Just one look at the tee-shirt told me all I needed to know. Two stylised mountain peaks, one slightly higher than the other and a mountain goat balancing precariously, but sure-footedly on the steep slope.
Starting at an ear-popping 1200m altitude, higher than anywhere in England, though being beaten by Ben Nevis in the I’m-taller-than-you stakes, the Coto Bello Trail, Asturias, Northern Spain, beggan with a gentle downhill. Oh no, I protested to myself as I looked at the summit we were heading for as it seemed to get smaller and smaller in the distance, what goes down must go up and up and up again before the final down to the finish.
There were just 300 runners with three Brits. Noel, Liz and me, so I knew I’d be one of the top three British finishers. I also knew I’d be the first female in my age category and that without question, looking at the fit Spaniards around me, I would be dead last. And so it turned out to be.
Liz had been with me on my first ever race, the Dewsbury 10km back in 2008. Shortly afterwards she and John moved over to Oviedo where she quickly joined the running scene there. Liz is a very good runner, so when she invited us to join her over there in a little 13km trail run with a couple of hills, we knew it would be no Dewsbury – in so many ways.
The race was to be followed by a meat-fest of meat-sweat inducing proportions, but I had to earn it first.
After a couple of kilometres punctuated with jolly exclamations from the loquacious Asturians, we hit the hills. They weren’t just steep, they were muddy, moss-coated, slippy-slidey, root-riddled, hands-and-knee-scrambling steep. The mud, dirt and other suspicious-looking brown stuff clung to me and I clung to it. By gum, it was challenging.
But then as we broke out of the vegetation there were the views, the spectacular vista and lung-bursting beauty of it all and I forgot my struggle. There were mountains everywhere, alpine strawberries, plants I could name, some I couldn’t and the fresh scent of wild thyme. ‘I’m having a wild time’, I chuckled to no-one but myself.
As I picked my way down the final slope, they were all there cheering, the Brits, and our new Asturian friends who speak the international language of running, though not necessarily the choice Yorkshire curses I employed on the more challenging parts of the run. John pointed his camera, I smiled, I was happy.
The Asturians don’t just collect their goodie bag and beggar off. There’s always food, quite a lot of it, and wine, two bottles each. We didn’t finish any of it, over-faced and full tales to tell of our adventures, translated into Spanish for our new friends by John and Liz, though I did teach them the Yorkshire word ‘chuntering’, I think they may use it.
That was definitely the hardest 13km I’ve ever done, but it was spectacular and massively enjoyable. I’ll treasure that tee-shirt, maybe even return for matching one!