Darth Mannion, Gower, Wales - March 12 2016
Support, friendship and a welcome to a close community are my memories of last Saturday. No, I was not attending a village pageant in the Gower, West Wales, I ran and walked and almost crawled around the most scenic landscapes in the United Kingdom as a participant in the seventh Darth Mannion.
One of two hundred odd runners, running along the Welsh coastline, climbing over fences from one farmers field go another, did not phase me. I wasn't too concerned about the bramble hill as it was downhill. I did miss my normal running shoes, loyal, wearer of the Brooks GTS which I've bought for the last six years and have got me through ten marathons, not the same pair!.
For my Introduction to trail running, well trail running plus, more of that later, I invested in innov8 mud crawlers, a sound decision, but they don’t offer much support for my ankles as I tackled hill after hill on the most exhilarating run I have taken part in.
I'm a lover of the big city marathons, the comradeship, "if you ever lose site of humanity, go watch a marathon". Taking part is even greater for us runners of course and what a sense of achievement running on the flat tarmac in a major city for 42.2kms.
For all that the Darth Mannion is, it is not an easy running event, but it’s a great event.
The run itself starts with a leisurely run, you set off in pelotons across some bales of hay to get over, easy enough, the farmers fields are manageable, even the first hills, steep and rocky, I expected it.
The first river run was cold, manageable and let me get my breath back from the first of the hills, too deep to run. Getting out the river a little harder, the moderators were on hand with a push and poke to heave me up onto the embankment for more running. It struck me then that there was a comradeship beyond anything I'd ever seen before. We don't run together, its 12 miles but we do run for each other and I needed and felt that support at points.
In total there was four rivers of various depths and lengths, three dips into the sea, where you had to fully submerge your body. Some took running tips off, others didn't. I tried the top off version, but when I came out, made it hard to get clothing back on and resorted to just getting on with it with a full body dive into the sea on the next sea dips.
There are both new friends and nameless comrades here. Whilst running, okay wading through the sheep dip, I unfortunately lost my footing and in trying to pull myself out, my calves decided to scream at me. Along comes a fellow runner, who helped me through, she was the difference between me getting out of the sheep dip and therefore completing my first Darth Mannion. I thank her again now, as my finishers medal is only because of her getting me out of there.
Death Hill, about 10miles in, felt like it, but you know, we runners never give up and I didn't. The words of encouragement from the Darth Mannion team to dig deep, and you did at times both mentally and physically got me around that course.
The Darth Mannion is only in its seventh year, and has grown from seven runners to two hundred hearty souls and was oversubscribed massively this year. I was lucky to grab a cancellation place and adrenalin other than specific training made me take part.
It deserves recognition, for being an innovative event in a beautiful part of the U.K. that's put together by a thoroughly great bunch of people, many of whom have been friends from childhood and they do it very well. They made you feel welcome, as if you were one of them, from the humorous speeches to the can of beer when you cross the finishing line, to the constant and continual team spirit you have from your fellow runners whilst out there tackling another hill, river or the sea.
Well done Darth Mannion and your team, next year, I will train for it, instead of doing cushy flat marathons. I'm running the World Half in Cardiff next week, it will be a breeze, I've just had some hearty training.