See what I’ve done there with a forced acronym? Genius!
Digested read. Today I finally made it back to The Trunce for the first time in 2017. It still makes a splash, pretty busy but speaking as a slowbie that just made it all the more companionable. Aren’t the Barnsley Harriers lovely. (Rhetorical question, they are, one even took this group photo for us!)
Yay, back to The Trunce tonight. We do all know about this now right? If you don’t basically it’s a super fun and friendly trail race with three river crossings. It’s about a 3.7 mile romp cross-country. The same route is run nine times at approximately three-week intervals over the summer months. Points are awarded in some mysterious way I’ve not bothered to find out about because I’m just enjoying it for what it is. Basically, you are trying to beat your own PB I think. It’s £1.50 to enter, and the first time you do so you get given a number that is yours in perpetuity. You are from henceforth forever part of the collective Legend that is The Trunce. This is a fine thing. By turning up you also get to hobnob with fell-running celebrity Nicky Spinks, though if you are like me you will be too awe-struck to speak to her. Actually, that’s not strictly true, I did tell her my number as I approached registration holding out my £1.50 carefully counted out in 20p pieces (and one 10p piece), and she said ‘I’ve already noted it, thank you‘. Which is an interaction of sorts but hardly me bowing down in worship or asking if I could take a plaster cast mould of the tread of her fell shoes is it? Both of those would seem more apt, albeit socially inappropriate, ways to behave in the circumstances. Basically, celebrity spotting aside, you should come along and give it a go. No really you should, it’s doable, challenging if you want to be challenged, but with a big enough field that even the slow and steadies, such as myself, should not find themselves running alone. Be prepared to get wet though, and if it’s been raining you will need trail shoes – though today the ground was so dry and hard it was like running on concrete, road shoes would have been fine. Unless they were super posh ones you didn’t want to submerge in water. If so you’d have had to hope someone gave you a piggy back over the river crossings, or risk losing time by taking your running shoes off before paddling across and heaving them back on again once you are safely over the other side. Three times. Not great for achieving PBs, but it’s up to you.
Oh, and if you actually want to know the Trunce route it’s here – and one of the most encouraging and entertaining descriptions I’ve seen of a run route. Lots of useful info in there from handy manure pile landing hints, and warning newbies of the risk they take should they overtake queuing runners at one of the inevitable bottle necks. The ire of fellow runners is not to be provoked lightly. It’s worth noting though that the course description isn’t quite accurate for 2017. This year the route is starting a bit further on the usual course, the other side of the bridge. For me this is an improvement, it doesn’t make too much difference to the overall length (though it is a bit shorter) however, it does cut out that punishing hill start that for me at least was not the most auspicious beginning of a race to be honest. Hardier folk may miss that opportunity to shine and gain competitive advantage by sprinting up the 45 degree gradient as effortlessly as if they were rocket-propelled. Not something I have ever had to worry about being something less than a living deity myself.
Anyway, this was the third Trunce of 2017, but the first I’ve made it to this year. I’ve been putting it off due to being horribly unfit. However, I’ve decided I’m only ever going to get fit by actually doing some running, and I always try harder when it’s an event of some sort. It’s not that I’m competitive, it’s just that I gain support and motivation from running in a group, plus I don’t want to be the one to cave in and walk when everyone around me is still charging off at speed. Embarrassingly, if I go running on my own I can easily drop back to a walk within the first kilometre, yet mysteriously I always run the entire 5k at parkrun, so I know I can do it, it’s just my default activity setting is inert. What is it they say, running is as much in the mind as in the legs? Something like that. I mean the state of my legs, lungs and general decrepitude is undoubtedly a contributory factor to my running performance, but I do surprise myself by doing more than I think I can when caught up in the tide of other runners. It seems that I require peer pressure to gain momentum. Having said that, I still can’t run the whole Trunce, not even close, those hills are steep, but that’s OK, just hoiking my weary carcass up gets my eyes popping and lungs bursting out nicely. It’s got to help my fitness if I keep on trying to move forward and through it.
Sooo, first stop Cheetah Buddy’s house where three of us Smiley Paces People assembled for a group outing to Oxspring. It was a relatively speedy drive over, not too much traffic, though it was distinctly nippy on arrival. I rushed over to pick up my laminated number (a fund raising innovation by an enterprising teen) and en route got jumped by the mischievous Sheffield region’s Runderwear Ambassador. She literally shouted ‘boo’ or something equally imaginative, and I jumped out of my skin. She was really chuffed, it was a great reaction, though she expressed some concern about the extent to which my pelvic floor held out under such stress. It was fine, I mean, I was wearing my Runderwear so doesn’t matter if they get wet because you don’t get chafing anyway. Plus the adrenalin surge warmed me up nicely. We were both winners, I got an instant warm up she got the best laugh of the night to date. Result!
