*Please note, the attention grabbing headline was penned for alliterative purposes, strictly speaking I didn’t do all that much in the way of trouncing, but I did have a very nice time thank you for asking.
So today, finally, I took on The Trunce.
Brace yourself, this is a long one, and I’ve not finished editing, so no trolling by grammar police just yet please. More photos may come…
Now, this is a race series that has been spinning around teasingly just outside of my field of vision for some time now. I’d not so much heard about it, as seen scary photos of hard-core runners various been taken out at deep water crossings by variously named fresh-water beasts such as croco-ducks / duckbilledcrocodus that are apparently vicious species unique to this particular area of Oxspring where the event takes place. You will note that as with wildebeest crossing rivers and dodging crocodiles on their annual migration, it seems to be strictly survival of the fittest. With so many swarming across the water, the majority will indeed make it, but for those who fall? Well sadly it seems that is just the cycle of life, other runners simply continue on their quest to conquer the hill ahead, and don’t even look back. (Thanks Mossienet Photography and Graham Beardsley for the pics).
All the same, the pictures do make it look like something of an adventure, and my regular reader will know that I do have a terrible fear of missing out, plus I do like a good yomp, obstacle courses – and I am easily excited… soooooo the photos make it look like the event could be quite an intoxicating cocktail of delight to be experienced, and honestly, what’s the worst that can happen? (Rhetorical question, no answers on a postcard please). The problem was that I really struggled to understand quite what the event was. People have tried to explain the logistics to me (off you go, number for life, crocodiles at the crossing, happens every three weeks) but somehow it all remained a bit opaque. Now I’ve done it, it does indeed make perfect sense. I think it’s a bit like trying to explain to someone how to ride a bike, or how the double funnel works at the finish of Bushy parkrun, these things are just not really meaningful until experienced for yourself, but once you have, all fine and dandy.
There is a website all about The Trunce, but it sort of assumes you understand the basic premise, which I didn’t, so I’m going to have a go at outlining those during this account so prospective first timers don’t have to be deterred by fear of the unknown. There is also a great Facebook Trunce page with loads of pictures and a scary warning about the rules of The Trunce Club. I don’t want to get drummed out of this exclusive group now I’ve only just joined, so I’m relying on you dear solitary reader not to let on. The rules are simple:
But remember the 3 rules of TRUNCE club
1.you dont talk about the trunce club outside of the trunce club
2.You MUST NOT use the STEPPING STONES to cross the river
3.you dont talk about the trunce club outside of the trunce club
Making the decision to go was fairly easy. It’s a run I’ve wanted to do for a while, but the push to commit came from a mutually self-congratulatory, and somewhat bacchanalian gathering of Fighting Feathers. We met last Monday night to celebrate our team’s genuine trouncing of the opposition through the Winter Smiletastic challenge. Can’t be bothered to explain it all again here, essentially it was a device to keep members of the Sheffield Women’s Running club Smiley Paces running through the winter. You can just take it as a given that this meant for the first time in my life an accident of birth (the year I was born in) allocated me to a winning sports team. As part of the Flying Feathers troupe I could join in unfamiliar victory celebrations. Our blood was up, and a bit giddy with success (and gin) we agreed (some of us anyway) that we would collectively take on The Trunce the following week. Best laid plans and all that, but this was the original motivating push to commit to a particular date. 16 May 2016 it would be. Plus, the date looks nice and symmetrical when you write it like this: 16/5/16 – surely an auspicious omen?
So, I had committed. The next issue for me as a first timer, was how to get to this mysterious fell(ish) race. After a bit of exploration of the Trunce website. I learned that the way to go is to head to The Waggon and Horses pub in Oxspring. Their postcode is S36 8YQ, so I basically stuck that in my satnav and hoped for the best. I did have a slight panic when I set off, because over time I have been twisting the wire on my satnav gizmo where it plugs into the car charge thingy, (accidentally, not on purpose) and it’s looking distinctly precarious, hanging on by a literal thread with exposed silver wire thread glistening away under the dislodged rubber outer insulation. If there was wiring like that in my flat, I’d move out to be honest. Still, with off-road running you have to be a bit more of a risk taker don’t you? I figured on balance I’d get away with living dangerously in that regard and off I went.
