Chris Harlan-Marks reports:
Having slogged our way through several months of increasingly arduous, 5k-oriented grass sessions on Monday nights, Caroline and I were gutted to realise we would in fact be away for last week’s BRAT Rowheath 5k. So disappointed were we that we seriously considered driving back for it, before deciding that the pleasure we would derive from grinding out yet another 3.1 miles along the undulating roads of South Birmingham would be somewhat outweighed by the 3 hour round-trip journey such a race would necessitate, smack in the middle of what was planned as a relaxing week away. We therefore told ourselves off for being the type of running-mad crazies who would even consider driving home in the middle of a holiday for a 5k, gave in to The Blerch and skipped the race.
As anyone will tell you, though, a 2 hour round-trip journey for the pleasure of running 3 flat miles on the roads of Gloucestershire is completely different and entirely sensible… so, feeling refreshed and relaxed after our week of McCamping at Center Parcs, we decided to enter the fourth race of Severn AC’s annual White Horse 5k series this week.
Good evening 5ks seem to be an endangered species these days, as most people seem content to do Parkruns instead (understandably so – they’re free!) but neither Caroline nor I tend to race well at 9am, so for us the White Horse is worth the journey and the fiver. It’s a great race: it’s a low key event, taking place on a mostly flat, rural route, and it usually draws a small but surprisingly fast field – there are always a handful of speed merchants to drag you along, but not so many people that you’re tripping up or being forced to run farther than necessary. The only downside is that the race headquarters is at the White Horse Chinese Restaurant in Sandhurst, which means that your commitment to racing will be repeatedly tested as your olfactory receptors are accosted by food smells on the way to and from the loo. (This is especially problematic if your pre-race preparation routine involves drinking your own body weight in lime squash, as mine does).
The August race is the last of the series, and we learned upon arriving that the race would also be hosting the Gloucestershire Road 5k Championships this year, which meant that there would be a larger (and considerably faster) field than normal. We had arrived with little time to spare as a result of M5 roadworks and some creative navigation on my part, so we only had time for a quick out-and-back along the last mile of the course to refresh our memories before joining the rest of the crowd listening patiently to the pre-race lecture by the carpark entrance (failure to return one’s numbers and pins to the “mauve box” is apparently punishable by death). Then we did a few strides and soberly lined up a good way back from the startline, avoiding all runners in crop-tops and any who looked like their age might begin with a “1”.
The race itself was great. We probably both went out a little too fast, but managed to hang on and not blow up half way through the race. The heaving mass of title-chasing Gloucestershire whippets had mostly disappeared near the halfway point, but I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that Caroline was still visible at that stage – a good sign that I hadn’t judged my pace too badly and was still on for a decent run. It was a relief to see the familiar landmarks from our warm-up with about a mile to go, and then it was just one last push to the finish.
In the end we were both reasonably happy with our results. Neither one of us PBed, but both of us benefited from the good conditions and fast race (75% of the field ran sub-20!) to beat our season’s best times, so that made the journey seem worthwhile. We also had a nice chat at the finish with a Worcester AC guy who does the Leafy every year and recognised our mini-Sea of Teal.
All in all, Severn AC put on a brilliant race once again that we would definitely recommend to any PB-chasing BvHers open to a bit of a trek down the M5!
Full results for the race can be found here.