Thrunton Thriller, Sunday 27th March 2016

Heidi and Nina took part in the Thrunton Thriller Trail Races on Sunday.  Heidi sends this report:

Nina has suggested that I do a race report for the above because it was my first trail race. I’d like to point out from the outset that Nina was ‘big dog’ doing the half marathon whilst I merely opted for surviving the 10k.

The 9.30 start in the depths of Northumberland meant a bleary eyed rising given it was firstly Easter Sunday and secondly the clocks had gone forward (Nina looked as fresh as ever though). I had forgotten to wash my trail shoes from a level hill walking trip so rocked up in a pair of normal trainers (didn’t turn out to be the best decision I ever made). Then in the mandatory safety briefing, Barry, the organiser stated that each race was 2 miles longer than the designated distance (?!) and then passed it off with a smile, shrug and the words “but you expect that of me” – never having met him before I genuinely didn’t (seems that Nina did).

I reckon there were about 150 people taking part in both races and we all set off together. We immediately headed up hill (which I should’ve taken as an indicator of things to come). Within minutes we were diverted off the nice easy forest roads on to the mountain bike tracks. It was at this point that I can whole heartedly say – I fell in love with fell running. I absolutely loved flying over tree roots and twisting and turning my way through the wood on what I now know is called the ‘technical sections’ of the course. I found it liberating like being a child again. I went for a combination of arms out (thanks Kenny) and grabbing on to available trees and branches to remain upright.

We then reached checkpoint and a stream to cross – I hadn’t expected a stream! Whilst I was pondering how to keep my feet dry, I noticed other competitors pushing past me to throw themselves through it – it conjured up images of thirsty people throwing themselves into a dessert oasis. I hate looking ‘girly’ – so decided to follow their lead.

Then the lung busting part, we headed up a climb of approx. 200m. It was 10m into this that a realised I was more than happy to ditch my goal of no walking and accept the gulp of orange juice being offered by a fellow runner. After an age of fighting up a rock face (1 step forward, slip 2 back in bad trainers) we were met with incredible views across Northumberland – as usual at this extreme height it was also blowing a hoolie so I didn’t hang around. We ran a few kilometres along a tiny slippery path through the heather on the top of the ridge. Views were ignored as I attempted to remain on my feet (never again without trail shoes). At the end of the ridge we started a steep descent where I recklessly went for it. After nearly dislocating several lower limbs joints (but simultaneously having a whale of a time) I reached the bottom.

The field had really strung out at this point and I genuinely was so happy roaming over the moorland with nothing but Norwegian Spruce as company. To reach checkpoint 2 we had to run 500m through a bog, this was less fun. I found out later the lovely little path on the other side of the fence was out of bounds as it was private land. However running through a bog is not an everyday occurrence so I guess the variety could be appreciated.

Checkpoint 2 was the split point for the 2 races and at this point I had lost all concept of distance. I asked how far to go and a lady told me I was “half way”. In retrospect she was either winding me up or she clearly had no concept of distance because the finish line was less than 15 minutes away (next time I will look at the map before I set off). Then suddenly the finish line was upon me but I thought I still had miles to go so I kept checking “am I definitely finished?” which drew some puzzled looks as I was clearly back at the place we had started. I was also handed a trophy for being 3rd lady finished – that was probably the biggest surprise of the day.

In a nutshell, I love fell running. This was a great course (if slightly longer than anticipated) – it was extremely well signposted, I never once felt lost or unsure of the way. I found it a fun challenge and something I will definitely do again.

Long Course – Nina Jensen 03:07:00 52nd place
Short Course – Heidi Swaffield 01:15:58 15th place