Coming (or going) from Sheffield, it’s not all that far (about 13 miles or so), BUT the timing of the event is quite early, and so it took blooming ages to get there. The start time is 6.45, but if you haven’t been before you need to register so I was aiming for 6.15. The consequence was I left Sheffield about 5.15 and got immediately snarled up in rush hour traffic. It might actually have been better to leave a bit later and have a clearer run, but I hate being late, so couldn’t persuade myself to do that. Maybe there is a rat run that others know, but I went out past Hillsborough Stadium and Grenoside. I wasn’t too sure where I was heading. A fellow Flying Feather had helpfully tried to explain it was on the way to her grandparents, but (and please forgive me if I’m sounding ungrateful) that wasn’t the most helpful of direction giving assistance I’ve ever been on the receiving end of. In fact, as I headed off into the evening sunshine (yes, it was sunny), I remembered I had been out this way before to Oughtibridge to watch the Tour de Yorkshire and to Wortley years ago, to find a riding stables. Once you escape the worst of the traffic, it’s quite a nice run out, but no question it would be tight getting away from work for many people. It did take an hour to get there.
The route was picturesque though, rolling hills, gamboling lambs that kind of thing. And, best of all, names that sounded like I was entering an enchanted wonderland: Cheese Bottom and Thurgoland (no really).
You can’t really miss the venue, after open roads, suddenly you can see cars glittering in the sunshine parked up in the official Oxspring car park. There may even have been a sign, but I don’t know, my satnav was very insistent we’d arrived at my ‘final destination’ so I didn’t really think about it Is it just me that finds that terminology a bit intimidating? Maybe I need to go on some sort of assertiveness course so I can stand up to it a bit more and not feel crushed at its passive/aggressive tone if I disregard its commands… Is that a bit too niche for hypnotherapy do you think? Oh well, back on task. Temporarily blinded by bright sunshine I turned into the car park entrance. This is how you access the ‘sports field adjacent to the pub’ which is where the official event parking is. I’m always a bit dubious about parking on fields in the countryside. I imagine tractors pulling me out and a Glastonburyesque quagmire, however, I can report that this field was flat, well-drained, and spacious. There was even a marshal on hand to direct you where to park – great for me, I don’t like too much choice when choosing parking spaces, I get sensory overload and end up driving round confused, no such trial by choice here!
I was early (hooray) so time for a deeply unflattering selfie, and an explore.
The car parking field is indeed directly behind the pub, and also really near the start, so it isn’t at all spread out – reading the website I’d got the impression that it would be more rambling and harder to navigate, but it seems in fact the Trunce is a well oiled machine, very efficient, but with a lightness of touch. It is like extreme parkrun in that respect I think. Relaxed, friendly and well organised. Also, I am delighted to report that there was access to some back loos in the pub, so plenty of provision for my precautionary pee! Phew, always a relief (literally and metaphorically) to know that angle is covered pre any run!
I shuffled over to the gazebo affair, where there was a queuing and signposting system. Now I’ve navigated this, it is very simple to fathom, nevertheless I managed to find it a bit confusing.
So, for the simpletons amongst you, (me included) this is what you need to know. Clutching your £1.50, if you have never been before, first off head to the little table that is set to one side of the gazebo and which in the photo above is obscured by the little queue of people bending over it. There you will be given a pre-printed bit of paper, on which you are required to write your name, date of birth (I think that’s so they can allocate you to the correct race category not because you get surprise birthday cake on your special day) emergency contact details and running club (if applicable). I’m not a teacher by profession, but I’m going to take a wild punt and say I reckon this task of form filling is way easier than the average SATS test and not anything to worry about.
There is a space left blank which is for the official to add your for-life race number once allocated. The registration table is equipped with spare pens, and a box of safety pins too, so well organised. You then take your slip of paper, and grinning inanely, you join the queue on the left hand side, and hand it to one of the two officials (one of whom on this occasion was a world record holding celebrity but more of this later).
