Race Review: The Maverick Inov-8 Original Kent 

Fancy taking part in a beautiful trail race in inspiring surroundings? Sarah Crosier gives us her lowdown on Maverick Kent, one of a series of trail run events held in spectacular locations around the UK…and the race refuel stops aren’t bad either…

 

Ever fancied running a trail run with your pet dog? Sarah Crosier In September last year, I adopted a Border Terrier puppy called Alfie. The kids thought he was coming to live with us for their entertainment, but I’d secretly been doing some extensive research on dogs with stamina to keep me company on trail runs. And so this September, I entered our first race together, the Maverick inov-8 Original Kent.

The race is set in a beautiful location in Groomsbridge, Tunbridge Wells, a moated manor house dating back to 1662 and home to the Bennet Family in Joe Wright’s film adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. It was a damp Saturday in September and I hadn’t realised how wet the ground was until we arrived in the grassy, and muddy car park. We probably should have read the race instructions and worn trail shoes but after lots of friendly chatter with the other runners, we forgot our soggy feet and set off on the 14k race. This was a middle distance route, with a shorter 7km and a longer 21km to choose from.

There was a complete mixture of runners, some with their dogs, some attempting a personal best and others, like myself, just happy to take part. We started close to the back as Alfie was barking with excitement from being around all the other dogs. Because of the dogs, it meant that the race was a little slow to get started because we had to queue to climb over a few stiles but we kept ourselves amused by chatting to the people around us. Today was more about having fun and enjoying the views.

After the first 1k, the runners spread out and we could enjoy the beautiful Garden of England scenery, including pine forests, open heathland and Harrison’s Rock. The terrain was varied with an uneven woodland floor, some rolling hills and a few fallen trees to jump over. The whole route was well marshalled and signposted.

At about the 5k mark, we found a water and feeding station, where there were slices of banana, watermelon, orange segments, cola bottle sweets and cola drinks plus a water bowl for Alfie – amazing! After our impromptu picnic and natter with the marshals, we headed off again.

Some of the pathways were quite narrow and as we weren’t worried about time, we stepped aside to let the faster runners (who were running 21k) overtake us. But when we met another woman running on her own and struggling at the 6k mark, we gave her a honey energy gel and some encouragement. The route was very muddy in places and it wasn’t always easy to run without slipping/falling over (definitely should have worn trail shoes!) To make things a little harder, Alfie started to tire and refused to walk through the final muddy pathway so I had to carry him for a few metres! Thankfully, when we reached the final field  he was happy to sprint to the finish. A few minutes later, we cheered when the woman, we had met earlier, crossed the line.

Both Alfie and I received a medal each, which also doubled up as a beer bottle opener. And the goodie bag included some  Maverick homebrewed ale and a Tribe bar. Ice tea and coffee was also available. It was a fantastic, well marshalled race in beautiful surroundings with the best race refuel stations I’ve ever encountered.

Event in Brief

The Good

  • Incredible scenery
  • Water and a fab food station. Plus a nice coffee/cake stall at the start/finish
  • Inclusivity and atmosphere
  • Ale and beer opener/medal

The Bad

  • The bottleneck at the start of the race
  • The mud – don’t expect to get a PB

 

Race Bag Haul: Haul or Hoard

You don’t get given a race t-shirt, although I’m not bothered as I have a drawer full, which I never wear but some people may be disappointed. But the rest of the race items were great quality.

For more information

Maverick offer a big series if races around the UK and Girls Run the World are partnering with them to offer exclusive discounts to Girls Run the World runners. We will be announcing our Girls Run the World Race Get Together in the new few weeks. Prices start at £20 while children are free if under 16.  To find out more visit Maverick Races.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a race review you’d like to share?

Nowadays, there are thousands of races from fun 5km to fiercely fast ones, and from glorious, awe-inspiring trail running races in the UK to nail-biting, challenging for life changing trail races in Iceland or India. Whatever the case, WE want to hear about them.

If you have participated in – or about to participate in a race and think it is one that could help to inspire other women to start training in order to take part themselves, please write to rachael@girlsruntheworld.co.uk, outlining the event and including the website link. This could be one that you’ve already done or one that you have lined up.

We are hoping that in sharing our event reviews as female runners, we’ll build up a fantastic inspiration database for other women, not too mention including the details that us women like to know.

If you’ve already had your race event suggestion approved, download our guide to writing it here.

We look forward to hearing about all your amazing, life affirming race experiences from the UK, Europe and worldwide!

Event Review: Endure24 and five of the best relay running races

Fancy doing a team relay? Here’s  our review of the recent  Endure 24  relay race, along with a look at some of the other unusual relay races on offer around the UK, including a running cake-athon!

Tents, tick. Rugs to lie on, tick. Sugary sweets, tick. Coffee, tick. Drugs*, tick. This may seem like the list of someone about to go to a music festival. But running relay races are now taking the place of festivals for some former ravers turned runners, plus a whole new generation of runners who are as interested in the experience of running and community as they are pace or placing.

Endure24 is even coined the Glastonbury of Runners and involves running as many (almost) five mile loops through the countryside in Wasing Park, just outside of Reading as possible. The first lap of the day at noon on Saturday started in hot, windy conditions making the leafy, woody run a welcome respite. But make no mistake, the route is not an easy one with a hill greeting you as soon as you go through the first gantry. What goes up, must come down so you are rewarded with some downhills before more uphills and a wiggle through wooded, single track.

This event attracts all kinds of runners, from expert ultra distance runners to solo runners who walk the laps, and from big teams of ten, comprised of running clubs out for a social with some running included, to professional sponsored teams aiming to beat the course record. One thing that unites everyone is a love of running and the desire to support each other.

