Category Archives: Race Report

Nuts

Not one of my usual titles indicating injury, bad luck or the end of the universe for a change, just a tease about the subject of the post.
The Nuts Challenge.
There. Done it. It’s out of the bag.
Last Saturday (it’s taken a while to blog – Saturday was just gone, Sunday was a day of sore muscles, bruises and happily tired limbs trying to cram a weekend into a day and the week at work has been horrendously busy – I’d almost say more than usual) saw JogBlog and me heading over to Dorking to join around 2,000 people tackling one of the assault course type events that are becoming so popular. And if this one is anything to go by, I know why they are.
Previous experience of such outings haven’t been too fantastic – always a good cross country run ruined by an attempt to appeal to a group of people I clearly don’t belong to. The website for this one promised a 7km lap with over 100 obstacles – a good mix of running and stuff, I hoped. The video from March looked good, if cold. That’s where I fall out with a lot of the challenges – winters outside at work take the gloss off anything that promises hypothermia!
But it was August. And gorgeously sunny. And hot. What could go wrong?
The publicity I’d been sent showed lovely, clean athletes enjoying dryness and clear obstacles. A bit like this:
Nuts
Looks smashing, doesn’t it? Can you guess it’s promoted by Betway?!
Well they’re onto a winner if they keep promoting events like this. I might even check out their facebook page.
Well, the reality is more this:
Nuts 2
Unless you’re JogBlog, when it’s more like this:
Nuts 3
Can you see her smile? Well? Can you? Complete with Girly Scream (she’ll kill me for passing that on!), it just about sums it all up.
A fantastic event.
A series of waved starts (with 40 minute intervals) ensured the course never got seriously busy despite quickly running into backmarkers from the previous wave. A short jog split our wave up and the scene was set by a series of gates to vault, ditches to jump (over or into, depending on energy levels and grip!), then the first water obstacle. Which set the scene for the future, what with stopping to pull fellow “competitors” up after you’ve had a hand yourself. It’s not a race. Which is great.
The challenges included deep ditches of chest height water, climbing up nets to get out. Climbing scaffold structures with nets and poles to slide down. Squeezing through barrels – some flat, some inclined, some ending in a 3ft ditch of clay filled water. Wading through thigh, chest and neck deep water (for a strapping 5’6″ fella such as me, at any rate!) while not being able to push on for fear of losing footing and full submersion – not a bad prospect in the temperature, except for wearing glasses! Then there were the nets to trawl through. The barb-wire stuff to crawl under. The clay to wade through. The water inflatables to clamber across. The bale wall to climb. The tyres set up as a car-wash to dive through. The tyres to carry up and down the hills. The water slide.
Simply fantastic, all of it.
Yes, I enjoyed it.
Yes, I’ll be doing it again. Preferably as a team – I loved the outing and was as exhausted as after a full-on 10k race, with upper body aches for two days after, but the laughter of the idiots in groups was infectious and the prospect of joking around the course is almost irresistible.
So – who wants to sign up? Filthy water, clay, mud, cold showers after and a great band to finish the day before visiting mum’s headstone on the way home.
Marvelous.

Ooh, an oh so rare race report!

Yep, it’s finally happened. I’ve managed to stay in one piece for long enough to actually complete a race.

The Bupa Great South Run, no less. A monster of a race (25,000 entry), odd in distance (10 miles sets it apart from other more traditional events), flat and well attended by the international community.

Training has been, if you’ve seen my blog before, varied. Injury was almost overtaken at the end by a cold I picked up a week and a half ago. None of the usual “5 day” affair, as it turned out, either. It never became a monster, just enough to fill my chest, stop me breathing and make me use about 12 handkerchiefs a day as my nose went from runnning to blocked as the seconds passed.

Rubbish, considering my training had been going well.

Still, Saturday arrived and Jogblog sat in the back of the car (she’s petrified of travelling in a car with me but when in the front won’t take her eyes off the road. Even to look at a landmark or something I point out.) to play with her new electronic gadget and hopefully arrive slightly less than a wreck.

It worked. We found our hotel easily, I re-acqainted myself with Portsmouth as we found somewhere to eat and the afternoon and evening spun past before trying to decide if all our electronic devices would adjust for Grenwich Mean Time or whether I needed to manually adjust them, only for the alarms to be late and we’d miss the start.