You will be allocated a number as a first timer. This is very important, because this is to be your number in perpetuity. You get given a number the first time you go, thereafter, you are on your own. This number stays with you ’til death, and could become the most enduring relationship of your whole life. This number was then scrawled on a piece of paper with a rapidly running out marker pen, and handed back to me so I could secure it to my running vest. The convention is that thereafter it is your own responsibility to cobble together your own race number. The rule is it has to be black on white, but various manifestations were visible on the day. Some had specially printed up T-shirts proclaiming ‘The Trunce’ and their number; others had gone for the ‘I’ll just print it off at work and laminate it on the sly‘ approach (a good one); a few had just taken an old race number and scrawled their Trunce personal identifier on the back – that seemed as good an approach as any. Having said that, a more experienced runner pointed out to me subsequently that whatever approach you use, you should waterproof indelible ink to scribe your number ‘for obvious purposes‘. You have been warned! Might just be easier to use a permanent marker pen and write your number directly on your forehead, and again on the soles of your shoes to cover all possible fall scenarious, and aid the officials with identification. To be honest, the official version wasn’t especially hi-tech, so I guess as long as it’s visible (and indelible) any approach will do… though the trunce rules do state:
Numbers must be written in black (seniors) or red (juniors) on a white background, and digits must be at least 5cm high.
If you have been before (EVER) you can look yourself and your trunce number up here (and even stalk other runners if the inclination should seize you, but best not to ‘fess up to that as it will make you seem a bit creepy). My officially presented number looked like this:
You drop your £1.50 into the Tupperware box provided for this purpose. I guess you could get change from the box, but it would be easier if you brought the right money with you. Sometimes there is an extra jar around collecting donations for Mossienet (the photographer who routinely snaps awesome photos and asks in return for donations for his chosen charity ‘malaria no more’ – great initiative). The jar wasn’t there today though, so donations on-line this week please.
Then, that was it, job done! If you have been before you skip most of those processes, just join the queue on the right hand side (this doesn’t indicate political preferences by the way, so don’t worry about being judged in either direction), tell them your number (which is for LIFE not just for Christmas remember) and they record your attendance. It was all very straightforward. Phew. Once you are in the rhythm of it (and the Trunce series means that the event takes place approximately every three weeks over the summer) you could parkrun like, breeze up and register in a couple of minutes I reckon.
Having got the logistics sorted, I relaxed a bit more, and had my first of two precautionary pees, and checked out the surroundings. People had started to mass, and the car park, though nowhere near capacity, was definitely filling up. It was quite exciting, it had a slightly summer festival feel to it all. There were also various juniors appearing, (there is an 11-16 route too) and it was fun spotting slightly different running club shirts from usual as this is a bit outside the usual Sheffield circuit (though lots of Striders and Strideouts noticeably present too).
I was keeping a beady eye out for my fellow Fighting Feathers, but not a great turn out in that respect. On reflection, there were various riders given at the moment of commitment ‘yes, yes, of course I’ll come subject to work/ childcare/ leg being out of plaster’ those kind of things, so maybe I was over-optimistic about attendance. Still, quality not quantity say I, and soon enough I heard someone shout my name, and emerging from the madding crowd was Smiley Hooded Fighting Feather Comrade. ‘Poohead!’ An unfortunate nickname I grant you, and not fair, but unfortunately, if she is unable to control her teenage daughter’s tendency to access her mobile phone and attribute unwelcome nicknames to her, then she has to live with the consequences. I’d love to re-write history, I really would, but I have to write with integrity, so there you are… How fantastic though to see a fellow feather, and one with prior form on the route too!
