We were cold; our trainers squelched after running through wet grassy fields, our clothes were damp from sweat and foam shot at us during the fun run. My legs weren't too bad but were getting a little tired as we traipsed back up the long winding road to our pre-arranged taxi pick-up. The sound of the fun run grew fainter as the stars in the sky got clearer. There was a near-total lack of any other light source save for the torches strapped to our heads.
We were both quiet, a little weary but more wary that if the taxi we didn't entirely trust was a no-show we'd have to go back AGAIN. It would be another kilometre walk back to the Longleat manor house area where we could only hope to convince a kind-hearted member of staff for a lift to our hotel in a nearby village. Of course, these things are never simple and because I'd accidentally left our hotel keys in the taxi on the way to the park, hours earlier, we had to get this taxi in order to get the keys back, or risk definite embarrassment back at the hotel and most likely a well-deserved fine.
We'd known about 'glow in the park' for months and had been relatively organised in booking hotels and train tickets. We arrived at the Bath Arms in Crockerton in good time and got to stroll down to the beautiful lake nearby, strolling through a pleasant English country village with pristine front gardens and an amazing cottage next to a tea room which could have housed hobbits.
The lake and woodland were stunning; a place where you could feel time slow down. We got lost in the wood where all familiar sounds were gone; instead, a beautiful calm and serenity enveloped you while you were dwarfed by huge trees standing effortlessly noble, sunbeams scattering between their ancient barks.
Back at the hotel, we had time to rest and snack on some salami and rye bread purchased from a Lidl in Warminster. We watched the chase then slipped into running gear, snapping glow sticks to put in our headbands and head-torch straps
Ready to go, we waited for our pre-booked taxi outside the pub while people slowly came and went and children played nearby.
It was a no-show and repeated phone calls to the taxi number remained unanswered. We had a creeping anxiety that having come this far via two trains, a mix up from an instance of the booking.com app causing a hotel double booking (luckily taken care of relatively quickly) and, of course, actually paying to take part in the charity run, we were going to miss it.
15 minutes passed, so we booked another taxi, who said he'd have to start the meter as he left warminster! This seemed pretty unfair but we agreed as we had no choice. Later, it would be explained to us why they adopted this tactic.
Several minutes later and a taxi arrived to drop off a lady at the pub. We asked if he could pick-up, he could, and, in fact, he owned the company we'd originally called.
The driver explained he had booked a driver for us, but that the driver in question was constantly making mistakes and was certain he'd gone to the wrong village.
'I will die young from stress,' he said
I didn't really believe him.
Then he called his colleague who indeed had gone to an entirely different village to pick us up; he got a fair bollocking.
When we got to Longleat around 10 minutes later, there was a huge queue of cars entering the premises so we jumped out to avoid a huge fare and booked the taxi again for 2.5 hours later at the toll houses near the safari park entrance, before setting off on foot.
It was a LONG way to get down to the start, we reckoned a kilometer and a half, as the time was ticking and we wanted to get going on the run to have time to get back for our taxi we legged it down to the run area; over wet bumpy roadside we ran. I felt surprisingly OK as I paced it along occasionally stopping to catch my breath, but it was a great way to warm up! We got heckled by a couple of cars but it was all in good spirits
"You'll tire out before the run," one driver cackled.
We didn't get a lift offer.
The mansion at Longleat is absolutely epic and the gigantic lion statue outside is something else!
It must have taken about 20 minutes to jog over to the grounds and then another five minutes to get to the main area where there were loads of stalls setup for such things as registration and face painting.
So we got our faces painted, looked quite cool to be honest!
Then we stood in a big crowd while a guy on a mic got the crowd going with awful pop music and shouting out dance moves; the YMCA got played, and the atmosphere was fun; definitely a light hearted affair.
We were getting anxious to get into the first wave, I remember at that time checking through my pockets to make sure I had everything before 'launch', phone - yep , hotel keys - nope, glow sticks - yep , wait!
I'd lost the hotel keys! This was bad. We were stuck in a big crowd of people in the middle of a manor house's gardens and I'd lost the hotel keys. I had a minor panic , maybe I'd left them at the face painting or at the registration desk area. Did we go hunting around and delay things?! Girlfriend called the taxi and had a quick conversation
'Yep. Oh great. Ok, cool'
I'd left them in the taxi. They'd fallen out my overflowing pockets!
