and now for something completely different

Selective Memory – Here Comes The Rain – Dirty Boots

I swear that when I entered the Wheathampstead 10k, there was no mention of it being “off-road” and “challenging” but when I looked back at the blurb on the website, there it was. Clearly, I had found these descriptions too traumatic so had blocked them out. So, when I looked at the race pack that had arrived in the post and came across the above descriptions, it sent me into a dilemma… Challenging – How challenging? It’s only a 10k, surely I must be able to complete a 10k. How challenging can it be? (gulp!). I had a look at the website – the organisers had not posted a route so I was running blind. I looked at the Runners World reviews – they ranged from “beautiful, scenic” through to “something to challenge everyone”. Hmmm… suppose I was just going to have to find out for myself.

The weather first thing on Sunday was near perfect – light cloud cover, gentle breeze, a bit of rain the previous day so the ground wouldn’t be too hard or too soft. “Hope it stays like this” I thought.

It didn’t.

SonNumberOne was running the 2k and I was going to run with him as a warm up to the 10k. Half an hour before the 2k started, the heavens opened and everyone rushed into the race HQ to stay dry. Fortunately, just before the start of the 2k, the rain eased and became just a very sparse drizzle. The 2k passed in a flash and SonNumberOne seemed to enjoy it. There were a couple of bottle necks where we had to form an orderly queue to cross a bridge or file down a length of muddy single track with brambles on each side but 14minutes and 54 seconds later, we crossed the finish line and he picked up his medal. At that moment, he was the happiest 7 year old on the face of the planet.

Moments later, the heavens opened again. So, back into the race HQ for 20 minutes or so and then I was off to the start of the 10k. It was hammering down as we walked to the start and the it was a sea of kagouls and baseball caps as we made our way along the now very muddy track to the start.

At 11 o’clock, we were off and straight into a gentle uphill leading to a bridle path. The start was quite narrow, so everybody stayed in approximately the same order until about 1k, where the bridleway widened and it became possible to pass. I was feeling pretty good so craftilly nipped around a few other runners until I could hit my pace and had a bit of space to move. From the bridleway, we moved down a short, sharp slope and onto a mud track. I began to feel comfortable and hit my stride. Then at 4km there is a hill. About 1km long. Along the edge of a farmers field so the going is muddy and uneven. A gravelled path was next and then, in no particular order, a muddy downhill, some muddy steps (queue up, single file) another longish climb at 7km, a kissing gate (single file again) and a very muddy and slippery bit which meant that a few people literally had to hang on to the person next to them to steady themselves. After that, because of the twisty-turny nature of the course, the race HQ and finish line is visible with about 1 and a half km still to go.

My official time for the race was 59:37 although, oddly, there was no timing mat at the start of the race, so that time also includes the time it takes to get to the start line. My Garmin says I did it in 58:14.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable race. All of the races I have run up ’til now have been road races, all Half Marathons, all fairly large events. To run a 10k, off road, in a relatively small, local race made a pleasant change. The area at around the race HQ had the air of a village fete with a barbecue and a bouncy castle and everyone seemed to be smiling despite the rain. There were all ages there, from pushchairs to wheelchairs, an absence of in-your-face corporate sponsorship and a friendliness between competitors and from all the marshalls, giving the impression that the day was organised, first and foremost, to be a genuinely enjoyable run.

If you want a personal best, this is not the race for you as there is too much waiting to navigate obstacles and the hit and miss timing could be improved. But, if you want something enjoyable and inclusive and a little different, then next years race is on 23rd May 2010.

Soundtrack to this post: Black Ships Ate The Sky – Current 93

5 Responses to “and now for something completely different”

  1. May 18, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Great result for #1 son then also for you on the 10k. You’ll go under an hour at BUPA no problem. Well done Sir!

  2. 2 eatingtrees
    May 18, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Thanks mate! SonNumberOne was very pleased with his result. I was pretty happy with mine – I think without the queueing up, I could have done 56 / 57 mins so hoping for somewhere in the region of 55 mins for BUPA 10k next week.

  3. May 23, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Well, as it’s now all fixed I can look on the bright side, I did get a squeeze from the physio! oh and your plat list is far ‘trendier’ (80’s word?) then mine, so that still makes me braver 🙂

  4. 4 eatingtrees
    May 23, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Easy, oh Brave One! People will begin to think you deliberately injure yourself just so you can get manhandled by the very tall, very fit, very handsome, very fit, very tall physio!!! ;0)

  5. May 24, 2009 at 2:33 am

    Well, of course!:-)

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