West Buckland School Exmoor run – a demon is slain

imageI am feeling relatively few ill effects from running the West Buckland School Exmoor Senior Boys run on Thursday. Past pupils and parents are invited to take part (via the excellent West Buckland Foundation and Old West Buckland Association). 40 did on Thursday. But only three were crazy enough to go the whole hog and walk out eight miles with the senior boys to the start before running back 10.6 miles. I was one of those crazy three. The boys walked out at a breathtaking pace, so, for me, the walk out alone was more gruelling than one of my 17 kms training runs on Greenham Common.

The weather was really good. The view from the start, near the top of the moors, was utterly stunning (thank you, God).

The past pupils start a few minutes before the boys. At the start, I turned and looked at the boys lined up in their house columns, waiting to run. That was me 39 years ago. Their whole lives are in front of them. An inspiring moment. I couldn’t help smiling broadly.

I ran every step of the way. So this was the first time I ran the Exmoor. (I used to walk big chunks of it.) It will certainly be the last time as well. I have done it now. Box ticked. If there is a tougher cross country run in the country then it must involve wading through pools containing live pirhana and running bare foot over red hot coals.

The first half is relatively OK. Mostly on track, mostly downhill. But the sadist who designed the run reserved the hellish bits for the second half. Mud. Mud. Mud. Inglorious mud. Hills. Hills. Hills. And more hills. One 33 percenter. Rutted muddy tracks almost impossible to run on. Marsh. Bog. Streams. The local Hunt in full regalia, complete with numerous followers (I kid you not). It’s got the lot. Then when you think you are on the home straight, there’s a blinking turnip field to negotiate – like running through a minefield.

I don’t believe in “bucket lists”. It doesn’t seem to fit with my faith. But, by running (albeit at some stages at a speed that would have looked more like a soft-shoe shuffle) the Exmoor every single step of the way I have well and truly slain a demon.

This will give me the enthusiasm to keep on running. Every run will now be a breeze compared with the Exmoor.

Thank you WB!

West Buckland School, Exmoor run. 1976. Our famous "Band on the run" pose as we leave WB on The Long March. I am trying to play the James Coburn role (tallest in the middle). If any photo sums up my joyous memories of West Buckland it is this one. Brilliant! I really did thoroughly enjoy the Sixth Form and it really helped form me as a social person.

West Buckland School, Exmoor run. 1976. Our famous “Band on the run” pose as we leave WB on The Long March. I am trying to play the James Coburn role in the middle. If any photo sums up my joyous memories of West Buckland it is this one. Brilliant! I really did thoroughly enjoy the Sixth Form and it really helped form me as a social person.

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