Even If You Win The Rat Race You Are Still A Rat

I have been known to quote certain people on here, from Sir Winston Churchill to Theseus, however this may be the first time I have ever quoted William Sloane Coffin Jr; “Even if you win the rat race, you are still a rat.” I’m not entirely sure that RatRace’s Legends of Sherwood event was exactly what he had in mind. For those of you wondering where you have the name before, it's the people behind The Mighty Deerstalker (Rat Race, not Mr Coffin!)

The race began at dusk, just over 1,000 competitors assembling on the start line. I had been fairly organised for once and had got there reasonably early to grab a spot on the front row.
I was a little sluggish off the line, we headed down the field for 50 yards to the first wall, and launched ourselves up and over this. It served to spread us out a bit, and a group of us formed at the front, pulling away from the majority of the runners behind us. I was in fourth place, chasing hard up the first hill when Stuart King came passed me, I tried to stick with him as best I could, I followed him passed one more runner but then lost contact with him as he took the lead and began to pull away.
The leading pack began to spread out along the first twisty section through the forest, the trees were dense enough that even in the twilight the torches were required. Emerging from the woods into a more open section I could see Ed Nicholas 40 yards ahead of me and made an effort to close the gap, it took another mile or so but I caught him as we crawled out of the first tunnel. The man in third place was out of sight by this stage and I had no-one to follow, the rather sudden darkness meant that as much of my concentration was going on spotting the course as it was on trying to keep the pace up. I could see two lights right behind me, staying close but not really gaining on me.

Stewart Kingshott and I fighting over third place.

I spent the majority of the race in fourth place, winding through the forest, recognising bits of it from the various bike races I have competed in there over the years, through and over various other obstacles and tunnels until we arrived at “Spooky Wood”. This section had been mentioned to us on the start line, we had been told that we would get lost in there, and so it proved. The trees here were so dense that it was impossible to run through them, I had to keep very low to the ground, trying to squeeze underneath the lower branches, sometimes crawling, sometimes managing a sort of stooping run. It didn’t take long before I was completely lost, I found the barrier markings at the edge of the wood and headed back into the depths of the forest again, trying to keep the pace as best I could, relying on my sense of direction, there were no course markings in sight. I spotted the light of another runner over to my right and headed towards him, it was Nicholas again, bugger, I must have lost a place, I must be down to fifth now. Working together we eventually made our way through the dense foliage to the end of the woods and picked up the speed again, he pulled away from me up the hill to the bog, Stuart Kingshott right on my heels now.
I leapt into the bog, much colder than I was expecting, under the logs, holding my breath under the water. I emerged on the far side and set off down the hill.
I lost Kingshott on the following climb and concentrated on catching Nicholas. I caught him just as we got to the next log wall. He failed at his first attempt, I got passed him and over the wall, stumbled and he then fell on me as his second attempt proved a little more successful. The next couple of walls were conducted in a little more civilised manner, and then we were under the netting, crawling along, working together to speed our progress. Emerging on the far side and out onto a fire-road we could hear the music in the finish arena in front of us and the sprint finish began in earnest, down the hill to the bottom, then a sharp turn and up the next climb, back into the tress, zigzagging up the hill. We ran into the arena together, the crowds cheering loudly. There was a seven foot wall in front of us, Nicholas got straight over and I followed. He went straight over the next one too, but I had to have two attempts, I pulled myself over, fell off the top, landed in heap on the other side and then picked myself up and sprinted the last few yards and across the line.

The result was something of a surprise to me. Stuart King had won, with Ed Nicholas second and me third, not fifth as I had thought, two runners had just vanished, I expect they had lost time in Spooky Wood and Nichols and I had got passed them without even seeing them. Either that or they are still in there trying to extricate themselves. 899 runners completed the course, the top ten were as follows:

1.   Stuart King              0:51:46
2.   Ed Nicholas             0:53:48
3.   Andrew Howett         0:53:57  
4.   Stewart Kingshott     0:55:30
5.   Allan Smith              0:56:45
6.   Dale Butler               0:56:50      
7.   Ian Beskin               0:56:51
8.   Neil Rossin              0:57:51
9.   Mark Laurenson       0:57:58
10. Moreton Ellis           1:02:57             

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