I needn’t have worried. Nerves had me up and alert at 4am (5 the day before , so not too bad in reality!).

A hassle free drive to my desired car park saw what I think the only hiccup in otherwise flawless organisation. The suggested car parks were found by luck/intuition; it might have been so easy to print a supplementary sign with the advice leaflet numbers referenced. Maybe next year. Maybe sat-nav is becoming so common I really am a dinosaur. Still, it was a tiny hassle/worry.

The crowds making for the start were slight, as early as we turned out to be. The start area was buzzing, though, as were JB and I as we went to the BUPA vip tent (I love going out with running royalty!) to find ourselves rubbing shoulders with Iwan Thomas and Sally Gunnell. A coffee and banana later and I was making my way to the start area, desperate not to be too far back in the crowd that a decent run was scuppered by traffic.

A jovial bit of banter between three of us (one hoping for 1.20, the other hoping for 1.10, me realising my cold would probably place me somewhere between) eased the worry about the cold and that I seemed to be behind millions of shirts until the gun went and we walked over the start line. Yep. Walked. Bah.

Still, we were rapidly up to speed. A bit of a slalom around the inevitable walkers/fancy dress artists found free space around half a mile in and all settled well. I selected a pace that didn’t stress my chest and ignored my Garmin (I set the screen on virtual partner, 7.15/mile pace, locked the bezel and ignored it for two miles).

First course impression? Fantastic. All Portsmouth’s landmarks in a mile and a half! Ships, buildings, the naval base. Pretty much everything of interest.

On looking at the Garmin I was amazed to see myself 30 seconds up on time. So endeavoured to see 45 seconds by mile 3, especially as I realised the route had given all it had of interest in those first two miles.

Second course impression? As the crowds wane away from the seafront, there isn’t much on offer. Dull, to be fair. I guess a big run needs wide dual carriageways and that but they’re a bit dull for me, to be fair. Good job I had a breathing rate/ease of progress/monitor the people arund me routine to concentrate on.

As mile 3 came and went I’d gained a few more seconds on targetted target. Mile 4 saw a bloke I’d been stalking slow a bit. As I came onto his shoulder I spoke up, let him know I was pacing steadily and he’d just come back to me. He thanked me and said he’d hang onto me for a while. That while was very nice. A few more banter exchanges with a few other runners and before I knew it he was alongside at the 6 mile water station. Asking how he felt, he said fine. A little surge saw him move a few yards ahead before dropping behind again suddenly; I didn’t see him again. Ah, well.

Mile 7 to 8 was the dullest. Passing 10k in a new race pb (I really must enter a 10k race sometime!), still feeling perky as hell, unstressed and comfortable, I was nonetheless worried about the “last two miles” that everyone had banged on about when asked about the race. I didn’t believe it could be as bad as the last 3 miles of the Hastings half, but was being careful with pacing in case it was; I didn’t fancy having to stress my lungs.

7-8 was, in fact, horrendous. Dull; featureless; too much time wondering if I might surprise myself with a reasonable time overall; bland.

All too soon we were on the seafront and at mile 8. Splendid! A slightly gusty head-ish wind but not too harsh. Not enough people around to tuck in amongst them, I simply jogged it out. The BUPA motivation station was something to run towards with the sea of blue banners and jackets and the music being carried on the wind was a nice touch.

Mile 9 saw runners around me start to speed up. I resisted until 800m when a little spurt saw the timeclock come in to view. 1.09.11 with 400m to go. 49 seconds to run 400m if I was to dip under 1.10. Except I walked towards and across the line at the start. And my Garmin was locked on virtual partner. And I hadn’t taken the shortest route…how far over distance was I…how late over the line was I…was the 3.03 ahead of pace I was showing enough to be under 1.10 on corrected time?

Not wanting to miss out on a decent result by a few seconds, I decided an uncool sprint was better than a life of disappointment. So I kicked. Those around me did, too. So I kicked harder. An unseemly lunge for the line and I stopped my Garmin. A more unseemly wobble on my legs as I coughed up a lung, a focus on unlocking the watch and swapping screens…and a time of 1.09.53 was revealed. Phew! Were it not for the push, I reckon I might have been down to the last second.

