I wrote recently about my decision to just say yes and the things that have happened in my life following this. One of the more hilarious and ridiculous results of this decision happened a few weeks ago when I found myself in the middle of the Brecon Beacons in Wales running through mountains, boggy fields and streams (I would actually say rivers) racing against horses; yes – horses.
A colleague had asked a few months before if I wanted to go away for a weekend and be part of a relay team, running no more than 8 miles overall. My answer: YES.
Only later when I realised I had, in fact, agreed to take part in a race called ‘Man v Horse’ did I kick myself for jumping in so quickly. Not wanting to lose face or pull out letting the rest of the relay team down, I found myself one Friday after work making my way down the M4 to Wales in the middle of a torrential downpour positively beside myself with nerves.
I would just like to clarify at this point – I am not a natural born athlete nor do I consider myself a runner. My aunt is a superstar runner and my older sister and old housemate seem to have natural talents for running. By dint of living together or very close to one another, I found myself wound up in a regular running group which escalated to entering and competing in 10ks and two half marathons. Every run began with a groan of remind me how I ended up here again?
We arrived relatively late and unpacked into cosy cottages then attempted to get a good night sleep. The next morning, we made our way down to the start line and, looking around at the runners, many of whom were set to run the whole 21 miles through the mountainous terrain, I have never felt like such an amateur having never run anywhere but on paved streets, let alone up hills before!
The briefing didn’t do much to ease my nerves; make sure you run on the right so horses can overtake on the left – eeeeek. I was relieved to be starting with a group of colleagues and managed to stick with one the whole way throughout our leg, which made one of the most ridiculous experiences I have ever found myself in actually thoroughly enjoyable.
We started off down a nice flat and winding concrete road out of the town; well this I can manage. This nice part of the track came to a sudden and abrupt end when a marshal directed us right, up a very steep – practically vertical – hill of rocky and uneven paths. This is going to be a long morning. The hill felt like it was never ending, taking about half an hour to negotiate. Then just as we reached the top and were catching our breath, shouts from behind us came: ‘HORSES!!’.Give me a break; here we bloody go! Actual horses came cantering past us like this:
After the absolute eternity of sweaty and panty uphill feet dragging and complaining, the downhill eventually came. It felt good. Momentum propelled us past horses who appeared to struggle with downhill. And it felt so exhilarating. They caught up with us on the uphill bits that came around again more times than I would have liked.
We also encountered rivers, which were, of course, attacked gracefully with gazelle-like leaps and bounds:
Like true cross-country pros we charged through bogs that came up to our knees at points and totally got over the mud swamps that were building up in our trainers.
When we eventually made it to the baton (/sweaty wristband) passing points, our teammates were waiting impatiently for our delayed arrival and were surprisingly unimpressed with the stream of selfies we had taken time to take over the course. The coach to take us back to the start was (obviously) stuck in a deep mud bog, so it took a few minutes for the more athletic of the runners waiting to go back to push it out and we were taken back in one piece to enjoy the free sandwiches and much appreciated tea and biscuits – a true British event. We even got a medal and free peanut butter!
Whilst the run up to the weekend had me filled with dread, I ended up having a whale of a time and am most definitely returning next year. I would thoroughly recommended anyone who is asked to take part next year or in anything similar to just say yes.