So Phil wanted someone to do a race report and I thought about it then decided against it, I’d just done the last of the Frostbite reports and thought I’d give the typewriter a rest and let someone else take centre stage…anyone else…anyone? So time went on and we went into lockdown and I let it pass.

The thing is, I guess lockdown has affected people in different ways. Under ordinary circumstances I would never attempt to write a race report a month after the event for two main reasons. Firstly, in the space of a normal month races come every week, so if one goes by without a report it wouldn’t get noticed and secondly, perhaps most importantly, I have the memory of a sieve. I’m barely able to remember a race ten minutes after its finished let alone a month later. It’s not that I don’t pay attention when I run, when I’m not concentrating on the race (pace, water, gels etc) I’m generally taking in the scenery but never the location, I see blue skies and green fields but not the sign that tells me what village I’m running through. This is a particular problem on Sunday runs, which I am a regular at (and miss very much), I know the meeting point, but after that, it’s just fields and trees until ‘oh look, there’s my car’. But like I said, lockdown affects people in different ways and I’ve found media and social media a little tough to take so I’ve detached myself from it and what with being injured I’m feeling a little adrift so I guess I’m penning this to re-connect with the running world.

There’s one word to describe the Oundle 20 this year, surreal. For me personally my Mum was in hospital and although it wasn’t expected that day I could get the call to tell me she had passed at any time, so I would be running with phone almost in hand (I did get a call in the 18th mile to tell me she was being sent back to the care home). It was also a race held under the strangest atmosphere, the pandemic was building and there was real anxiety in the air. We were all a little unsure of social distancing in case we appeared a little rude (how times have changed) and actually found the whole concept amusingly impossible considering registration and bag drop were all contained in a room rather too small for the job. ‘Once you’ve dropped your bag please go back outside’ was the hopeful announcement, ‘nope, it’s cold’ (again, how things have changed, now you would launch your bag in through an open door and expect it to be returned in a similar way). But given the backdrop of a pending national emergency the organising team put together a race and that should be commended.  And a very good job they did too.

I was injured coming into the race and had I thought there was any chance of the Peterborough Marathon going ahead I would have saved myself for that and pulled out of this race. But it was pretty clear which way it was going so I decided to run, a really good decision as it turned out. The course is lovely, fantastic scenery and rolling hills through villages…that have names. OK, I’ve just checked, you start from Oundle and then run a loop all on tarmac roads through Cotterstock, Fotheringhay, Nassington, Yarwell, Wansford, Kings Cliffe, Apethorpe and Woodnewton before returning to Oundle. There are fine lines with hills. At Stamford 30k they catch up with you, last two miles in particular and it hurts, but at Oundle it wasn’t like that, there is a big climb between Wansford and Kings Cliffe and the last two miles felt ‘uphillsy’ but generally no real issues. The water stations appeared well stocked, but I have to admit I took my own supply, something that I wouldn’t normally do, but again given the need for distancing, something I felt was right. We all got a warm reception as we crossed the finish line (some excellent times by Team WJ) along with a long-sleeved shirt and a cracking medal. Two small downsides: Firstly, you have to pay for a race photo (pffft) and secondly is the car parking situation. No car park at all so everyone has to street-park. This didn’t really present us as runners any problems but you can see as years go by it will only take a few insensitive parkers for the locals to start rebelling against the event. Hopefully it never happens.

I really enjoyed the Oundle 20, it was a piece of pure escapism in the most extraordinary of times and for that reason it has really attached itself to my heart-strings. I can see myself running this race many times in the future whether I’m marathon training or not. But for now it’s back to lockdown and my new job as teacher…exactly how do you teach equivalent fractions to an eight-year-old without using a baseball bat? I’m thinking the answer lies in alcohol. Stay safe everyone.