Woke long before dawn to drive to Wiltshire for the Longleat 10K. Longleat is an Elizabethan stately home (it is huge), built in 1567, and currently the seat of the Marquesses of Bath. It is an extraordinary house with amazing and extensive grounds (open to the public 10 months of the year) that include the first drive through safari park outside of Africa, created in 1966, and more recently, a Center Parc holiday village. And on the second Saturday in February, host to a 10K race.
The race was cold and wet and muddy and hilly. Very, very hilly. And this surprised me, which proves I am not only a moron when it comes to geography, I am lacking in basic logic. Longleat is in proper Thomas Hardy Wessex country....which is very, very hilly. Those Hardy heroines are forever stumbling over hills. How did I not remember that?
It is a 2-1/4 hour drive from SW London, that last 1-1/2 hours of which is just going up and down and up and down and up and down hills. It is a landscape so pretty I consider stopping the car a few times and snapping some photos. Yet, none of this registered. When arriving at the gorgeous Longleat property, you drive down, down, down to the amazing house, all nestled in the land surrounded by hills. “What a view the owners must have, especially on cold, misty mornings like this one,” I thought. Nope, brain still not clicked. I park the car and begin the very cold walk to the start line in the icy rain and wind, distracting myself from the weather by admiring the vistas (ie, the hills, again with the hills) and eavesdropping on the conversations around me. Then I hear this “remember the last hill is the hardest one....” Hill? Last hill? Suggestion of multiple hills? What is this?? I turn round and bleat “is this race hilly,” to the women behind me. They just stare. On reflection I do hope they thought I was being funny, rather than the truth of being a stupid American. How could I have missed that? What is wrong with me? And guess what, the race was hilly. Really, really, really hilly. The entire middle section and the last km were just long long long inclines. But stunningly beautiful.
Ok, I think this proves I could do with a little more sleep at the moment. Would anyone out there who speaks Irish make me a little sign, a la Spike Milligan, that reads “I told you I was tired.” It might make me feel slightly less silly.
Once I got over the shock of the geography I had a good race and as per usual, enjoyed listening in on all the chat of the runners around me. For some reason, many young couples had decided that running this hilly race together on a cold, wet February morning was going to be a good idea. It was not. I predict several of those couples will no longer be spending a romantic Valentine’s Day together come Friday. Two women who ran near me had boyfriends who did that INCREDIBLY ANNOYING thing of sprinting off for a bit and then circling back to catch them up, before sprinting off again. I would have dumped them both on the finish line.
I didn’t wait in the long queue to learn my official time, but I finished with mostly men, which is my very sexist way of judging I ran an ok time. Sorry if I have offended, but it is true that most men, especially the young ones, but certainly not all, tend to run a tiny bit faster than women. Unless you are Alice and Moppy who speed by everyone, regardless of gender.