I can feel the sun shining on the back of my neck as nervous chatter slowly spreads throughout the bus.
I see glimmers of light through the edge of my goggles but the eye piece is slathered in green paint so any chance of seeing where we’re going is impossible.
As the bus twists and turns round various corners, trying to remember the route seems a pointless exercise so I give up.
My thoughts turn to counting up how many calories I’ve eaten recently. It’s only a few days after Christmas and one thing is for certain: this is the biggest carb-load I’ve ever done.
This is Team OA’s The Drop. A very different type of race with no maps, compass, phone, GPS watches or money allowed.
Competitors are bundled into a bus in the centre of Huddersfield, with all banned items secured in an emergency bag, and driven either five, 10 or 15 miles (as the crow flies) from the town.
The aim is, simply, to make your way back to Event HQ using your own two legs. I have no knowledge of Huddersfield, or anywhere close, so I stick with the 10-mile option, hoping that I’ll be able to either ask someone, follow road signs or have a zen-like experience of just knowing the way.
As the bus trundles along I try to picture a local map in my head and the realisation dawns on me that I haven’t really prepared for this.
I try to focus my mind and, remembering the sun on the back of my neck earlier, think we have probably headed north-west (as it turns out a very good prediction!) and decide the best strategy will be to head back south, or at least in that general direction.
On the mooove
A short while after dropping off the 15-milers, the entrants for the 10-miler are ushered off the bus. I lift my goggles, blink into the sunlight and look around. It looks exactly like somewhere within a 10-mile radius of Huddersfield should look, but other than that I have no idea where I am.
I recall pub talk of how best to approach the challenge – I’m sure someone said that when cows lie down they always point towards Huddersfield. With no cows in sight, I take the simplest option and follow the bulk of the pack.
It’s not long before we reach a large crossroads and decision time looms. I’ve already spoken to a fellow runner who said he’s local and he runs straight ahead, but pretty much everyone else takes a right.
Mob mentality takes over so I follow the main pack. It soon starts to thin out and I start a conversation with another runner named Sarah.
I’m still feeling the effects of Christmas, so I’m glad there’s no need for lung-busting paces and I can enjoy taking in my surroundings. I have no idea where I am so some comfortable jogging and chat in the crisp frosty countryside is just what is needed.
I ask Sarah how she’s feeling about the race. It turns out she’s from Halifax and is running in a team with Steve (both members of the Halifax Harriers) who is ploughing on some 100m ahead.
They have had a dream “drop” because they know where they are! This gives me a conundrum as I almost feel like I’m cheating, but if they take a right turn it would seem complete madness to take a left, so I decide to go with the flow and tag along for a while.
Spotting a road sign to Huddersfield gives me some comfort we’re headed on the right track as we run though the Yorkshire town of Halifax, following some slightly backwater routes in broad alignment with the busy A629.
Even locals get lost though and before I know it we take a random turn through a dry old field leading up to a steep bank at the side of a dual-carriageway.
Before contemplating if it’s a good idea or not, we clamber up the bank and run on the small verge the wrong way up the road.
Clearly the desire to find our destination is great but I do smile to myself remembering some of my work colleagues’ comments that I must be the only person to ever want to run into Huddersfield!
I pick up a nice pace as we reach a comfortable downhill section which leads back to the town and the rather fantastic race HQ – a stylish micropub called Arcade Beers.
Team OA have a projected a large map on the wall tracking everyone’s position around “The Drop” zone, and while some have clearly taken the scenic route, everyone eventually makes it back to HQ safely.
This is a unique race that takes us stats-obsessed runners back to basics. It leaves you to simply enjoy the pleasure of running without knowing how far along your journey you are, or how far you have left to go. A metaphor for life if ever I’ve heard one.