Here are some laminated numbers, in case you can’t work out what they might look like. Remember, a Trunce number is for life not just for Christmas, worth laminating and nurturing them then.
Also available were leaflets on Lymes disease and some local gala running event, I picked up neither. Worth mentioning Lymes though, it being Lymes Disease Awareness month apparently. Nasty and debilitating illness acquired through tick bites. It’s not common, but one to be mindful of. I tend to wear full length running bottoms anyway, partly because they are my only pair (don’t panic, I do have access to a washing machine) and partly because I like the protection on my legs as I get an allergic reaction if a blade of grass so much as touches any coquettishly exposed glimpse of ankle, let alone calf. I shudder at the very thought of exposing even a millimetre more flesh than I need to in rural settings, and don’t get me started on what a meal of me mosquitoes and midges can make! The great outdoors is all well and good, but there are some downsides too. Despite my general precautionary principles, I hadn’t really considered the risk of tick bites particularly before, but it is a real one in some areas. Loads of runners sprint care free through long grass like they are undertaking a re-enactment of their own personal timotei ad – can you still get that? They do so wearing little more than speedos or compression shorts (which we all know is basically like running in a thong after the first few metres) and so maybe we should think about it more. Just saying. Anyway, thanks to the person who noted on the Trunce Facebook page that they have Lymes, and in so doing reminded us all that it’s worth paying attention to. This timotei model is really taking her life in her hands as exposed as she is in that meadow!
So leaflets missed, and laminated number collected, the next task was to join the queue for the loo. Women can use both the women’s and men’s but actually there was a huge queue for both anyway. Still, managed to do the necessaries before going back to the car to dump our fleeces, and then heading up the hill towards the new start line. There’s a big flat field for parking, and alongside it part of the space was being used for some youth coaching session. It was pretty busy. To protect crops you are asked to keep to the paths, which people did I think, rightly so.
There is a reason why start has moved, but I’m not sure what – presumably to protect crops? I think as The Trunce series has grown, the mass start risks trampling the grass on either side of the track as people endeavour to find a route through, starting higher up there’s possibly a bit more space? In any event it was a pretty big gathering through the bridge. From the ground, if you looked up you could see spectators on the top peering down on what must be a great aerial view of it all. As well as the adult runners, there was a big junior contingent milling around. Thanks Paula Moffat from Strideout in anticipation of you letting me use your photo.
As this is not really my home patch, it was quite fun seeing loads of new running club vests. There were of course the familiar Strideout purple army; the yellow and gold of Steel City Striders and the occasional retro Dark Peak visible. However, also huge contingents from Hallamshire Harriers and, not Easyjet as I first imagined, but Barnsley Harriers who got my vote for friendliest flash mob attendance of the night.
The start line was noisy and chaotic. There must have been a run briefing, but I couldn’t hear anything over the chit-chat. I don’t think people were being deliberately ignorant, it was just impossible for the Race Director to attract enough attention to command silence. Because of this, I think a fair few people missed some of the directions about the correct route at certain points. I certainly did, but was saved from a breach of course etiquette by my instinct to follow other runners coupled with being in sight of the better briefed Barnsley crew. More of this later.
Some kind person took a video of us all charging past at the start of Trunce #3 2017, it takes a while. (Thanks Caroline Saunders). It’s quite a lot is it not? 438 (including the juniors) according to the results, that’s an extraordinary turn out for a Monday night romp surely.
Shortly after the senior race heads of, the junior runners, who do a slightly shorter route, were set off behind us. They came hurtling along whilst I was still making my way up the first track. They then take a sharp right and do a loop round, coming back up the path the adults are still running out on. Early on in the proceedings, I spotted a Trunce-number wearing adult walking back towards the start. Whether he was hurt, had missed the start or just abandoned the race because he wasn’t feeling the love I have no idea, but it wasn’t the most confidence imbuing of sights to be honest! I was finding the path under foot incredibly hard on my arthritic feet, it had turned to concrete in the dry, and dust flying up filled my lungs. This was feeling tough and I was barely 500 metres in.
