The destination of this race is the pretty town of Leighton Buzzard, in central Bedfordshire. I had never been to this area before, but my sat nav took me there without a hitch in about one hour ten minutes.
Race headquarters base themselves in Vandyke Upper School, and from the minute you arrive you know this is going to be a well organised race. On the road leading to the school there were marshals directing you, and in the school car park there were numerous marshals standing in the horrendous rain, with cheerful, welcoming smiles, directing you to your parking space. Parking was plentiful, and it made for a very short walk into the school gymnasium, which was where you collected your number and finishers’ tee shirt, which was given out before the race. There were adequate male and female changing facilities, and all the toilets were indoors. There were only a few loos, but this wasn’t a big race, just 300 runners, so the loos seemed to cope adequately with demand. There was also a baggage drop which was run very efficiently.
The race was gun time only, which was hardly surprising as it was an inexpensive race to enter (£15 EA affiliated, £17 unaffiliated), and it included a finishers’ tee shirt.
It was great being able to hang around inside the hall until about 10 minutes before the race started, because the weather really wasn’t great, cold and raining heavily, which is absolutely fine to run in, but not so good if you had to walk a long distance to the start line and stand there for a long time. Luckily the race lined up on the road outside the school, and went off very promptly at 9am, so there were none of those issues.
The first five miles of the course were almost completely on the ascent in varying degrees. It started with a long, quite steep hill and after that they just kept on coming. This didn’t bother me because I had done my research and knew what I was letting myself in for. I had accepted that it was never going to be a PB course for me, I was doing it for the training, although some people remarkably did achieve PBs. By mile five I was beginning to wonder if I should have taken up knitting as a hobby instead of running, as the hills were beginning to take their toll. Suddenly at mile five though, just after the water station, the hills completely disappeared and you went into a mile and a half of absolutely brilliant downhill. I was mindful that I was representing the club in my vest so didn’t want to disgrace myself or WJ, but I was so relieved at finding a downhill section at last it was all I could do not to shout a loud ‘Geronimo’ as I went. Some of this downhill section went through a wood, which was a nice bit of respite from the sheet rain.
Miles 7 and 8 went back to being undulating, but nothing like the first half, and then you got to mile 9. Again, I had done my research and knew that there was an absolute stinker of a hill just before 9, Shenley Hill, and they weren’t joking. I decided the best tactic was just not to look up, and just to get on with it. I thought of all those dark nights doing hill raining on Love’s Hill and realised that it had all been for this moment. When I got to the top, there was a marshal who said the most welcome words ever ‘well done, it’s all downhill to the finish now’. I could have hugged him and he was true to his word. The end of the race is just fantastic, almost a mile of complete downhill. You go flying back into Leighton Buzzard and the finish was lined with lots of spectators in the pouring rain under their brollies cheering you in.
This race will most certainly be getting a return visit by me next year, I loved the whole experience.