As many of you know, I struggle with pre-run nerves whether it be a club run, parkrun or an actual event. However, The Bacchus is probably the only event that I find myself standing on the start line and appear oblivious to what I am about to do and this maybe the reason why….
On Sunday, 10th September (yes it was a week ago, but it’s taken me this long to dry out), I found myself on the platform of Crowthorne Station at 7am awaiting my carriage to take me to Dorking Deepdene station. Unfortunately it really was the morning after the night before and the realisation soon hit me that (a) attending the Yateley Cask & Cork the previous evening and consuming vast amounts of wine was not the most sensible idea (b) I was in fact still a little inebriated and (c) I looked and smelt like a tramp, carrying in one hand a bag containing all those important things, such as a bottle of Prosecco and in the other, a dustbin bag full of tutus, fairy wings and t-shirts. I would like to say I was race ready, but alas I was far from it, even the guard gave me a wide berth!!
I felt quite accomplished when I disembarked from the train, with my possessions still intact and awaited the arrival of one of my fellow fairy friends, Hannah Glaister, who was travelling from London where she had attended a Wedding reception the evening before…. Yes, yet another ‘Race Ready Runner’!!
Upon arrival at Denbies Vineyard, we swiftly collected our numbers and made our way to the cafe to prepare ourselves and await the arrival of Zerrin Selen, who was the third member of our ‘team’. Alas, our fourth member Samantha Pittick was unable to join us due to a bad back, so with this in mind, we opened the Prosecco and toasted her absence. Whilst we donned our tutus, t-shirts, fairy wings and body glitter, a lovely Scottish man from Kent joined us on our table. He confidently informed us that he was looking at achieving a 3:40 Marathon time, so in celebration of this we gave him a beaker of Prosecco, which he reluctantly took and wished him well!! By 9am we had consumed a bottle of Prosecco, a slice of malt loaf and were beginning to feel excited?! An email from the event organisers prior to the event, had informed us that this year there would be six wine stations for each lap, three white and three red, alas no rose’. In recognition of this Hannah, as if by magic, produced a couple of bottles out of her bag and we merrily filled our water bottles, with the pink liquid, before pushing our way through the crowds to get to the bag drop.
We made our way to the start line and managed to find Zerrin, who was looking glamorous with her bright pink lipstick and plaited hair. This year, the start times were staggered so as Marathon entrants we found ourselves in the first wave. At this point we were still unsure what distance, if any, we were actually going to run. In fact at this point, I don’t think Hannah or myself were aware of why we were even there!! The hooter sounded and off we went. We were faced with the usual congestion at the start of a race and we chatted and laughed as we made our way onto the uneven terrain of the vineyard.
Spirits were high with all the runners and it was a colourful sight of Ladybirds, Bees, Unicorns, Superheroes and Flamenco dancers to name but a few, that wove their way along the pathways. Zerrin stopped every so often to pick grapes, whilst Hannah and I topped ourselves up with our own grape refreshments.
At mile 3 we found our first station. The band were blasting out some tunes and we showed our appreciation by standing in front of them for a quick photoshoot. A quick shot of white wine, an adjustment of fairy wings and we set off again. The ground was uneven, the inclines were getting steeper and I was feeling a little worse for wear. The banter between us continued and we battled on. In the distance we could hear the joyous sound of pipes and there in the distance was a lone piper standing on the hillside. We had a little dance, although I’m not sure he was too impressed with our jollity and left him to blow heavily into his pipes, a huge sigh of relief that we had gone.
Mile 5 was our second station and another white wine was on offer. We listened to a female singer screeching out a song or two and had a photoshoot with a few Policemen. I scoured the tables for any signs of food, but alas there was none. I had suddenly realised all I had eaten in the past 24 hours was the slice of malt loaf earlier that morning. The only thing to do was move onto the next station and hope there would be something on offer there.
We continued to battle with the steep inclines and came across a wood carving of butterflies and flowers. It was time for another photoshoot. At this point we ambushed Archie the dog. His owners were looking out for their son, who was taking part. They succumbed reluctantly to our charm and quickly took a photo, obviously eager to shake off three rowdy fairies who were keen to have Archie on their team.
