Big Way Around in Winchester was a new event, by a totally new company called Big Feat Events. 4 distances of 14 mile, 19 mile, marathon and 50km ultra, of which I did the ultra and it was my first race since Feb 2020 and my first in a Corsham vest as a recent new member!
The course, 3000ft elevation, was really quite beautiful taking in parts of the South Downs way, various landmarks around Winchester and took us through a variety of terrain, everything from a bit of tarmac, to hard packed and very runnable trails, to technical woodland sections and even the town centre (which was a bit mental trying to dodge shoppers on the high street at midday on a bank holiday and run through busy car parks in the final mile or two… bit weird that was!). Like any new race and new company, there were a myriad of teething issues, mostly the poor GPX file that was provided (nothing close to being like the actual course) and many people got lost particularly in the 2nd half of the race (I heard many issues with the marathon route especially, some folk doing 25 miles and others doing 28!). I even got sent about 0.8 mile the wrong direction by a young marshal meaning the 2nd place runner caught up with me… That being said and looking back now, I don’t really care as it was just so good to back in a real race and I would do this event again as I am sure they’ve learned some valuable lessons and the course was just so nice!
I didn’t have much expectations as it was the first race back in so long. My training had been really good (set two solo Time Trial PB’s at 5km (17:29) and half marathon (1:19:38) in the run up) and I appear to have (finally) fully recovered from a year long battle with Achilles issues so I set myself a target of 50km in under 4 hours. I started off strong pushing out 7-8 min mile pace in the early miles and soon found myself way out ahead of other runners for large parts of the race! I started thinking I’d gone out way too hard, but despite insane muscle twitches in the last 5 miles (I messed up my race day fuelling plan… muppet!), I managed to keep pace to the end and went through 50km in 3:59, bang on target, and crossed the finish line in 2nd place, just a few minutes behind a Team England ultra runner. Due to the extra 0.8 mile I finished in 4:06. It was quite the surprise to mixing it up amongst some very high level runners and it’s given me confidence going into future races, especially as I know I’ve got plenty of improvements to make
Still pinching myself really… I only started running at 34 years old (I’m 39 in August) after a very serious mental health battle. I decided I’d try running instead of taking the anti-depressants my GP gave me and it helped me give up cigarettes and get my noggin back in a good place. At no point did I ever expect to be running like this. Hoping I can keep improving and help CRC bring home some points in leagues 🙂
If you got this far, thanks for reading and listening to me waffle on!
I have always been quite competitive with myself and will generally try and push beyond what I am capable of. So why would I be content with just running a marathon for the first time, when I can try and run my debut marathon with a sub 3-hour target right?! Ambitious I hear you say? – yes! Perhaps a little foolish as a first I hear you say? – maybe! But a target I can get totally stuck into? – absolutely!
I must admit I set this target at a time when my best half marathon was 1:28:XX and had read all the articles that I could possibly find that suggested doubling you HM time and then adding 20 minutes and numerous that read to double and add 30. None of these seemed to appeal to me though so a sub-3 it was and once I said it out loud a few times, then I kind of dedicated my whole being to achieving it (another symptom of my competitive nature) without a single clue on how I would achieve it.
Training through the winter went well. I am a cyclist at heart really but cycling training is at its best during the summer months for obvious reasons, whereas I find the opposite true for running so they go hand in hand in that respect and means that you can up the mileage (sufficiently enough to prepare for a marathon). I set myself mini goals in the lead up but little fragments of doubt did start to creep in (which I chose to ignore). The two sessions each week that undoubtedly helped me the most were the weekly speed session and my weekly long run. Working from home and having to look after my children during the day too, meant that I had to do all my sessions early in the morning – luckily for me I found a good running buddy in Stuart Henderson, who was also fond of a 04:00 alarm clock and was aligned to my get up, get out, and get it DONE approach. I have always found it easier to get the motivation to get up and start running at an early time in the morning, if you are running to meet up with someone at a specific place and at a specific time. Kind of makes the 04:00 alarm call worth while right?
