still get nervous before any race and I suspect I always will. I actually think it is good for me as it’s not nervous in a bad way, I mean I’m not throwing up constantly or rushing to the toilet any more than every other runner doing the race.
We had the added bonus this year of expanding on the Moorfield racers, yeah that’s right Jenna came with us and this time to race not to watch. if you’re not familiar and haven’t seen her at the odd Tuesday training session Jenna is Warren’s 16 year old daughter. During the warm up and waiting for the start we made sure we explained to Jenna to be careful not to get penned in and to make sure she did not fall or get knocked over. If you have never attempted this race the start can be chaotic, in fact it’s always chaotic but that just adds to the fun. This year took it to a whole new level as there were several attempts to start the race but the starter gun wouldn’t work and so it fell to a quick countdown and then we were off.
The start of this race is on a small field and after about 5 strides there is a quick sharp left turn and then everyone has to funnel out through the narrow channel out of the field and so everyone except those at the front get squished together. I set off reasonably well and was looking but could not see Warren or Jenna but that was fine, I’d see them at the end. I turned the first left on the field and the guy in front of me went down to a chorus of “whoooaaa.” this was a first for me, someone falling right in front of me and I can now say with 100% certainty that when running and the person directly in front goes down there is very little if any time to react. I did try to go right around him with a half jump but as I went that way so did his legs and so his feet struck me on my shins. There was only one way I was going and it weren’t right or left. I sort of tumbled forward which wasn’t that bad, I managed to put my arms out and i seemed to push myself back up pretty quickly. there was of course a second huge roar of “whoooaaa” reserved solely for me but it’s a race and I had a time to beat so no time to be embarrassed.
I felt like I then had to leg it faster than I wanted to down the road past the pub and for those who enjoy the summer midweek races this route turns left off the main road where the Harrock hill race starts. my main goal this time was to get under 1 hour as the year before I finished in 1 hour dead. The long first climb up has on previous years resulted in me walking part way up where it narrows and its easy to stop here when the person in front starts to stop and walk because in some sections you simply can’t get past. Then relief at the top and satisfaction knowing that I had just run up the middle of Parbold hill without stopping and now for the run down through the fields.
The run down has been easier the past two years as this was the wettest I’ve encountered this course and my la sportive bushido trail shoes which I love and would recommend to anyone are clearly not meant for that amount of mud and grass and something like an Inov8 mud claw or even Warren’s Salomon Speedcross would have been better. At a number of section throughout this race my feet were sliding sideways and in some parts the mud puddles were well over the ankles but these are all the reasons I love off road running.
Running down the grass hills, through the mud and divots (and let’s be honest the animal pooh) I think is one of the best feelings ever and I don’t mean running through pooh is fantastic its the feeling of letting go, of losing a bit of control. It may sound stupid to some but to others you might know exactly what I mean, hurtling downhill, a little sense of danger, that you could fall anytime, it’s a thrill or maybe its just me, maybe I am a bit crazy.
Anyway as I’m hurtling down the hill I am fully aware that I have yet again got to climb Parbold Hill, yeah that’s right this race is twice up Parbold Hill and this time its running up the main road past the front of the Miller and Carter and then left back onto the fields. As usual Chris and Andy Nightingale were up near the top cheering everyone one and this always puts an extra spring in my step at what is a tough part of this course. I have now come to expect them at this point cheering and clapping so a huge thank you to them both for this year and every past year they have been there in support.
Unfortunately that’s not the end of the climbing as it’s a climb up from the road across more fields and this section was probably the worst, it was energy sapping thick mud this year and the stiles are so slippery when coated with mud. Everyone queues nicely for the stiles and gates with the odd person jumping the gate. I am far too calamitous to even attempt to jump a gate that high besides you are asked to not jump the gates and keep in the order you arrive at the stile in and so it’s all very sporting and everyone is so friendly. The queues at the stiles provide respite, a chance to catch your breath back but also to chat and have a laugh with other runners. If you want to get to the stile first then you simply have to run faster than everyone else its simple.
At one of the last stiles I was in a queue and the guy behind me squeezed the butt of the guy in front of me, so when he turns around I am the first person he sees. Thankfully his mate said something they said hello to one another. I said “I’m relieved at least he didn’t think it was me” to which he replied “you can have a feel if you want” as he climbed over the stile. Now I know racing is about having fun but I don’t think Warren would want to give me carte blanche to go around grabbing everyone’s bottom and so on this occasion I gestured to squeeze his butt without making actual contact. All of this seemed to amuse the marshal manning that stile and its good to have them laughing on such a cold day as the marshall’s did a tremendous job on this race, they always do.
The race route then goes past the Highmoor Restaurant and left on a tarmac section and over the dreaded cattle grid. I am going to rant now as I feel strongly about this, there is nothing I hate more than cattle grids, they are not animal friendly which is of course there purpose but they are not people friendly, nor are they bicycle friendly or even car friendly and so my conclusion they are pure evil. have got over the cattle grid alive and in tact there is then a wooded section which is rough under foot with millions of tree roots (ok millions was a slight over exaggeration there may have been 999,992 at a guess, that’s what it feels like).
I know I’m on the downhill finish when the route hits the very narrow section where there is slippy mud and rocks under foot and on one side are trees and the other a wire fence and at this point no one can pass anyone but it leads out to a field which is then a free for all. the field is quite a steep downhill and its were you have two fence jumps. I felt last year’s set up was better. Last year there was a hay bale on the near side of the fence so you could stand on the bail and jump over the fence. this year the bale was on the other side which I though made it harder. I hope they rethink this for next year. anyway I was back with the freedom feeling as I picked up speed going down the hill passing other runners with my arms almost windmilling.
Then there is the last couple of fields to cross before a quick few metres on the road to then cross the finish line on the field were the race started. it was Moorfield PB’s all round, Warren with 52:24, me with 57:37 and Jenna with 1:18:16. Still can’t believe at the start l was going on and on and on to Jenna about being careful and not getting tripped up only for me to be the one to end up on the ground, well that will teach me. I love off road running and I’m always hoping to convince other’s to take it up or even just to give it a try, as it’s not for everyone. I love trying to beat my previous years times but that’s not really what this type of off road running is about as you can never judge the conditions or terrain.
Jenna it has to be said was undoubtably the star of the Moorfield household in this race. She is clear testament that anyone of any ability can do these types of races and all you have to do is decide to go for it. Yeah sure she is only a kid at 16 and so has bags of energy but the furthest she had ever raced before this race was the 5K Haigh Hall and Pennington Flash Park Runs. She was supposed to have a hockey match and when it got cancelled on Friday night, we asked her if she wanted to race with us and to be honest we didn’t expect her to say yes. Both me and Warren warned her about the hills and the mud and explained over and over how it would not be an easy course but she was resolute in that she wanted to run. She wasn’t pre-entered but we managed to get a number swap on the day (thanks Marc) and even though we drove down Parbold Hill to show her how big it was still she would not be deterred. She absolutely loved it and completely SMASHED IT!!!!!