Run Report By Helen Rowe
Saturday 21st July 2018 was the date of the Stratford Summer Six, and Brenda, Cal, Sally and I were all signed up for it. I wasn’t going to run it again after last year, when I was chased down by the sweeper car (some of you may recall the photos of me, wearing a festival poncho, with the headlights behind me shining through – it looked quite ethereal). However, when Sally announced that she wanted to run it, I decided I would do it again this year.
Brenda’s husband Dave picked us up (Brenda, Cal, Sally and me), and we set off for Mary Arden’s House in Wilmcote. The first “incident” was that the SatNav sent Dave the wrong way, but fortunately I was on the ball, and I told him he needed to head back to the island, and take the A3400. We were soon back on track, and we parked up in the field opposite Mary Arden’s Farm.
We collected our numbers, and we were soon met by the Massey family who had arrived earlier. We gathered at the finish line for a group photo, and then used the facilities, and some did some warm up exercises. Then it was time to make our way to the start line.
We started at 7.30pm. How different it was too last year, when we had rain at the start of the race. It was very warm, and sunny. We ran through the village, where there was plenty of support, and then down that hill (mile 1 on the way out, mile 5 on the way back). It is quite a nice hill to run down, but you know you have to run back up it on the way back!
The course was described by the Race Director as a ‘spoon’ shape, with the long handle taking you out of the village and down the hill. Then you turn right, and follow the lanes round in a loop (anti-clockwise), and then back up the handle. They were harvesting in the fields, and the machines were quite noisy. I had been concerned about insects, and in particular horseflies, as I had been bitten recently, and my leg had swollen up as a result. So I had sprayed myself liberally with Repel bug spray.
There was soon a long tail of us slower runners at the back, led by Dave Phillips, then Emma Cutting (who was struggling with her breathing and a knee injury), Sally-Anne Tully from Sphinx, me and then Sally bringing up the rear. Emma, Sally-Anne and I were playing cat and mouse for quite a while. I remembered that Sally-Anne had been just ahead of me last year, and the guy in the sweeper vehicle had kept encouraging me to try to catch her up – but I just couldn’t. I didn’t know Sally-Anne then, but we have run several races together, and we are friends now.
When we got to the 4 mile marker, Sally-Anne said “Oh, I think I am just going to walk from here. It is too hot”. I said “No you are not. We will finish this together, and we will run and walk”. When we got to “the hill”, we worked out a strategy. First we would run to the 5 mile marker. Then we would run to the 40 mph painted in the road. Then we walked for a little bit. Then we jogged a little. Then we walked to the marshall at the top of the hill. Then we ran to the next marshall. Then we walked a little. Then we ran to the next marshall. Then we walked a little. Then we ran to the Mason’s Arms – where all the Sphinx runners who had finished had congregated. They were cheering us on. Then we ran to The Mary Arden, and the junction with Station Road. Then we walked a little – but we were nearly at the finish, so we had one last push, encouraged by Massey runners, and we ran across the finish line holding hands. We had completed the race in 1:19:00. That was 3:05 better than my time last year.
We went to collect t-shirts (again they had run out of medium, so I had a large). We then cheered Sally in, and then I went to buy cake for us. However, we couldn’t find Brenda. Even Dave couldn’t find Brenda. I had a slice of Battenburg, but then decided I needed water. They were just packing the water away, but I managed to get a cup before they did. However, the act of trying to turn the tap on, with cake in had, meant that my cake was disintegrating in my hand. So the only thing I could do was to “shove it all in”. We then started to make our way to the pub, and we found Brenda on the way, who said she had not had any cake yet. I offered to run back and get some for her, while they carried on to the pub. I bought 4 cakes (just in case anyone else wanted more), and they gave them to me on a metal tray. I carried them carefully up to the pub. On my way into the pub (with cakes), a guy outside stopped me, and said “Did you run the Arden 9 last year?” I said “Yes I did. Were you the chap on the bike who escorted me all the way round?” He said “No. I ran it. But I remembered you”. Then another chap with him said “You did it this year as well didn’t you?” I said “Yes, and I took 15 minutes off my time”. We then talked about the heat last year, and the fact that this year it was slightly cooler. Then I moved on inside, with the cakes.
Brenda, Dave and Cal were all in the queue for drinks. I gave Brenda and Dave a cake each, and offered one to Cal. She said she didn’t want one. I told her to take one for Sally, and then I said I was just going to run up to the Masons Arms, to take the extra cake up to Sally-Anne Tully. As I left the pub, with cake in hand, I walked past Nicky, who said “Have you been eating cake?” I said “Yes, why?” She said “I thought so, you have crumbs all round your face”. I thought “OMG – what must those guys have thought?”
Anyway I ran up to the Masons Arms, gave Sally-Anne her cake, we hugged, and then I rang back to The Mary Arden. By then Brenda et al were all outside, with the drinks. I chastised them for not telling me about the cake crumbs, and they said they didn’t notice anything different. In other words, I have always got cake all over my face!
We had another group photo, with our new t-shirts on, and Cal, Nicky and I did some stretches using the wall. Then Cal decided to use the tray that I had carried the cakes on, and she did a rendition of “Mule Train” with tea-tray. Everyone was laughing.
Then it was time to go home. We piled back into the car. Brenda was driving back, as Dave had had a drink (or two) at the pub. Sally, Cal and I sat in the back. Once we were on the A46 I announced that I felt a singalong coming on, and Cal and I sang Ging Gang Goolie (a Boy Scout song, but sung by Girl Guides too around the campfire), then we did a rendition of We are the Red Men, another Guide Song. Then Sally piped in with It’s a long Way to Tipperary, followed by Pack up your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag. Brenda joined in with a song that her dad used to sing to her – I think it was Whisky in the Jar. And all this on a diet coke!
We were soon back at Sally’s house, where we dropped Sally off, and I collected my car, before heading home. It had been another super night. The race had been good. Another PB for me (and also for Cal and Sally), and Brenda had been very pleased with her first time. Added to that it had been a great social night.