So race day came, Saturday 3rd April 2021 at Dorney Lake, near Windsor. To say I was nervous was an understatement and typically when I get nervous before an event the toilet beckons – A LOT – 3rd April was no exception but at least I wouldn’t be caught short halfway round a lap when the race started, which would have (probably) pretty much destroyed any hope of a sub 3-hour time. I was part of the first wave off and was group ‘U’. Figuring I still had time, I made my way back to the car to top up on some refreshing water and to get my game head on before the start. As I made my way back I could see that runners were starting. I still thought I had time though, so I took a gentle stroll to the start line. When I got there however, I was the only one as everyone else had already gone!! (oops first lesson learnt for the next marathon).
I set off and had wise words ringing in my ears from Vicky Henderson in a message that I had read that morning that said in summary (race your own race and keep at your own pace – finish strong). I looked down at my watch after around a third of a mile and saw the average pace at 05:50/mile. I felt good, so spent the next minute or so rationalising whether it would be a good idea to try and maintain that pace all the way round and finish epically but then wisely concluded (with that Vicky voice still in my ear) that I should slow down – after all, it was a marathon not a sprint! I slowed down and maintained a good pace still feeling good past half marathon then up to 15 miles. I was confident as I ran up to 22 miles in training and felt ok with that, so was feeling confident that I wouldn’t hit a hitch until the last couple of miles.
However, just before the final lap at around mile 17, this gigantic wall of fatigue just hit me like a brick and I started to feel totally rubbish and was looking at every coned off area and contemplating stopping at one of these for a well-earned rest. After all, I had earned it right?!! This was the thought process I battled with for the next 4 miles, but managed to keep the pace alive. Then the wheels really started to come off at mile 21 and 22 where I posted my first two 7 something minute miles – I spent those two miles calculating and recalculating how much time I could lose before having to admit defeat and miss out on that sub-3hr. Luckily, I met a guy called Josh who was running about my pace, had the same goal as me, and was also feeling the same way I was. I say luckily, because this is where it started to run back round for me. Running together and chatting (sort of) pushed our pace back up again and I started seeing sub 7 minute miles again and the confidence grew and grew. As I approached the last mile, I calculated (some of my cycling mates call me a walking Garmin) that I had over 8 minutes to run it! At that point I knew I had achieved it and was actually overcome with emotion a little bit.
I wasn’t winning anything for this achievement and it would be forgotten in about the same time as it took me to win it. However, setting a goal that seems out of reach, working towards it with consistency week in and week out, without making any excuses to yourself (or silencing them when the self-made excuses do inevitably visit), facing up to my inner critic, and then throwing everything I had at all of the above on race day, made me feel like I had just won World War 3! I had silenced the inner critic – even if only temporarily, until I start working towards the next goal.
I Really enjoyed NtCCC – it was a welcome distraction at a time when there has been scant else to do. I completed all but one of the challenges, but these were my favourites – or at least the ones I put most thought/effort into.
Stewart Unsworth will be proud of me – I studied the rules in detail and I think I found an exploitable loophole to beat the handicapper. There is nothing that explicitly says you have to run the same route twice – just don’t cheat because Father Christmas and the cabal know. To maximise the % increase between the 1st and 2nd runs while giving 100% in both, I needed to make the 1st one harder and the 2nd one easier.
For the 1st 5K I picked an undulating local 5K loop that I have run hundreds of time, only there was poor visibility, freezing fog, icy pavements, slippy leaves, I ran on tired legs and had low energy due to consuming less than 2k calories per day on a crash diet during the month of November. Nov 26th run #1: 20m 42s
For the 2nd 5K I tried to reverse all the factors of the 1st. I jogged up to the flattest route I know in Corsham (along the ridge in Neston), the weather was cool, dry and calm, and my coach and best friend, Luke, joined me on his bike to shout encouragement and prevent me from slowing down in the 2nd half. I was very pleased with the improvement and my 2nd fastest legal* 5K ever. Jan 16th run #2: 18m 56s
That’s right folks, Heddington doesn’t actually count.
