Mike Scotney reports: After doing a couple of 20 mile canal runs in the past fortnight as marathon preparation and averaging 55 miles per week for the past month or so, I thought it was time to throw something a little different into the Training schedule; a long distance trail run!
The blurb suggested it was “21 challenging and testing miles across beautiful Cannock Chase – Definately not for fun runners”, so I guess I knew what was in store. Arriving early on a thoroughly miserable morning (wet and windy) there were a sturdy bunch of guys in attendence, some doing marathon training runs and a group of hard core ultra-runners who looked as if they were out for more of a gentle amble in the countryside rather than tackling a demanding run by it’s own right.
The first big decision was footwear – I took both normal trainers and Innovates, and was wrecked with indecision. With big rain clouds in the sky I opted for the trail shoes, and it was a wise move.
I guess there were about 200 runners and we all took off from Milford Common and along a number of well marked stony trails out on to the Chase. After a nasty initial climb it flattened out and the field spread out quickly and was predominantly flat for about the first 5 miles.
I took it really easy trying to enjoy the change of scenery. It got more interesting between miles 5 and 10 as we hit the boggy areas of the Chase. Innovates rule! Had a lot of fun navigating around quagmire like paths and channels and the routes zigzagged through both open land and some forrested areas.
I hadn’t expected the race to be isolationary – I guess without a big field, you do find yourself running alone for large swathes, but the few runners at same pace were very friendly and thankfully the trails had been marked really well with sawdust piles all the way round. The real ‘bite’ of the course was between miles 10 and 12.
There were 5 nasty switchbacks, hills that are used by the mountain bikers that demanded respect as we all power walked up. They really sapped the energy. After this there were a couple more vicious climbs as we went up to the top of the Chase and I went for a negative split, speeding up for the second half and managing to pick off about 20 or so runners.
The training so far was really paying off and the trail shoes were holding up well and were surprising comfortable. The last few miles were mostly down hill and decent off-road tracks and with the exception of another short power-walk incline at 20 miles, it was a good run in.
To conclude this is a great race for anybody looking to mix up their marathon training (and you can enter on the day), with decent competition and variety of scenery to beat a home-based run every time.
I managed the 21 miles in about 2hrs 55mins, which was pleasing and still felt strong at the end. I’m sure it will hurt like hell tomorrow and don’t tell Mark Lynock, but I think I may like these long distance events …..