There is a kissing gate on the first path, and there is no way to pass through this other than one at a time. The sheer numbers of people means this created a significant bottle neck, with a queue stretching back a long, long way. For some, this is a pleasing resting up point. You can have a chat with other runners and get your breath back before setting off again. However, one person’s blessed relief is another person’s blooming irritation, so possibly some frustration amongst faster runners. Around me people were good-natured. Pointing out the field which had pigs in last time out, and enjoying the curiosity of the horses that had come across to peer at us in something resembling incredulity. They didn’t seem at all perturbed by 400 people suddenly appearing alongside their field, rather treating us as some sort of habitat enrichment laid on by their owners, which to be fair, might well be what is behind the whole Trunce enterprise. Who knows?
It was a long wait, soon the front runners from the juniors race were storming back home and I was still queuing to get through the gate. This is even more complex running etiquette. It seems only fair to give the juniors right of way as they are racing, but you have to let the odd senior nip through or we’d never have got back in daylight. Some walking juniors responded to our cheers and picked up running again to whizz through the gate, others started to look a bit defeated and I think were quite glad to let a few seniors nip through whilst they tried to get their breath back. It was all good-natured though. Nice people off-road runners I think. Unpredictable terrain is a great leveler, and fell running requires humour – specifically self-deprecating humour in bucket loads, no big egos in evidence here.
Once I finally got through the gate, the people just ahead of me Barnsley Harriers, opted to wait for some of their other club members behind so I had a brief section of running on my own. It was a fairly steep downhill on a narrow track. I’m not massively confident down hill so I wasn’t fast but I had a go. At the bottom was the first river crossing, it was pretty shallow and solid under foot so quite fun splashing through. It makes me feel like a ‘proper’ off road runner. Plus it cools your feet and it’s good to get your shoes full of water early on, as thereafter you stop faffing about trying to stay dry. So I splish sploshed through with what was for me satisfying speed. Then there was a little style, and I knew I was going the right way because the path was now sodden with what I like to think is just water spilling out of trainers as their wearers ran on, but on reflection it could have been blood-soaked as a consequence of the injuries of the fallen earlier on, I never checked.
Just over the little style, and then, perplexingly, I found myself chasing a guy in hi-viz wheeling a bike. Hilariously, he sped up as he saw me, endeavouring to keep out of my way. Honestly, I wasn’t really a contender in the catching up stakes, but I appreciated the thought. I emerged from the narrow footpath onto a road and found the Runderwear ambassador in situ again. She seems to have perfected the art of the impromptu pop up. Whether she has done this purely to spook me, or whether from her perspective this is just a happy coincidence I honestly know not, but it was good to see her. She pointed me in the right way, and as I sped (eh hem) away, shouted after me to make sure I took the same turning coming back (worth being reminded, people have run on by before, and I nearly did myself the first time out). Amazingly I found I was still in sight of the other runners after all. Chasing them, I found that pretty soon the front runners of the senior race were charging homeward before I’d even got to the start of the proper uphill climb. I tried to clap and cheer the first few, but there were too many, and it got a bit exhausting cheering them all, not to mention demoralising. It was the inevitable consequence of earlier bottle neck. Tricky one, the only way to avoid this would be to position yourself right at the front, but if I did that I would impede faster runners. Also, in honesty, I quite like having a bit of a rest mid race (it’s why I like the Round Sheffield Run so much I think). Upshot was, I rested up as I queued to pass through, but paid a price in terms of minutes passing. I do wonder if the junior race could start a little later though, it would stop seniors having to give way to so many when we are just heading out. Having said that, I fully appreciate the Trunce organisers have been doing this a while, and probably have come up with what is the least worst option. There’s little you can do with narrow paths and a mass running event, just have to embrace it for what it is.
After a brief road stint, you have what seems to be a sheer drop off the path to the right. It is a signed footpath, but honestly it felt like jumping off the edge of the world. Maybe the flat earth society have a point. Immediately after this there was a little bridge. I scampered over, only to find at the other side was a guy holding a massive tree trunk over his shoulder waiting for me to pass. That was very sporting of him, I wondered if he really should have had right of way, but perhaps he recognised he’s used to carrying logs and makes it look easy and effortless whereas look at me running and ‘effortless’ is possibly not the first adjective that comes to mind. The question ‘why?’ being altogether more likely.
What follows is a BIG hill. It is seriously steep. I didn’t run up it. I had a sort of half-hearted jog early on, but quickly abandoned the attempt. I was puffing enough just power walking. I make no apology for this. After all, walking is the way to go apparently. Only today, I read about Evan Dunfee who walked a whole marathon in 3.10.35. That’s pretty respectable I think. Gives walking at ‘runs’ a whole new legitimacy. I kept going as best I good, periodically offering other runners the chance to sprint on by should they wish to do so. None did. I think all of us at this point in the field were not-so-secretly grateful for the excuse of being slowed by ‘runners’ walking at this point. Plenty of people do run the whole thing though. Here are some downhill runners courtesy of Neil Smith. Go them.
