Challenge 2 of 12 saw me lining up on a cold, wet and windy playing field in the small village of Harby, Leicestershire, to tackle one of my favourite races – The Belvoir Challenge. Following on from my last post about just having a go, this race has historically offered me plenty of opportunity for putting that into practice… This is the first year in three that I’ve felt good going into it. In 2016 I ran it on a sprained ankle, and the year before, with a heavy cold. But I put myself on the start line on both occasions and had a go. And I got round in the end. So this year, injury-free and healthy, I was hopeful of a faster time…
What is the Belvoir Challenge?
The Belvoir Challenge is a mixed terrain walking or running race, of either 15 or 26.2 miles. It’s predominantly cross country and trails, with the odd bit of scenic country road thrown in (useful for bashing the mud off the running shoes…). Stormy weather the previous couple of days had left the ground sodden. The mud was deep, sticky, and licking its slippery lips in anticipation of meeting and greeting all of those lovely running shoes…
Belvoir is pronounced ‘Beaver’. Not, as I thought for many years, to confuse a possible enemy invasion during World War II. But, according to Wikipedia, ‘The name means beautiful view. The name Belvoir is, in fact, a Norman import by the French-speaking invaders, but the native Anglo-Saxon population was unable to pronounce such a foreign word, preferring to call it “Beaver” – a usage which persists today.’ Well, beavers are no doubt much better designed to navigate the mud than us runners / walkers are. I usually enjoy running in mud as I find it brings out a childlike joy in me. But miles and miles of it are extremely tiring and I did honestly find parts of this route un-runnable at times!
Mud, in all of its guises
In his beautifully observed book, Running Free, Richard Askwith (of Feet in the Clouds fame) writes of the many different words within the English language that describe ‘mud’. Several of them fit perfectly the conditions on the fields of northern Leicestershire for this years’ Belvoir Challenge… We had clart (sticky dirt), galls (wet and moist land), gubber (black mud of rotting organic matter); plash (giant puddle – plenty of those!), slab (wet or slimy matter; ooze or sludge – miles of this stuff!), slather (thin mud – there might have been a bit of this), slub (soft, thick, sludgy mud), smeery (wet, sticky surface mud), stabble (mud made by footprints – as a mid-pack runner, all of the ‘muds’ had an element of stabble by the time I got to them!), stodge (thick, tenacious mud – oh yes, very thick and very tenacious it was!), and finally, sullage (filth drained off from a farmyard – a good dollop of this too!).
The Belvoir Challenge is a lovely race
Despite the mud, and the wind, oh, and the rain, The Belvoir Challenge 2017 will certainly bring a smile to my face whenever I think about it. There is a lovely camaraderie when conditions are difficult (a trait not confined to running, I’m sure). And there’s a lovely ambience to the race itself.
All proceeds from The Belvoir Challenge go to the local school in the village of Harby, and as such there’s a great community feel about the race. It always feels that the entire village comes out to help and support on the day. From the guys and gals on the registration desks and the lovely tea ladies battling the elements to keep us all warm pre-race with hot beverages, to the energetic marshals and volunteers at the checkpoints, as well as the residents of all the villages (and pubs!), everyone was smiling, enthusiastic and encouraging. I often think it’s a harder thing to stand there for hours on end doing that. Especially in those conditions! My heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you. You guys really do make the race what it is. Along with the miles and miles of slab, or course…
I didn’t get my fastest time. One of my slowest in fact. I crossed the line in 81st place in 4 hours and 53 minutes, about 30 minutes slower than normal. I blame the stabble…
Would you do it again!?
As I battled through some slub (it might have been slab) towards the end of the race, a couple of ‘runners’ slid past me. One turned to me, and, shouting to be heard over the wind, said “Would you do it again!?” “Definitely!” I shouted back. “It’s my favourite race!” We both burst out laughing. Until next year, lovely tea ladies.
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