In the autumn a migration occurs, lycra clad adults, usually much happier outside running free move indoors and sit by their laptops awaiting the opening of a certain race in Folksworth. Perhaps less well known a similar thing happens in the springtime in anticipation of the opening of the St Neots Half Marathon, it sells out within hours and whilst on paper it may be hard to see why, once you’ve run it, you’ll know.
The organisers are fair, they release the date in advance when the race entries will open so everyone has a fair chance. In fact start to finish the organising is first class. The pre-race email has links to everything you need to know and includes a warning about no littering which I liked a lot (there really is no excuse). Plenty of parking is available, although it was taking a while getting everyone in to the car park. Registration is quick and friendly, you do get the finishers shirt before the race which is a little odd but the helpers still laughed along when I said ‘I don’t need to run now’ like they hadn’t heard that at least ten times before that morning.
There are toilets in the race HQ and extra had been placed outside, but I couldn’t help but notice a large queue just pre-race, the whole system put under strain by the man-poo clashing with the woman-wee (this was discussed at the post-race drink), anyway, everyone seemed to get to the start on time and I didn’t hear too many complaints.
The course on paper may not look ideal, my Strava clocked over 400ft of elevation and when you train in Peterborough, that’s a mountain. But it’s when that elevation occurs and when you get to cruise downhill that make this race special. There are four big climbs, three of them in the first five miles. Starting on an uphill slope in Eynesbury you run out from the houses at the edge of town and into the countryside towards the village of Abbotsley which is about halfway up the second hill. Great support here, downhill at 4 miles back on the climb by 5 for the third time. Then a long downhill stretch from 5 ½ miles to 7 ½ miles. This is where I started to push my pace having stayed steady so as not to wear myself out on the hills. Miles 8 to 10 is a steady climb, not as steep as the earlier hills but a gentle leg drainer.
But the last 3.1 miles is what makes this race famous. 150 feet of drop spread over three miles. You just glide all the way in boosted by the excellent support towards the finish line. My plan was to reach 10 miles in 1 hour 25 minutes which would leave me 25 minutes for the last stretch and finish under 1 hour 50minutes. I actually got to 10 miles quicker than expected and finished well inside my target. Decent bling to finish along with a bottle of water and a banana which try as I did, I just couldn’t peel. It was green and I had cold hands.
It’s a fantastic course, scenic, interesting and rewarding, but you’ll have to be quick on the keyboard if you want to enter.