Its a trail run and it’s half marathon length. What’s there to fear? Well a lot it turns out. I signed up to this one as it’s local and I like running off road. Simples. Turns out to be a bit of a hilly challenge that I didn’t expect. Don’t get me wrong – it’s an easily achievable course and nothing should be too technical or challenging for any one. However as a run it gets a bit tough and it takes a special kind of person to not have to walk some of it.
So location wise – lovely. Stonor Park is a beautiful house, garden and park outside Henley-on-Thames. Worth a visit if you are local. Surrounded by loads of woodland with deer and plenty of rolling hills what is there not to like?
So the race.
First things first, it was a well organised event. Easily found and well managed registration area. PA system was clear, simple instruction and a good start. Never enough toilets but never found anywhere that doesn’t have a loo queue!
Prior to race start it was wet wet wet and it threatened to be a wet race. Dressed accordingly yours truly was ready for a wet slog but then the sun came out and the weather turned. That would lead to a mid run wardrobe alteration but that was fine!
So from the start the race made it clear what we were in for. Almost instantly a climb up on narrow footpaths. Made it difficult to move past people at the start – note to self for next time – start nearer the front!
The way round included a few stiles and gates – worth noting that these aren’t all made for the intense use a race gives them so take it easy !
Managed to smack my left knee on the top of the first stile! Doh!!! That hurt. Made my knee throb for the rest of the race and two days letter it’s a bit touchy- but it’s just a graze and I will survive!!
The course goes over and along a couple of roads. Nothing bad but they were open roads and there were a few vehicles around. This part of Oxfordshire has roads only wide enough for a fiat 500 so things are a little tight in places so Runner’s and/or cars were giving way to each other at various points.
Feed stations were very well stocked although seems far apart. Only remember seeing 2, well 1 actually as one was actually off route slightly with a Marshall directly runners to it or to the route! Odd. I had my Inov8 vest with 500mL tailwind on board so decided I could miss the feed stations. The weather was warm by the time the race finished so I was grateful for the hydration vest to be honest!
Overall a great day. Hills were never ending with steep inclines and some steeper downhills that were almost impossible to run!
Finishing under 2Hr’s was a great result. The winning time was 1:20 something so that shows the challenge!!
Crossing the line I got my medal, a free ale brewed just for the course organisers and some refuelling from Tribe and Jimmy’s coffee. All very nice 👍
I will definitely go again and will look at the others in the series.
It was a challenge, it was a slog, it was a mental battle to overcome the urge to just walk. BUT I made it round in a very satisfactory time, learnt more of my limits and limitations and identified some trail running weaknesses.
Running is a learning curve and every time we step out to run you learn more about what you can and cannot do. Each lesson is an opportunity see what we need to do and make plans to work on those areas. This is what makes running so enjoyable. There’s always areas to improve, always areas to strengthen and always an area to grow.