An impromptu decision to take off to my parents’ for the weekend coincided with this year’s running of the Braunton 10. I had taken part in this once before but the year started with a 19 then. What I do recall is a country-lane route with a couple of climbs thrown in.
Fast-forward 20-odd years (and a local parkrun the day before) to a popular local event that attracted a sizeable on-the-day entry (unsurprisingly, I was one), not to mention a pretty generous selection of cakes – although putting them on display before the race was a bit of a tease.
It was not until we were gathered at the start (and I queried into different-coloured numbering) that I was aware that a 10k distance is also hosted, with all runners setting off at the same time. As it turns out, the 10k route heads out and back on the 10-mile route but conveniently avoids the more significant inclines. Fortunately I didn’t have time to question whether, in hindsight, I should have chosen the ‘lo-cal’ option.
The route was vaguely familiar from before with a couple of surprises thrown in. The first came at about 2 miles, and was in the form of a Bourton runner. After we had mutually gone over the what-on-earth-are-you-doing-in-this-part-of-the-world pleasantries (he was spending the weekend at his in-laws: ‘My partner is up ahead, be sure to say hello if you catch her’) we wished each other well.
After the 10k-ers and 10milers split, I did catch up with said partner, at about 3 miles, this time me more prepared for the greeting than her. As we chatted, we approached the first hill. My memory was sufficient to recall that there were two decent climbs in this race but – the second surprise – it appeared that either some form of rare geology had taken place or that I had simply shrunk. This hill was much (no, much) bigger than before.
The first climb is quite steep but gives you a short breather at about two-thirds of the way up, in the form of a short flat stretch. One or two motivational signs had kindly been placed by North Devon Road Runners, the host club (Pain is inevitable, quitting is optional – that sort of thing) and a congratulations sign once the hill was crested.
A steady descent into the valley followed, though the knowledge that another hill was to be taken on was uppermost on my mind so I refrained from pushing on (journalistic licence, I was just one-paced). This inevitably arrived at just past the halfway mark and, whilst not as steep as the first, had no respite and seemed to go on forever. You start climbing, turn left and look up into the far distance, then wish you’d kept your eyes firmly on the floor.
I plodded (the only term that I can conjure up) my way up, made a right turn at the end of the ‘far distance’ – and still continued to climb! On the plus side, the top was in view, and another sign to congratulate you on completing that one.
A steady descent to a right turn took me into the last 3 miles, most of which would be flat. This was the time to start stretching the legs and picking up the pace. At least that’s what I felt as if I was doing; looking back I was succeeding only in being marginally quicker. I did have enough energy to accommodate a few kids who had their hands out for high-fives (though, as an adult to a child, it’s a relatively easy low-five).
The 10k runners (what few had not already finished) re-joined at this point, only to split again as we took a steep descent back into Braunton. Whether it was the descent or whether it was hearing a few more footfalls behind me I did manage to genuinely pick up the pace for the final mile-and-a-half, finishing on the athletics track.
Cue cake, tea, plus a finisher’s t-shirt. I’d forgotten how much fun this event is (never mind those damned hills). Next year, I should plan my visit.