A huge thanks to Steph who shares her incredible race story from last weekends cross country – Cliveden House is infamous, for my parents it’s the Profumo Affair, for my friends it’s for the seemingly infinite steps.
In the middle of the Thames Valley Cross Country League (where we run the same distance, at the same time as the men #runequal) there is a fixture which is just as much an institution but technically not in the league. You’ll see all the same faces and clubs pop up at Burnham Joggers Cliveden Cross Country 10k.
Organised by runners, for runners, set in the grounds of an absolutely stunning National Trust property. The National Trust do a fantastic job of helping to host and the cafe is rammed afterwards every year. I’m always astonished they fit us all in and out in our cars with such ease.
This year was my third year running Cliveden, it always sells out (there are limitations due to the wonderful surroundings) and it’s clear why. One small lap (4k), followed by one large lap (6k) both culminating with a dash (can’t really call it a run) up the steps to the house and a final effort to try to speed up on the gravel driveway under the arch. In between a number of challenges face you. We were lucky this year, it was cool and dry, with the preceding dry weeks over Christmas we had the best conditions ever. Best for speed, but not best for cross country, there wasn’t even any mud – weather dependent you can end up calf deep in Thames-y mud for 3k, bum sliding down zig zag paths through the woods and sprint, splashing through mud for the mad rush across the open grass. This year, it was dry enough that I had to slow myself down on the downhills for fear of rolling into the Thames at the bottom.
Cliveden is lung gasping, thigh burning, face reddening and a heck of a lot of fun. It’s a real team day out, everyone is balanced on the steps. No matter who you happen to be around when you get there, everyone bandies together to make it up, banter, encouragement, tips all come your way. My tips:
- Change your lead foot every few steps
- The gate is not the top
- Take it easy the first time
- Let the crowds push you up
At the top of the steps (and the surprisingly sapping incline for 200m afterwards) there are lots of supporters, many friends and family of those running, normally a photographer, kids to high five and it really helps push you up. The feeling of hitting the flat at the top of the steps is the closest feeling I can compare to when you start running after the bike leg in a triathlon. You feel as though your legs aren’t attached, you feel slow, but probably aren’t, there isn’t far to go (if you are on the second lap) and it’s worth mustering all that inner strength.
Keep your eyes peeled on the Burnham Joggers page for Cliveden opening (or any of their other great races), you’ll hate me on your first time up the stairs, you’ll probably want to kill me on the second lap, but afterwards I hope you’ll glow with extra super runners high….. Let me know!