First things first, thanks to the guys at mysportingtimes.com, and the event sponsors Runners Retreat, for an extremely well organised and well supported event with around 600 runners in great post Xmas festive spirit for a slog in the bog, with the option to run a 10km or 10 mile trail around the home of mysportingtimes.com at Butlers Farm, Mortimer, Berkshire.
It was a beautiful, crisp, sunny morning for the run, with easy access to the start and on-site parking for those that registered early, so no need for hanging around too long in the cold. The pre-race briefing was delivered with all the necessary info and quite a few laughs, leaving the impression that the assembled runners definitely had a community feel with many regulars to these events present. In fact, if you like the sound of entering this run next year, I suggest you get in early as registration is now open and it sounds like it continues to grow in popularity, and was a total sell-out well in advance of today!
Predictably, the start was a bit slow with a narrow downhill lane to get things going followed by an equally tight uphill trail, so not wanting to risk turning an ankle skipping down the hedgerow, I settled in for a gentle couple of kilometres for the field to spread out and there be enough room to hit a comfortable pace. From there on though, the run was an absolute pleasure, with a fair mix of country lanes, bridle paths and muddy fields to negotiate, with some great views to be had across the West Berkshire countryside.
The route definitely also has some notable landmarks to enjoy. There is a ford (notorious for the event regulars) somewhere between mile 1 and 2, which provided an instant icy cold shoe wash for those brave enough to run through it, whilst the less daring (like myself and the majority around me) opted for the muddy banked path to the side. A circumnavigation of the Silchester Roman City Walls and Amphitheatre was also an added bonus.
This being my first trail run, I certainly got an appreciation of the added effort trail running requires in comparison to road running from both a mental and physical aspect. I had a constant awareness of injury avoidance / limitation and where and how to place the next step as the ‘new shoes’ felt like skates on certain areas of icy tarmac, and the off-road sections varied between track, to frozen grass, to rutted fields, to boggy mudfests.
On the physical side, it took it out of me for a 10 miler. The constant readjustments of stride and footfall, the demands of a particularly wet, boggy and narrow uphill stretch between miles 5 and 6, and the joys of an uphill finishing stretch across a ploughed field made certain that the finishing line was a welcome sight and keeping my pace under 9 minutes a mile felt like an acceptable result so early in the training cycle for London in April and on my first adventure into the land of the trail. And those ‘new shoes’ are now most definitely ‘christened’.
As with their smooth operation at the start, the Gut Buster team also delivered a great finishing experience, with a decent medal to add to the growing collection, instant availability of finishing times, immediate access to your gear at the bag drop, and jaffa cakes, mince pies and a glass of mulled wine to top it all off. What a great way to get my 555 challenge under way!
Has it converted me to trail running? …, The jury is still out, I’ll tell you for sure in a couple of weeks after running the snow trails of the French Alps in my second event of the 555 challenge, La Guisanette, but I think I may be tempted to sign up for this one next year all the same as it is a great way of calorie offsetting the Xmas indulgences, and an event I’d definitely recommend to anyone who cares to ask.
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