We did some mutually encouraging whooping, and after small talk, she pointed out what should have been immediately obvious. ‘You do know who’s doing the registration don’t you?’ Erm, hadn’t really been paying attention, but looked across and OH. MY. GOD! It’s only Nicky Spinks, superhuman, mega-athlete, world record holder THE Nicky Spinks. She who only yesterday completed a double Bob Graham of 132 miles and 84 peaks in an incredible 45 hours and 30 minutes. I mean honestly, by rights, today at least she should be lying down in a darkened room in a starshape, having lard administered intravenously. Or at least loafing about eating a great deal of cake. Instead, she’s out and about at another fell race, being socially useful. She must be a machine! She is also fundraising for a cancer survivors’ charity Odyssey to help them get a mini-van. Please gawd let her meet that target, this achievement is beyond extraordinary and hasn’t had anything like the recognition and acknowledgement it deserves. I was so star struck you have no idea. I mean, I acted all cool when Miss Piggy turned up for the Wingerworth wobble, but, with the greatest respect for Miss P and Kermit too, this was a different league of awesome. I wanted to congratulate her, but she was busy with a queue of people registering. I contented myself with taking surreptitious photos, though drew the line at a selfie with her behind me, though that was partly because I don’t know how to do so effectively as much as because it wasn’t a cool thing to be spotted trying to execute. She was registering the ‘return runners’ not the newbies, which is my excuse for not spotting her instantly and bowing down to worship as I handed over my £1.50. At least I presume that what she was doing, not just collecting to fund her next trip, though frankly even if she was I wouldn’t have begrudged her a single penny!
Not only is her achievement beyond words, I actually felt quite emotional that after all that running around and virtually no sleep, she was still giving back to other runners by volunteering her time and expertise to this event. She has said somewhere that her fell running journey actually began with The Trunce, though I have a feeling that my participation here today isn’t quite a cast iron guarantee that I’ll be doing ultras myself by this time next year, I can at least claim to have followed in the footsteps of a record breaker. Even so, can we have a moment to reflect on how awesome this woman is, not only in terms of her absolute achievement, but her grace in doing so and her support to other runners too. Nicky Spinks, you may have no idea who I am, but for what it is worth I think you are AWESOME. Sorry I was too star-struck to say anything by way of congratulation at the time, but I did clap a lot at the briefing when it was announced ‘officially.’ Nicky (yes, I like to think we are on first name terms now) has done her own account of the double Bob Graham record-breaking fell run which hilariously is done and dusted in about the word count it has taken me to get to the point at which I set my sat nav. Seems she can not only run like the proverbial wind, she is also concise. She is indeed an inspiration. On a separate note, the fueling regime does make ultra-running seem more appealing. I came across a great video that explains the defining features of trail/ ultra runners, more importantly, it’s hilarious – and the eating options for ultras are impressive, just as the skimpy shorts for fell runners are eye-catching, and sometimes eye-watering. Look and learn. You’re welcome.
So after this distraction, the next was seeing a buddy from Sheffield Hallam parkrun, the friendly one who isn’t in fact a Monday Mobster, who was there with canine companions and to support other runners. She was until recently a Trunce regular though so able to share wisdom, laugh at my long running tights (I know, I know, legs do dry faster than leggings, but I still like having the protection) and try and get posed, pouting, pooch pictures. Harder than you might think, but we did OK in the end. My fell shoes were a pass though, you’ll be pleased to hear.
It was nice milling around in the sun. Various keenies did some warming up, running up and down the first hill. Not really my thing, why waste precious energy you’ll need to help you round? I exchanged pleasantries with other runners. A fair few were also first timers, some running clubs were really well represented. Some were laughing nervously, whilst old handers exchanged horror stories of adventures past with loud guffaws and much back slapping. It felt friendly and inclusive. I was a lot plumper round the midriff than these other leaner runners, but I wasn’t made to feel unwelcome.
After a bit, as if drawn by some invisible telepathic force, people started moving en masse towards the start line, which was just a couple of minutes away from the registration tent. Thanks to Tracy Hughes for this photo of the migration (I like to think of this as the Close Encounters moment – vintage film watchers will understand what I mean) – and some other pictures of the start.
So we all gathered, and it was a significant turn out. 431 to be precise. I don’t mind this, because I figure I have a sporting chance of not being the slowest in a large enough field, plus it means I’ll have people to follow so no navigation required. Yay! However, listening to the discussions at the start some were talking tactics. Early on you sprint up a hill, under a bridge, turn and after a long track go steeply down hill and to a kissing gate. Single file only. If you don’t want to be delayed there, get at the front and sprint up hill a more experienced runner suggested to me. I looked at him and blinked with incomprehension. I appreciated the sentiment, but this pudding wasn’t sprinting up any hills from the off! There was a bit of official welcome and chat at the start which I couldn’t hear. I applauded when others did, presumably thanking volunteers not a vote of confidence in Donald Trump. I DID hear, a little word of congratulations and recognition for Nicky Spink, and clapped with extra enthusiasm then to compensate for my earlier gaucheness. I tried. Then, just a couple of minutes late, we were off – up the hill. Lots of spectators standing on a bridge higher up could watch us fly off, and thanks again TH for some lovely action shots of the occasion.
