Tweed Valley Tunnel Run 20k

A week passed by and not a single run had been done. The tumble in Lanzarote has become more than some scratches and bruises, I've sprained my big toe. 

Resting my foot as much as I could I decided I'd still run the Tweed Valley Tunnel run 20k race. Sensible? Maybe not but I love a trail race so couldn't refuse. 

With the scream of the alarm clock, I woke up, had breakfast then said cheerio to Mandy as I made my way to Peebles for the race start at 10am. 

Driving down the road with the green, brown and golden yellow leaves showing me the way to the country side I was really looking forward to the race. I knew I wasn't in the best shape but I was still going to give it my all. 

I arrived in plenty of time, made my way down through the park with the morning dew wetting my shoes as I walked across the grass to the registration tent. Picked up my race number and timing chip and went out along the course for my warm up. 

While warming up I spotted a runner from Corstorphine AAC and I secretly hoped he was running the 10k rather than the 20k race. Why? The reason was simple, even if I was fit, uninjured and running well, I couldn't beat him, he is a really good runner.

Before I headed to the start line I noticed a couple of Foxy Trail Runners in their FTR hoodies and tshirts, they looked brilliant! I had a quick chat with them and a couple of other friends I spotted during the start and wished them all a great race. 

With my toe on the line, I was the first one to head off along the trails. At this point I'll explain the format of the race, it's not your usual mass start. You have to manually tap your timing chip, which is on your wrist, against a pad which is held by a volunteer, that's your time started. You do the same again at the finish and that's your time finished. This essentially makes the race a time trial and someone who finishes behind you could still record a better time and so get a better finish position!

With a clear trail path infront of me I was feeling good. Splashing in the muddy puddles and making good progress through the gates and over the uneven terrain. I hadn't seen Ally from Corstorphine AAC at the start so it looked like he was running the 10k and I was now starting to stretch my lead over 2nd place. I relax and enjoy the run and the pain free running. My foot felt good.

As the first runner I was having to unlock a couple of the gates I came across and as I did this I took a quick look behind me, Damn it! There was the white vest of Corstorphine gaining on me and I knew straight away it was Ally. It didn't take long for him to pull up beside me, we had a quick chat and then he disappeared in to the distance. There was no way I was going to even consider going with him. 

Now in second place I still stayed relaxed. I may not win this year but I can still try and finish 2nd.

Muddy trails turned to disused train lines which turned in to tarmac roads and then to field tracks. It was a real mix and it kept me on my toes, literally. With the first 10k of the race passing behind me I then took on 'The Sware'. This is the first of many climbs for the next 10k. 

Shortening my stride, trying to keep my breathing relaxed I took it a step at a time. "Get to the top" was all I could think to myself. Once at the top there was a slight U bend and I could see someone, not the person I was expecting to see, but someone chasing me down. Now I had to fight to hold second! 

We were soon running across fields with lumps and bumps all over the place. No clear path to follow and really difficult conditions. My foot started to tell me it wasn't enjoying this terrain. It wasn't long until the runner came cruising past me and started to move away from me. I didn't give up on him though and I made up the distance once he hit the wet muddy sections. I think he had road shoes on but my Inov-8 X-Talon 200s were amazing. Lots of grip and I was now in a race for second again. That was the plan at least until we hit another climb and I had nothing. He made great progress up the hill and I couldn't respond. 

I was now in no-mans land trying to hold on to 3rd place. 

After a couple more hills, which I had to walk, it was the downhill section. I love a good fast technical downhill but alas, my foot had other ideas. Every stride I took was jarring and the pain was making me run abnormally. I was frustrated to say the least. 

After a long section of road running I joined back on to the trail and merged with the 10k runners. This gave me a boost. I was no longer running alone. We headed in to the forest again and the route became more technical again. Jumping over tree roots, hurdling some downed trees, it was great fun but I was having to pick my moments to try and pass the 10k runners and also think about my foot placement, which I wouldn't normally do. 

One section in particular was amazing fun though, I think it must be used by mountain bikers as there was banked corners which looked man made. I took confidence in my shoes and zoomed around the banking as hard and as fast as I could. It was brilliant.

Before I knew it I was off the hill and heading in to the 600m long tunnel which was lit up with disco lights. It's a fun section but it's not the easiest to run. The loose gravel underfoot is hard to see and you're constantly guessing what your foot is going to land on, not what I needed! 

Once out of the tunnel I passed a couple more 10k runners and prepared myself for the final climb of the race. Up around the park and then down to the finish line. I crossed the bridge that we had to run over and then, wait, we aren't doing a lap of the park?

I'd not looked at the changes to the course and totally misjudged my finish! 

I quickly adjusted my pace and went for a full out sprint to the line. A 10k runner who I presume thought I was also a 10k runner chased after me and did beat me on the line but I was kicking myself, I should have checked the course route before starting. I'd saved too much for the final climb that never was. 

I crossed the line in 3rd place but I then had to wait to see if anyone else's chip time would beat mine. It didn't take long to find out the answer. Just 5 mins later someone crossed the line 27 seconds faster than me and took 3rd. To be honest, it's what I deserved.

The course was harder than last year but I'm also not as fit as last year. I've not been putting the training in. 

I'm taking another week away from running in the hope that my foot heals in time for this weekend's race! I've Manchester half marathon to run which I'm really looking forward to. 


Owain Williams

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