100M Vertical Dash
I spent quite a while surveying local hills for this part of the challenge – I needed something steep, on road, and 100m of elevation. Naish, down in Lacock, was a candidate, as was the hill out of Slaughterford up to Thickwood. But ultimately Tutton Hill up to Colerne was my favourite. It ticked all the boxes, and I used to own the CR, so there was added motivation to try and win it back! However, in the end I did some maths and calculated that I would be able to run up and down my stairs for a total of 100m faster than any outdoor activity.
So that’s what we did – 19 flights x 5.30 meters (it’s a town house). I sent coach Luke off first and he recorded a very respectable time of 5m 26s. This was a great marker but I was determined not to be beaten by an 8-year old. I double-stepped every ascent, then hobbled back down at half the speed on my fragile knees. Final time 5m 16s…but I only just noticed this one wasn’t actually a competition 🙁
Slaughterford Prediction Run
SF9 is my favourite race of the year and I am gutted it’s cancelled. I figured the best way to predict my time was to go hard. I initially planned to aim for 1h10m, but on the start line I had a crisis of confidence and down-graded to 1h13m. The course was in perfect condition – not too muddy, not too hard – and my friend Andy gave me something to chase up the hills. I didn’t push as hard as I would’ve done in a race, but it was definitely an uncomfortable effort. Predicted: 1h 13m Actual: 1h 11m 6s
The Castle Combe run on Christmas Eve was in no way a chore – fantastic morning with some friends, and the same goes for the New Year’s run! I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy Andrew’s strength session – I hate strength work! It was also a nice surprise to bump into Max and Mike on the Christmas Lights run!
I really enjoyed the NtCCC. Many thanks to the organisers.
So I was out running my 5km for the Not The Club Championship and it hit me the difference in what my mind was doing in comparison to what happens in Vicky Henderson-Cooper’s head from a race report she did recently. She has focus. My head on the other hand was full of all sorts of stuff, most of it had nothing to do with what my legs were doing! I have put my busy thought filled head into categories!
The Inner critic/self doubter: “Careful now, If you go all out now you will never get up the final hill, you don’t want to go too hard, wait a bit longer before you go for it!” Unrealistic cheerleader: “You are running so well, if you keep this up you will be faster than ever, then you can train harder and enter more races, then you will win a trophy!” Menu selector: ” what do I fancy for tea, what can I cook with those sausages, I am really bored of making lunches, I wonder if the kids could do it….actually I haven’t made a cake in ages, I will do that” Logistics; ” so once I finish this run, I need to pick up my order, drop off that birthday card, read those papers for work, oh I haven’t rang my mum, when can I do that?” People thinking:”it was nice to see Ruth she looked well, I hope she gets that new job, I wonder how she will juggle that”
It’s hardly surprising I wasn’t focusing on pushing hard round that corner and down that hill, my head was spinning. So much for a mindful run where you are in the moment completely focused. They are rare for me, my last one was my under 50 minutes 10Km attempt, any drifting of thoughts saw a drop in speed and I quickly pulled my head back to the job in hand! So I have realised I do this busy head running alot. I know running is super for clearing your head as you sieve through your jobs/problems and figure out how to address them, but sometimes I just need to focus on being completely in my body, in my run right now. I wonder what your thought categories are and how successful you are at focusing on you and just your run. Anyway wish me luck for the next 5km effort, I aim not to write the weekly shop or draft an article for CRC review!
It was here! After a summer of virtual runs and about 10 medals to prove it, Sunday October 4th 2020 saw the Covid secure Devizes Half Marathon.
I’d entered the race sometime before and was really looking forward to running a race with people in a town that the race was actually supposed to be in, no more virtual Great North Run alone in the Wiltshire mecca of Melksham. My aim was sub 2 and nothing was going to stop me, not even the weather.
