When it comes to races with hills involved and cross country running it's usually been as a result of someone else. In 2016 Kris (Hopkins) has been generally to blame. However, we turned up for the Gruesome Twosome Half Marathon in Lincolnshire as a result of my suggestion! I hadn't really anticipated what we had entered!
Kris likes hills. I like roads. Kris tends to be quite happy off road. I like mild undulation. The Gruesome Twosome suited Kris and not me. The Half Marathon, organised by Tape to Tape, is unusual in that you run it as a pair. If you separate, the time will be when the second runner finishes. Now in its 5th year, I had avoided it to date but having trained with Kris much of the year seemed to have someone to run it with. Kris was still recovering from the Hull Marathon 3 weeks earlier alongside a minor injury (major in Kris' opinion but he tends to over egg things) whilst I was two weeks shy of Snowdonia Marathon so the hills would be good training, if the odd road bit wasn't.
The event starts in the village of Swallow, near Market Rasen. In fact it starts in a field! The first mile is pretty much a giant lap of that and neighbouring fields - leading to wet feet soon enough due to the early rain fall. It was dry weather during the race. We then headed into some woods, with branches to jump over a nettles to contend with. For the second run in two weeks I was well stung on my shins. Due to the narrow path you ended up in single file for much of the wooded section, until the path widened a bit on a track of sorts. The track was thick grass, which was slightly rutted too and a little slippy due to the wetness under foot. Kris was a few people ahead of me at this stage and as I was trying to get past people I ended up misfooting and, despite attempting to correct myself, went over! My first fall during a race. I quickly picked myself up and carried on - but quickly realised I seemed to have slightly twisted my left leg on landing as it felt a little uncomfortable. I wasn't quitting just yet though!
We headed up a hill past 2 miles and out of the woods entirely to a rise. I finally reached Kris - who said he'd gone out too fast and was shattered! This wasn't looking like the best start by us! And by usual race standards we hadn't started that fast! We had a flat on a gravel track and headed downhill into another village and some proper road for a bit. I had, for some reason, thought it was mostly on roads but Kris has informed me on the way over it was 70% off road. annoyingly he was fairly accurate too!
4 miles in and we were in fields again on footpaths. Kris is complaining - I'm ignoring him given my left leg isn't feeling 100%. We cross a wooden bridge - a trip and slip hazard - and head up a climb over the middle of two fields which were post harvest - not the easiest underfoot. Down into another valley and past a farm and back onto tarmac for a bit and up another climb. There is a theme developing! At this stage we start to more noticeably lose some ground shortly after the half way mark. Whilst the course levelled off for a bit our pace slowed. Not massively but couples were passing us. Back onto footpaths and tracks and another climb before following a track for a while on top of the Wolds. As we did so we discussed how it lived up to its name - Gruesome! Kris was now suffering and as we passed mile 9 and turned up another climb finally caved in to a walk. Kris suggested I head on and see me at the end - but I pointed out it was a race togther and that was not in the spirit of the event. We followed round a field and up the hill to the drinks station at mile 10. We were back on tarmac for a bit - interspersed with another couple of fields and a nasty short sharp climb. More undulations but we managed to run the bulk of the next 2 miles until a climb on a track into mile 12. As long as we ran the rest of the way we'd be under 2 hours.