So much mud…the end!
Ha ha, ok there was more than mud but sometimes it didn’t seem like it. This was a made up event – although it had been run before. Kat, my forum friend had done most of this run last year and enjoyed it so much that she wanted to do it again. It is a good way for her raise money for her charity, and as I am also trying to raise funds for mine and needed another Event I asked if I could come along. We both wanted a midweek date so a few months ago we put a Thursday in March in the diary and just hoped the weather would be kind.
As it happened the date was perfect. I need to drop Heidi off at my Mum’s – she is trying to catch up with everyone during her one week in the UK, before she flies of to Thailand this weekend. My Mum’s house is only 16 miles from Kat’s house in Essex.
Although only 16 miles away, the Dartford Tunnel/Crossing is between the two houses and it’s not the place you want to be at pretty much any time of the day. I left just after 6am to give myself the best chance of a stress free journey, the traffic was already very heavy but was moving and I got there just before 7am. Had my porridge from my flask and Kat and I set off.
A fifteen minute walk and two train journeys and we were at Hockley where we had a mile walk to the Saffron Trail and the start of Event 13. The Saffron Trail is 71 miles long and runs from Southend-on-Sea to Saffron Walden. One day we may attempt it all but today we planned to do just over 20 miles of it – running as much as we could.
And so the mud started. I had wondered how we would divide up the running and walking but in the end it was obvious. The mud was impossible to run through and at times walk through, not helped by the thick bramble that lined the edges of the trail. My trail shoes are pretty good but the thought of hours and hours of wet feet did not appeal, plus the fact that I know from experience that wet feet equal blisters and I need my feet a lot this year! So I was super cautious trying hard not to submerge my feet and also not get cut to sheds by the bramble. It made many (most) parts slow going.
So, basically any bits of the trail that were dryish we ran, and the first few hours we made good time. But after 10/15km there were also lots of fields to cross. The fields were either uneven ground with very wet grass, caution required, or agricultural with thick clay soil, which meant with every step more and more clay gathered on our shoes until we could hardly lift our feet and we then wasted a few minutes de-claying our shoes.
Plus there was map reading. I left this to Kat – who did a great job. She remembered much of it from before but it was a different time of the year and landscapes look different. So we often stopped to check her phone or written instructions which took up time. On one section we couldn’t find a stile we needed to cross and ended up cutting across some farmland, dodging sheep and trying not to get stuck in the mud. Then basically put our heads down as we quickly walked through a farm yard hoping not to see anyone – not sure we were supposed to be there.
The trail itself was generally well marked with little Saffron Trail signs but sometimes we would get to a field and….no signs. No idea whether to go left or right or straight across. It wasn’t always the prettiest of routes (I’m very spoilt living in Somerset) sometimes we were on busy roads or alongside housing estates but there were lots of woodland areas, wide open fields and far reaching views and it was just great being outside all day with great company. We were lucky with the weather too, the temperature was perfect – around 7C the threatened rain never came and occasionally the sun came out.
We stopped at a little shop just after half way to get a drink. Kat found IronBru, which she couldn’t resist. You can take the girl out of Scotland….. But mostly we relied on our own supplies which we carried in our small rucksacks. It was the first time I had run with one and I didn’t mind it at all. I knew it fit well as I used it in Finland XCSkiing a few weeks ago.
It was a long day out – we were on the trail for around seven hours and for the last couple of hours my legs were very tired. Kat, 20 years my junior, seemed to be coping better – I’m sure I saw her skipping along a few times, when I could hardly lift my legs 🙂 and there were so many stiles to cross over which seemed to be getter bigger and bigger the more tired my legs got.
Just outside Chelmsford (we could see it ahead) and with about 3km to go, we came to a dead end. A great big roadwork project all fenced off. Right between us and and where we need to be. Right between us and me sitting down and having a rest!!!! All the places we hoped to cross were filled with inches of water and I just wasn’t prepared to get my feet completely wet, I know I’m a wimp but I could face another 3km and a train journey with wet feet. Kat doubted our chances of getting past the “No Entry” “Keep out” signs. But I saw a workman and shouted over. I didn’t quite beg (I did) but I was very persuasive and in the end despite “I’m really not allowed to do this” he let us climb through the fence and then guided us past big trucks and plant vehicles out to the main road. Turns out he was runner and seemed impressed with our efforts. I also think he didn’t want to be responsible for some 50 year old women found in a boggy mess somewhere on the outskirts of Chelmsford lol!
My watch stopped at this point, I think I knocked it climbing through the fence. 35km – that’s a long way. We still had 3km to walk to the train, I decided as my watch had stopped I didn’t need to attempt running any more 🙂 So, two trains back, another short walk and I was back in my car and ready at tackle the Dartford Crossing.
It was a fabulous day. A great way to see the Essex countryside and spend time with my friend. We saw trails and fields, woodlands and pretty villages, far reaching views and lots and lots of mud.
Event 13 done, 37 to go.