Hanging gates and herding bullocks – Race report

Marshfield Mudlark was a right lark & laugh. One of the most fun running races I’ve done.

Who’d have thought a wet & windy Sunday run through mud, stinging nettles, over a dozen stiles some more sturdy than others and a bit of fence mending along the way would be so amusing and memorable.

Marshfield cricket ground hosted the event but after cars transporting over 200 runners drove around the field it looked more like a rugby pitch at the end of season than a perfect cricket pitch. There was on the day registration, coffee and cake and a mini run for kids all set up.

A hand drawn sign indicated the ladies changing room, it was time to peel off the warming layers and face the elements.However as we walked into the ‘Ladies’ it opened up into a communal change, shower and toilets with the gents ! Never mind it was too cold for a strip.

Race briefing told us to follow the orange way markers, watch out for the bull and his harem in the field about mid way and location of water stations. 170 steaming runners toed the line and the Garmin chorus began as satellite  signals were located. Spectators lined the start with umbrella and wellies seeming the best attire for the day rather than flimsy Lycra and and a plastic watch.

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Eleven kilometers lay ahead of us, up and down hill, across fields, through woods and streams whilst being watched with curiosity from sheep & cattle. The marshals were very cheery but when 5 in a row said they heard us before they saw us maybe they realised we weren’t going to top the podium today. Pat, Tracy and I ran together while Helen tore off into the distance before we rounded the first corner. Apart from Tracy we didn’t realise it was actually one of our running club championship races – so points at stake. These were decided in the first 500m, Helen to get the team win and 20 points then Tracy to bag the 19 as she is a contender for the title. Pat and I would take the remains, at least that way we get our names on the championship board.

After a few minutes on tarmac, speckled with mud and cow shit we were off road and traversing grassy banks. It wasn’t long before we came to the first of what seemed like 101 stiles or gates that would interrupt our flow – Ok reality they gave us a breather as we lined up to clamber over the first few. Its a shame there wasn’t more people behind me to benefit from the style cleaning service I performed. With short legs my thighs brushed the mud off the top bar of each stile leaving it clean and dry for the next person.

We followed the orange tape and  looked to spot the next marshal in the mist. At approx mile 4 there is a rather step hill, about a 1 in 10 I think he said at briefing. It was a cheeky bugger as it climbed, it turned so you never saw the summit until about 30 meters from the end. “Nearly at the top” was sprayed in orange about a quarter of a mile up the big hill. Tracy & Pat didn’t think that was right having done the race before, I was in ignorant bliss thinking thats not too bad then. Said hello the the farmer watching us puff and pant and stormed on. Only to reach a steeper incline around the next bend and we were reduced to a walk. Another quarter mile and ” I Lied !” was painted on the road – ha ha 🙂

The water tasted like wine and the Jelly Babies like nectar as we tried to eat and drink as our lungs and ribs were turning inside out to get oxygen in. At least we passed 3 people going up the hill.

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Through some tree lined lanes which gave us some shelter from the wind and rain we then popped out and edged around a ploughed field which was probably the flattest part of the route then back into undulating (read steep) fields and grassy banks.

By now it seemed like we had been through 80 of the 101 stiles or gates and I grabbed a wooden gate on the side of the orange tape indicating our onward route. Pulling and tugging it just wouldn’t open so I got two hands on and jiggled it. Whooops – gate in hand I’d pulled it off its hinges as I tried to get through.

So mid race I was re-hanging a gate in pissing rain stood ankle deep in mud and legs being brushed with stinging nettles. …..Sorted gate, off again.

Race briefing mentioned the bull and his harem and that they would be moved away from the route by a front runner. They didn’t say about the field of bullocks. Curious beats they congregated around the gate that we needed to pass through. Now I’ve seem my local farmer moving the cows around the field so climbed over the gate – this one was bigger and didn’t think I could hang it if it came off its hinges. Waving arms and shouting “Mooooovvvee Onnnnn” the bullocks dispersed. Two other runners joined Pat & Tracy looking for safety in numbers as I manoeuvred the cattle. Tracy came into the field and shot up the hill ! She then paid for it at the top as she’d over exerted herself and the adrenaline rush subsided. Not sure what the correct term for Cow phobia is ?



From the bullocks at the gate it was only a couple of miles back to the finish across fields, more nettles to leave the last sting of summer on semi exposed legs and a gentle trot along the road which was now awash with water as the rain had increased in intensity and the temperature had dropped.

A banana, flapjack and lolly pop for finishers – perfect for a small local race. Then coffee and cake in the cricket club house before the presentations. The room was steaming and packed but the floor protected this year from becoming a mud bath with big sheet of tarpaulin.

Amy the running club coach took first lady and my friends niece took first under 18. I had an hour and twenty minutes of fun on the run.

My trail shoes went home cleaner than they arrived as the manicured cricket pitch grass and rain cleaned off the remains of my last chalky run mud.

Would I do it again ? – yes it was fun, not as muddy as I expected and I know about the big hill so can prepare or practise for it. Good local well organised grass routes race with profits going to the local school PTA.



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