Sunday, 3 June 2012

Tillingham Valley Rockabilly Race

A few weeks ago I signed up for this race on a bit of a whim, as I was just looking for a race to do in June that would fit around other weekend commitments. This looked like a low-key, friendly event, and so it proved. I had no goals, other than to have fun and enjoy the views of the countryside.

It was in the middle of nowhere in deepest rural Sussex, and we got lost a couple of times on the way there, arriving after about an hour in the car. We drove into the middle of a field on a farm, and there didn't seem to be many people about. It had been advertised as a series of races beginning at 4pm, but in fact on the day, there were just 2 races - one for children and the main race - and they didn't start until 5.45pm.

So there was plenty of time to hang around and get chilly, and the kids had a great time playing with a dog they met (Sidney). The clouds crept over the sun, and it started to get quite windy, so it was a relief when it was time to line up for the kids' race.

For a while we thought Robbie and Emma might be the only runners, but a few more children turned up, and there were 8 altogether I think. It was 0.5 miles, and I ran with Emma. She was the youngest there, and we were last, just behind Robbie. The boys at the front were a few years older than my two, and I thought they did well to keep going the whole way. Emma said she was tired after about 30 seconds, but she didn't give up, and they both got their medals!

Robbie said afterwards that he didn't enjoy it at all though, and I think he found it hard-going.

I had about a minute to catch my breath, and then it was time for my race. There were 33 of us at the start line, and there semed to be quite a few club runners, so I wondered (as I often do) about the possibility of being last.

Crossing the start line
It was such a small race, that we all separated out very quickly. I remember deciding to overtake a woman after about 200m, and I didn't pass anyone else, nor they me for the rest of the race. The whole thing was on farm fields, so the going was pretty rough. There were rabbit holes, long grass, a couple of streams to leap over, and 2 very steep hills. The first hill was just after 1 mile, and I had to walk part of it. About half a mile later, we ran down again, and then it was round more fields and past sheep and lambs. Then the next hill was at about 3.5 miles. Again, I walked quite a lot of it as it was so steep.
The second hill we climbed
There were a couple of runners who I could just make out in front of me, a man about 1 minute ahead of me, and a woman ahead of him who eventually disappeared from view. There was no-one to be seen behind me from about 2 miles onwards, and the spectators were only at the start and finish, so apart from the sheep it was a lonely, quiet race! The views were lovely though.

The hills really took it out of me, and the bumpy fields were hard work. After the 4 mile point, there was a stretch of very long grass, and I was so tired then that I walked again. I wasn't looking for a fast time, and I knew there was no-one behind me who could catch me. Finally I turned into the start / finish area, where a rockabilly band was playing and a bar and barbeque were waiting for me. Robbie and Emma crossed the line with me and I plodded in to get my medal.

The finish!
While the band played and more runners gradually came in, I had a delicious burger and a coke, both of which I had been thinking about and looking forward to during the race! Pete said he had only seen one woman finish before me, but I knew there were at least two, and probably many more.

The kids were dancing to the music and Pete was enjoying the beer, so we stayed a bit longer, and soon the race director took the microphone to announce the winners. I couldn't believe it when he called out my name as 3rd woman! I won a bottle of wine! This was a historic moment as I have never won anything or got such a good position in a race before!

It felt really good. I was 18 / 33 runners in total, 3 / 14 women, and 2nd in my age category. According to my Garmin, the distance was 4.6 miles, and my time was 41m55s. As I was taking in the excitement of getting a prize, they also gave out prizes for the children's race. Despite finishing last, Emma was the first girl! I hadn't noticed that there were no other girl runners! She went up to receive a bag of Minstrels, and was a very happy runner!

How odd that such an uncompetitive race, which I really only did for fun and had no goals for, should turn out to be a prize winner. It was a great afternoon, and I hope they won't be the last prizes for me or Emma!


  1. Well done to both of you but especially to Emma. That's awesome to be a prize winner and especially when the prize is sweet and delicious.

  2. What a great race for all (except Robbie? kudos to him for sticking with it even though he didn't like it)! It looks scenic but definitely rough. I noticed a few barefoot runners in the start line photo. Is that common?

  3. Congratulations!!! That is so cool! It does pay off to hang about for the awards ceremony, doesn't it? It did sound like a tough course though, I'd be scared to go too fast and sprain an ankle in one of those rabbit holes...

  4. Congratulations to all of you! I love small, low key races. I got a top 10 once...but there were only 8 finishers :D.
    Have a good week!

  5. You were way way ahead of last! I am smiling like crazy for you. I often have those I will be last thoughts and I am afraid in three weeks it will at last come true.
    Your kids look so cute with their numbers.

  6. Oh, how cool, Liz!!! I love those smaller races. Congrats on the 3rd place win!!! Proud of ya.

    My Running Shortz

  7. Well done Liz - and the kids. There's nothing like winning a prize to give you motivation and boost your will to do better. Winning can become addictive!

  8. ....oh, and I forgot to say, love that friendly little wire fox terrier. Used to breed them many moons ago.