Todays Woodland Challenge could have been tailor made for me at this stage of the year. The guys at On The Whistle (OTW) (Kiernan, Del & Claire) have a simple format. Their races revolve around a lap of about 3.5 miles and you pick up a coloured wristband each time you complete one. Your race finishes when you ring the bell to signal that it was your last lap.
The beauty of this system is that you frequently see other runners and this means lots of mutual motivation. Having your name written on your race number was a nice touch and this added to the friendly nature of the event. From my point of view it also meant my return to fitness wasn’t with a race of a specific distance. I had 4 laps and a half marathon in mind so the 14.3 miles were perfect. About 90 or so of us congregated for Kiernan’s pre race instructions and then we were off.
The lap started with about a half mile gradual uphill section of compacted but rough in places stone and gravel. A right hand turn then lead to a second gradual climb with mud underfoot. The courses then undulated with a certain amount of mud after Saturdays rain and once reaching 1.75 miles an up and downhill loop was used so that you rejoined the course and retraced your steps back to the start / feed station.
The relatively small amount of runners meant I largely ran on my own but as I said earlier you constantly had runners approaching you from the other direction. Today I had no pace expectations just simply to run. The tracks had small bright flags at regular intervals so this made the route easy to follow. The temperature rose steadily as the morning progressed but thankfully there was a lot of tree cover from the sun. The humidity also rose as there wasn’t much of a breeze between the trees and bushes.
I saw Richard from Fareham and a few familiar faces from other races but this mornings run was largely a pleasant stress free distance builder for future weeks. It was very peaceful running along the quiet sun lit trails and quite relaxing in only the way we runners can understand. A long steady run can be very therapeutic to clear your mind and simply enjoy the sights and sounds of the countryside.
By the third lap I’d started overtaking a few runners but then again they may have been pacing themselves for more miles than me. I finished my fourth lap, rang the bell and thanked Kiernan, Del & Claire who were at the feed station. OK ten and a half minute miles for 14.3 wasn’t quick but it was a great psychological lift to have clocked up some descent mileage. The day was made complete with one of the best medals I’ve had in some time. If you enjoyed reading my blog please vote for it here in the Running Awards, thank you 🙂