In short: Worth the wait. In full: I wonder if there's a character limit on reviews? I guess we're about to find out.
I only really started running a year or so ago. I completed my first ever 5k the week before the A&D 10k 2011 and considered entering. I bottled it. It didn't take me long after that to get up to 10k distance and in September, I completed my first Half Marathon. As I looked back on what had become an incredible year for me, I deeply regretted not entering the A&D10k and vowed to do it for 2012. Well, as soon as I was able, I signed up and felt a million times better for doing it, like righting a wrong or something. Long story short, I'm glad I didn't attempt this as an utter noob last year, it would have killed me!!!!
Long story long again, I'll explain my experience from start to finish...
First off, parking. We got there about an hour before the race and found ourself in a very short queue that moved quite fluidly off the main road and into the parking field. Marshall's clearly guided us into ample parking spaces and the whole thing from start to finish can't have taken more than 2 minutes. I was very grateful for this.
Marquee's were in abundance, well placed and very clear. There was a tent for collecting 'stuff' with 3 queues. From the back it was unclear what queue was for what but before you could get too far in the wrong one, a lovely lady walked up and asked what you needed. "I've got my number, just need my chip" I said. "Ok love" says her, "You want that queue there". Perfect. Got to the front, got my chip and off I went. Very simple and well managed.
This left 20-30 minutes of warming up, admiring other people's shoes (or lack there of, see bare footed chappy who's reviewed below *gulp*) and generally worrying about everything from the weather to my choice of socks. I queued for the toilets, I believe there were 6 outside. There were more inside, an area I didn't even venture I'm afraid. The portaloo's outside were ok, the queue seemed to take forever but that's more down to the user than the facility I hope. A few more would be good, especially I would say, for our female counterparts. I was very aware that if time ran out, I could find a tree.
With 10 minutes to go the man in the speaker system informed us that we should really be making our way to the start line. This was great, it's a km up the hill. The walk alone proved to be a good joint warm-up and gave ample opportunity to get rid of the mud from the field that had found it's way into every groove of my shoes.
The start was well marked with the timing areas well sign posted. Men should note that in the wait at the start, there is the grounds of Eastwell Manor on your right. Not particularly worthy of note apart from the fact that the wall is broken in several places allowing for rapid egress of the herd to find another tree. I was not alone in doing this though I am very interested to know if the bare footed nutters popped in there?
Bang on 10 am, us at the back heard the horn and a little cheer rippled through as we quickly set off. From horn to my passing the line took 54 seconds. I was at the very front of the 60+ minutes section. Last time I ran a race was the Nike RTTB Half Marathon in September '11 where I waited 40 minutes after the horn to pass the start line. 50 odd seconds was bliss :D
The track is narrow for the first 2k, for sure but if you start in the right place, it makes little odds. I don't know what it was like up at the front but nearer the back it was mainly ok. There were a handful of faster people trying desperately to get through, I guess they were caught short in the trees or something. They huffed a bit but if you don't want traffic, start in the right place. The first 4 km are mainly downhill and so I was showing real PB potential, at least 30 seconds per km quicker than my 'pace'.
5k was the water station, well managed with plenty of water. This was, however, my first attempt at drinking from a plastic cup whilst running. I failed, I failed bad. I didn't swallow any, I breathed in a bit, I wore a lot. I grabbed a second cup, soaked my leg and probably the leg of the man I was passing at the time. The last dregs went over my head.....deliberately. Although the temperature was barely in double figures there was not a cloud in the sky. My balding bonce felt like it was on fire. I craved shade and found none. I contemplated thieving a tray off of one of the drinks marshall's but thought better of it. I was exhausted by this point due to the faster pace and fancied that the old boy holding said tray could probably kick my butt at this point.
5k-6k is deceptively up hill. It's enough that I glanced at my gps watch and for the first time, saw that I was running below my normal pace.
6k-7k and you can sense that things are about to go wrong. You are looking up a hill you know you have to somehow get up, you just don't want to.
7k-8k Our father, who art in heaven, I'm running up your drive. There's no need for hills like this, no need at all. Not just in road racing but anywhere on this earth. In February I drove the course before it was cancelled. The bit (and you know the bit I'm talking about if you did this race) that has the steepest section, my car struggled with in the frost. At the time I thought it was just the car messing about. In reality, I now know better. I was desperate to keep my tempo up, 10 metres in I realised I had a lady to pass 5 metres in front, I spent 30 seconds debating how to get by without changing tempo until I realised that I'd made no ground on her. 30 more seconds and I'm still no closer. I should inform you at this stage that she was walking. 2 seconds after this realisation, so was I.....and so I caught her up.
8k and a kindly lady marshall informs me it's all down hill from here. She wasn't wrong but by this point, I was spent.
9k and I've nothing left, not a drop. Light headed, seeing stars, legs like jelly. I've never experienced this before. Can't all be down to that hill, I hadn't hydrated as well as I might and I'd not carbed up the week before. I run 10k most weeks, it's no big thing. I hadn't done hill work though, not really. I am now learnt in not taking things for granted. Race prep is race prep. Don't let pride get in the way of race prep. We all know what pride cometh before.
10k, the final push was great. I wasn't convinced I wasn't going to puke before the line but something spurred me on. As soon as I entered Sandyacres I dug deep and sprint finished. It felt like I was Usain Bolt, my wife laughed when I mentioned 'sprint finish' afterwards. I guess it didn't look as fast as it felt.
Crossing the line was great, my medal was given to me quickly and looks awesome, people were waiting to cut my foot tag off, which was great, I didn't look forward to getting it off my laces myself. Then there was water, bananas, chocolate, jaffa cakes. Still holding back the vom, I opted for water and a 'nana. There was a marquee next for engraving the medal at £4 a pop. There is a bar, bbq. Honestly, if you are fit enough, it's a whole event. For me, it was great to just drink as much water as they could pour.
After another 20-30 minutes, the roads were opened and so we were allowed to leave. The time flew by and it was no inconvenience to wait. With everyone in their cars, the excellent marshall's again excelled themselves and we cleared out in less than 10 minutes.
All in all then I really enjoyed it. The organisation was absolutely first class, I was never in any doubt what was needed. All marshall's cheered me on with smiley faces. Km marks were well posted. It was great.
Only downsides were of my own making, essentially not being fit enough. I am a heavy guy, hills take their toll on fat boys. I ran my absolute hardest for 9.5km and walked the hell out of that hill. I was 39 seconds off my PB. Initially I was gutted, it really was the hardest I've ever tried in my life. After contemplation, I'm dead chuffed, I know how hard I tried and know that if I had run my usual run, I would have been a few minutes longer still.
I will definitely be back next year. The convenience of it all makes it worth while by itself. Hopefully next year's will be in February again. I am far better in colder weather, again though, this was nothing to do with the organisers. Just mother nature, who I've already established, is not my favourite person. That bloody hill!!!! Date of review: March 19, 2012
In short: This was my first 10k race, it was very well run with lovely country roads to race. I will definatly be back next year and has inspired me to run another now i have a time to beat! Date of review: March 19, 2012
In full: I entered this run last minute as part of my marathon training and i am glad i did. Excellent organisation by Nice Work and a very friendly atmosphere on the day. The course is quick and challenging with a tough hill at about 7k. Tight at the start but the field soon stretched out and it was pleasant to run down (and up) country lanes with no traffic to worry about. The marshalls were excellent and offered encouragement throughout. I will be returning next year, if only to sprint up that hill. Date of review: March 19, 2012