At some point I somehow found myself running alone again, having been overtaken by stronger participants and pulled ahead of the few that were slower than me. I decided to at least try to keep in sight of a group of very lovely Barnsley Harrier runners. They were resplendent in their orange tops like a burst open Terry’s Chocolate Orange where the segments were constantly trying to regroup into a whole as if pulled by an invisible magnetic force. They were supportive to each other and later on to me too. There was one particular point across a fairly open field where the stone path went ahead to a gate, but there was also a trampled diagonal grass path to another point, ending up at a cattle grid. I seem to remember going down the short cut last year, but the Barnsley Harriers were shouting out to each other that the correct route was to the main gate, so I followed them. Speeding up to get in calling distance of them (seems I can put on a spurt when I want to) as I know that I found the route confusing at other points too last year). I mentioned I was glad to be following them as I wasn’t sure of the route. It’s not that it’s complicated, but nor is it obvious. Even though I have run it before, it seemed unfamiliar. Not sure if that’s because maybe I did take a wrong route last time (I think I may have done through the wood bit, it seemed much more straightforward today) or if it is because I ran my first two Trunce races through a mist of blood and tears. Both are possible, probable even. Anyway, subsequently they kept a friendly eye on me, gesturing which way to go if it wasn’t obvious.
For the next stream crossing, after you’ve ducked down through some woodland (I’m sure it was a different and more direct route to the one I did at the last trunce of 2016) it was really deep. My Barnsley Harrier friends went in first forming a human chain. Great team work. I was only a bit behind, but it was helpful to get some warning of how deep it was, I know I’ve only got little legs, but it was way over my legs and ice-cold. The Trunce can offer up an arctic enema quite as effective as any Tough Mudder methinks, and for a fraction of the cost. It was weirdly quite nice. Like a race horse enjoying having its tendons hosed, the plunge of cold really helps your legs. I couldn’t run through though, not that it was slippery, but the depth of the water made it impossible. I was surprised it was so deep, it’s not like there’s been any rain or anything. Weird, could even hear it sounding like a raging torrent as you approached, I don’t remember there being a waterfall en route before…
I didn’t see any photographers out and about this time (often there are some) so here is one of a previous Trunce splash through, to give you the general idea of the river crossings along the way … Trunce #1 2017 I think. Thanks to Steve Frith of Mossienet for turning out and taking these at numerous events, in exchange for donations Those Dark Peak Running Vests are badly designed in terms of avoiding nipple chafing by the way. If you havent yet joined a running club and are thinking of doing so, I do urge you to check out the design of the vest you may be required to run in. Wish I had. I love Smiley Paces I really do, but we have the most unflattering top in the world It’s fine if you have an ‘athletic’ physique, but it does me and my assets no favours at all. Oh well. I’m not including a photo of me in that.
On the one hand, I’m a bit disappointed that I have yet to get a proper action shot of me at a river crossing, but on the other it’s probably a blessing. It would take considerable artistic licence and photo shop skills to make me look like I was doing a graceful skip through clear babbling brook waters. I think the reality would be more like a dumpling wearing the aforementioned deeply unflattering Smiley vest belly flopping into a deep fat frier. Lots of splash back, due to the impact of dropping a heavy solid object from height into a liquid but not an altogether elegant sight.
So, second river crossing successfully negotiated, and my lovely Barnsley Harrier friends looked back to check I was OK before heading off up the next hill a bit in front of me. It was a bit of a haul, and my legs were wobbly by now. Through narrow gates, over styles, past some more interested looking equines in a stable this time and eventually you emerge back onto the road. My trail shoes were a bit sticky for this, and that slowed me down, but the road was pretty, lovely views, and I was enjoying the scenery. I had runners both ahead and behind. There was one solitary car, with a terrified looking learner driver crawling along, seemingly in constant terror that a runner might suddenly jump on the bonnet of their car. One random pedestrian passed me coming the other way, and made some sort of generic kindly remark. ‘Well done‘ or something, which was encouraging and supportive. It was genuinely lovely being out. Cattle grazing in fields, pretty little houses with trees laden with blossom outside. Spring lambs, picture postcard stuff.
This final third has a longish road section, but it’s very flat. I could see the moving orangery ahead of me, and slightly behind me was a companionable guy in blue. I think he may have been a Penistone Footpath Runners and Athletic Club person, they were well represented too, I suppose it’s their patch. They have a reputation for being super friendly, and if my deduction skills are correct, that was my experience too. Anyway, when we got to the bit where you turn off the road down the easy-to-miss narrow footpath, which takes you back across the first stream, the orange army waved to check I knew to take it, and I did the same for the runner behind. For those of you who think this is over-cautious, I heard later that in fact four runners did overshoot on a previous Trunce, I believe they are still running now. Shame.
