Mark’s Run Report by Rachel Green

Mark’s run – race report.  December 20th 2020 by Rachel Green

I have to confess that I was nervous about this run.  I’ve been running a lot lately – about four times a week but mainly on the flat and not for much more than 3-6 miles in length. 

My husband and fellow roadrunner, Ant, confirmed that he’d done the route recently and that it was hilly and extremely muddy.  Ant is more of a hardy runner than I am so for him to indicate that it was challenging was ominous for me.

However the sun came out and I felt better once I’d hooked up with my regular running buddies outside the Siemens factory.  We slowly jogged and walked up to the starting point at the Chalet in Wytham woods in good spirits.  It was terrific to see so many familiar faces gathered together (in a socially distanced way of course) to celebrate Mark’s life and passion for running and the opportunity to run in that most beautiful of settings – Wytham Woods (thanks to Nigel).  Simon’s beautiful speech about Mark set the tone for what was to be a particularly special sun-dappled run.

I was in the 10 minute mile paced group and we received rapturous cheers as we turned round the first corner courtesy of Basia and her family.  This spurred us on for sure down the main track through the woods.  We sped past a very jolly Ted German and Jacky Pinnock down through the mud-furrowed track down to the Botley Gate.  I was so involved in a chin-wag with my old running mate Claire that we suddenly realised we’d been left far behind the rest of the group and had a long old time trying to catch them up again.

The hill up from the Botley Gate, the ‘singing way’ was really challenging but for some weird reason, despite not being a particularly fast runner and often struggling to breathe, I do alright on hills and was soon in amongst our group again thankfully.  We made our way back to Ted again and the turn off towards the sheep field, girding our loins for the killer hill back to the chalet but what a beautiful surprise – once the trees cleared the whole of Oxford lay out in front of us in the sparkling winter sunshine under blue skies as far as the eye could see.  Breath-taking in more ways than one.

I slipped and slid most of my way down the sheep field narrowly avoiding a gargantuan splosh into a massive mud pool by the gate just as Sheila Gascoigne was taking our photos.  The killer hill back to the Chalet was pretty tough but not as bad as it could have been as I remembered Marisa Keeley’s advice on hills to look down at the ground and convince your brain that you’re running on the flat.  This method has the added advantage of not being able to see the next even steeper hill that awaits you around the corner.

Finally I could hear voices, the roof of the chalet and then the very welcome sight of Charmian ready with a stopwatch at the end of the race.  I was absolutely spent but very happy once I’d had a cuppa and an energy bar (courtesy of Caroline Ogden) and gathered my wits about me.

Graham Bridges has said this far more eloquently than I could hope to but the tree-planting ceremony for Mark was really moving.  I was so glad to be able to witness Mark’s oak tree being planted in such a perfect spot in the woods.  At the crossroads from the path towards Eynsham.  Each time we roadrunners run up into the woods from Eynsham we can track its growth and remember a very special person who loved these woods.