And do you know what? Despite the accomodation being ace; despite the weather threatening to be evil but really being ok; despite the race going well and pacing myself sensibly considering my health? I wouldn’t want to have missed out on a little landmark time and threaten to come back next year; the race isn’t really good enough, I don’t think.

My memory might change it, I suppose. It was a good day and a fun enough race. But boy, oh boy would it benefit from being run in reverse; put the bands on the dull beginning bit where you’re in traffic and fresh and not in need of something to take the mind off the run; give something to look forward to in the middle; give a massive boost at the end from the naval base, the ships and the Spinnaker Tower.

Ah, well.

Overall best bit? Not a hint of an injury. Fresh(ish) muscles; perfect feet (my New Balance 890V2’s are unbelievably good.); happy countenance.

I’ll have a few days off running now. Then settle in to keeping my fitness with some fun runs around the house. Dark evenings will prohibit some of my country lanes but I’ll find a way around it somehow.

Three runs and a race

Indeed. A race. One of those things where you put your abilities on the line and try to go as fast as you can and beat other people in the process.

Ahem.

So Wednesday revealed a foul-weathered evening which wasn’t going to stop me going out after a relatively hectic Tuesday stopped the action I had planned. And out I went. A 4 mile route around a few lanes and the local housing estate (never far from one of those in Ashford) in case I had problems and needed a shortcut.

And I didn’t. No looking at my Garmin at all produced a set of mile splits that were fantastically encouraging in that they were quicker than I imagined as well as being within 4 seconds over any half mile consistent.

So I got changed and iced my leg again to make sure that if the ice works it gets a chance to and waited for Thursday morning.

Which arrived with no pain at all. Marvellous.

So a plan to run on Friday also evapourated, which I thought might be a truly bad thing for my plans. I was being encouraged to jog around the Stelling Minnis 10k with a few lads from work but didn’t know if I’d be safe for 6 miles. Despite a wish to do it (it’s my favourite race route) in the knowledge that if I stuck with them it would be a nice slow pace.

So instead I headed out early  Saturday (I say early. It was for me. I hate morning runs, so it was really around 10.30) on the pushbike for a paper, did the 6 mile extended route as a warm up and headed out for a test run pretty much immediately after.

My 4.7 mile loop around the lanes with no pressure on pace but a desire to run cleanly and assess leg health. And with a bit of ice on my return again, all seemed perfect.

So I committed to the race.

And arrived on the startline this morning intending to plod around with the boys and assess things at mile 5 to see if a spirited mile was going to be done to put the leg to the test.

Well the course is undulating to say the least. There are 3 significant hills. None of them mountain climbs, but they are a test. So the boys were a bit slow but I was delighted to be running a race, probably annoying plenty of people by chatting well and making a pig of the fact that I could enjoy the weather (sunny spells, little breeze), chat to the marshalls (had to explain to one why I looked so fresh and not trying!) and encourage Michael and Aaron (Geoff was already, at 8.15 per mile, dropping back) on.

It wasn’t so much a race as a test. But the big hill at 4 miles slowed everyone around to a walk. Michael got around two thirds of the way up and stopped, which made me think again about the last mile. I jogged up to two girls at the top of the hill, had a chat, let them know it was flat from there, glanced at my Garmin to see 4.85 miles and started running.

I had one tiny twinge from the shin at 3 miles but otherwise it was perfect which was what spurred me on to going for a decent finish. I made a point of not looking at the Garmin again, simply running a pace I could maintain all the way home while focusing on clean footstrikes and structured running.

I relatively flew, it must be said. The quarter mile splits improved the one where I got going to an 8 minute dead followed by 6.40; 6.44; 6.33; 6.48 and 6.37. A last whole mile average of 6.41 after 11 miles of running this weekend and without feeling puffed.

Superb.

I think, if I never allow myself to give running advice, I may well offer advice on how to stay fit during injury.

It was an odd last mile, pacing past people, but almost enjoyable. At the finish the chairman of my employer was waiting with his son in law who won overall in a little under 35 minutes (his first 5k split was 17.17) which was humbling but I was delighted to be pain free. And accelerating when I did saw my average pace tumble to 7.59/mile which flatters the other slow ones but isn’t a disgrace, especially considering it’s 20 seconds better than the same race last time I ran it after injury.