After the splash through, more upward and onwards, clambering up the slope you run down as you set out. I was seriously flagging. There may have been more walking than running at this point, but I told myself I was saving myself for the flat path which we’d eventually return to. When I reached it I did begrudgingly put on a bit of a jog. However, I was re-energised by the site of another labeled Trunce runner apparently heading back out. At least I’m pretty confident it was her going the wrong way not me. What was she doing? Sweeping? Going round again just because? I have no idea, I was just glad we were heading for the downward hill. Me and my following friend exchanged exclamations of incredulity. She looked fresh as anything – surely not a late starter…!
The woman ahead of me seemed to be limping a bit, and I made a mental note to check she was OK when I caught up. I never caught up. Not that badly hurt then. Or maybe that is her running style? No idea, it’s hard to maintain grace and elegance on trails, but it’s a lot easier to smile, especially for the downhill final weeeeeeeeeeeeeee bit down to the finish funnel. Now that finish is fun. No sneaky uphill to the end, which happens way too often at events for my liking! Instead, a wide open finish funnel, flanked by my Smiley Buddies, who’d been back for ages, and other people looking out for their returning club members. All very social.
Flushed with endorphins, I set about hugging everyone in reach, or even in sight. Took a while. Was that inappropriate? Don’t care really, felt OK at the time. Anyway, I’d made new friends, shame not to capitalise on that. There was the guy hot on my heels just behind me for starters, as well as my lovely new Barnsley Harrier friends who were fabulous ambassadors not just for their club, but the human race too. There is hope in the world people, remember that. I can’t find any Trunce photos of this running club, so I’ve nicked this group shot from their Facebook page so you can appreciate them in all their orange glory. Distinctive kit that, give them a cheer if you see them out and about.
Reunited with my Smiley Buddies we embarked on an immediate post race de-brief as we removed shoes and socks and then realised it was absolutely freezing. Top Tip, do take a change of socks and shoes for the journey home and a fleece too. It’s way colder than seems possible at the end.
As we compared tales, it became apparent that of we Smiley trio one of us had gone down the diagonal grass track (WRONG) only to be faced by barbed wire. Another of us had heard that we were directed not to at the pre-race briefing, and obediently followed the required route, and me, Smiley three, I was fine because of having no personal initiative and just sticking with following the BH crew at a respectful distance. It was their lead rather than my navigational choices that kept me on track. Wayward Smiley who took a detour regaled us with tales of watching others ahead of her appearing to fall into spontaneous combat rolls ahead of her. She thought they’d added in some sort of random physical challenge just to make it all a bit more interesting. Little realising as she blindly followed that she’d end up having to do her own forward/combat roll under or over barbed wire as she got to the same point. Actually, was it combat rolls or commando rolls? I get confused. It’s not like gym class at school, there is no pre-race knickers inspection. Nobody checks you are wearing standard issue navy blue passion killer pants before you are allowed to take part, so you can’t honestly tell who was going commando and who wasn’t. Personally I don’t have to go commando, because I wear Runderwear. In actual fact, my current pants had their debut outing at The Trunce, and I was wearing them again today. Yay. I forgot to tell the Runderwear ambassador this. She will be thrilled when she finds out. It was her persuasive skills that encouraged me to buy them in the first place, hence she is now always known to me as the Runderwear Ambassador, a title of which I like to think she is rightly proud. Then again, I carry many delusional thoughts with me as I move through life, this may yet be just another one of those…
Anyway, bottom line (no pun intended) is that we’d all had a grand old time. Going to take part in The Trunce on a Monday evening is like having a cheeky mini-break, it really is. It’s good fun and is a great distraction from whatever might be getting your proverbial goat elsewhere in life.
Even better, the joy of the event extends beyond its finish. On return home, you can extend the pleasure of the Trunce experience by stalking local running club Facebook pages and indeed The Trunce Facebook page as well for accounts of thrills and spills that took place on the night. ‘Thanks to those lovely runners who helped me after I did my faceplant in the stream/ fell and broke my nose/ got cornered by a cow/ stuck on a fence/ went the wrong way‘ you get the idea… If you are lucky, there are photos too. Not so many tonight, but hey ho, we have our memories, and we have next time out. Yay. Hit those trails. Go on, you know you want to!
So, conclusion. The Trunce is fun. Glad I went. Will go again.
For all my Trunce related posts see here and scroll down.