Having taken part in the 2018 race. and loved it, I was quick to sign up to the 2019 race. 2018 gave me my HM PB and though its a hilly course I immediately thought, great, lets keep doing that as its clearly my PB course.
Now, if you know Windsor Great Park you will be familiar with the grounds and the scenery. Its great, its a really beautiful park to run in and the bonus of running the HM is that you get access to some land public normally are prohibited from visiting. Nice little bonus.
Training before Windsor was going well until 3 weeks out. For a reason I haven’t pinpointed I developed a niggling ache in my left knee. I tried it out a bit to see what was best and basically the result was to cut back on training and rest it. So those three weeks, which would eventually have been a taper anyway, became very light, half my normal running volume.
Now, I’m not a good patient – not many runners are ! I immediately think the worst and so was expecting to find I might have to make a decision or two about taking part in upcoming races. However, that thought came to me immediately and so I instantly panicked. I’ve never pulled out of a race or DNF’d and whilst both are fine (if it’s not meant to be then you have to accept it sometimes) I was keen to not start just yet. SO training throttled back and the race approaches with me putting in short training runs a couple of times a week.
To be fair, the runs I did were strong. I felt good, got good pace and times and so when I ran I was looking good. The concern was that I didn’t run past 10Km in the three weeks since the injury occurred so I had no idea how I would fair on race day,
The race day itself was preceded with a good few days of rain, like real proper rain. This continued onto the day itself. I live about an hour drive from the venue and on the journey down at 7am I was battling rain that felt like a boat would have been a better form of transport.
Now, one of the issues with Windsor is traffic and parking. The venue has a decent sized car park – but in bad weather grass car parks chop up a lot! Also, Windsor struggles with traffic and it is very easy to get stuck and delayed. Being the paranoid person I am I left 3 hours before the start time for my 1 hour journey. Needless to say I was about car 25 in the car park, but having seen the traffic last year, I wasn’t willing to get stuck in that! A note of warning if you fancy this race – arrive in plenty of time!!!
Anyway, once I parked up the rain slowed and eventually stopped and the couple of hours before race start were mostly dry. A blessing for sure. I was able to get stretched out, prepare and warmup nicely before the race and without getting soaked. I am a worrier and the idea of getting soaked before race start just concerned me. Wet, cold probably miserable – not the ingredients for an enjoyable race! Well I didn’t need to worry, thankfully.
Having reached race start time there was a light rain fall – which pretty much persisted throughout from that point on. I lined up in the second pen (sub 90 – dreaming!) and awaited the start.
The race is formed of two loops in the Great Park. You start with your back to Windsor Castle, before running away from it and then starting. one of the two loops. Nicely, the first Km or so is uphill so when you take the first turn at the Copper Horse statue and realise there’s a bit more uphill to go you soon realise what the day has in store for you!
The race was mostly run in a mild drizzle but. that didn’t dampen the spirit.
There is great support on this course, even given the weather. Loads of people out especially near the start, the copper horse and the loop split point. Also the park is a popular place for people to get some quality time outside so there’s always people out, and they all provided positive support to the runners throughout.
Water is provided well throughout the course, this time in small bottles. A lot of races. are moving away from plastic bottles but Windsor so far has stuck with it. Whilst I applaud those moving away from such plastics, there aren’t many better options so far. So on the race the bottles are welcome. But Im expecting this to change.
There are a number of hills on the course, some of which are mild, but there are a couple of big hills and they take a good effort to run up.
Theres some good flat sections too, in the middle of the route there is a stretch going out to the area in the Great Park where they play polo. This is a nice flat section providing a bit of respite before the second half push.
Now the rest of the course is as you would expect. Up, down and along… However when you get to the end you see the finish line early. And normally get a bot eager to finish, turn on what is left of the after burners and storm to a speedy and flamboyant finish. Well thats how it looks in your mind. In reality you pick the pace up and think ‘Yes, I’m there’ but actually that final drag to the finish is sooo much longer than you think. You realise this as you run ever closer to the finish line and see it slowly fade from view behind a natural rise and dip in the Long Walk path. Bugger!! Both times I’ve been caught out by it. You would think I had learnt from the first time!! So just remember, the final seems a lot closer than it really is.
So how did I feel? Well, I was concerned about my knee and how it. would manage. And in general it was good. For 15Km nothing of concern. From that point the left knee got tight and I was aware of this until the finish. Whether it affected me is hard to tell. I think it probably did, but who knows. I till finished with a good time, albeit 19seconds slower than last years current PB, but 1Hr 34 min 57secs given the weather and less than perfect training, and a wonky knee sounds good to me.
Post race the medal is great, a cool T-Shirt and some nice snacks go down well. A brief visit to see Jo Pavey at the Saucony tent was. cool too. Given the weather I didn’t hang around and shot back home to the family.
Post race my knee was tight and uncomfortable for 24 hours. It took a while to feel goo and only a couple of short runs on the Thursday and Friday post Windsor before my Bournemouth Half (blog to come). By the end of the week things felt good. I know I have a knee strain. which will hold me back to a degree but im listening during the races to what my body is telling me and if I need to I’ll change plans mid run. On to the next one at Bournemouth Marathon Festival where I am running the Half Marathon.
Overall Windsor is great. It’s not the cheapest, but the medal/T-Shirt are good. Support is great and the course is really pretty – can’t fault the Windsor Great Park as a location to run through.