A little ice on returning to the car seems to have freshened things up and I really don’t feel like I’ve run more this weekend than I have since January at all.

Time to start proper training again and see if I can convert some sub-6 minute miles into consistent times for a race or two.

How to ruin a perfectly good half marathon

Sunday dawned nice and bright, a little mist indicating it was going to be a sunny day for a race once it burned off. Good job I drank as much as I could all day Saturday to ensure I was properly hydrated, then.

The Folkestone Half was the race – an out and back along the flat seafront of Folkestone, Sandgate and Hythe with a loop in Hythe as the turnaround, a loop on the Leas in Folkestone to start and a traipse down the Road Of Rememberance (about 400 yards of steep, steady hill) two miles in followed by the return up it at mile 12.

What could go wrong?

Ah. Well.

Mum came along to see us off (70 odd years old, 1 mile walk including three hills in just under 20 minutes. Marvellous!) and suggested I sounded a bit chesty. Hint number one.

I bumped into the Folkestone club runner I lost by 2 seconds to in the latest Ashford 5k race on the startline and a jovial chat saw us running most of the race against each other in a thoroughly decent, motivating fashion. The first 3 miles were steady but all well under 7 minute mile pace, he gaining about a 30 yard lead that I pulled back, to pass him by 4.5 miles and gradually stretch ahead. The long seafront stretch was in hot, bright sun reflecting off the bright concrete promenade and against the bright concrete sea wall. The clear stretch to Hythe was a relief (with a bit of breeze thrown in) – not only was the temperature a little more bearable but the shouts of encouragement from the marshalls to “Come on, Folkestone” were getting quieter as I gapped the other runner by keeping a steady pace.

I say steady; I eased off to between 7.10 and 7.18 per mile for miles 5 to 11 to ensure I had a push up the final hill and a sprint along the last flat mile. No-one was behind me to push me; no one was within 100m in front to chase. A steady, comfortable pace was all I could keep up, thinking my 7 minute mile average target was perfectly in range with a push for the last 2 miles.

Then, after a little nip in my left calf at 8.5 miles kept me alert to any hiccups, between 10.75 and 11 miles (oh, SportTracks is a wonderful tool for showing where things go awry!) I lost 20 seconds before stumbling over into the sea wall.

Completely lost my balance and, immediately afterwards, couldn’t focus on running a straight line and couldn’t be sure which side of the marshalls I was supposed to be going.

I identified dehydration. No idea how since I was drinking all day Saturday and sank 750ml of fluid over the run, but my spinning head and lack of coordination made me stop. I wasn’t about to collapse or anything if I could help it so, as bad as it was to have the Folkestone runner pound away from me, I let him go.

A minute or so later I tried a jog and felt awful so ate a jelly bean, drank a bit more and tried a 30 pace jog, 30 pace walk style which got me to the bottom of the hill. And all I was conscious of was the increased pace of people passing me. Why can’t I focus on the important bits, like my long term health, at such a moment?!

But I just settled into a walk up the hill. A little jog at the top was horrible but the shouts of the crowd kept me moving. Two more little walking breaks and I jogged over the line only to be clearly so bad that a marshall grabbed me, dragging me to the end of the finish funnel before I simply collapsed and moaned like a small boy. But not before telling him I was fone first, of course…

I must be honest – I don’t know how I got so bad, nor how I dehydrated, nor why I continued to the end again.

Mark Cadier (bloke I grew up with) crossed the line 16 minutes after me and he’s the first thing I remember. 15 minutes lost in space! Great…

But he was a good focus; chatting to him and his family (while he immeduiately started enjoying a post race Stella!) gave me 20 or so minutes to drink a bit and remember which way was up and then I forced myself to the car to get the camera to meet the others as they finished.

A pair of huge blisters let me know my feet had swollen massively compared to normal (350 miles in my trainers with no sores or anything…must have been the heat and concrete apron) and walking was a problem even without my dizzyness.

But everyone made it home and all was good.

I don’t know how to hydrate for the next race – maybe wait for the cooler days and hope!

