I decided to run this race at the very last minute (about 7am) and threw a few bits in to a bag. I chose to run to the start – it’s just across town from me – as a warm-up and to make up the miles I would have done otherwise. Stupidly, I kept my hoody on and, by the time I arrived, I was soaked in sweat and had to change in to the technical shirt provided as part of the £18 entry fee (unaffiliated, on the day).
As with a lot of local club races – this one was organised by Leighton Buzzard Athletic Club – the Race HQ was at a school. There was a registration desk for late entrants, such as me, and other desks for distributing numbers and complementary shirts. My first shirt was damaged at the cuff but was replaced with no quibbles. There was ample room to change, plenty of toilets and also a baggage drop. Pre-race organisation was very well done.
As more runners arrived, I noticed a familiar face milling around among us. It was Claire Hallissey, Team GB marathon runner. I’m not sure if/how she is associated with the race or the local area – she runs for Bristol & West AC, but was born in Watford so maybe that’s it – but it was great to see a seasoned professional supporting local races such as this.
Just before the start, we all made our way out on to the road; the roads around the start/finish had been closed – another plus point – but most of them would have traffic. It was a bright, sunny autumn day; it was a bit cold standing around at the start, but pretty much ideal for running once we were going. I had decided just to run comfortably within myself and not attempt a PB. There were plenty of hills on this course, so I just wanted to get round and enjoy a new race.
Once the race was going, I settled in to a steady pace running on my own, about halfway down the field. There were marshalls at strategic points and they were all very lively, cheering us on. My only fault with the marshalls – indeed, with the race as a whole – was the marshalling as we crossed a main road. We had been told to stay in the ‘funnel’ of marshalls until directed to cross, but nobody seemed to be taking charge of stopping the traffic when required. This meant that I and the lady running just behind me reached the end of the funnel before being ushered across and were left pretty much to fend for ourselves. I managed to dash across and then, with the lady behind faced with the prospect of stopping or running on up the wrong road, took it upon myself to turn back briefly to help her cross. It just seemed that there wasn’t one marshall in particular in charge of proceedings.
The rest of the race was event-free and really quite enjoyable. The hills were tough, as expected, but afforded some great views. We were also rewarded with some nice downhills too; I have known races where it seems to be constantly uphill and you only get one big downhill to compensate (I’m looking at you, Great North Run). I started picking up pace just after Heath and Reach (about 8mi) as I knew the biggest hill was approaching. I managed to get up this hill without stopping to walk, although only just. At the top was a marshall with a camera; I told him he was evil as he took my picture. 🙂
From there, I bombed down the hill as best I could and kept the acceleration going for the last mile, passing a few runners and finishing strongly to a welcoming crowd in front of the school. I finished in 1:26:49, which isn’t a PB, but is a lot closer to it than I was expecting to manage. All in all, with my niggles on the day and the hills round the course, I was really pleased with that. There were bacon and sausage baps for sale afterwards (it has to be done), so I bought one of those, picked up my bag and walked home.
Apart from the mini-moan at the marshalling on the road crossing, there is nothing to fault with this race. The course is varied and attractive, tough but not too tough. Organisation was slick and volunteers were friendly. The price was reasonable, even for a last-minute entry, and the shirt was a welcome addition. This is definitely a race I’ll be looking to run again.