27th August 2017
This isn’t a 10k with personal best potential in mind. The majority of it is off-road (whilst underfoot conditions should not necessarily be an issue in the summer time, this is the UK) and there is the small matter of a climb that takes you up an ascent of 160-odd metres in the space of a mile.
Having said that, it starts and finishes in the grounds of Sudeley Castle, so you have a great background for the race, and you get to visit Belas Knapp (even if it is at the culmination of the climb). It is also a part of the Winchcombe Country Show, so you can make a day of it if you pop into the town afterwards. Throw in the race being part of the club’s annual race series and one can see why it is a popular choice with the purple army.
Whilst we were picking up our race numbers (there was sun lotion available as well – it was a pretty warm morning) and generally shooting the breeze, the organisers were overseeing a 1k fun run. Following those we gathered for the race briefing (a 5k option was also starting at the same time) by the entrance to the field immediately in front of the castle buildings.
The 10k course would be one triangular loop of the field before following the first ‘side’ of that triangle to the far end and turning out onto the road taking us back towards Winchcombe. Opposite the castle driveway entrance we’d turn left and join the Cotswold Way, taking us past the recreation ground, a short stretch along Corndean Lane, into the cricket club before the long ascent to Belas Knapp. Passing that, we’d follow the path along the edge of a field before making the descent back towards the cricket club and following the Costwold Way back to the Castle entrance and finishing with a run up the driveway.
Sounds straightforward enough, taking into consideration the big climb. I quickly found it to be less than straightforward when something in the back of my knee decided to stiffen up even before we’d completed the initial loop of the field. Pants.
I’d had a less-than-good run on the Friday prior to this and my legs that day had felt as if they wanted to stiffen up on me. Despite soaking, stretching and even attempting to roll them in the intervening day, something stubbornly chose to be uncooperative. Less than 1k in, the sensible option would be to call it quits.
Sensible, however, has no regard for sausages – specifically, the locally made variety which were on offer to all finishers. Sensible head off, sausage head on, I continued onto the road at a slow jog. In this manner I gradually went backwards whilst negotiating the road and path across the back of Winchcombe and headed towards the cricket club, at least confident that I would complete the run. As I mentioned: sausages.
At the cricket club I came across Norm having a stretch against a tree; apparently I was not the only one suffering from some sort of strain. Together, with ailing knee and calf respectively, we walked the climb from the cricket club to the crossing (about half-way to Belas Knapp) where a water station awaited us. Norm waved me on at this point and I completed the climb to the long barrow more-or-less alone.
On the plus side, no more climbing. On the flip side, no excuse to walk. I broke into a jog as we levelled out and was still quite aware of the offending area; said ‘jog’ was rather pedestrian as a result. We traversed the field adjacent to Belas Knapp before heading towards the descent.
Going downhill was little relief; I was unable to simply ‘let go’ and coast down at a canter, instead having to continue jogging cautiously. I was passed by a couple of others, one being Norm. As we made our way back towards the cricket club I reflected on my choice of footwear: I’d taken both my ‘roadies’ and my ‘knobblies,’ choosing to wear the road shoes. Heelies would have been a good option for this section.
Levelling off for the final part of the run, with just a mile to go, I passed Norm again and caught up with another runner who had passed me on the descent. I did not go by her though, the pace being just manageable for my condition. As we took the path behind the recreation ground back towards the castle entrance I heard footsteps behind me and prepared to step aside.
It was Norm. He drew alongside me at the castle entrance and together we trotted (in a manner of speaking) the final quarter-mile or so, gritting our teeth at a small incline immediately ahead of the finish. I’m not sure I’ve had to work so hard for sausages before (but they are so worth it!).
The majority of Almost had better runs, notably Gemma as first lady home and Josh as second male (and overall) finisher. No team prizes were on offer, but top ten lady finishes for Patricia and Ingrid are worthy of note, as is Simon’s effort, just outside the overall top ten.
On the other side of the coin: to add to the ailments suffered by Norm and myself, one or two (namely Kevin and Andy!) Almosts were sporting attractive grazes on their knees; apparently a talent for clumsiness isn’t exclusive to me.
It’s not the easiest of races but a thoroughly enjoyable run. Plus, as a reminder, there are sausages (I had them for dinner the following evening, they are really quite tasty!).