The positives? 1.39.31 isn’t a catastrophe but it’s not 1.32, either. At least I know I have consistent pace and just 10 seconds a mile will give me 1hour 30 as long as nothing goes wrong. And I’ll at last be able to beat the bloke from Folkestone who may well be my nemesis!

The negatives? Doubt about my ability to do anything but cock up something I should be better at. And not being able to retire with a 1.30 to my name…at least one more half marathon to go before I can concentrate purely on shorter outings.

Right now I have some blisters to sort.

Good race, though. Friendly, well organised, great atmosphere, excellent start and finish area for spectators. Just a little dull in the middle, being an out and back against a concrete backdrop (odd how that’s the focus, not the expanse of water keeping France at a safe distance!) but even that was eased by the great spectator support.

I might even have another bash next year. After all, if the winner can do it in 1.08 (8 minutes 55 seconds faster than the bloke in second…!), there’s plenty of scope for improvement in my time…

145.52 miles to go.

Ashford 5k summer series part 2 or 3 or something

The ambiguity is owing to having missed the second race in the series. So it’s my second outing but the third race.

And what a fine race series it is. NiceWork who organise a a good few races around the area run a nicely friendly, relaxed but efficient race and make taking part all the more pleasurable. The fact that this one is on our doorstep is the icing on the cake. And the entire reason I managed to make Cathy come along and run. She’s had a cold all week (my fault for donating it to her last week, I guess) and was going to come along and watch but, somehow, this changed to her coming along and running, too. But the rush to leave saw her forget her Garmin which reinforced the nature of the race. She was chatting to Martin as we signed in and mentioned it and within seconds he offered his own device for her to borrow as she ran. I wouldn’t expect that in many events and massively appreciated it was, too.

So to my race.

An early start this morning (I had a bad night’s sleep as well as still having some cold in my lungs) made me feel out of sorts all day and I’ve been having shin aches and muscle winces all day; I’m sure all due to nerves since I set myself up for trying to go sub 20 minute for the run after last time running 20.44 as a new pb.

I got home, got changed, signed on and still felt odd as we lined up, having set my Garmin virtual partner to 6.20 per mile to allow some in hand for a slow finish. My bad day clearly didn’t stop as I left work, though. In what undoubtedly turned out to be a good result, right from the off I was mis-reading the Garmin and convinced myself I was behind target so kept bursting my lungs to try and stop the shortfall in time getting too large. A young lad was running identical pace to me and twice we almost tripped each other up in the first half mile almost certainly owing to my being right on the limit of my running pace.

At one point I was 28 seconds behind target…or so I thought. In fact, it was 28 seconds ahead. My computer’s broken so I have no data splits yet but one of the miles must be sub 6 minute, as it turns out. Flippin’ heck!

Three of us were overtaking one another throughout the race; the young lad, a Folkestone club runner and me. Having a cluster of us all together made a great race – another man finished 4 seconds behind me, so he clearly had a good finish as he wasn’t in the place swapping club through the race, but it made a great change to the usual lonely runs I do at these events. Guess it’s what comes of trying harder than usual.

The race went brilliantly for me, though. My breathing was hopeless (so noisy, trying to exhale through a chest still full of cold, the blokes around me must have thought I was going to wheeze to a stop – I normally like to run silently!) but my legs behaved really well. No tiredness showed and the areas that kept me in touch with the other two were up the little slope/hill thing and the exit of the hairpin – I was very good on these and made big gains on them in these areas. The leaders were again on another planet (winning time 14.42! Crikey!) but the outing I enjoyed was crowned when I finished, pressed stop on the Garmin and realised that the 15 seconds I was off target was actually under time. How I mistook the black screen for the white can only be that I wasn’t expecting to keep pace with it. Not in any way. At all. But somehow I did. The result?

19.11 finishing time. 6.14 average pace per mile.

Blinking flip. I never, not in a month of weeks, thought I’d get that quick. What next? 6 minute mile average pace target? I don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll be even more nervous before the next outing because I really don’t think my little legs and lungs have much more in them.

But I thought that at 7 minute mile thresholds, so who knows.

Certainly a well earned sleep and satisfied few days lie ahead of me, though. All in preparation for being disappointed after the Folkestone half!

202.18 miles to go.

Shome mishtaik, shorely?

