My first attempt at this, the rescheduled Simonside Cairns Race. I meet another first timer, Dave Shipman, just as low clouds obscure the Rothbury hills and the heavens open with a downpour strong enough to make me choose to take heavy duty wet weather gear. Fortunately the rain stops in time for the off and we are sent away down a tiny alley and over the very full River Coquet before slogging away uphill on roads and tracks to the moorside.
Up and over Lordenshaw is a steady walk/run on grassy slopes but soon we hit the moors proper and the track deteriorates to a mix of broken rock, soggy peat-filled runnels, and thick heather. This seems to go on forever as we plod head-on into the southwesterly wind , then a short, pleasant stretch sheltered amongst trees on soft woodland track before it’s back on to the moors again, this time with the wind behind us. Underfoot it gets deeper, wetter, boggier, and lumpier. A lot of this is unrunnable to me, and I’m not the only one.
Into another patch of very dark woodland then out onto the track below Simonside Cairns where we are met by very welcome jelly babies and cups of water. As Dougie said last year, ‘Onwards and upwards’. Climb the newly installed stone steps and then follow the stone-flagged path along the ridge. I’m no great fan of this as it seems to put more obstacles in the way and is hard on the feet and leg joints. On the way down off the ridge I find out just how hard it is when I unintentionally throw myself down onto the ground and leave a smidgen of flesh behind as a memento. I run out of steam on the final climb over Lordenshaw and find the tracks and roads back to Rothbury interminable. Straight into warm clothes, a cup of soup in the pub, and wait for the final few to arrive.
Upon reflection, I realise I’ve not run more than 10k since last July, so you can guess what my New Year’s resolution is going to be.