Spartan blog

Tattenhall Tough Team Challenge 2013

I’d been looking for a short race, having decided, in true Spartan spirit,  that my niggling injury wasn’t getting any worse and didn’t seem to get better even when rested for a couple of months. Time for a short test – after all “it’s only 9K” somebody had said.

 “Is this a good idea” I thought to myself as I stood on the start line for the9 mile challenge!!!! on a very warm and humid evening. Beside me, together with maybe another 150 runners,  were my “Wonky Spartans” team mates – Mark and Shaun and two other 3 person Spartan teams of Ben, Nick and Jon and the girls Clare, Suzy and Debbie. We were out in numbers and making ourselves heard - “ For Sparta”.

The Tough Team challenge is organised by our near neighbours Tattenhall Runners and the race starts at the Tattenhall Recreation ground from which we could see the Peckforton Hills home to the dreaded Railway. The Wonky Spartans had decided that we were going to run together and so had been able to have a bit of banter with the marshals and to smile nicely for the camera as we came into the village of Burwardsley but two miles of r**d is not something we Spartans like so it was a relief to hit the trails soon after The Pheasant pub.

Strangely, the clientele of the Pheasant, who were enjoying a Friday evening drink in the garden, hadn’t responded to my request for a pint as I ran past with my arms held out wide – probably just as well.

Having hit the trail we were soon on part of the Sandstone and climbing, doubling back behind the pub. Speed dropped and Shaun was talking – we’d been getting some grief from Tattenhall ladies behind us – something about spears, leather skirts and lederhosen – maybe I was imagining the lederhosen bit but I do struggle going up hills!

On the level trail and going down hill I was in my element and loving it but knew The Railway was coming up.  The Railway was laid so as to get heavy machinery and building materials to the top of the Peckforton Hills for the construction of a water reservoir back in the early 1900's. Now, most railway lines are on level or slightly sloping land. Not this one. From the start it rises sharply until the summit ( some 5 minutes later ) where the angle is almost 45degrees. We had recc’d the beast of a climb the week before the race and I hadn’t found it as bad as I’d imagined it was going to be. This time it was different. Shaun was right behind me with Mark a little further back but I was immediately walking – head up, chin and bum out and hands on knees as per Andy Mouncey’s master class but it didn’t seem to work.

I didn’t stop and even passed someone but it hurt like hell and I was on hands and knees at times. It was a relief to be helped over the top ledge by the Grim Reaper before staggering around trying to get my breath back. The boys were soon up and over and took off through the woods but I was in trouble and couldn’t get my energy back. A handful of Haribos and a swig of water and I cheered up but coming down the hill my calves were cramping.

It was good to see Shaun at the drinks station and he even offered to rub my calves for me – thanks but no thanks. Mark had continued in his steady way with the words to Shaun that “you’ll catch me up” so Shaun had kindly dropped back and helped me through the next mile and a half of trail whilst I gingerly stretched out the legs and negotiated stiles. We hit the r**d again for the return to Tattenhall with about 2 and half miles to go and I suddenly found my stride, locked on and started to claw back to Mark.

Having picked up Mark, the Wonky Spartans were back in action and set our sites on a team of ladies in pink who were perhaps a quarter mile ahead of us. They were moving quickly and smoothly and although we closed the gap we didn’t catch them. With 500m to go Mark increased the tempo even more with the words “ I’ve got to beat my 1:20 time of last year”. Foot down, round the corner, to shouts of encouragement from Nick, Ben and Jon, and over the finish line together in 1:18. The girls closely followed about 2 minutes behind.

Line crossed, pain forgotten, great banter. Top Challenge.   Wonky Spartans 24th out of 48 teams


Tim Holloway's picture