So I did this race last year, as it fitted into my marathon training plan. I wasn’t going to do it again as it is fairly hilly, and a bit stressful with the car par filling up quickly and things. But then quite a few girls in the club signed up, and so in the end I decided to as well.
I had a clif bar first thing- it seems like ages since I have needed to eat before a race, and I could not decide what to do. I had to leave home just after 8am to walk to where I was being picked up (I ran, because I left a bit late!)- but the race didn’t start until 10am, so it was hard to know what would keep me going until the end. We arrived with loads of time, got our numbers and milled abot chatting to other runners. It’s a big one for clubs, and there were huge groups of clubs nearly taking over the hall. We managed a couple of little photos (although a few of ours were in various queues when we took them I think), before walking to the start, 5/10 mins down the road.
I look very excited here!
At the start! I love the guy photo-bombing us in the background!
I had no idea what to aim for- last year I did it in 1.37 something, but after being a bit unwell this week I knew I should not push it or anything.
We started off in a fairly big group, running and chatting when we could. The first mile sped by, (then it’s single figures to go) but then the hills started coming. It is fairly up and down.
The elevation does not look too bad here, but you can see it’s not flat anywhere. You go out for a couple of miles, then do a loop twice, before heading back. It’s all fairly undulating, and most of it was fine. We stayed in our group for the first lap (getting lapped by the front runners of course- amazing to see how fast they run), and most hills were OK, but there is one, with the 8 mile marker (and the first time you do it, you are only coming up to 5, so not even half way) is really tough. I walked last year I think, and when that thought popped into my mind I promised myself I could walk up it the second time around.
In the middle of the second lap I lost the group I was with, as I had to catch my breath- it wasn’t even a hill, it was a flat bit of residential streets, but for some reason I could not get my breathing down. I made myself look at the nice scenery (apart from a little bit of residential, most of it is through country lanes, past cottages, farms, woods and fields), but then the hill came. I decided to run up half of it, but stop and walk at the 8 mile sign (at least the second time around, it’s correct!)- I decided that as I wasn’t aiming for a time, why stress myself out and struggle, when I could walk for a bit and enjoy the last two miles. I was overtaken by a lady who said to me “there must be a better way to enjoy yourself on a Sunday morning, but I haven’t found it yet!” Just after I had started running again, there was a water station (there is only 1, but you pass it 3 times) so I decided to have a drink as it was really mild. I had worn a long sleeved thin top with my vest over the top (and a jacket to tie around my waist for the walk back to race HQ, as I got so cold last year) but I was very warm at times and I think I overdressed.
Once this was done, I was finished with the two loops, and on the home stretch- still a couple of hills to go, and I had another walk break on one of those hills. But then after seeing the 9 mile marker I had a talking to and tried to pick up a bit.
On the final stretch (they have 400m and 200m to go signs, but I have no idea how long that takes me!) I was overtaken by a guy going so fast, so I shouted to him “good going” or something- when I finished he came up to me and said “well done” which was nice- I think looking in races can look competitive, but actually everyone is really cheering everyone on to do their best.
As you went down the finish funnel, you were given a medal (also a bottle opener), and a buff with a fleecy section on it- fab! Then someone handed me a banana (I looked like I needed it!) and you could choose your crisp flavour from a box (which I like, because last year you got given a bag with leaflets and crisps inside, and I got cheese and onion, when everyone knows that only salt and vinegar will do). I went to get some water, and then met up with the club girls who had already finished. They also did print outs of the time, so I went to get mine- 1:40:50– so only a few minutes behind last year, and according to Strava, although I am trending slower on this route (having only run it twice!) I did my fastest loop- a positive split I think- whoops!
There were a few girls behind me, so we cheered them over the line before walking back to the HQ- that was when I was very glad of my layers. Race HQ were serving huge cups of tea or coffee, and lovely home-made cake (it rivals the spread I have seen at cross country races!) so I got a piece of fruit cake and a tea- started to feel human again!
I do like the 10 mile distance, but I don’t think I will be doing this race next year- partly because it covers a lot of the same roads from the St Albans half marathon, so I feel like I have run up some of those hills many times! I think if a lot of girls sign up next year, I might marshal instead. It was great to be at an event with a few more club members there- very different to racing on your own, and it meant the before and after bits were more enjoyable too. For some of them it was their first race, some of them their first 10 mile distance, so it was great to be there while people were achieving these things too.
On that note, the marshals were brilliant- in groups of 2-4, instead of just 1, and really frequently placed, and they were all so encouraging and enthusiastic. That really helped. Plus it is such good value- I think it wa £19 or something, and for that you get a race, tea and cake, banana, crisps, water, medal, buff… It wasn’t closed roads but as they are small roads mainly, and a few pavements, there were not many times when we had to move over for a car.
Because of the fairly late start time (10am) I didn’t get home for a shower until nearly 1pm, so it did take over the day a fair bit too. My phone did not stop beeping all day with girls from the club adding photos of letting everyone know their time, which made the fun last even longer.