Moreton Morrell Mad Dash – Saturday 8th February 2014
Having looked for a couple of pre-marathon tune-up races (or catered training runs as I prefer to think of them!) I’d landed on the Moreton Morrell 20km race as an alternative, slightly less scary than a half-marathon challenge, and still eight weeks away from the Manchester marathon.
An unusual distance, not too far away (40ish minutes from Rowheath) and on a Saturday morning for a change; I’d been looking forward to it, and was only slightly worried about the “undulating” description. Heather had signed up for the 10km on the same course and kindly offered to be the designated driver, and Katie joined our band of Musketeers at the last minute (also tackling the two laps).
On Friday with heavy rain and flooding forecast I did wonder what lay in store, having visions of a similar experience to the 2011 Stratford Half Marathon, which goes down in history as my least enjoyable race; wet and windy weather is for staying in with a good book and a cuppa in my opinion! Come Saturday morning though the sun was shining, and even with the windy conditions it certainly could have been a worse day for it.
The race starts at the agricultural college, which also housed the facilities and registration, which was well organised (and only a small queue for the ladies too). Parking was ample and just a five minute walk from the start. Not a good day for spectators as the wind was bitterly cold, so we all really just wanted to get on with it and were glad when finally we were off.
Starting out running through the college grounds, the previous day’s rain and some potholes meant conditions under foot were less than ideal to begin with, but as we turned out of the grounds onto the open roads things improved and I was able to get into my stride. The route itself was well marked and the marshals were excellent – doing their best to slow down the traffic and give plenty of encouragement to the 140 runners completing the 10km and 95 taking on the 20. There were also a couple of water/electrolyte stations on the course.
We passed through a the village of Ashorne and in places the wind was really beginning to pick up, but it was, as we commented afterwards, quite an interesting route, through really pretty Warwickshire countryside. At about the 7km mark there is quite a long uphill stretch, which wasn’t too steep but it was quite difficult to pass others at that point, as the traffic was heavier in that section it wasn’t really safe (especially if, like me, you were also trying to avoid the puddles). Far more challenging than that stretch though is the mile or so to the halfway point, which takes you back into the college grounds up a steeper hill, which on Saturday also happened to be straight into a serious headwind. Seeing my pace target slipping away I could do nothing to prevent it – I was going nowhere fast, but on rounding the corner back past the halfway line (avoiding the 10km finish) I was still on track for my target and felt I could make up a bit of time on the second lap.
Unfortunately the wind continued to pick up, but nevertheless I enjoyed the second lap, and the comments of the marshals (“still smiling!”) and the camaraderie with some of the others (passing or being passed!); I still felt strong up to the 18km point. Alas, the last push was even harder the second time around and I also had to navigate a group of walkers, so in spite of a sprint finish I missed my target by four seconds, but having given myself a decent target to beat next time.
Just after finishing, while waiting for Katie, we saw the finish canopy blown away by a gust of wind, but the impressive event team carried on recording the times of finishers whilst a few spectators and marshals recovered the finish line. We then happily collected our souvenir beanie hats and Eat Natural bars and caught up over a coffee in the college bar. Not long afterwards the rain was back but we were warm and dry in the car, enjoying the resulting rainbow, and thinking perhaps we’d had the best of the weather for the day. A good morning’s work and even worth missing parkrun for!
Stacey Marston (20km) 01:50:04
Heather Cowan (10km) 01:05:46
Katie Thomas (20km) 02:07:28