A few minutes after us, the junior runners were released like greyhounds from a starting gate. They do a different but overlapping route, my they were fast! Oh, I haven’t explained the route. Oh blimey, OK, to be honest, what you really need to know is that it’s about 4 miles (just under), with 524 foot elevation, chances are you won’t have to navigate. The steep bits are very steep, but some people will walk them (I definitely did). The terrain is pretty uneven (tree roots, loose stones, off-road) but by no means unmanageable – though it was relatively dry when I did it, it would be an extreme slidey option in the mud and rain. You WILL get wet crossing the rivers but that’s the whole point of splashing through them surely?
The official blah de blah trunce course is as follows (and refreshingly written if I may say so):
From the Wagon and Horses pub carpark turn right and walk down the road, passing the small car park and then go through the gateway onto the track that head up towards the tunnel. The race start point is marked by a flat stone a couple of hundred yards up the track. It’s customary to group about 100 yards beyond the start point prior to the race and then be told to move back to the start line.
From the start head up the track. Pass through the tunnel under the Trans-Pennine Trail and continue up the track, following it round to the left as it levels out. Continue along the track past the farm until it reaches a stone stile. Cross the stile onto the grassy footpath which then descends steeply through a kissing gate and eventually reaches the river crossing. Whatever you do, don’t jump the fence at the kissing gate as you will probably get pelted with rocks. Cross the river either using the stepping stones, which can be slippy, or just plough through the water making sure to soak anyone trying to keep dry on the stepping stones.
At the far bank climb the stile and head up the path to join the road and head right down the road until reaching a public footpath that descends the field on the right to a footbridge over the river. Cross the footbridge and then struggle up the steep field to a gate. Through the gate follow the path that zig-zags up to another stile. Don’t worry about falling over the stile, as the soft pile of manure at the other side will break your fall.
Follow the path diagonally across the field towards a gateway and up a track. About 100 yards up the track bear off left and pick up another track, crossing a cattle grid as the track descends into a wooded area. The race route curves round to the right, then left and picks up a narrow path down into some trees where after a short while, it crosses through a narrow gap in a wall.
After crossing the wall, the path descends steeply over a few obstacles to the river. If you survived that bit, then cross the river, either directly, or using the stepping-stones and then leg it up the field to turn left on to the road.
If you’re a roadie, then this is your bit – there’s about half a mile of tarmac to steam along until you again turn off left down the path to the first river crossing.
The remainder of the route is the reverse of the outbound section, so have fun crawling back up the hill and along the farm track, making sure you save enough to look good on the finish!
Ooh – late addition – action shot, shame I don’t know how to photoshop out my double chin, but perhaps if I don’t go drawing attention to it, you my reader will focus instead on the perfectly in focus water droplets I have stirred up with the ferocity of my running. I was quite lucky not to attract any sharks what with all that splashing about! (This is another GB shot by the way – not as in Team GB, not yet been approached about representing the UK for anything surprsingly enough, rather photographer GB).
