In short: Good and bad in parts In full: The omens were not good. On the Tuesday before this race I took the ill-advised decision to do some interval training, but on the fifth rep something "pinged" at the top of my thigh, just below my ... ahem ... buttock. My hamstring, I think. I hobbled back to get changed, and took the (for me) unprecedented decision to stop running until it got better. Or until Sunday, the day of the race, whichever came first. I told The Boys (13 and 11) that I'd injured myself. "Where?" they asked, avidly, gory little monsters that they are. "Well," I said, "my bottom". Anyone who has boys can imagine the gales of laughter - "Daddy's broken his bottom!" they chortled. I don't foresee a career in the caring industry for either of them. Well, they take after their mother.
Come the day, come the bottom. It was fine, people. As was the weather. As was the sat-nav, which delivered me to the race (unlike the last time I ran this race, when I schlepped up and down the A40 convinced that the turning was "somewhere along here".) I clocked a collection of club colleagues near the start, smiling at the sun and all blissfully unaware or uncaring of the pain to come.
A creature of habit, I found myself as I usually do in the queue for the rather dismal collection of Portaloos about quarter of an hour before the start. As time went on, several men (and women, too) left the queue and decamped into the woods to make like bears. This was not an option for your correspondent. Then I noticed a couple who had moseyed up to the queue just beside where I was standing (about twenty places from the front, with at least double that number behind me). They did some pantomime stretching but I knew their game - queue jumping. Sure enough, as we all moved forward so did they, still pretending that they were flexing their quads, though they didn't quite have the chutzpah actually to elbow in and join the queue properly. Not for nothing did I always hanker to be a policeman. "Excuse me", I said, probably rather louder than I intended owing to my new custom-made, noise-reduction, in-ear headphones, "the back of the queue is over there." The man looked as guilty as hell and bang to rights, but blustered anyway. "What are you talking about - we've been queuing all this time, we joined at the back." "No you didn't," I replied, "I joined at the back and you weren't in front of me". It didn't help their cause that they were quite distinctive - both very tall, and wearing very bright clothes. They didn't argue, but then they didn't slope off either, though they did have the good grace to fall in behind me. I suspect I was later awarded the honorary title of Most Uptight Man Waiting For Lavatory. To make matters worse, when I was only two from the front a cubicle became free and the woman in front of me went forward to claim it, when suddenly from nowhere a man ran past her and stole her stall. If you're going to queue-jump, that's probably the way to do it. I saw the same man later in the race and tried to trip him up but he was a bit too quick for me.
Enough of the preliminaries. Pre-race preparations completed, we all lined up in the cool sunshine. Without really meaning to I found myself somewhat nearer the sharp end than usual, but it was too late to go to the back as the gun went (or the shout). The first section was delightful - we were on a real road, a blessed lump of God's own tarmac, and I was in my racing flats (having listened to an announcement earlier that road shoes would be fine.) No sooner was I in my comfort zone, however, than we turned off into the woods, onto yucky mud and I had about as much grip as Lewis Hamilton slipstreaming behind Fernando Alonso. The mud then went the way of all mud, to be replaced by a rough gravel path that was heading down, down, down, as if into the depths of Hell itself. My time at the first mile marker was 6min 15sec, and at four miles was 25mins. We're going to pay for this later, I thought to myself, since what goes down must come up, unless they've installed travellators on the uphill sections.
They hadn't. Having descended almost to Australia, the route started climbing and, while none of the hills was as steep as some, they were all pretty relentless, with plenty of false horizons, each giving false hope. Terrible thing, hope. It struck me again how oddly uninteresting a race it is - the problem with such a heavily managed forest is that the sightlines tend to be straight, and the trees rather regimented. Which means that the only variable is the gradient. And we don't like gradient, do we children?
But it was nice and quiet, and the trees protected us from any wind, and there were a surprising number of enthusiastic spectators. Ok, so I'll admit it - it was a good race! I actually enjoyed it, up to a point (that point being about 7 miles), especially when it wasn't too muddy, and the path wasn't strewn with ankle-turning boulders. Road shoes were a good call, though I probably went off too fast at the start. By the end I was struggling and supremely glad to see the finish. I tried looking on the results for my club colleagues but it's a pretty lame results service as you can't search by club. As I was walking, or rather hobbling, away I thought I heard a friend saying he'd run a PB, but that hardly seems likely - in retrospect I think he must have said he'd won a freebie, or done a heebie, or even that he was Son of BB. But not a PB, not on that course, no way.
