Race report: The Perch 10km run

This weekend saw the first event in the EGTC Winter GP. As a quick reminder the Winter GP is a series of events in the different triathlon disciplines which provides members the chance to compete against each other but also helps provide a benchmark to judge any improvements made from one year to the next.

"The Perch" is a 10km cross country run around Nonsuch Park in Epsom and is put on by the Oddballs Running Club, in case you were after a few more details. Last year I pulled out at the last minute as, guess what, I was a bit ill. One of the reasons why I allowed my sickness to override my motivation 12 months ago was because I couldn't find my race number the night before the run.

Earlier last week it occurred to me that I hadn't received my race number for this year's events. I checked the emails I'd received from the organisers and realised that I had to pick it up prior to the race. It dawned on me that perhaps this was why I couldn't find it last year - because it hadn't actually been in my possession.

"The Perch" is an event that is more renowned for being "a bit of a laugh" rather than one where you're likely to pull off a personal best.

The tales I heard from last years event made it sound as though it was more of a wading contest rather than a running race due to the incredibly boggy conditions. I don't know how it's been in your neck of the woods but in the South East we've had a lot of rain in the last few weeks. The general consensus amongst the club members was that it was likely to be worse than the previous year.

One of my fellow club members, who raced last year, decided to give it a miss. When I asked why he replied: "I had a torrid time last year and not in a hurry to repeat."

As you can imagine I was very excited about this assessment. Especially as his "torrid time" was still a good few minutes quicker than my fastest 10k time, performed on a firm flat surface.

Anyway, I successfully made it out of the house (with the Trihard Family joining me to support) over to Epsom and successfully acquired my race number. I was already doing considerably better than last year's effort.

Then it started to rain. Despite there being a comfortable cafe at the start/finishing point, and the fact that as it was a two lap race they'd get to see me pass by mid race, Family Trihard suddenly seemed to have lost their enthusiasm for spectating. Being the supportive family man that I am, I suggested that we all got back in the car. But it appeared that as I'd dragged them out early on a Sunday morning they wanted to see me punished and demanded that I join my fellow club members and run in the horrific conditions.

200m of path, 9.8km of mud
We set off. I watched the majority of my fellow club members race ahead of me. I tried to keep up with some of them but had to ease off after about 10 minutes. However I then managed to get into a pace that was sustainable but a fairly hard effort (for me.) To be honest, while it was muddy it wasn't quite as bad as I thought. Most of the running I do is around the fields in our local area so I am used to running in mud. Two thirds around the first lap and I was feeling pretty good, perhaps I'd be able to comfortably finish within the hour.

But then suddenly we turned a corner and the mud got even worse. I managed to keep stay relatively sure footed but people in front of me were slipping and sliding all over the place.

And then we had to run up hill and it got even harder. Then we turned another corner onto an open field and into what felt like a howling gale. I then thought of something else my fellow club member who had decided not to run this year had said: "I went out too quick and burnt out early on."

My thighs were starting to ache and I hadn't even got round the first lap. Had I made the same mistake? Fortunately the next corner led us back on to the path and I realised that the first lap was almost over and I'd done it in just over 30 minutes. Perhaps that sub hour time was still within reach.

One lap down and I'm marginally ahead of a man many years my senior
However 10 minutes later and the conditions that hadn't felt so bad on the first lap were considerably worse. Obviously the ground had been churned up even more by that time. My left hamstring started to ache and I considered throwing in the towel. But then I spotted one of my fellow club members not to far ahead. Someone that I consider to be quite a superior runner to me. If I could finish within a minute of her I thought that would be quite an accomplishment. I pushed on.

Another 15 minutes later and not only was she still in sight but I was gaining. We then made it on to the path. Perhaps I could catch her?! 100m later and we were shoulder to shoulder. We had a chat, I tried to be quite casual but I couldn't believe we were going to finish at the same time.

No prizes for guessing my finishing time
I joined my fellow club members for a group photo then off to Mrs Trihard to wax lyrical about my amazing performance. She told me how nice my fellow club members were and that they'd been chatting with her for the 20 minutes or so between them and me finishing. In fact she'd been chatting to the husband of my fellow club member who I'd been determined to beat. Apparently she'd done a 15 mile run the day before.

Well you can't win them all.

Please follow me on Twitter. No really, I'm desperate for digital love.


The greatest hits...