I hear the sound, of distant gunfire.
The Para’s 10 was a bit of a mystery. An unknown quantity. What would it be like? We couldn’t ask anyone who’d run it before, because no-one had run it before. At least not for at least 20 years when it was last held at Aldershot in 1993.
Peter, Lindsey, Shaun and me wandered around at the start surrounded by paras in full military clothing. After some prodding from Shaun I nervously approached one who didn’t look too threatening and asked him if I could try lifting his Bergen. He happily obliged and I found it wasn’t too bad to carry. For about 30 seconds. However the thought of running with one for a couple of hours (while wearing boots) comes well down on my list of fun things to do. [It was a separate option at no extra cost. And I, too, will be giving the option a miss in future years. Ed.]
The start of the race was a classy affair. As the website says, “Be the Breast” (I don’t get it) and bubbly Sun page 3 beauty Peta honked the horn that started the race while the photographer seemed to want to get Peta to pose in some very intriguing positions. Probably something to do with getting the light right.
Peter was running steadily and was just in my sights for the first three miles after which he put the foot down and was soon lost from view. I was surprised to suddenly catch him around the 8 mile mark where he was struggling up a steep hill. The decent thing to do at this point would be to nod some encouragement and speed by, but moments like this don’t happen to me very often so I decided to slow down and milk it. After making a show of holding back so that he could keep up with me he soon suggested that “You go on without me, I’ll only slow you down”, or something like that anyway. It may have been something else entirely. I knew I hadn’t been getting faster and it was obvious that the course had not been kind to Peter’s achilles.
I found the steep descents on the smooth concrete sections made my shins sting, and the cattle grids (of which there were many) were a tricky affair. There was a short, brutal climb a mile or so from the finish which caught many by surprise. The course itself was quite scenic with trees, glades, flowers, ponds, birds, burnt-out tanks, army patrols and occasional sounds of gunfire. Being passed by runners in full military gear and carrying full packs can do strange things to one’s self-esteem. It’s an impressive feat but I’m sticking with running vest, shorts and trainers.
Shaun had been in a full 10 minutes when I arrived at the finish and Peter arrived (not that I was counting you understand) at least four minutes after me cautiously nursing some tender ankles and thinking of Berlin.
This was a very interesting race with variable terrain. No flat bits. I would probably do it again. Our garmins all measured it as closer to 9.5 than 10 miles. Most of it I really liked but the steep smooth downhill stretches on the smooth concrete and the cattle grids were unpleasant. If the Jelly Tea and Para’s 10 are on the same day next year it’ll probably come down to the toss of a coin.
277 Bergen-free finishers.