Battling the Beast: The Wadsworth Trog 2022
Can you name a fruit for each letter of the alphabet? As my mind began to doubt, and my body temperature began to fall this was the task I gave myself. Anything to remain present and just ‘do’. I was mid a technical descent being buffeted this way and that, trying to stay on the heels of my friend Susie. We’d pledged to run together pooling her experience, a 4* veteran of the race, with my naïve optimism…
Just as I conceded that in my present state any word starting with the letter corresponding would do … ‘toffee, umbrella’. A deft runner darted by awakening me from my ruminations. This shifted my mind outward and I dared to look up. The rain made me squint as my senses were saturated with the feel of the wild weather around me.
My second pair of gloves were now sodden, dangling off my digits like wet rags. I bunched my hands into fists to keep some semblance of warmth.
We climbed to checkpoint 7 at Withins Ruins to be cheered by more of the stalwart and marvellous marshals, who’s friendly encouraging faces were such welcome sights. “Not long until cake” cheered the Marshall as the wind snatched her voice. I retorted “And the mug, I’m excited about the mug!” Susie heard the word “cake”. In previous races precious brownies and flapjack were bestowed on runners at the ruins, as they had been at other checkpoints during our race. Susie must have been hankering for that energy boost. “Where, where is the cake?” She uttered, her disappointment palpable as she realised the confusion.
Onward we went me chugging like an ancient diesel van, I couldn’t walk as I was too cold so I chugged the uphills but didn’t seem to have any benefit of the gradient on the descents. People I passed on the up seemed to gaily skip past, with each one a simmering feeling of disappointment threatened my resolve.
“I’m so cold” said the normally spritely Susie. I fished out some jellybeans in the hope the sugar rush would fortify us. My concern for our safety brewing morbidly and quietly. I set my mind to swerve such thoughts as I remembered the extra layers in my bag and the hump of the half way mark behind us. My legs were wrecking with my knees and hips being informed by the ‘Governor’ as to what ‘he’ was recommending.
More runners seemed to catch us with stoic set faces and enviable gloves, when we stopped to get more layers on Susie. Hoping my down jacket under the waterproof would make the difference and allow Susie to complete the race. I took a couple of ibuprofen, and put on my final 3rd pair of mittens, pulling them on with my teeth, we pressed on together. We reached checkpoint 10 just before the exposed moorland and final 1/4 of the race. At that point Susie was too far gone to continue, she was rapidly entering a hypothermic state. She made the difficult, wise decision showing true strength of character. To continue could have been perilous.
Back in January Susie, Gavin O Connor, and myself had reccied the race. Under blue skies, in dry weather and under a winter sun we’d run up to checkpoint 10. Susie was confident our nav and her experience would get us around the final 4.5 miles to the end. I was now to go it alone on that stretch…
Gratefully I could see a figure ahead as I ran up to checkpoint 11 and I remembered the map and the odd building which I knew the route skirted, I trogged along. The ibuprofen having kicked in. I had a sort of second wind. Low cloud with high winds brought the rain which obscured the view of the exposed moorland; and with this came a dark menacing thought: I was now without my security blanket of the down jacket, if anything untoward might happen….
Another selfless marvellous marshal was by the trig at checkpoint 12. He encouraged me and checked I was alright. I smiled a grateful half grimace as I blundered on for the final stretch. The mitts now swinging like two bags of sugar off my fingers. So weighted down with the relentless rain. Snow proof but not 2022 Trog proof!
Putting one foot in front of the other just after the penultimate dib. A man (Jake Ackroyd, I later deduced) strode confidently toward me: “We’ve had reports of a hypothermic runner. Have you seen anyone on the route?” I hadn’t. My reply was that of someone capable and buoyant, buoyed in the hope of completion. “Well you could see that chap in, his face is cut up” said Jake, another typically proactive member of race support. He gestured toward a runner staggering slightly ahead. With energy, from whence I know not, I caught up with the man. Stunned to see the bloodied and swollen injury on the face of an experienced well known fell runner, who bravely, without any fuss, propelled himself onward. Despite him being dazed, nauseous, and part frozen. I wittered about my recollections of him and the proximity of sweet tea and cakes, as we ambled in together to the finish. Then I ran slightly ahead to pledge his plight to the race crew at the final dib point.
At the finish he was whisked up by the incredible indomitable CVFR volunteers to receive first aid. Whilst I, clutching the precious mug, reunited with Susie. She was recovering slowly and had brought my coat and change of clothes to the cricket club. Within a few minutes I was gulping down warm soup and fresh bread, slightly shell shocked, relieved, and part renewed.
With huge respect and limitless appreciation for the wonderfully positive race marshals and astutely organised race director from Calder Valley Fell Runners.
Also, with awe and respect to the incredible athletes who sped the course so swiftly ahead of me. KUDOS and curtsies!