Wilmot Wander

The Wilmot Wander is a great 32-mile route around Derby. Although not particularly hilly its a great event to end January with or start the year with – whichever way you want to look at it, and you are guaranteed mud, delicious oozing, slushy mud. Oh yes! It is an LDWA event which means its as cheap as soup and roll which is what you get at the end, you can almost enter on the day which means for procrastinating people like me that’s perfect and it is on a Sunday which is even better. So why not when it costs £12 for 32 miles. Right, let’s do the calculations that is 37.5p per mile. Lets put that into perspective. The Sheffield Half marathon is £40 that’s £40 for running up a hill and back on the tarmac – £40 for 13.1 miles – that’s £3 per mile – £3 to run on the tarmac a mile – really? Yeah sign me up now.

I have walked 28 of the 32 miles of the Wilmot with my gorgeous best friend Becky a few years ago. This was before she was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. We had to bail at 28 miles due to Becky’s blisters. I had worn waterproof socks but alas she hadn’t. Walking I must confess was harder than running.

The speed doesn’t really matter; what matters is that you start and you don’t stop.

2 years ago I ran the Wilmot in 5 hours 36 minutes. Becky met me for the last four miles the four miles we missed out the year before and we ran them together. This time Becky had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. Runner, non-smoker, mum to 2 gorgeous boys, fit, healthy woman. No reason, no reason at all. My heart bleeds for anyone with cancer.

It’s always about the trail and never about you.

Becky is still here today – sadly not well enough to run with me this time but I had to do Wilmot, for her, not for me, for her. Because I could. I could run so I would run, just run for happiness because I could. There is no medal, no tee, no individual podiums for these sorts of events, you just run or walk and enjoy the journey. It is not marked so you do need to be able to read a map, a description of the route and back up of the GPX file. It’s not that difficult and this year after going wrong ever so slightly in one of the villages I clocked up 32.16 miles in 5 hours and 11 minutes. Boom – I run my regular local runs slower than that.

It is such a simple non-racing affair, runners and walkers set off at 2-minute intervals from around 7 am to 9 am in the morning. Because I was late entering I got an 8.56am slot so the scout hut was almost empty when I arrived to hand over my life savings of £12.

‘Number 128, 129’ they shouted, ‘have a fun day’ and off we went. 129 set off at a bit more of a speed than myself. A chilly day, windy but the raindrops were being kind and few and far between. I had put my waterproof on just to keep off the wind but within a couple of miles that came off. I had also put in my waterproof trousers and x2 lots of gloves, just in case, along with 2 buffs and a merino hat. Overkill maybe for a low lying route but you never know what could happen.

Every race proves a new opportunity to educate myself about what it means to be a runner and what it means to run.

A couple of hills thrown in for good fun always allows an excuse to faff and sort out your nutrition. Of course, I was using the tried and tested Tailwind Nutrition – Naked flavour in one side and Green Tea in the other. I also had a spare stick pack of Green Tea and Orange. I would take on a few jelly teddies at the tea and jelly teddy stops too. Although in traditional LDWA style they were serving biscuits and tea, I did decline this year. I always carry an emergency Gel (Torq are my fave) and an ‘energy’ bar of some sort – at the moment I am into the raw cocoa ‘Pulsin’ bars only because they were cheap at Home Bargains. These were deep down in my pack so were never touched. 

It never feels like a ‘race’ although there are prizes for the first team apparently. And I found out later that the big boys who came hurtling past me on the golf course around 7 miles in were the winners of the ‘team’. What I do like about this event is that if you are a runner you are forever surrounded by other runners and walkers all going at their own ‘speed’, so you never feel alone. I ran passed Dean, a friend of Becky’s and said hi. We wished each other a pleasant day and told each other to enjoy the mud. My mind was flashing back to Becky, to when we walked the route together, little did we know what the future would bring. Where we ate our sandwiches, where we would have conversations about the future, where we would have a cuppa tea (Oh that was just me) and eat digestive biscuits.

