It was a contest.
It may have been hosted in a bucolic valley of deepest Hertfordshire, surrounded by farmhouses, stabling and sheep but it was still a competition.
30-odd runners – and strangely clad others, later identified as something called cyclists – turned up at the Ashmei office on Saturday fighting to become the next Ashmei Ambassadors hoping to receive the spoils that that entails.
Except we didn’t. We turned up all right, each sporting our own personal favourite polyester (shudder) running apparel, but there was no hostility, no point-scoring, no attention-seeking that normally comes with a mass of people vying for a small amount of places.
In fact the only competitiveness I saw in the whole day was seeing who would blink first and eat the pastries pre-run rather than the fruit.
After a bit of mingling, catching up with old faces and meeting new, it was time for a bit of a presentation from Ashmei founder Stuart Brooke.
Here I have to declare an interest. I have been wearing Ashmei products since I first started running. Considering their deliberate placement at the very high end of sports clothing – think Aston Martin for style and cool – and the pricing structure that comes with that, it may seem like a bit of a boast. But unlike Aston you can own a bit of Ashmei without robbing the village post office. Socks.
My first ever race was the Henley half marathon in 2013. And there in the middle of a rugby field, gleaming despite the rain, was the 1964 “Overlander” Airstream caravan (yes, I’ve memorised the website). Inside an array of bold, graphic designs in red and black drew me in. I was hooked. Admittedly the prices made my eyes water more than the storm outside but I knew I wanted a piece of it; and so I bought socks.
I needn’t have bothered.
Had I known that only two years later I would be given a free pair to try out at the ambassadors event I could have save a few quid.
And so to the run; the bit I should have been looking forward to the most but was dreading. I’ve hardly run a step since the beginning of January (see previous posts for mind-numbing naval-gazing injury-related tosh) but was determined to be included in the major part of the event. So the day before I saw my favourite masseur, the lovely Poppy, who carefully, gently and sensitively pulverised every muscle in my lower limbs. She had elbows and fingers in places they really shouldn’t be allowed, increasing the pressure in direct relation to how loud I howled and how hard I whimpered.
The upshot was that, on Saturday morning, I had legs that felt they had been beaten by iron bars but no calf pain. As a result run was fantastic. The views were stunning, the woods beautiful, the company interesting but selfishly all I could think was that I was, finally, running again. I’ve had to cancel two marathons so far and it was looking bleak for a number of other races including my first ultra in May. But running around the Ashridge estate, up and down hills, along footpaths and trails, I was a runner again.
From start to finish it was a great event. Meeting runners who are achieving things I can only dream about is both humbling and inspiring. Other people will become Ashmei Ambassadors, I am not the demographic a cool young company is searching for but I don’t care. I ran 5.5 miles for the first time in two months.
I’ve already won.