Arriving at the start in weather conditions that can best be described as monsoon like I made my way to the information tent and was greeted by two friendly, familiar faces, Mr Biggs and Mr Berry. After some last minute tactic talk I was ready for the off, already soaked to the skin I made my way to my starting bubble and we were off…
Having never run this half marathon before I’d heard varying reports about it and started with an open mind. Although because of Covid there were no spectators the atmosphere amongst runners and marshals was great and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was one of those runs that everything felt good in, legs, lungs and mental attitude. Checking my splits things were looking positive and on I went. (7.41/8.53/8.14/8.36 and so on).
Even being speed buzzed by Laura Midwinter and Chris Hunt as they ran past me didn’t dent my spirit and on I went.
I recall on parts of the run wading thorough water and battling driving wind but nothing was going to stop me, well nothing part from a farmer that decided to close the road to let his cows across much to the annoyance of a few hundred runners. Don’t get stressed I thought as I paused my Garmin and said to myself it won’t take long. After what seemed like an eternity a voice from nearby shouted, “move those f@#king cows or I will “. Everybody was thinking it but luckily a CRC member said it. (You know who you are).
We were off again and the weather didn’t let up, it got worse and some. The last few miles were good, apart from a very muddy uphill off road track that I don’t recall hearing about but after conquering this I cruised to the finish line in 1:54:13.
I collected my medal and headed home, the job was done and little did I know I was about to make my first mistake of the day. Cold, dehydrated, hot bath, hot tea = faint and blue light run to A&E in an ambulance having had your chest shaved in the process.
After 24hrs there, a Covid test and a full heart MOT by two doctors that were keen runners I was given the all clear and allowed home. Their advice to me, never stop running as you are!! There is a bit more science involved in my collapse, I won’t send you to sleep with it now but I am willing to share it if you are remotely interested.
All joking aside my partner thought I’d had a heart attack and gave herself a nasty paper cut looking for my life Insurance policy.
Top tip – Normally after a long run if you are like me you need to eat and eat lots, imagine finding yourself in an A&E starving with no access to food. Smiling and using all the charm that you can muster = being kept in supply of as many NHS cheese and pickle sandwiches that you can physically eat. Result!!
On initial reading of the “Not The Club Championship” events there was one in particular that stood out to me – the Vertical 100m Dash. As anyone who trains regularly with the club will know, Corsham is “blessed” with a range of hills for the Hill Sessions. In fact, it is impossible to plan even a 5k without encountering one. However, a hill with a 100m ascent is another matter.
Some folks, such as the fell runners Messrs Mackie & Wood, or the hill-lovin’ Stewart, clearly encounter such ascents frequently, often several in the course of a single run. But for me this is more of a rarity and the descriptive text stating that is just over 2 Stings-worth added to the intrigue. The challenge was on, to find single course 100m ascents in and around Corsham.
One question is whether the course should be short and brutal, or gentler but longer. Therefore, a bit of research was needed which led me to an article in Runner’s World (2015):
“There is an obscure, but cool-sounding, type of race called a “vertical kilometer,” where the idea is to race uphill as fast as possible until you gain 1,000 meters of elevation. The current men’s record is 29:42, set on a course in Switzerland that is 1,920 meters long with an average slope of 27.5 degrees; the women’s record is 36:04.
The question is: what type of course is best for such races (or, more generally, for gaining elevation as quickly as possible)? Should you find a relatively gentle slope where you can go fast? Or a steep slope where your progress will be slow and difficult, but you’ll gain lots of elevation with each step? Where is the sweet spot?
That’s what researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder wanted to find out in a study just published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. The team … jerry-rigged a treadmill to be able to reach a slope of 45 degrees. For context, a typical gym treadmill can reach about 9 degrees, while a black diamond ski run is about 25 degrees. (In practice, runners had a hard time balancing at 45 degrees, so the study only went up to 39.2 degrees.)”
