In short: Better than last year In full: Well, they sorted out the problem at the start, at least for those lining up at the sub-40min mark. Having run a ten mile race the day before I was being a tad optimistic, and I'd forgotten that there are some climbs in this race to slow you down. However, it's worth doing just for the chance to see how the other half lives (it's set in the grounds of Cirencester Park, the estate of the Earl of Bathurst). The only thing I'd cavil about would be the weird metal running shoe as a prize - straight to landfill. Date of review: September 29, 2010
In short: Very interesting In full: A very unusual course layout, with laps and out-and-back loops, going hither and yon. I'm surprised that it doesn't attract more runners, because it's very well organised, an interesting and potentially PB course. It was fun, if rather dispiriting, to be able to see the leader at various points, miles in front of the next person. Date of review: September 19, 2010
In short: Great fun In full: I ran this race many years ago and was delighted to see it back. It's a great course and, since it's about the only 1/4 marathon around, by definition a PB course. Lovely people, lovely village, good cause and definitely one to come back for. Date of review: September 19, 2010
In short: Superb race with very few quibbles. In full: Evesham Vale RC seem to know a thing or ten about how to organise a really good race. Once again this race pushed all the right buttons: chip timing, nice wide slightly downhill start, lovely scenery, mainly flat. Great finish and very decent goodies at the end. My only real issue is the course - too twisty, and some of the surfaces aren't that great. Having said that, I would personally make this a must-run race. Date of review: July 12, 2010
In short: Fine, apart from the water stops In full: The race started five minutes late, which was somewhat unnecessary, as the announcer clearly liked the sound of his own voice rather than having anything of any great import to say. The race was well signposted and marshalled, but the water stops were terrible. Not enough people - I missed water at two, at one the cup was almost empty, and at the last one the woman failed to let go of the cup. As I was closer to the sharp end than the back I can only assume that they got their act together a bit better by the time the later runners came through. I know this might seem like cavilling, but even though I was well hydrated the fact that I only actually managed to get hold of water at one of the four stops was a bit poor. Date of review: June 7, 2010
In short: A bit - well - dull In full: The first five miles are instantly forgettable, the next five miles are much more pleasant to look at but mainly uphill. It's not a bad course and perfectly pleasant, but not very inspiring. Date of review: May 10, 2010
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: Thank God for the roads! In full: I don't normally like off-road - no, let me rephrase that - I hate off-road. But this is one race that I do every year, simply because it's such a gas. The scenery is gorgeous, the run is very challenging but not too long, and the organisation is terrific. Date of review: March 22, 2010