This race was on my list for last year, but a combination of a cold and a bad ankle meant that I wasn’t able to take part. So this year, I didn’t want to miss out! As with most of the Somerset Series races, there were places left to register on the night, and as this is the only race that I’m aware of that doesn’t charge anything extra to do so, I took that option. Despite running injury free for a few months now, I’m still very wary of signing for anything too far in advance: I reckon I lost about £75 in race entries in the first half of the year that I wasn’t able to run because of my knee injury!
I’d been half expecting that, like at the Tin Tin Ten in June, there would be no other members of my club at the race. However, after a little tempting, I managed to suggest to Phil that I could give him a lift, and then Clive also decided to come along, giving us both a lift. I found this a little bit strange – I’ve never had a lift to a race before, and while it was really nice to receive, it also weirdly affected my preparation. When we arrived at the venue, we also found Nigel from my club, so all-in-all, we were reasonably well represented.
Preparation-wise, I can hardly blame the drive there: I’d woken up with what I would delicately describe as “stomach problems”, and indelicately describe as “the runs”. It did improve as the day went on, but I never felt tip-top. To add to this, I had an early start to make sure that I could get down to see a customer in Liskeard and back in time for the race.
Just making sure I get my excuses in early.
Anyway, arrived at race, signed up, yar-de-yar-de-yar. A few minutes early we were all stood on the road outside the cricket ground (the start and finish was on the outfield – the bar and kitchen were inside, good times!) We were all ready to go:
“5 – 4 – 3 – ” The countdown came over the loudspeaker.
“Car! Car! Car!” We shrieked, as (shock) a car drove up the road towards us. Had the car appeared ten seconds later, there would have been all kinds of chaos. I honestly don’t know if they would have called us all back to start again, or if we’d have just had to clamber around and over the car as necessary!
After the poor young girl driving the car had driven past and received a round of applause from the assembled crowd of runners (in what was probably quite intimidating fashion) we were all ready to go again.
“5 – 4 – 3 – ” The countdown came again.
“2 – 1 – GO!”
We went. Waa-hoo, a downhill start. Oh bugger, that means it’ll be an uphill finish. Still, on the bright side, this hill was nothing on what was to come. After a short stretch of road, we turned down the driveway for Perrott Hill School, through their car park, along a single-track road and then turned off into a field. In some ways, this field was the trickiest part of the course, as it involved running diagonally down a hill. (If that makes any sense. Rather than running straight down, we ran, sort of, along and down.) This made the chances of turning an ankle, or just plain slipping much greater, and while there was no established path, and thus we could have zig-zagged to take the hill more safely, that would have clearly added on distance, and frankly avoiding injury isn’t THAT important – it’s a race, dontcha know?!
This first stretch of the lap – did I mention there were laps? It was a two lap course. Anyway, this first stretch of the lap was mostly through open fields, and after that first diagonal descent, the running was reasonably easy: towards the second half of the lap things got more… interesting.
Stile, stile, ford crossing, stile, stile, wooden bridge, stile, stile, slippy wooden bridge, stile, hill, stile. And I’m pretty certain I missed some stiles. The whole course was exceptionally well marshalled, with people placed to warn of inconveniently located posts, slippy bridges, and just to offer a cheery shout as we trudged past. This was even more welcome on the second lap when the rain had settled in! I enjoyed the course – there were perhaps a few too many stiles to be able to settle into a rhythm, but that’s the nature of this sort of race. The hill at the end of the lap destroyed me first time around, and I dropped back from the people I had been running with. As a result of this, I basically ran the entire second lap about fifteen seconds behind the group of runners in front of me, and much the same from the runners behind me, giving the illusion that I’d just gone out for a run on my own.
Overall I was happy enough with my time of 47:08 on a tricky off-road 10k, but I think I could have done better. I tried to chase Clive a little bit too much near the start, which killed my legs too early in the race, meaning that I settled into a slower “race pace” that I would have liked. The lack of anyone around me on the second lap probably meant that I didn’t push enough: the gap was too big for me to mentally try and bridge, and there wasn’t pressure from behind to speed me up either. I probably also pushed too much on the hill first lap, and should have dropped to a walk sooner, but it really didn’t look as bad as it actually was. Still, all in all, I really enjoyed the race – all the Somerset Series races seem to have a good atmosphere, and it’s good to see familiar faces between them.
I collected my second tumbler as a finishing memento – more practical than a medal, although to be honest, we have enough glassware in our house anyway, and then had enough time for a burger from the kitchen before we headed home. My next race? The next Somerset Series race of course, the Battle of Sedgemoor 10k at the end of the month.