Juneathon being over and all that, my weary legs were demanding both rest after 130 odd miles since Monday and fluid where I constantly seem to be dehydrated. JB, however, had other ideas. Despite coming home and finding her lounging in the conservatory and hoping for a relaxing evening, she said she wanted to do the local 5k race which we’d been agreed on doing all June.

A local 5k after work seemed a good idea; just not on my weary June addled legs. I was all for a rest.

Still, she won and off we went. Arriving early, we hesitated before entering since we were among only a few runners but by 6.30 the ranks had swelled enough for us to think we might not come a shameful last and laster. These local 5k’s have a habit of being fast with a capital F. The Rye summer series last year had winners around 15 minutes. F fast.

Still, as time wore on, the 2 junior runners did their lap to much applause before we assembled for the off. And as predicted, some super fast boys were crowding the front ready to go. And they went. The start was hard to pace. Weary legs (not excuse finding, just stating soreness!) and downhill starts are odd and 5k isn’t a race distance I’ve done before (except in a santa suit). I just ran freely. The field thinned out and I was among 4 runners feeling comfortable. Two of the group fell off around half way and I was left following a gent who was half a pace slower for a few yards, only to open the gap before I could pull alongside. I couldn’t find a rhythm to pass him and checking my Garmin showed I was happy with the pace, so I continued to follow.

Around 2.5 miles I got a silly little stitch (same distance in as in the Hamstreet 10k, oddly enough) but with half a mile to go I couldn’t let it stop me. A quick joke with the bloke in front, a question from him as to whether I fancied a sprint (my answer was if he was ready now, he should go since I was fading and stitching!) and an upping of pace from him that I couldn’t match saw me alone for the final couple of hundred metres which made a sprint finish difficult to say the least.

I felt I’d done my best, though and settled for a medal and a banana and a wait for JB to come over the line.

A chat with a few other finishers revealed a junior who’d finished in 17 minutes (my own time was 20.44) and a winner around the 15 minute mark. He looked ridiculous during the race – massive strides, fast tempo, simply crazy. Overall it seemed a nicely organised run in a nice setting, local and reasonably well represented from club runners to first timers.

Cathy finished well, overtaking a girl on the final park bit and everything, even if she couldn’t hear my shouts of encouragement over her i-pod. And upon finishing, she asked should we leave when I said they were about to do the prizes and since we’ve only seen one prize creremony we might as well hang around.

Well.

After the first three home were awarded their bottles and the first 3 ladies were honoured in the same way, something odd happened.

The winners name of the over 40 category was…Shaun Burgess. Who?! I looked around suspiciously. The race director looked at me. I looked around again. He looked at me again and called me forward.

Oops. I seem to have won my age category at a race. Only a small local race, but look.

 Winning wine and everything.

How shocked am I?

So 130 cycling miles, no rest, no food, work and an inpromptu race and all of a sudden I’m excited and all sorts.

Small race it may be; not a scintillating time, maybe; best old-ish bloke on the day it certainly is.

iliketocount…minor category minor race winner.

YAY! I’ve got to climb down from my excitable perch and relax, eat and sleep now. While trying to stop JB quaffing my winnings before I’ve looked at it a bit more!

486.33 miles to go.

Something the Grim organisers could learn

Or how to create a challenging event, confuse everyone with differing entry clues and turn out a simply superb event.

This morning dawned bright enough and a plan was hatched to convince JB of the sense in cycling to the Hamstreet 1ok (only 4 miles down the road so not such a challenge, to be fair) but after a little while the clouds assembled into their masses and as I went out to open the greenhouse the first smatterings of rain were cascading onto all around.

A race in the rain followed by a damp cycle home? No, ta. We took the car.

All my online searches last night added to confusion about the event. Several showed it to be an outing on roads, mainly flat. One revealed the plan to run around the woods a couple of times in a hilly loop. Being so close to home and having destroyed and knackered legs, neither were going to offer competitive (my own competition…nothing to do with the leaders or anything, you understand) timings so it didn’t really bother me and an off road loop would be better for my foot, so I was edging in that direction.

The revelation when we got there that about twice as many people as they clearly expected had turned up (the biggest on-the-day entry queue I’ve ever seen…a race director hunched behind a laptop trying to keep up…all in a good natured and friendly atmosphere) was surprising. Standing on the start line after the children’s 800m run, listening to the starter revealing that two 4km loops of the woods would be through much mud and puddle, and the fact that the woods were on a hill let me know everything I needed to.

