Off road (but I am happy to report that the tracks were all well beaten), this pretty village race is rightly popular despite the village-wide traffic jam while everyone parked and the huge queues for the Ladies. The locals turn out in huge numbers – the field was yellow with Abingdon Amblers vests, IT folk of varying degrees of fitness doing lastminute training for the upcoming Microsoft Challenge adventure race thing (including a pack of twenty-something lads from my own firm – shockingly I beat one of them, but not because I’m fast!), and cake-loving Oxfordshire runners of no particular affiliation.
Having decided to do the race pretty much at the last minute, I spotted a green&black vest far ahead in the toilet queue – turned out Sharon Davidson had had much the same idea. She was with her Mum (who luckily for my pride wasn’t running today) and also introduced me to Rod Paris of the VCAC. Rod spoke temptingly of the spread to be laid on after the half mara & 10k he is running in Alderney this autumn, so if anyone fancies a trip to the Channel Islands…
Sharon wisely bade us farewell in the start crowd and wriggled up to the front a bit. Smart move unless you are really worried about going off to fast – the start was very congested and it took almost a minute to get across the line. The route went off-road pretty soon and although the crowd thinned, the path did too so there were quite a few stretches where it was impossible to overtake. Not that I would have done much overtaking in most of them, to be honest! Didn’t spot Sharon again until we were all in the finish chute, as she crossed the line a minute ahead.
Remembering my grey-faced and puffing performance in Watford last autumn, I was delighted to find that I was fit enough to run up all the (not v. big) hills. Training works! Who knew?! Still not fit enough to admire the scenery while running (you all know what it’s like – you end up mainly looking at the socks of the runner in front). Didn’t have an early a night as I would have liked last night either, but did manage to catnap along a not-very-potholed paved track (funnily enough did not slow down).
Props to the organizers – two well-placed water tables. Much needed as it was getting warm & muggy.
Towards the end I caught up with Rod or vice versa and we found ourselves side by side up the final straight. You could sense the terrible battle of manners (ladies first vs defer to one’s elders), loyalty (veggies unite etc) and race propriety (one is supposed to try to beat people) in our minds. In my case my spirit had been rather sapped by the sight earlier of Ewelme High Street when I had been hoping to see the finish field, and Rod pulled ahead by a second thus preserving the Spirit Of Competition. Brave man!
Having worried about the tracks and the hills and the weather and most of all whether the Chinese soya duck I’d had the night before would send me scuttling into a hedge mid-race while the chap who works two desks away trotted past, I was delighted to finish the race very much in one piece and in 56:37 (just under 56 by my own watch) rather than the 58 or 60 minutes I’d been expecting. Rod was a second or two faster, Sharon a minute and looking very relaxed at the finish.
A good race – not one for a PB (though the course was a little short, I think!) but just right for a happy Sunday out.