I was really looking forward to seeing some funny signs at this race, but, alas, there were none to be seen.
On the plus side, it was a great race, with the added bonus of the race entry fee including admission to the zoo, so it was a proper day out.
Luckily it was not too far away, so after getting up at 7.15 and having some toast, I could take my time to get ready. I had taped the timer chip to my shoes, as it was one of the plastic strips that is meant to slot together, but in reality will come off fairly easily. I am still loving the event clips for numbers, instead of safety pins, too. We left at around 8.15, and arrived ready to park at 8.45. A small gripe is that spectators were meant to be able to buy tickets at a discounted price, in advance, but yesterday when we tried to book a ticket for Andy the discount code wouldn’t work.
Anyway, having a race somewhere like this meant ample real toilet blocks, and no queues either.
While we were waiting we looked at some of the photographs from a wildlife photography exhibition, and also watched the muntjac deer resting in the sun.
The race had a jazzercise warm up (no, I didn’t partake- I just kept my top on until the last possible moment as it was a bit chilly in the breeze), and then we were asked to line up by approximate finish times. I went for 55-60, as yesterday I did parkrun in 29.59, so thought that would be realistic. Promptly we were walked to the start line, and then we were off. I was glad I had read the instructions- it was a three lap course, and I didn’t hear the megaphone that clearly so I am not sure if they reminded everyone. Although to be fair there was a marshal at the end point asking you to keep right for laps 1 and 2, and turn left for lap 3.
The course was around the main loop of the park. After a few minutes a lady screeched and jumped out the way as a little deer came running in the other direction! I enjoyed spotting the animals as I ran past the paddocks. Although I was so busy craning my neck to look at antelope I almost ran into a photographer crouched in the middle of the runners!
Probably 1k in you had lovely sweeping views across the Dunstable downs. It was almost like a trail run, but run on tarmac if that makes sense!
In my mind I thought I knew the course, but in fact the last time we went to Whipsnade was March last year, and so where I thought was half way around the loop was more like a quarter or a third. The road was a bit undulating, but nothing steep, although towards the end of each lap was a slight hill where you were running into the wind, which did make it feel tough. There was a water station (with cups- I approve) but even though it was getting warm, I didn’t stop.
At the end of the first lap I saw Andy and gave him a wave, and headed off on the second loop. I was still enjoying the views and the animals- some sort of antelope were galloping about which was entertaining for a bit. I also saw a bear (un-escaped), and lots of other herds of deer and things. The fastest runners lapped me at this point, but there were huge gaps between them, and I think probably only a handful went past.
The km markers were very clear, although number 4 surprised me as I hadn’t seen number 3 (it was there, I was it on a later lap)- it was a bit strange reaching the 7km mark before the 1km marker, but it seemed to make them come faster too.
The third lap was a bit tougher- I have not run that far in a few weeks, and I think my legs were feeling it a bit. Plus the sun was getting stronger. Some of the route was shaded, but some of it was right in the blazing sun and my hair was starting to get all wet from the sweat on my back- I hate it when that happens. I saw Andy further around, so that gave me a bit of a boost. I had glanced at my watch a few times, but I didn’t really have much of an idea, apart from to keep under 10 min miles, and each time I had looked it had said 9-something, so I thought I was OK.
After the 9k marker I was trying to pick up my pace, but I was just struggling a bit- my heart felt like it was going as fast as it was going to thank you very much- and I was overtaken by loads of people sprinting for the finish.
The very helpful marshal who was directing runners was shouting “you can get in under the hour if you shift it” so I tried!
My watch said 59.19, and I am very happy with that. I think my 4th 10K to finish under the hour. The official results have not been published yet. (Edited to add- chip timing was 59.19)
The finish area was well organised too- people were waiting to hand out medals, and more people were handing out bottles of water. I had packed a nuun tab in my pocket, so I added that to my bottle right away. There were tent with boxes of bananas, and Eat Natural cereal bars for you to help yourself too. (I much prefer this to a goody bag- I could at least choose the flavour I liked the sound of, plus no annoying leaflets for things I don’t want to know about).
I met up with Andy, and had my banana sitting in the sun.
The annoying chip.
After this I bought a cup of tea too- even though it is sunny, it gets pretty windy right by the Downs so it was fairly chilly.
Pygmy hippos! (There was a baby one inside but I didn’t take a photo)
Giraffes! We sat here for a bit while I had some lunch- I had bought a lovely butternut squash salad thing from M&S yesterday as I knew I would get hungry.
Spot the red panda (right in the middle).
Elephants! And a baby one!
After a few hours we had completed a leisurely lap, so headed back to the car.
After a shower at home, we had some tea and lemon cake.
And then fell asleep watching Have I Got News For You- all that fresh air I think!
All in all, it was a really enjoyable race. It was well organised, and the scenery was lovely too. It was a bonus being able to go around the zoo afterwards too.
Where is the most unusual place you have raced?