Dunstable Downs 20 miles – 28/09/08

This was my final long run before the Abingdon Marathon on 19 October. It was another foggy morning and a ride from Leighton Buzzard about 8 miles was necessary. Given the timing of public transport I was at the station at 7.50am for a 10.30am start in Dunstable so, decided as a warm-up to walk to the edge of town, about 2 miles. Cycling into the country, the condensation was soon dripping from the helmut but as I climbed up the A5 into Dunstable I left the fog behind.

The venue was Dunstable Football Club where we used their bar & social facilities but no changing rooms were available apart from the toilets. As I anticipated it was not going to be the average running event. It was going to be a mainly off-road course with some signs at most turning points and the odd marshal otherwise, runners were given written directions. There were also checkpoints at 5, 10 & 15 miles where there were refreshments.

Half an hour before the start we were given a briefing. I had brought with me both road and off-road shoes given the weather over the summer and only recently drier conditions. When we were told that there was a ploughed field around 11-12 miles I thought of wet & muddy conditions so changed back at the last moment to off-road shoes. The start was approaching a mile away and we were walked there slowly by the marshals which was rather unique. The fog had also returned so was feeling cool with just a vest on but the forecast was for high-teens.

It was immediately uphill from the start. I was unsure whether I would use the written instructions, just use the signs or a combination when I became detached from the nearest runner. Luckily despite the small field of 100+ there were some runners closeby. I found it impossible to read the instructions whilst running whereas other runners had no difficulty. There did come a point approaching halfway when we were on the road for what appeared to be a long time (about a mile), following a runner which turned out to be the wrong route but luckily we met up with the off-road route we should have taken. This was also the hilliest part of the course. In the third quarter we met up with some runners who had been out of sight but were uncertain which route to take. There were about 10 of us in all but luckily for me their chosen option turned out to be the right one as they found the course marking.

There were times when I could see the course markings, other times I relied on the runners ahead. Generally after halfway there were few climbs before the descent in the last few miles. There were lots of gates and stiles to negiotiate but luckily no farm animals that I recall. In the 2nd half I appeared to be moving up the field helped by runners ahead being uncertain of the route. As we reached the edge of the Downs I became familiar with the scenery and picking up a leisure trail it felt like like there was not far to go. We had to dodge the families and walkers out for a stroll otherwise the pace increased as we gradually descended. The finish was actually close to the football club and we passed through the Start again but we took a longer route here, keeping us away from housing until near the end.

I was surprised how energetic I was feeling, the last few miles I felt was run at 10K pace. The time was about 2 hrs 57 mins.

There was a mountain of free filled rolls inside the social club but not one was suitable for veggies let alone vegans. Luckily I brought along a TREK energy bar and there was free tea, ordering it black and using my supply of soya. Meanwhile certificates were being printed in the background. The heat seemed to be increasing outside as I prepared to cycle back down to Leighton Buzzard.

Peter Simpson