Leonie Clitherow reports: Running mad mother decided, for her exotic holiday this year, to come and visit me in Birmingham.
A standard ‘girly weekend’ for the two of us would have to involve entry into a local running race, so Warwick was selected as an excuse to visit an interesting town…and a chance for me to see if all this BvH training has worked by me attempting to beat running-mad-mother.
Pre-race information for the event arrived early, and sadly indicated a horribly early start time (car-park opens at 7am, no Sunday morning lie-in allowed!). Arriving early was an absolute must as the car park (swamp-like field) was filling up quickly by 7:30. We squelched our way to start area inside the castle walls where we were able to collect our British Heart Foundation race t-shirt and
drop our bags off. The weather was cold, so mum dressed up in at least a 100 layers, but being well trained by the BvH cross-country ladies I opted for vest and shorts (possibly the only runner in so few clothes!). The start was somewhat chaotic, with no clear instructions, but we eventually heard an announcement stating that runners expecting a time around 1:30 should head to the start line, so the only other BvH runner, Simon Goodwin, headed for the start line, while us girls shivered for a while longer. Eventually we were called forward and joined the mass of 1:50ish time runners in a narrow gorge-like path in front of the start line. This was sheltered from the cold, but meant my GPS watch couldn’t find any satellites despite my enthusiastic arm waving (my watch only picked up the
satellites 0.8 of a mile into the race).
Suddenly we were off, winding through a couple streets in the town, and being cheered by a surprising number of people braving the cold. After a short time weaving in and around other runners, we escaped the town and joined the country lanes that would take us on a long loop before returning to the town for the final mile or so. All the roads were completed clear of traffic, which meant we could pick the easiest routes, cutting off corners and avoiding a few nasty pot holes. Support along the way was great, and mum had plenty of shouts of “come on Sphinx”, only for the Sphinx AC supporters to look confused as she shouted back “I’m from Truro” (turns out they have the same colour team vests!). Sadly no BvH cheers for this race! There were several water stations (not required, it was too cold!) and a few people handing out jelly babies along the way. The cold weather turned to cold and rain by about mile 7, but strangely this seemed to help my times, being completely unable to run faster than running-mad-mother we decided to stick together, and were able to keep the pace higher than expected. Looking at our watches were both shocked to see our fastest 7 miles ever! Perhaps being adapted to the mighty Cornish Hills made us both consider this ‘undulating’ course as pretty much flat. Sooner than anticipated we returned to Warwick, and now for the final push up to the castle. The route narrowed to a small fenced path into the castle where we had to watch out for fencing posts carefully positioned to trip us up. Thinking that it would be a bit mean to sprint off and beat mum in the last 100m (or rather I had no energy left, but was determined not to be left behind) we linked hands and squelched to the finish (across a rather nasty bit of muddy grass) in a massive PB of 1:46:13! Feeling super happy we found Simon (who also achieved a great PB of 1:31:13) and joined the ever growing queue to pick our bags up before grabbing some coffee to help us defrost.
Free entry to the castle for all runners was a bonus (especially as the normal entry fees are really expensive). Exiting the event was like being stuck at Glastonbury festival, the muddy car park field had been churned to gloopy mud and cars were skidding left, right and centre in the attempts to get out (no exaggeration, tractors had apparently had to tow some people from the field).
Would I do the race again? Possibly, but it’s not a particularly exciting course and goody bag is rubbish (cereal bar and a shampoo sachet anyone?!) and the medal particularly naff (no mention of the date or distance). The event also sadly suffered from poor organisation, a large proportion of the 3000 entrants (about 700 I think) were turned away from the gates at 9am as the traffic was
horrendous trying to get in. It is the first year of the race, so teething problems could be expected, however the BHF organises lots of events, so should have been able to anticipate this. It’s a fairly flat course that benefits from completely traffic free roads, so good PB potential and chip timing is an extra bonus!
photos to follow