Gore-Tex is a fantastic, almost miraculous fabric that breathes. Breathes? you ask, How can that be? Does it have lungs and alveolae and all the bits and pieces we learned about in biology? Yes, indeed, all that and more, oh those clever inventors at WL Gore and Associates. No-one need ever get wet again, you can stay warm and snug, even when you’re running on the wettest, windiest, most miserable of days.
But what good are waterproof running shoes when you land knee-deep in a muddy puddle and the water gushes in over the top, with splashy squelches going up the legs, some of them overshooting and landing on the chin, the cheeks, the forehead? No good at all I can tell you. There’s wet and there’s absolute, total and complete saturation. That was me and I was less than one mile into the seven-mile race. Still, you can’t get wetter than wet.
It felt like the custom-made insoles I wear to keep my unruly feet in order were floating on a river of mud, and that I needed to apologise to my running companion for the farty noises which were definitely coming from my feet and not anywhere else, just so we’re clear.
This was a long-overdue and welcome return to muddy running. I’ve longed for it, dreamed of it and now, I’ve done it, I feel fantastic. What with injury and the like over the past 18 months, both physical and mental, racing has been off the cards and running a challenge, especially in these days of covid. Not that I’m ever going to win any races, I don’t enter them for that reason, it really is the taking part. There’s also my cunning plan to finish near the back so all my team mates who have already finished and can cheer me in.
So when Lou messaged to say she’d signed up for the Bramhope Bustle, a self-guided race through the paths, fields and woods of that lovely north Leeds village and saw that I was interested too, she suggested we join up our limited navigational skills in the hope of not getting completely lost. I couldn’t hear what she was saying for Noel’s hysterical laughter in the background so she had to repeat it. Noel is of the opinion that I can’t navigate, ha, I’ll show him.
A few weeks previously, in a fit of enthusiasm and over-optimism I’d pressed the Bramhope Bustle Facebook event button which said I was going, so it was there for all to see. Damn you, Facebook. With Noel on the subs’ bench, resting up his strained Achilles, I had forgotten all about it, until Lou’s call. It was only seven miles, but the furthest I’d run in more than a year, so I told here there would be a good deal of walking, possibly even gibbering and almost certainly swearing. She was fine with that. She’s a good friend.
The morning we’d agreed to run, the heavens opened. As I laced up my Gore-Tex shoes, the rain on the conservatory roof sounded like frying bacon. Ah well, I thought, at least my feet will be dry. As my grandma would say, ‘you know what thought did’, I never did know, but she was older and wiser than me, so I would look contrite.
We set off, clutching the directions, which I’d printed off in 20pt so we didn’t have to faff around with glasses. It’s a bit like doing a cryptic crossword, once you’ve got your head around the thinking of the puzzle-setter, it’s easy. So FP is footpath, KG is kissing gate and LHFE is left hand field edge, No map, no compass, no photos, just a description which made total sense in the main. We only went wrong once, which in my book is a great result, so THERE, put THAT in your pipe and smoke it, Mr Akers, not that he has ever smoked.
By the time we reached the finish, we were officially mud women. The stuff was everywhere, even though it was still raining and should be all rights have washed off, though when I come to think of it, there was probably mud in the rain. A quick change of top and flash of my muddy sports bra to the rest of the car park and we were on our way for our reward. A sausage sandwich and hot coffee from the cafe at Golden Acre Park, consumed huddled (socially distanced) in a doorway while the rain continued to come down like stair rod and steam rose from our sodden shorts. Oh happy, happy day. It’s good to be back in the mud.