Last night after work, I got the bus up to Wimbledon Windmill for the start of the first of three trail races run by the Good Run Guide. I have to admit, I was initially drawn to this race by the appeal of a mug, chocolate bar and fruit at the finish line (give me a mug over a medal any day!) and it was also nice to have a race in the calendar mid-week instead of the weekend.
|Perfect race start of 7pm, with a break in the rain showers!|
At a guess, I’d say there were about 80 of us lined up, maybe more, but I tucked in behind a few Clapham Chaser girls (these guys were out on mass!) and we got off to a prompt start. I recognised the first stretch from Wimbledon Parkrun and we set off in a procession, leaping over the puddles that dotted the path. I found my stride, though this was a little difficult initially, trying to keep my eyes both on the ground and ahead to watch the route the runner in front was taking/avoiding.Just around the first mile marker came the Alps, small first, then big, and I think for the first time in a race, I enjoyed these ‘hills,’ and began overtaking people both on the ups and the downs. In London, hills are a rarity, but I’m used to the big ascents and descents and I think this gave me a little bit of an advantage. It felt so good just to let my legs go on the downhills and take some runners who were being a little more cautious, they would overtake me again on the flat sections, but we were both running to our strong points.
As we ran round the lake approaching the second mile marker, things got boggy. Like, “crap, my shoe is stuck in the mud and might come off’ sticky mud. Squelchy! A small part of me thought it might be quicker to try and avoid the mud, skirting round the side of the worst bits, but a bigger part of me decided, feck it, straight through, mud and all. It worked. I passed people who had made the decision to stop and shuffle round the drier areas, and eventually we came out the other side to a less muddy, chalkier and much wider path that wove along the river.
Between miles 3 and 4, we took a sharp turn away from the river and a sign indicated we were approaching the ‘Toast Rack.’ Actually it said ‘muddy Toast Rack ahead’ but someone had obviously been round the course prior to the race start and crossed out muddy! I’d read that this part of the course was a gentle climb of 720m, but stretched out over almost a half a mile it felt like it went on forever and my legs began to get heavy. I was keeping pace though and could see a small group of runners just ahead, so I kept focused and tried to catch them, knowing that after we crossed the golf course we were less than half a mile from the finish.
In the last stretch, the path opened up and I could see the golf clubhouse and the windmill where we’d started. I felt good, for once in a race, so pushed on and finished strong.
No fancy finish arch, just a simple funnel, and at the end some friendly handshakes with some of the guys I’d be running alongside during the race. No medals either, but waiting for us after we cheered on everyone coming in was our mug (filled with water to drink) and a selection of fresh fruit and chocolate bars. The organisers announced the winners, prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in all age categories as well as the team prize, and then everyone headed home, filled with running spirit and looking forward to the next race in June.
I forgot my watch on this occasion, which actually felt nice for once, running on feel and not time, but it’ll be nice to know what I clocked when the results are released, and have something to aim to beat for next time. The next race is June 3rd, 7pm and takes the same 5 mile route, while the last race of the set is 8 miles on July 1st. If you fancy either, and I would highly recommend having a go. Just remember your trail shoes and prepare yourself for a mud-fest. I never imagined I’d get the opportunity to run races like this when I first moved to London, so was really impressed at the terrain and how off-road it felt.
Good for the soul, get off the pavements and explore some new trails. I’ll definitely be back.