That brings a whole new dimension to the Dreadmill – 45⁰ – strewth!!
The basic upshot/conclusion is: “But for all angles above 15 degrees, walking was actually more efficient than running. The sweet spot with the lowest energy expenditure was between about 20 and 35 degrees—which puts the 27.5-degree angle of the course where the record was set perfectly in the middle.”
Time for some caveats here. The trials involved quality athletes and to say that I am nowhere near that level is somewhat of an understatement. There are many runners in the club better than me at hills so I reckoned that slopes less than 20 degrees would be best. However, anyone who has run the Slaughterford 9 can take some reassurance that the most efficient way to ascend The Sting is to walk. I know that I have never got up it in a single run and am feeling slightly smug that I was right!
Now to find some local hills to test the theory. After some checking for routes using plotaroute.com I started with Quarry Hill out of Box. Running from the lowest point on the A4, starting towards Corsham then turning right into Bulls Lane and then continuing up Quarry Lane, and up, and up some more, it is possible to just achieve a 100m ascent past Woodland Adventures and White Ennox Lane (average gradient of 7.6% with some tasty bits).
Second Route – bit serendipitous as the Solstice Run takes in Solsbury Hill which has the initial ascent of more than 100m (average gradient of 13.6 degrees).
And lastly – of course the route suggested in the NTCC blurb…The Sting (twice and a bit)…gradient of 25%…gulp…
First attempt – Quarry Hill. Warm up, short pause at the bottom of the A4 then go! Up the easy starting gradient then into the steep bit which always takes my breath (not in a good way). Onwards and upwards, round the bend past the entrance to Hazelbury and the run out past White Ennox Lane. This really felt like a huge effort and I needed a good recovery to say the least. Still, managed to get in the Strava top 10 so some consolation there.
Next the Solstice Run and the attempt on Solsbury Hill. Setting off in a small group with Jane C, Matt, Jake and Gary was great and set me up nicely. It was then a case of gritting my teeth, setting a good rhythm and keeping going. One advantage was having Jake running alongside, playing “Solsbury Hill” on his phone and it really distracted from the effort. Felt as good as is possible for such a climb and what a view as a reward!
So, the last (and first) course. Managing to pick the day after Storm Bella was perhaps not such a good move as I have never seen the Bybrook valley so sodden and muddy. After the initial warm-up, sloshing through mud and surface water, I stood at the bottom of The Sting which is intimidating enough when you have to do it just the once. Remembering the bit about walking being most efficient I set off at as best a pace as I could muster, knowing that I would have to do it again. First time up, not too bad but the psychology of turning left down the green lane back to the bottom, which was a fast-flowing cataract, was not great. Starting off the second time at least I had some recovery and knew where the slippery zones were, and so cresting the top was very satisfying.
The results – which course was best/worst? Strava shows the following times for me:
Quarry Hill – 8:26
Solsbury Hill – 5:53
The Sting (twice, ignoring the recovery descent) – 5:11
Ok, so if I had to do the Sting twice without any recovery it would have taken longer but the results do bear out the theory of a sweet spot at 27.5 degrees. Quarry Hill also rated highest on the vom-meter due to the long run out at the top to gain those final few metres.
In summary, hills close to 15% for running do seem to be the best option around here. Walking The Sting was surprisingly quick in comparison as well. But the main conclusion is that I have had enough of the 100m Vertical Challenge for 2020/21 and will leave it to others to push on and take up the mantle. Now to dry out my shoes, get back on the trails, and enjoy all the mud glorious mud that Corsham has to offer.
This year Jane Clarke set a slightly different challenge for us to take part in, with group choral singing disallowed a COVID version was proposed: The Christmas lights run has 2 parts! 1. A scavenger hunt! Each runner takes their group to their favourite lights and takes a picture. Best group of illuminations posted on FB wins the honour of winning!! 2. Christmas Strava shape! Second part, run a route that looks like a Christmas shape in Strava! Your group can choose(!) to do both or either one. Of course Christmas outfits and lights are a must!!