A slow time was prepared for and expected.

What wasn’t expected was a good start, a lap of the village green to spread everyone out and an entry into the woods before a climb to the highest part of the course over the first mile and a half. It got a bit slow behind some near walkers on the steepest bit where the trail was too narrow to pass (I did a couple of times and have the cuts on my thighs from the brambles to show for it…bah!) but generally the nature of the woods was ideal for such an event. A steady climb had my breathing quickening despite the slow pace, the ground was firm enough to start with if rutted and a bit ankle-turney at times and by the 2km mark, I wondered how bad I’d feel at 5k!

The answer, as I turned a cone at the highest part, was soon to be revealed as much better. As the run progressed I managed the weird feat of getting fresher and feeling better. My third mile at an average 7.07 pace only just shaded my 6th mile at 7.11 pace, such were the hills and the increasing freshness in the legs but the time was to take a turn for the worse.

After the high turn, a series of paths filled with flints to challenge the footfall opened into a proper slippy, boggy bit which made the climb out the other side a sliding backwards affair but was good as a gauge as to how well I fared compared to those around. Trail shoes would clearly be an advantage.

The second loop was much as the first but a touch more lonely. Some of the roots that I noticed first time around were forgotten with more view of the trail and fewer bodies allowing footfall to be predicted and placed. Some fantastically enthusiastic locals cheering us all on at the halfway point was very nice considering where it all took place.

The worst bit of the race was just around 7k, however. A man was simply staggering sideways, one way then another, as runners went around him. Marshalling was, I have to say, fantastic – very few areas existed where you couldn’t see a marshall in either direction (no mean feat in woodland) and all were encouraging and friendly. As I approached the errant runner, though, the marshall behind was stood at her corner (about 150m behind) and was leaving it up to another marshall ahead to make his way up to the “runner”. I shouted back to the marshall behind as I stopped at the man that he was in trouble and she waved me on in an “i’m dealing with it” gesture. Clearly, the bloke had no sense of direction, his arms were everywhere and his eyes were rolling in their sockets indicating either mental instability or loss of focus. I wagered the latter but got a little wave from him to leave him alone and, satisfying myself the marshall was approaching fast and had medical kit with him, whizzed down to the marshall, told him what I saw and asked if he wanted me to raise help. He assured me he was onto it so I carried on. Not a nice sight and not good for a finishing time…the bloke in the Southampton FC shirt I was closing in on was out of sight and gone by the time I started running again. Ah, well.

The 6th mile was quick-ish, as stated, and a loop of the finish field saw me head straight to the St. John Ambulance crew and ask if they’d been made aware of potential problems. They said they’d heard someone might be in trouble but were waiting for a proper call. About a minute later, two of them went sprinting up the course, clearly headed for the runner. Having got my medal I headed back up the road, chatting to a couple of marshalls about how I’d enjoyed the event but asking about the runner when I saw that he’d made it to the end of the lane, about half a mile from the finish where he’d fully collapsed. A stroll back saw electronic stuff plastered all over him and, 10 minutes later first a car, then an ambulance proper came to the scene. Poor bloke. Apparently he’s training for a run and cycle to Paris and had been on his bike before the race – the marshalls that knew him suggesting he was known for overdoing it.

So a bit of an odd situation in an otherwise fantastic race. A good challenging course (no pb potential but little chance of damage to overused limbs due to the softness of the terrain, either), good marshalling and organisation, very local, a decent sized entry. Best race of the year by far. And a course that, if run in winter, could truly be a Beast in the East…decent facilities, an undulating course that would become massively funny with a lot more added water or some snow but which was challenging in itself and fun on the day…basically everything to make up for a crap experience at Canada Heights.

If only my legs hadn’t felt so out of spirits to start. And to finish. And if only the marshalls had called for the ambulance crew earlier (but if the bloke staggered another 1.5k from where I saw him, maybe they did all they could without dropping the fellow!). But at least the rain held off for the most part.

I’ll try to be back next year. Great race. Smart.

908.62 miles to go.

28.37 Juneathon running miles.

252.29 Juneathon cycling miles.