Greensanding

By Helen Tullie

On Saturday 26 June Christina and I ran the Greensand Ridge Relay route. We started in Linslade, near Tiddenfoot Waterside Park and finished 34 miles later at the Crown pub in Northill.

It was the completion of what had become a project- several Sundays over the last few months we spent “Greensanding”- recceing the legs and learning the way in preparation for the event.  Celine and Lynda joined us for some social-runs, and we combined legs and organised cars and lifts (thanks Paul, Ian and James!) to get some long training runs in. I also did leg 5 with my Dad who lives in Bedford, not far away.  

We were looking forward to joining the vibe that is Greensand on event day and imagined we would enjoy seeing the succession of Zebra vests from the different TRC teams fly past- hopefully all going the right way! When the event had to be postponed we decided to complete our run on the day anyway. It wouldn’t be the same, but with family and friends on board as support, we’d get the job done and have a good day out.

Brian saw us off- and it was good he did! -as neither of us has been present at the start of the race previously we didn’t know where the actual start line was. Brian showed us and after an official photo (thanks Brian) we were off. It was a 15 degrees, which rose to a sunny 20/21 later in the day and very humid indeed. I wasn’t unduly concerned- it wasn’t 25 degrees, we weren’t going up a mountain, we’d done plenty of “training” (well running), we weren’t after a fast time- it would be fine, wouldn’t it?!

For the first two legs we trotted along at our easy pace and were pleased when we reached the pretty run in to Woburn where you can see Woburn Abbey in the distance. Rachel was meeting us there and we were looking forward to seeing her and having a drink. A bit too keen to get there I took us off the trail too early- our only navigation error of the whole route. It was only a small error so we got back on track and soon there was Rachel, in full voice, cheering us in!

I was more tired than I should be – we’d only run 9 miles, at a very easy pace – so I was a bit confused as to why this was, but had some drinks, a couple of snacks and then thought we’d better get on with it – surely I’d feel better soon?

Leg 3 starts with the trail creeping gradually up hill through Woburn Park, with deer and Woburn Abbey to delight the senses. It then winds through villages, across undulating fields, passed the Segenhoe 12th Century ruined church, across the M1 bridge and finishes by running into Millbrook by the golf club and proving ground.

It is probably the leg I know the best, having raced it in 2017. It is the longest leg of the relay, and the most exposed.  Probably it is also my favourite leg, but on Saturday it was where I felt my worst.  I had to sit down for a rest at least twice, and then could only manage to walk rather than run for rather large portions. Christina was very philosophical and so supportive as my pace slowed and then stopped…”just think of it as a picnic in the countryside with some running” she said. “We’ve got all day”, she said, “it doesn’t matter,” Thanks Christina!

Rachel came up the trail and ran into Millbrook with us.  I sat in her car boot feeling a bit sorry for myself.  She was great though, sensitive, empathetic, but also pragmatic, “Yeah, it’s humid, yeah it’s hard, have a drink, have some food and then come on, let’s go!”

So, with half of Christina’s electrolyte tablet (mango flavour) in my water bottle we got going. Rachel ran with us for the first part of leg 4 which was a real boost. If you know Rachel you know she can talk (and run). As I’d lost the ability to talk during leg 3 it was good Christina now had someone to talk to and I could potter on behind. We passed the horses and on into Ampthill Great Park. I must have been feeling a little better as I remembered the correct way through the park!

Slowly but surely we got to Maulden Wood and were met by the mobile support station that was my parents. They had been waiting a while, Mum patiently doing crossword puzzles, Dad stomping round the woods…. Here, Lucozade Sport and a mars bar perked me up. I think I checked my phone at about this point and saw Brian’s supportive message in response to the fact I’d been struggling but was now feeling a bit better- “just get to the pub”…ok Brian!

We were soon off onto leg 5, down through the car park lay-by and onto the grass verge by the A road, that each time I have run on (3 times now) I wonder if this really is the correct route (I think it is….?!)

The combination of Lucozade, the now more overcast conditions and the cheering thought that we were only 10 or so miles from the finish spurred me on and luckily I could now maintain a slow running pace for longer than a few minutes at a time! We got to the leg 5/6 changeover, “Oh, you’re here earlier than I thought,” said my Mum, handing out more Lucozade and Coke. So, nearly there!

Leg 6 was a leg we had only done once, but was pretty straightforward. I got my map out just in case…although carrying a folded map and not looking it is perhaps not optimum. Luckily Christina remembered it well, and we actually completed leg 6 faster than on our previous recce. We were thrilled to finish and joined my husband, daughter and parents who had bagged a table at The Crown to enjoy some refreshment before heading back to Tring.