I started by meandering home via local housing estates to see where I thought the lights were most prolific/best/gaudiest, on the way back from running the Anniversary Waltz route I spotted a Grinch, and made him my ‘starting point.’ Over the next few weeks I started making a mental note of likely places and began marking them on a map. I then got some tracing paper and started plotting routes, initially thinking a Santa in a sleigh, and then curbing my ambition to a slightly easier tree shape. I plotted a route and tacked the second half ‘home’ onto the end of my Corsham 10k run, unfortunately the cold weather caused a failure in my I-phone, so I trotted back as far as I could remember the route.
Work then got quite busy in the weeks before Christmas, and suddenly I was due to be leading a group round the route I had planned, it looked fine on the map, but how would it look on the all important Strava plot? It got to the day of the run and I decided that a quick walk round the route might be wise. I put the dogs on leads and started walking. Some minor tweaks meant I could get additional lights in and included cutting out a big loop that made my tree even wonkier than it already was. The dogs and I were pacing quicker and I had the last few Kms to go…the bit where my phone had died and time was rapidly marching on towards when we were due to leave. Disaster! A bit I had plotted was a dead end, so a quick reroute was needed on the fly, after thinking I had all afternoon I was back home at 6.20, ready for a quick change, a few tweaks and then out again to lead the group.
We started in Corsham High Street to view the art installation set up in the town hall and then made a series of seemingly random tracks through to the Grinch.
We then ran on towards the new builds on Park Lane and saw a sparkling unicorn that beckoned us away from the prescribed path. Our ‘angel/star/shape at the top of the tree was a bit more elongated than planned.
We then wound our way through Katherine park to many ooh and aahs.
Then over valley road and a Tramways meander found some more lights that scored high on size and visibility.
The final part of the run involved fewer lights, but was necessary for the bottom branches and then a voluntary trot along into Corsham Court to make the ‘base’ of the tree. The group were quite surprised that we had a vaguely tree shaped form at the end, albeit one drawn by a three year old.
Summary: A splendid, short’n’sharp, muddy up, down, around, and back up and down the shapely outlier of the Black Mountains, Skirrid.
Both Annika Davidson and Andrew Wood had sung the praises of last year’s Skirrid Fell Race so I duly entered the 2020 edition.
As has become the new normal, Covid-19 meant no mass start or pre and post race bantering; rather just a case of parking the car, picking up a race number and joining a small, socially distanced queue to start at 30 secs intervals. However, the wonderful Welsh countryside and a cracking route up, over, down, round and back up Skirrid before a swooping descent remained unchanged. It also offered incentive to turn my legs quicker than I had in a while.
Before getting to grips with the climb up Skirrid, a short lap of the start field provided a warm-up. Following a week of heavy rain, conditions underfoot were somewhat squidgy and my daps of choice, Mudclaws, were immediately put to good use; staying upright on the downhill sections was going to be a challenge.
Leaving the start/finish field, the way ahead was obvious with the shapely peak of Skirrid dominating the view. The gradient and effort level gradually increased as the route squelched its way across sodden fields to get to the open access slopes of Skirrid proper. Trying to catch up runners who had started in front, and stay ahead of those who started behind, provided further onward impetus.
The ascent to Skirrid’s whaleback summit ridge was runnable for some but had me resorting to a “brisk as I could make it” walk for most of the way. The walking pace provided opportunity to take-in and relish the ever-expanding views as elevation was gained. Having reached the summit ridge, it was immediately left by a short descent and a technical, rocky traverse under Skirrid’s summit to reach its very steep North ridge.
