This is a race report for the 2015 Gruesome Twosome Half Marathon
Useful information about the race.
The Gruesome Twosome, Swallow, Lincolnshire, UK.
Hilly (mostly) off road half marathon in teams of two.
17th October 2015
Mid morning, 11:00 start.
Dry with broken cloud and a nagging North Easterly wind.
The course was a mixture of wooded sections, open fields, small country roads and technical sections with logs to clear. The course profile provided very few flat sections; it was mostly either up a hill or down one! Conditions were largely dry; a choice of road shoes rather than trail shoes would not have significantly disadvantaged anyone.
Details on taking part in the race.
A very well established local event with a really good team of race organisers in the background (Tape2Tape). Set in the beautiful rolling hills of the Lincolnshire Wolds, the race provides great views and access to some lovely tracks, trails, woods and fields throughout the course.
The main objective was to keep up with my speedy team mate, Steve Ellis, and post a reasonable time.
Being that this was my second ever competitive cross country half marathon, to beat my time from the Caythorpe Dash, earlier this year.
The race began with a wide mass start in a field then quickly funneled through a gate and subsequently took in three sides of a large grassy field on a hillside, making up the first mile of the course. This, somewhat beneficially, gradually thinned out the runners prior to us entering the first wooded section of the run, which introduced itself with a hop over some logs into a lovely set of trails under the trees. These were often lined on both sides with nettles, of which I am personally a great fan! Much of this section was only wide enough for a single line of traffic, providing very few opportunities for overtaking.
As we briefly climbed out of the woods, a panorama of fields opened up to the left before we disappeared once again into trees down a steep dip with a style to climb over at the bottom. Still moving in a westerly direction, we began the climb up to the highest point on the course just beyond mile three at the top of the hill between the villages of Caybourne and Rothwell. It was at this point, having just turned south that things literally went south; I suddenly felt my wedding ring drop away from me and onto the muddy track upon which several hundred pairs of feet were going to trample.
I notified my team mate, Steve, and thus began a frantic search for a few minutes but to no avail. I decided to cut the loss and get on with the race, making a mental note of a bunch of yellow flowers growing at the side of the farm track as a rough reminder of the spot for returning later.
So we began again, albeit a few dozen places further back, and dropped down a rugged, part-surfaced track then onto tarmac and into the village of Rothwell where, rounding the Blacksmiths' Arms pub, we headed on to the longest leg of the race, heading in a north-westerly direction. This stretch was bound to be challenging, what with its length of over five miles heading directly into the strengthening wind. After a water stop and, bizarrely, encountering a lady taking a stroll with an owl perched on her arm, we continued out of Rothwell along the valley bottom through the Limagrain site and over some muddy fields.
Crossing a small wooden bridge, we ascended the side of the valley and over the hilltop into another drop to the yard of a small farm at Cuxwold. Exiting the yard on the right, we climbed a steep concrete road slowly turning to the west and up into the wind once again. Now began a three mile long slog across wind exposed fields with little in the way of cover except for hedges and the odd tree or two. There was a welcome water stop along the way and some great views towards Barton Street, Grimsby, the mouth of the Humber river and the coast.
Mile nine, which was the lowest elevation we had been at since the start, saw us jump through a gap in a hedge and finally turn almost in the opposite direction, much to our relief, with the wind now at our backs. We moved along the edge of a field and into shelter along a secluded track overlooked by a coppice of mixed woodland. With the shelter of the trees and sunlight streaming into our faces, this was one of the most pleasant parts of the course. Climbing to the third and final water stop, we hit the first of a handful of road sections that characterized the last three miles. These sections of tarmac afforded us the option of speeding up a little with the added advantage of the wind being still at our backs.
We were now almost continually losing altitude for the next two miles, but with the knowledge that there was one more hill to come. We cut through a few fields, one with a particularly short but steep climb and steadily made progress. Once again, the views, this time to the west, were really rather good, more than making up for the gruesomeness of the course so far! Turning briefly northward we reached a deserted farmyard with a sharp right turn at the end. This took us to the foot of the final steep climb at mile twelve and it seriously did not disappoint. It was an ascent of approximately one third of a mile and quite unrelenting. I think that congratulations are definitely owed to the course creators for this feature, as it really added something to the experience that had everyone talking afterwards.
Once the hill was crested, it was a hop and a skip before heading down again to the very final leg along the old A46 to the finish line in a playing field at the side of the Swallow crossroads. It was a most welcome sight. The processing of the race finishers was of the usual high standard provided by the organisers at Tape2Tape and we were afforded with a choice of black or luminous green for this years' coveted finisher beanie hat.
Well as things turn out I found that one of the marshals at the finish line was none other than Jimmy Dutch, veteran Caistor and Cleethorpes running club member with well over a hundred marathons to his name. Not content with being an accomplished runner in his retirement, he is also chairman of the local metal detecting society, and as luck would have it, had his metal detector with him in the car. We returned to the spot of the unfortunate loss. It only took him three minutes to find the practically invisible ring in the grass and mud; I can definitely say that without Jimmy and his trusty metal detector, the search would have been fruitless.
Where to start? This is probably my favourite event so far since I started taking part in races. The event itself has the highest standard of organisation that I've seen considering its size. The support from all the marshals (especially the Caistor Running Club ones (I have to say that as I am biased!) was brilliant. It was not the warmest of days, and standing on the same spot for hours in such conditions is not easy - I know because I've been there. The course itself was new this year in order to avoid the dangerous section on Caistor High Street - not having run the old course, I can't comment about whether this was an improvement. What I can say is that the course was excellent from my point of view; nice and undulating with a good mix of surfaces made more interesting my the weather conditions.
Really there is nothing I can criticise, other than the one thing out of human control - the weather. Even that would be a little churlish, as the conditions played their part in adding to the dynamics of the event.
In my opinion everything is great about this event: course, marshals, organising, even the post race beanie hat! The maximum 5/5 is well earned.
I took part in a recce run of the course the week before organised by Nicola of Tape2Tape, and I found that having the prior knowledge of the course really helped on the day, especially with my team mate not knowing the course.