One very un-misleading title: It’s in Chedworth. It passes a Roman villa. It’s a trail race. It’s also part of the club’s off-road race series. That, coupled with this being a very scenic run, ensured that there would be a good purple crowd present.
The weather promised to be glorious too. It was all looking so good – until I pulled my left calf just a few days beforehand. A couple of days rest and a very steady jog immediately ahead of the weekend had me confident that I could at least take part, though a course PB would be out of the question.
It was indeed glorious and there was a good crowd of Almosts, one or two complete with dogs (the race had included a cani-cross option, a welcome trend). Meet-and-greet, share concerns, team picture covered, we gathered at the start on the playing field by the village hall.
The race starts with a short stretch of road – shorter than before, with a revision to the course that took us immediately downhill, along a track, into the village itself. A shorter road section through the village took us into a field and across a rather muddy brook. There was a footbridge; as it was designed for single use, we had the choice to (a) queue, (b) jump or (c) splash. I’ll leave you to guess at my option.
A short sharp climb took us back onto the ‘original’ route, which skirted the back-end of an old (disused) airfield before dropping into a wooded area and climbing back out of it. This was followed by a stretch of footpath / track, during which I was able to assess the condition of my leg (so far so good) and to say another hello to fellow Almosts.
One particular Almost I chatted to mentioned her loathing of hills and how climbing really slowed her down – then promptly left me for dust at the next incline. Shortly after this we reached the first water stop (on a day that was getting warmer and warmer, this was particularly welcome). I took a breather whilst taking on a bit of fluid, before continuing on and making the long steady descent to the valley floor where we would make a river crossing.
In this instance there was no bridge to use and, unless you are Greg-Rutherford-like, the sole option is to splash. Feet nicely wet, we continued on. At this point I was aware that my left calf was still a touch tight, but was more concerned about my opposite knee, which was starting to complain a little. However, I was still managing just fine and crested the next climb without a problem.
We almost immediately dropped back to the base of the valley and re-crossed the river – this time via a road-bridge – before taking on a long stretch of track. This is probably the flattest part of the entire route, yet it is my least favourite. It must be a mental thing; I’m unable to explain why I just don’t feel good running along here.
An eternity later, we turned off that wretched track and prepared for the stiffest climb of the day. I was already prepared to walk the steeper section, justifying it as kinder on the affected calf muscle. That worked out perfectly well and had me in pretty good spirits for the final three miles.
How complacency bites you in the rear… as we levelled out and started running again, my aforementioned knee refused to co-operate in that any unevenness had me staggering like a drunk. I was relieved to reach the final water station and use the opportunity to walk it out whilst I had a drink.
It was of little use. I completed the next two miles – on track, descent and rise through a farm, and back onto road for the last ½-mile – at a too-sedate jog. The final road stretch was a quite pathetic affair; I completed the race at a shuffle, and over 15 minutes slower than I had in 2016. Looks as though I’ll be resting for a short period again!
My own inadequacies aside, it was (and is!) a great, and challenging, run and will (again) feature on my race calendar for next year.