In short: Very challenging and that made it very rewarding In full: Yes it is hilly - first third flat/downhill, middle third gradually up hill with a few breathers and final third is mixed, with a couple of killer hills thrown in at the end.Overall, really enjoyed it.
Positives are of course, the setting and I thought the organisation was generally very good. Plenty of good detail on the pre-race pack and on the day everything was very slick and friendly. Marshalls were excellent and very encouraging, four water-stations was probably about right and start/finish arena was great (boy did I need cheering on by the end).
As with most of these things, room for improvement though: There were no pens, so I didn't quite know where to position myself at the start and on a narrow trail course, with 1700 starters, the last thing you want is to (a) hold people up or (b) be held up yourself. On a similar note, being so crowded it was hard to get up to pace at the start (being a midfielder, I have even had to stop dead a couple of times due to bottlenecks). Therefore, why not have a staggered start (ie anyone aiming for 60 - 90 mins released first, 90-130 mins go five mins later and everyone else another five mins after that). That should help clear up the bottlenecks, it would give most people a bit longer to go to the loo (they do need to hire more in!) and it would help stagger the traffic exiting the field at the end.
Definitely be nice to have the year on the medal, though I have to say, I found the sugar rush of the lucozade and the boiled sweet to be quite reviving at the end (though I'm sure this wasn't to everyone's taste). Don't think it's bad value for money at all though - half the price of Bath and a much, much more interesting run. Will be back. Date of review: March 29, 2010
In short: Not bad-not as brill as previous years-sorry! In full: This race has always been one of my faves but that has changed this year. The scamper for the chip at the start-the loos were a no-no (unless you wanted to start at 11:00!) Unfortunately, in previous years this race was nowhere near as tough as this one. Well done to marshalls and drink stations-as always very well organised and really friendly. I luckily escaped the car park before the mud melee but it was really squelchy underfoot. Still can't decide whether i would do this again. Sorry to moan but I also am not a fan of the boiled sweet or fizzy drink at the end of a hard slog! Date of review: March 29, 2010
In short: Up and down, up and down In full: First time I'd done this. Some joker told me that it was flat. Coming from Gloucestershire, I should have put two and two together and realised that nothing is flat in the Forest. And then done more hill training. That said, I really enjoyed it. Excellent organisation given there were so many runners converging on such a tiny field in the middle of nowhere. Fabulous weather and great support at various points along the course - better than you get in most road races through town centres. I'll be back (once I've put a few more hills in). Date of review: March 29, 2010
In short: Great race, but not as good as previous years In full: I love this event, but without being able to put my finger on it, didn't enjoy it as much as the last 2 years. The on-course marshalling was great, drink-stations superb, mile-markers all present and correct-ish! Think it was, (a) having to park in the woods, (b) having to queue up for a chip, and (c) a downhill start(when it's crowded) with an uphill finish is the wrong way round for my liking! All in all I really enjoyed it, hopefully a few of the teething problems which come a new course will be ironed out for next year.... Date of review: March 29, 2010
In short: Hard going up the hills, but beautiful scenery and friendly marshalls In full: Arrived at 9.15 to already find an enormous queue for the loo. I joined the queue, and when it was 9.50 and I was still in the queue had to send my husband off to get my chip. Good job I did, because by the time I was out of the loo, 'chipped' up and stripped off ready to go, it was 9.58. I started right at the back, which was appropriate for my expected time, but I didn't see any markers to show if you should start in a particular place. Start road was quite narrow.
Race was hard. Apart froma steep down hill at mile 2 it was generally uphill for most of the race. However the scenery was beautiful, the marshalls friendly & plentiful, the water stations well organised and there was lots of support around the course.
Loved my medal, but didn't like the fizzy drink at the end so it was as well I had a drink & snack waiting in my car.
People migt be complaining about the price, but it was a Rotary Club event, so hopefully lots of money was raised for their charities. More loos would have been good though! Date of review: March 29, 2010
In full: Nice run, but much tougher than last years course. Lack of choc / grain bar at the end was a bit poor, and being offered a boiled sweet instead was hardly worth it. Lots of 'runners' out of position at the start, which made it very difficult to run at a good pace for at least a mile or so (although I did feel good about overtaking so many people, as this is not the norm!). Exiting the car park was terrible, poorly organised and compounded by a number of selfish drivers pushing in etc. I ran this race last year and it was great, this year however, with all the changes for the worst, I don't think I will run it again. Date of review: March 29, 2010
In short: A lovely day out - my daughter and I really enjoyed it even though the hills were tough In full: A very friendly atmosphere. Agree it might have been nice to have a goody bag, but I don't think that detracts from the experience of the race itself Date of review: March 29, 2010