Trails and Trials

We were in the Sherwood Forest area – in a Cabin in the Woods, no less, cure suspenseful music – and I was struck by several things. One was a Priceless Wildlife Moment (PWM) – a male skylark sitting on a hedge singing his testosterone pumped little heart out in an achingly beautiful way. I’ve never seen one except as a speck high in the sky – trying to distract me in the mistaken belief I was an egg predator – so to have one at arm’s length was a real treat.

Secondly, I have never seen so many places advertising archery. Obvious I know, but it seems that if you are a tourist to Robin Hood country you have get your longbow out and have a go.

The main reason for being there was to spend part of Saturday night running through Sherwood Forest in tights. I even enjoyed parts of it. Thankfully these were running tights although it is true I was wearing a fancy dress knight’s surcoat and surrounded by a plethora of men and women in Lincoln green. I have previously done one of these obstacle strewn night runs at Hambleton near Henley and found it tiring but entertaining in an adventurous sort of way. Probably takes me back at heart to live role-playing back at University on Shotover Common near Oxford, dressing up, running through woods being ridiculous and getting back lacerated by trees and tumbles. Yes, much the same. However, thankfully this event was all over by eight rather than starting at two AM and finishing just as things were starting to get light.

But it did cause me to learn a few things about my fellow man (and woman).

  1. In adversity, up to a point at least, we suddenly start to work together and look after each other. I’ve done a lot of races but in the dark and the mud you start helping complete strangers over obstacles, checking they are OK (in a way most people would never do on a city street) and trusting those strangers to lead you through the dark. Although, of course, afterwards no one will admit to anything.
  2. Having said all that in praise of my fellow (wo)man there are always ones that don’t play the game. In the case of Saturday, one idiot that insisted on pushing past everyone while we going through a thicket which clearly had to be done single file. Funnily enough this bloke had “Peanut” on the back of his shirt, which I assume was a reference to the size of his brain.
  3. If you are going to do a run that all the advertising material tells you – nay, promotes – that you will get muddy and wet, an onsie is probably not the right costume for you. Lounging and student fundraising activities only.
  4. Swimming up to your neck in mud -because they force you down into it under a camouflage net – is only fun when you can get straight out of your clothes and into a hot bath. Continuing to have to run just makes it unpleasant and harder to get over or under obstacles as your hands are covered in gunk and your costume has doubled in weight (see onsie comment above).
  5. While my marathon training is helping with fitness and strength, I learned I was about as flexible as the logs I was throwing myself over, resulting in several embarrassing and painful thumps as I hit the ground heavily (again, in a very log inspired fashion).
  6. Right at the end the organisers had kept the worst until last – a slippery climbing wall with knotted ropes. Having completely failed at the first attempt I had to calm down and reassess strategy. I made it over the second time having changed ropes and realised thanks to the shouted encouragement of the wife and others that the way of climbing these things in counter-intuitive, as you have to lean back away from the top of the wall and haul yourself up kind of reverse abseil. How many times in life do you both (1) have to reassess in the light of failure and try a different approach and (2) the correct approach is not what you think it should be but looks perfectly clear in retrospect? That’s a lot of my life echoed in five grimy and frustrating minutes.