At 6.5 miles we hit another station. More white wine and the meagre offering of what vaguely resembled a chocolate brownie cut into 1” square pieces. I took two and hoped for the best, The man pouring the wine was trying to be a little economic with his measures, but Hannah soon put him right and so he topped up our little beakers. We had a chat with an elderly couple, dressed as The Incredibles, who we had seen many times along the way and were to become our personal photographers, as well as a lady dressed in Um Bongo leggings and matching top. Hannah proudly sang all the words to the Um Bongo song and the lady laughed. Little did she know that she would have to listen to Hannah singing that song to her, every time we saw her for the rest of the route. Needless to say, she did only laugh the once!
At mile 7 I felt like I could no longer carry on. I looked at Hannah and Zerrin and declared wearily, ‘I can’t do this!!’. The response back was harsh ‘You’ve got no choice, it’s either 6+ miles ahead, or 7 miles behind’. I looked to my right at the steep slope down and considered throwing myself over the edge, but it was rocky, so I gave up on that idea and trotted along behind them, watching Hannah’s wings hanging skew whiff on her back.
We stopped for a photoshoot with a cow and my spirits felt lifted for a short while, although the hunger pains were excruciating. I had become fixated on wanting to eat cheese, so asked every Marshal I saw if they had any. Alas, not one of them had thought to pack a cheese sandwich before leaving home that morning.
At mile 9 we found the rose’, despite it not being listed in the email. We drank it appreciatively and had yet another photoshoot. By this time the rain had come down heavily and we weren’t looking as sprightly as we had at the beginning. The body glitter was washing off and Hannah’s legs were becoming more and more streaky from her fake tan getting wet and running down her legs. The mud was gloopy underfoot and we were sliding all over the place.
In the distance we could hear music, this was a sign that another station was imminent. We could see an opening in the woods and a Marshal standing in the middle of a lane and there he was, our very own Jim Laidlaw. We whooped and hollered, it was like seeing an oasis in the desert. We went to sample the red wine on offer and then went back for a photoshoot with him and a quick dance . At this point we still hadn’t decided whether we were going for the Marathon or the Half, we were within the cut off time so we kept our options open, although we did try to convince Jim it was our second lap!!
Reluctantly we left Jim and his hi vis jacket, although unbeknown to us, the lovely Fern Stonestreet was marshalling a short distance on from Jim. Alas she didn’t have anything to eat either, but it was great to see a smiling face, even if she was standing at the foot of the steepest hill I’ve seen in a long time. As we clambered to the top, we passed many ‘runners’ who were bent over gasping for breath. Zerrin had informed us that it was less than a parkrun distance to go, so on we trotted, with her pointing out the bushes where I had lost my glasses the previous year (don’t ask!).
Ian Bromley was a vision in orange, and informed us the end was near, just one more wine station to go and yes you’ve guessed it, at mile 12 we hit the jackpot and found the Cava and another fellow SJ, John Wright, who was marshalling. He embarrassingly pointed out the last time he saw me was on the SJ Pub Run, so with this in mind and trying to act sober I shook his hand and asked if there was any food. We were directed to a table, where underneath was a box of mini pizzas for Marathon runners only. We assured them we were and dived in. It was at this point we had to make the decision, keep going for another mile or turn right and go back round to complete another lap. The pizza had given us a burst of energy, but even Hannah and I were beaten on the wine intake. We decided to call it a day and make our way to the finish line.
We jogged along, chatting and laughing, whilst Zerrin videoed the scenery. As we approached the finish line we held hands like the Three Musketeers, crossing it together. Alas this act of comradeship was wasted, the official photographer, failed to get us all in one shot!!
We hastily made our way to the hog roast and our final glass of wine, where there was a choice of colour. We sat on the floor of the marquee, eating, drinking and celebrating the fact that we had just run 13.1 miles. All in all, it was a great day. It was my third time of taking part in this event and I have to say, it was, yet again and despite a dodgy start, an extremely enjoyable and entertaining run. However, it is expensive, so my advice would be, if you’re not a drinker, or if you find the thought of running and drinking a tad too much, then save your money.
Ps. We never did see the Scottish Man again who we met in the café. I wonder if he achieved his goal of a 3:40 time or whether we ruined his chances?!! I guess we will never know…