‘Skirrid’ is derived from the Welsh ‘Ysgyryd’, which means to shake or tremble. The short, sharp hands and feet ascent of its North ridge to the summit trig point certainly had that effect on my legs. There was no respite though; the way on was an immediate, and equally steep, quad testing descent. Initially heather clad, the slope, whilst precipitous, was reasonably secure underfoot; in its lower reaches loose soil and bracken replaced the heather however, providing less stability and more entertainment. Thankfully the braken contained no bramble snagging hazards. From there, it was a simply splendid splish-splash, gravity assisted dash to the finish line.
There was of course no post-race hydration and sustenance at the Skirrid Inn; fingers crossed for a return to the full race experience in 2021…
Huge thanks go Andy Creber of Rogue Runs , and his team of merry helpers, for providing the opportunity to “race” amidst these uncertain times. Andy always provides memorable and entertaining race routes and Skirrid is no exception. Being a marked and relatively short course, it is also a great introduction to the pleasures (and pain) of South Wales fell racing; if you want to find out more, fellrace.com provides all you need to know about the entertainment on offer in the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons…
All pictures courtesy of various ace marshalls out on the course.
As the year draws to a close it is always a time to reflect and think about what we have achieved. This year has been one that none of us could have predicted and we have all faced some difficult times.
There have been lots of things cancelled and everything seems to have changed. Many of us have still however been able to run, sometimes together in small groups and sometimes alone.
Just before March several of us signed up for the Mad March Mile and committed to doing a mile a day for each day in March. I thought this was a tall order at the time but as Biggsy is very persuasive I signed up! We got a lovely pottery mug if we completed it so that was the clincher!!
Little did we know that as March went by we would go into a lockdown – something we had never experienced before. As March drew to a close many of us decided to continue MMM as we had a little more free time and were enjoying the exercise.
Well it is now almost Christmas and we are still going. Several of us have exercised everyday since the start of March – the longest March ever!! (I have to be honest and admit I missed one day when I was injured but only one!) It has meant that I have cycled over 2020 miles and ran over 2020 km this year. Who would have predicted that I could do that when I started running (well it wasn’t really running then!!) and cycling a couple of years ago? I might even be a real runner one day!
Doing this has helped me to stay somewhat sane through this weird year and I would like to thank everyone that has ran with me, cycled with me or encouraged me. Most of all I would like to thank members and committee of CRC. You have done so much to help us keep running during this pandemic. You have been forward thinking and very proactive. The booking system is brilliant, the range and number of run sessions fantastic and the friendship continues throughout everything we do.
I am proud to be part of such a great club and would like to wish everyone a good (if different) Christmas and all the best for 2021. Here’s to more running next year, maybe some competitions , but who knows, and let’s see how long March 2020 continues on for!
This was only the 2nd actual race I’d done this year so anticipation was running high! It was an excellently organised race and the marshals were awesome! Seems likely that, due to the wave starts, they were standing out in the torrential rain for even longer than for a ‘normal’ race. The chap standing by the entrance to the garden was amazing – you could hear him shouting encouragement for ages before and after you passed him. I’ve not done this race before but the course was apparently different as it was 3 laps rather than 2 and all on the Westonbirt grounds.
The wave starts are a novel addition to races to stop large groups of people congregating (you’re only supposed to arrive at the start a few minutes before your allocated time) and, naturally, have their pros and cons: • On the upside, as there are runners of different paces starting at different times, you get to pass (and be passed by!) lots of different people so you get to greet runners you wouldn’t normally see. • On the downside, there were a number of people I knew running the race but I only got to meet a couple who had similar start and/or finish times. It’s also slightly odd not knowing who you’re actually racing against, is that person in front on their 1st, 2nd or 3rd lap? Am I ahead of them or not? That person that just passed me, can I get them on the final lap or are they just finishing?
Did I mention the rain? That also meant a significant amount of mud too, the course was all traffic free (apart from a random car near the drinks station – not sure what that was about), undulating and mainly off-track as well around the playing fields so the new Mud Claws were an essential aid to staying upright and moving forwards; I saw several runners heading off on interesting tangents, hope they made it home safely! In summary – It was wet, it was muddy, we had fun