Originally the race was advertised as an early start, so we decided to stay overnight at the Premier Inn which is a couple of hundred metres from the start point. The hotel is next to a Beefeater so after a meal we retired to our room to watch the annual debacle they call The Eurovision Song Contest. Luckily there was a machine supplying Ben and Jerry's ice cream, we tried all the different flavours in an attempt to numb ourselves from the TV entertainment.
We awoke early to a cold windy day. We walked the short distance to the start. Organisation on arrival was below par and not enough sufficient signage, it was a case of aimlessly wandering around to determine what was available. We quickly determined there was nowhere to leave our bags. Staff at the Leisure centre told us we could use their lockers, but this meant we had to carry a giant sized plastic key around course. The start point wasn't obvious, it was the exit of the car park. If you’re after a PB you need to get to the front as there was no chip. The race was delayed by a traffic incident but this was communicated to us. There wasn`t any gun or obvious starter. One minute we were stood there and the next we were away and running.
The course starts immediately into an uphill road section running past our hotel which continued for three miles. I am not a big fan of long races that climb uphill at the start. Although it’s good to do this whilst you have energy, personally I prefer to stretch my muscles first. I was quickly left behind by the leading pack. My plan was to knock out an even pace of 7 minute miles. This went quickly out of the window because the course climbed continually till mile seven.
I was a bit worried that maybe this was a race too far, my energy levels didn't seem to be that good and the legs felt heavy. Only at the start of the race was the route traffic free. After that a motorbike was used to keep the runners on the traffic free side of the road. It was like being chased by a sheep dog. I saw a number of near misses, including a runner nearly being clipped by a cyclist who was travelling at high speed. Also a lorry came to a grinding halt in front of us. I turned into a country lane and was nearly run over by an emerging car. There were no marshals at this point. Also we had to cross a busy road without supervision. I had to try and slow down impatient speeding motorists on a number of occasions.
At mile six I suddenly found myself overtaking runners on the last major climb. My confidence improved and I realised that actually I was still on schedule for a good time.
The second half was predominantly downhill, about mile 8 Rose Earl overtook me at such a good pace I decided to follow her as best I could. My tempo improved and each mile I got faster and faster (my second half split was negative 3 minutes), those runners who passed me with such ease earlier vanished behind me. I kept Rose in sight until the end.
The finish was a lurch into the race course which had the most hideous race surface ever. It consisted of mud and bark. This was strange considering there is a running track not more than 30 metres away. By the time the faster 174 runners in front of me had trampled this surface it was more like running on a sponge. I spotted half a dozen runners (including Rose) in front of me and with the aid of aggression and Simon Hazel's encouragement I passed them all with a good sprint finish. I dipped at the finishing line and shared my time with runner 417 and one other who had slowed up.
There was no goody bag, and no medal. That’s Ok I suppose if you take into consideration the entry fee. The race t-shirt would have been better if it was wicked rather than cotton.
All in all a good days running but I had to work hard for it. A personal best time for me by three minutes, 1 hour 42 minutes position, 175 overall, 30th in my age category. Just as we waited for Amanda Thompson the skies opened with rain. She came in with a great PB, 2 hours 7 minutes knocking off 15 minutes. We retired to the leisure centre for a shower and coffee after. We don't plan to try this race again in the near future, as the traffic was considerably worse for the slower competitors. The route was a mixture of tarmac main roads, country lanes and estate pavements. If we hadn't come away with positive times, this would have been a disappointing race.