This race was the best fun – mud, drizzle, slipping and sliding…oh and running!
I realised a few weeks ago that I had nothing booked for this past weekend – probably thought I deserved a rest 🙂 A quick scan of the Runner’s World events calendar and I saw this (fairly) local 10k – entries still open! It was only an hours drive but still in Somerset and it was cheap – I booked it.
The day before I thought I should check the route – note to self – do this when booking!!! Not only was it all on trails, there was a thirty minute hike uphill to the start. My plans of turning up at the last minute, running and coming straight home where starting to fade. I would now need to get there early enough to park, hike to the start and leave enough time to recover from the hike – WHAT!!!
Oh well. The race didn’t start until 11am so it was still a fairly leisurely start to my morning. Left home just after 8am and had a quiet drive to Cheddar – home of the cheese.
The route from the car park was well signed, just as well as it turned off the road and into a mass of trees. There were steps cut out into the hillside. It was muddy and quite slippery – wishing at this point that I had put my trail shoes on instead of my trainers and I hadn’t even reached the start.
At the top of the hill was the start area on a big grassy field. I’m sure there would have been fantastic views but it was raining and very misty. Everyone was very friendly and I spent the next 45 minutes or so chatting away with other runners, and most of them did seem to be runners – not triathletes and cyclists just doing a running event.
At 10.40 we watched the kids race – they charged round a 300m course on the wet grass which was surprisingly hilly, and got lots of cheers from the crowd.
At 11am is was time for the 5km and 10km race to start. There was also a half marathon race which I was very pleased that I wasn’t doing, they would start ten minutes after us. The organiser gave us a quick race briefing – “it’s wet and very slippery” just about summed it up…oh and “you’re not actually at the top of the Gorge yet, the first 1km is uphill” …oh yay.
He blew a whistle and we were off. The uphill was not too bad and my trainers seemed to cope on the wet grass. Within minutes I realised I was loving this race. As well as grassy sections, there was rocky trail, there was mud and gravel, there was up and down…there were cows! There were little kissing gates to go through and later on stone walls to climb over! It was a proper trail race and very different from the road races I have done recently. It was also hard work, I could hear heavy breathing all around me.
At around 4km there was a lovely out and back section which was fairly flat and you got to see runners coming in the other direction. At this point I was also being passed by the speedy the HM runners. Even though there was often little space to pass especially of the down hill rocky bits, everyone was really patient and very encouraging. I saw two of the guys that I had spoken to at the the start and they gave me a pat on the back as they passed. It was so friendly.
Occasionally the mist would clear and there were spectacular view of the gorge and countryside for miles.
At 8km we had to climb over a stone wall and then in front of us were the Hell Steps! Apparently 100 of them – I didn’t count – up up up – very steep and hard work at this point in the race.
The last 1.5km went though some pretty woodland. As I came out of the other side and I could see the finish although we still had to run round a field, negotiate a stile and another wall and climb a grassy hill before actually reaching it.
I loved this race – I felt so grateful to be strong enough and fit enough to enjoy the experience. I would have found this type of thing very hard a few years ago – it would have stressed my breathing too much. I feel like I’ve come a long way 🙂 I felt like a proper runner – which doesn’t happen often.