It helps to have run the TACH races before, so you can gauge your effort for what’s coming. I have run the Burrington Blaster previously, but just the once, three years ago. From memory, we were facing a never-ending uphill followed by a treacherous downhill.
Either my recollections were faulty or we’d gone the wrong way, because, after an initial climb the route levelled then dipped. We were running full tilt downhill when, in my head, we should have been grinding uphill.
I was relieved when the course did turn upwards. My legs were ready. We shook off a few runners who’d been seduced by the fast start. Now I ran with three training partners: Andy, Neil, Paul. How many times have we climbed Nightingale Valley together, only to find ourselves shoulder to shoulder in a race? Paul set the pace. I expected Andy to pull away — he’s been flying recently — but eventually it was me who picked up the pace, passing Paul as the climb opened out from the woods and on to the top of the beacon.
Last time out this exposed section had been windy, wet and boggy. Today found the going still and dry. My chance was now! Convinced longer legs would catch me I hurled myself at the first open downhill, launching off ridges, sliding on bare earth, using the grassy verge to decelerate as needed. I knew my pursuers had me in view and didn’t want them to think they were closing in. Now the patch narrowed and swerved though bracken, gorse, brambles, still downhill. Room for one only: noone could pass.
I was on my own anyway. No sight of anyone ahead. No sound of anyone behind — even if you cannot hear a chaser directly, you can hear the spectators cheering them, or marshals guiding them. Of course you would never look back!
The final woodland descent, I took carefully. Three years ago I’d lost fourth place slipping and falling, and had considered myself lucky not to get hurt.
Today, I finished unscathed, 4th overall and 1st veteran, with a time of 35:36.
The winner, Chris McMillan, completed the course in a blistering time of 32:33, nearly two minutes clear of the next runner.