My panic subsided a little. This did mean we definitely had to catch that taxi - really hoped he'd turn up - but what choice did we have?
Crisis averted, it was back to the run and we soon realised we needed to navigate to the side of the crowd to get closer to the front.
We boogied to the disco music waiting with anticipation. This was my first fun run. We'd already had to run for 20 minutes and it was in the dark. It was actually kinda exciting.
Then, almost, but not quite, then yes! We started and the crowd around us started to shift at varying paces. We were moving and it felt good to be moving again. We kept a steady pace as we passed through a small tunnel which had the Bee Gees playing. Staff suggested we move through it slowly, with a few crap Travolta-esque moves, it was best to keep running to escape my dancing shame
We ran, overtaking groups , sometimes passing people who later overtook us, and never going too fast but keeping a nice steady pace. Either side of us, trees would open out into large fields. It was a lovely setting in which to find ourselves.
We ran on road, then grass, then passing through tunnels playing disco, one filled knee-high in foam, another with people shooting you with jets of UV liquid - which sadly didn't glow - one station that had fire jets on top then a gush of mist stopped everyone in their tracks as we couldn't see past our outstretched arms. Later on, they played a lion roar's to tease us; no one was phased but kids would have loved it. There were loads of little ones with athletic parents at the run. It was definitely a fair way for the smaller folk, so definite hats off to them.
There were cheers and whoops and generally people seemed happy. When the end came close, girlfriend , with a huge grin on her face, darted forward catching me unawares. My competitive streak gave fuel to my legs and I hammered it, but still came second to her.
It felt pretty good to finish. 5k isn't too bad but this was a fun run so am not going to get too comfortable with my running abilities. It was a nice feeling to have got it done and in around 40 mins, which for me felt alright.
We got given a fluorescent green certificate saying we'd survived the Longleat Glow in the Park, some Innocent coconut water, and a free pot noodle. This was all appreciated but a pain to carry.
We took a few pictures of ourselves, a bit sodden but smiling, then realised with only 40 minutes to go before taxi pickup it was best to head back the 1.5km to the pickup point and hopefully get those keys back.
So off we went walking back to the mansion, crossing through other people still running then further away from all the lights and sound into the darkness ahead. At this point I really felt envious of people with cars that even stationary added some protection from the cold.
As we walked back up that darkened road my only real concern was finding our taxi was a no show then having to retrace our steps and hope anyone left packing up as the event ended would help out - this was a bit of a low. But I tried to remain realistic. It was not exactly the worst situation and to think of what people have to go through, what people have endured, this was so minuscule.
After walking for about 20 minutes, the road had re-opened and cars started to pass us by, this didn't entirely help my previous envy.
When we passed some huge whale bone sculptures and saw the toll booths, I felt a bit relieved. A quick call to confirm the taxi was coming, added a little more relief , but until a car arrived with the orange taxi light glowing I wasn't going to get too relaxed.
Only three minutes later than the arranged time, the taxi arrived driving past us then stopping and waiting. We ran over, opened the door to an unfamiliar driver to find he was our original no-show. produced our keys from his pocket, I took them gladly, sat in the vehicle and felt relieved we were almost home dry.
We'd made it. It had certainly been a bit more effort than expected but the certificate of survival felt a bit more relevant.
Back at the Bath Arms, we got into our nice big room, hopped into the shower, and then popped into the pub for a couple well-deserved pints. We chatted to some of the friendly off-duty staff about our evening.
We mentioned the cost of our taxi and they were horrified. It sounded way too much considering how close the park actually was and it appeared we'd been taken on a longer route. But as one of them explained, because they have to leave Warminster, where there is more business, and get back, they have to up the fee effectively. In a way, this kind of made sense , although I didn't like it. We were in a small village away from much night life, so that made the costs more acceptable.
That night we relaxed back in the room. with its nice sofa. We drank some wine while munching on brie, bread, and pistachios in order to refuel, and watched that night's late night movie before a comfortable sleep.
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