I believe that when we face challenges in life it’s an opportunity to build on our faith, inner strength, & courage. – Sasha Azevedo

The route goes through a lot of muddy fields, a lot. Rather a lot. Jobs the lot. The muddy clay seeps onto the soles of the trail shoes so it feels at times like you have an extra 2kg of weight to carry around. At times I would have to ‘wipe’ my shoes on the edge of the grass. There are also a few little-scattered villages around the trails to either meander through or in my case on the last one, to get lost in.

Only around 14 or so miles in after a little climb and pretending to keep up with 2 other guys in front of me did I feel lethargic. I wasn’t drinking enough and probably hadn’t taken enough jelly teddies at the previous checkpoint. So with half a bottle of Tailwind left I gushed that down and reached down into my pocket to bring out my sandwich bag of jelly teddies. Both those did the trick and next minute I was flying down the road onto the next trail, overtaking those other guys.

Feeling strong going into the next checkpoint I was straight in straight out after a refill of my soft flask. With a little bit of magic powder sprinkled into the bottle, I was back in my running head. I hadn’t bothered to look at the time/watch blaa blaa blaa as it really didn’t matter. What mattered to me was that I could do this, that I could maintain my energy and feel alive and strong. And I did just this.

The penultimate checkpoint at around 23 miles offered me more jelly teddies and they had tea and juice but I was fine. Another small top up of my other soft flask with Tailwind Green Tea magic powder and I was on my way leaving the other runners and walkers for dust. I wasn’t going to hang about for the sake of hanging about.

Probably the ‘worst’ bit of the route is crossing the busy A38 dual carriageway. Remember Horace goes Skiing? It’s a bit like that. But this year I was lucky enough to find a gap and not get splatted so I managed to ‘go skiing’ on the other side on more slushy mud.

Never Mess with Someone who Runs Through Mud for Fun

It was only when I got into the final village of Findern that I went the wrong way. There were a couple of routes on the description that we could take and despite having the GPX file too I managed to take an alleyway that got me a bit lost in a housing estate. I popped out a bit too far from the village green but it was obvious I needed to divert the ‘right’ way to get back on route. From there onwards I felt like I was full of jelly teddies and Tailwind, and the Tailwind (wind) was being kind as it was an actual Tailwind, as I trampled down the flat, monotonous, toneless 3 miles of muddy tedious canal. However, my pace felt strong. I felt robust and energetic both in the head and body. I overtook a couple of guys who were now walking the canal trenches. I continued to run knowing last time I had stopped and walked some of this section which makes it even more tedious. How people do 100-mile races on canals is beyond me. 3 miles of yawn producing canal is more than enough for my little head.

Running has taught me to love my brain, my body, and what both can do for me when I use them wisely and appreciate them – Meggie Smith

The final Checkpoint was in sight at a pretty lock and although I got offered more jelly teddies I had really seen enough jelly teddies to last me a lifetime. So I politely refused and got my head down to finish of the last 4 or 5 miles of the Wilmot which was more or less all on a cycle path. Relatively flat and the Tailwind had turned into a Headwind luckily I still had my ‘proper’ Tailwind to keep me going and it did. It kept me going, it’s all you need all day, really.

This last section was where Becky had joined me two years previous so every footstep of mine was emotionally devoted to her. Yeah, corny I know, but I know Becky would have loved to have another go at this. Despite my wearying body and the headwind, I knew my body could do it and I was lucky enough to have a healthy enough body to do it. The cycle path was a bit monotone for my liking but all part of the challenge, and I wasn’t the only one thinking that as I knocked off another couple of guys on my way back to the finish.

Passing Pride Park Stadium I knew I was nearly there. After a little climb over a road bridge and then another little climb over a footbridge I would be ‘home’. Down the other side of the footbridge I flew and back into the Scout Hut. I did wander Wilmot style around the back entrance first before realising it was locked so had to faff squeezing back around a parked car to get into the front entrance but what’s 60 seconds-ish of scouting around a scout hut anyway? 5 hours and 11 minutes. Boom.

Cheap as Soup and roll, and cheese chunks and cake and a cuppa tea. Plus a certificate and the satisfaction that you’ve run 32 miles for £12. Stick it on your race calendar for next year along with a stick pack of Tailwind Nutrition, and you’ll have great muddy bargain infested fun.


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