You only do the deep river crossing once, then it’s back round and you retrace your steps. I had a slight panic about navigation when I realised I was on my own, but glimpsed another runner disappearing off down a footpath just in time to see him turn off the road down the track. Although there is some really steep climbing up on this run, it’s fairly contained, and you can wimp out and walk as I did. Once you are homeward bound it feels relatively easy, there is a downward gradient, the sunshine was glorious illuminating bluebells in the wood and yellow rape in the fields. The farm track seemed to attract some spectators who were shouting in my direction as I approached ‘NO STOPPING!’ I think this was aimed at the runner behind, but I do run faster when observed to put on my own little sprint too, albeit not in the same league as these guys captured by Tracy Hughes
There were still a fair few lingerers to cheer us last few finishers home. THE Nicky Spink was on time duty at the finish funnel with another of the organisers, and you pass through a little avenue of cones to get ticked off what I think was a competitor check list to make sure all made it home OK. I rejoined my fellow Smiley and we shared mutual congratulations then she had to rush off. I stayed on for clapping duties for a bit, before wandering back to the car. Walking back from the start/ finish I was joined by another runner who commented on how he appreciates the Smiley vest. Turns out he is an event organiser with teamOA.co.uk His job sounded really cool, they organise things like pie runs, chocolate runs (there’s a theme) but also extreme vertical running challenges ultras king of the hill all sorts. It’s more Huddersfield way than Sheffield territory, but sounds like a genuinely imaginative and interesting repertoire of events. Need to check it out. First though, I changed my footwear, did my post event selfie, scraped running related fliers off my windscreen and thought how lucky I was to have this event so relatively close at hand.
Which is worse, post event selfie or the sandals and socks combo? The dry socks were a moment of exemplary forward planning and the addition of sandals was both comfy and practical by the way, post fifty I care even less than I used to about such dressing in the dark type clothing adventures…
So, homeward bound. I wasn’t last, but wouldn’t have mattered if I had been. Lovely friendly event. As I drove away I passed the organisers marching back to base and hoped I gave them a suitably winning/ appreciative smile. They did an amazing job. Speedy drive home relatively speaking as it was traffic free. About half an hour maybe. Home on a high. This is a great run out, and although driving out to Oxspring in the heavy traffic I wondered if it was worth it, I can report it was. A snip at £1.50 a throw too. I can quite see how it becomes slightly addictive to try to get there each time. It is a lot of fun, challenging without being terrifying, and a great blast out in the countryside at the end of the day.
So, in conclusion, would recommend!
Thank you lovely trunce organisers for all your efforts, and the warmth of your welcome, very much appreciated! 🙂 Thank you too, all of those of you who took photos and shared them. Also much appreciated. I love looking at running photos, you can relive every exquisite moment again and again.
Oh, and I have absolutely no idea why it’s called the Trunce by the way, and I forgot to ask, project for next time.
Trunce Top Tips – summary:
For ease of reference the yadda yadda yadda of things I didn’t understand and therefore other first timers might also find helpful to know are as follows:
- It’s an inclusive event, think extreme parkrun on acid, yep, there are hardcore runners storming up hills, but there’s room at the back for the ‘have a goers’ too
- The rendezvous point is in Oxspring, use the postcode for the Waggon and Horses S36 8YQ to get there
- There is loads of parking, but although it’s in a field, it’s not a quagmire, so you should be fine, no extra payment required for this
- There are toilets in the pub for a precautionary pee! Yay!
- The race officially starts at 6.45 p.m. and it takes place about 9 times during the course of the summer at approximately 3 week intervals
- If you haven’t ever done it before, get there early 6.15 ish is fine, as you need to fill in a minimal amount of paperwork (name, emergency contact, date of birth, location of your will – and your number once allocated)
- You get given a number the first time you go, thereafter, you are on your own. This number stays with you ’til death, and could become the most enduring relationship of your life. Next time you have to cobble together your own race number
- It is currently just £1.50 each time you run, you just deposit your money in the handily positioned Tupperware box and if you are a newbie they give you your number, and if you are not you tell them your number and they make a note
- The objective is to improve your own PB over the course of the series, points are allocated for that by age category (I think)
- Wear fell shoes
- Take a change of socks and shoes at least, maybe full set in case you get carried away en route
- Keep your sense of humour with you, it’s a hoot!
- I am told the last event of the year is traditionally in fancy dress. Can’t wait.
- No dogs allowed on the run anymore (plenty with spectators though)
- Try not to be too star struck by celebrity attendees
- Just do it.
That’s it really. Don’t miss out, just do it, what the hell…
See y’all at the next one I hope!
PS if you want the full Trunce virtual experience check out this headcam Trunce video courtesy of Jorge Bronze – first of four I think, but you get the idea! Section two, section three, and then finish The videos are great, but the real thing is even better!