Cockington Christmas Caper, 10 Dec 2011

Probably the muddiest race ever - the seven-mile Cockington Christmas Caper near Torquay saw a successful and enthusiastic Musketeer entry.

Nicole, Mark, Louise, Neil, Kevin, Guy, Bryan, Kate, Sarah, Maggie and Sharon took up the challenge in the hilly wooded valley and riverside that is the picturesque setting of the hall and grounds at Cockington.

The 11 intrepid Musketeers joined 160 other runners in wading through the glutinous stuff, clawing up steep banks, tiptoeing between treacherous claw-like slippery tree roots and stumbling over stones up steep slopes and in some cases, dramatically falling over stiles.

For veterans of this annual festive race, complete with goody bags including a mini-Christmas cake and mug, this was an altered route. Sections remained, but others were reversed while the start and close to the finish were different. The approach to the finish was quite novel and in total contrast to the rugged route preceding - taking us through the attractive gardens of the hall including steps and a meandering path round slower beds and decorative hedges.

One thing that remained was the slow slope up the finish, where a few last -gasp close duels were played out. And thankfully the challenging gruelling character of the race was retained.

All those sparkly clean running shoes certainly came back covered in red south Devon mud, as did all the legs including the odd scratch and graze and threaded shirts.

Guy indulged in a new tactic by diving spectacularly over the final stile and performing a paratrooper style double role. He amazingly gained ground on the runner in front and leapt up to finish unhurt. This manoeuvre left the young marshal open-mouthed and speechless - clearly expecting a casualty. But he was deprived of all the tiresome paper work that goes with injuries. Maybe this tactic can be included in dynamic training programmes from now on!

Finishing order: Guy, Neil, Kev, Mark, Sarah, Maggie, Nicole, Bryan, Sharon, Kate, and Louise.

Every Musketeer enjoyed the race and were impressed by the organisation and goodies. However, there was doubt about route-marking in two places where two runners went the wrong way.

This is a must for next year for Musketeers wanting something more adventurous which adds to strength and fabled core stability. It is also a great place to bring families for the walks, café and shop and nearby pub meals.

By Guy