Chew Valley 10k: race report

This post originally appeared on Ben’s old blog, Running From the Physio.

After doing the Bridgwater 10k a couple of months ago, I was a little down: I’d messed up my pacing royally, and completely misjudged the course. I ended up slower than my PB which I knew I should have been able to beat. As a result, I looked about for a race to do to “make amends”. Weirdly, despite all the information about the race, and all the Twitter hype, talking about the big hill on the course, I opted for the Chew Valley 10k. The few weeks before the race were not the ideal preparation: I had a bad bug which severely limited my mileage for a couple of weeks, and the heat only compounded the issue.

On the morning of the race, I was up early: a 6:45 alarm on a Sunday?! Still, after a quick breakfast I gathered my last bits and bobs together and headed off on the hour’s drive. Although the early start was a little unwelcome, I knew that the resulting lower temperature would be a Godsend in the race. I arrived, got my race number and went to sit outside in the shade.

About half an hour before the race, a PT jumped up on stage (okay, a small lorry) and led a warm-up. I’m sorry? A warm-up? Despite the time, it was still really hot. I continued to sit in the shade. The warm-up lasted about 6 minutes I guess, and then people began to wander over to the start line: again I opted to resist the flow, and remained in the shade, waiting a bit longer. After all, the start was only just round the corner.

When I did finally amble around, I was impressed by the start. Marshals were holding boards with finish times on, and had created pens for the start. Quite common in larger races, but in a race with a field of 600, this was a nice touch. Given my… how to put it… predilection for… Okay, given that I tend to sprint away from the start like a shoulder trying to escape Luis Suarez, I decided to start a pen back to try and control myself. It worked! Mostly. My first mile clocked in at 7:13, almost exactly what I needed for a 45 minute finish. That was unlikely with the hill, but I had decided to pace myself for 45 minutes until the hill, and then just see what happened with the hill itself.

Over the next two miles, my pace dropped back a little, 7:30 for both miles, and then I had reached the bottom of the dreaded hill. I’d done a little research, so I more or less knew what to expect: long, and pretty steep in places. Problem was, Taunton had little to compare, and I’d hardly been in a state to be running hills. So, as much as I might have had an idea, it still killed me. I slowed to a walk twice, maybe three times, but didn’t really lose much time doing so. In fact, the third time I was actually keeping pace with the woman running ahead of me.

A 100% accurate* altitude graph of the course.

Before the race, the heat and the hill had set me thinking of last year’s Wellington 10k, but in actual fact it was not that similar at all. The heat wasn’t too bad, a combination of the early start time and high hedges which allowed me to stay in the shade most of the time. Wellington had been up and down, whereas this course really was just the one massive hill around the halfway point. And the hill down later… that made up for it somewhat…

The worst of the climb was over after about a kilometre, but the course continued to rise gently, and my fourth mile clocked in at 8:50. I recovered slightly after that, doing the fifth mile in 7:46, but at this stage I knew that 45 minutes was nowhere near, and a PB (47:00) was highly unlikely. But I hadn’t counted on that drop back down again. As bad as the ascent had been, the descent was equal to it. Strava tells me that I set a new best estimated 1 mile effort of 5:58. I believe it, even though I can’t believe I can run that fast.

Being honest, I was out of control: my legs just kept turning over, I was flying. If I’d touched a loose bit of gravel, or a slightly slippery bit of tarmac… I shudder to think. But I didn’t, I’m still here, I’m still in one piece. And being even more honest, I loved it. I’m a speed freak when I run. I don’t like pacing myself, I like running FAST. This definitely ticked that box. Now, I just need to get fit enough that I don’t have to be more or less falling off a cliff to manage it.


This might actually be the best race photo of me there is…

The course levelled off again slightly at the end, but I had adrenaline, and a surprise chance at a PB, so I managed to maintain my pace reasonably well to finish in 46:40, a new best by 20 seconds, despite the horrible hill.

In conclusion, I enjoyed the race and the challenge that the hill presented. I probably won’t race it next year, which isn’t really a reflection on the race, so much as the distance from home and how many other races I have yet to do in Somerset. But I’d definitely recommend it for a go. Just do some actual training on hills.

* The hill is only actually about 220 ft, or thereabouts.

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