The atmosphere created by everyone at the event is fantastic, from the marshals who line the route, to the runners and walkers themselves who cheer the fast runners and lend a helping hand to anyone who looks like they need their spirits – or their legs – bolstered.

Finding the motivation to run the same lap, over and over again though is difficult, unless you’re competing for number of laps or to experience the special kind of transcendental meditative state that some runners report. Which is why the best part of this event is really when darkness falls. It not only becomes more magical –  helped by women dressed up as fairies in the woods and music from the VDub bar making it seem like you’ve stumbled upon a rave , but because it makes the route appear different.

If you want to enjoy a running event with a team – not to mention warm, clean showers, then Endure24 is a great one to try. There’s none of the transport issues involved that you experience with relays that have a linear route, and there is water and race nutrition available.  Shame the beer tent doesn’t stay until Sunday though, just at the moment when you can drink, it’s gone!

(*And by the way, we’re talking Ibruprofen).

What our runners said:

Cara

High point:  ‘The camaraderie and running around at 5am when the birds were all waking up and the light was just changing, it was magical.’

Low point:  ‘Losing a member of our team to illness, which meant having to run more laps!’

 

Helen

High Point: ‘Crossing the finish line with my team mates on the last lap.’

Low Point: ‘Going on a tired and lonely hunt for the showers at 2.30am after a very wet and dark lap.’

Anna

High point:  ‘Running as fast as I could over the painted tree roots at midnight, lit up by fairy lights and the glow from my head torch.’

Low point:  ‘My first lap, hot, hilly and hard – and worrying about pace, letting my team down,  and how many more laps I’d have to do!’
Caroline
High points: ‘Camping with like-minded women, the readily available and reasonably priced massages, and great showers.’
Low points : ‘Only unhealthy food available (Ed: we agree!),  only one water point on the route and the loop got a bit tedious – why not open up a second lap later in the day?’

Five of the most unique relay races

 

Cake-a-thon

Run as many of the 4.37 mile laps as possible in eight hours and be rewarded at the end of each lap with some homemade cake! Organisers estimate that each lap burns 500 calories. And it comes with a fantastic race medal!

For more details http://www.saxon-shore.com/cakeathon/

 

 

 

Cotswold 24 hour Race

Another 24 hour individual or team relay race held in the beautiful Bathurst Estate, just outside the town of Cirencester in the heart of the Cotswolds. An off-road 9km mixed course The race is run over an off-road 9km mixed course including forest trails and open tarmac paths. And what attracts our attention – healthy food stalls. Here’s hoping as Endure24 definitely was a let down on this score.

For more details: http://www.100milerun.com/cotswold-24-hour-race/

Ragnar Relay

This event comes fresh from the US where it is so popular, many runners travel around the US to take part in as many of the relays that are put on around the country. You can understand why as this event offers the opportunity of ‘travel’ and to explore as you run. This one overs approximately 170 miles and will see runners start at Maidstone and finish in Brighton (it’s been put on by the organisers of the Brighton marathon).  An event like this requires a very organised team captain – plus the finances to cover the cost of hiring two vans if entering a team of ten, on top of the £1000 entry fee. It sounds great fun though.

For more details visit: https://www.runragnar.uk/

The Green Belt Relay Race

Explore 220 miles of the Green Belt around London on this 22-stage running relay race which starts in Hampton Court, 8.30am on Saturday and ends in Ham at 6pm on Sunday. It’s been running since 1995, put on by local running club, The Stragglers. So don’t expect bangs, whistles and overflowing goodie bags. This is about the purity of running and exploring. 11 runners per team, one stage per day for every runner. Unlike some other relay races though, this is open to all levels with prizes for both the fastest team to finish and the slower. With a barbecue at the end, this sounds like a challenging, but friendly way to spend a May weekend. Just make sure you recce your leg first.

For more details visit: http://www.greenbeltrelay.org.uk/

Cotswold Way Relay Race

Now in it’s 25th year, this event is operated as 10 back to back races, starting each stage with a mass start at the expected arrival time of the 1st runner from the previous stage, as opposed to other relays where the next runner on your team starts only when their other team mate has completed their leg.

Running from Chipping Campden in the early morning, through to the arrival at Bath Abbey in the early evening, you follow the way-marked route of the Cotswold Way over 90% off-road, taking in hills, woodlands, fields and tracks, all offering spectacular views of the countryside around…if you have time to look up! Each leg varies in length and ascent with no marshals, making the route finding just as much part of the race as the running itself.

For more details visit http://www.cotswoldwayrelay.co.uk/

 

Welsh Castles Relay Race

If you’re going to run a relay race, then it’s important to do it in spectacular surroundings we think. That’s why this Welsh version appeals, offering two day,  20 stage event covering 211 miles, mostly on road, but with hills and mountains to overcome as you travel from Caernarfon to Cardiff, with an overnight stay in Newtown.  And it’s in June, so hopefully, not the weather typically associated with Wales! There are six mountain stages,  with three team mountain stage prizes so this is a race that suits – or requires some hill training. Get your entry in early, only 66 teams accepted and it is always over subscribed.

For more details visit http://www.lescroupiersrunningclub.org.uk/welsh-castles-relay-2016/

 

 

 

 

Event Review: The Weakest Link, Brighton

Although some people might be put off by the name of this event, it is one of the most inclusive and fun running events in Brighton. Great for building team morale and suitable for all levels of runners from total beginners to the super speedy. Here one of our runners, Sarah Crosier gives us her lowdown on the event

What is it: A relay race comprising of four team members. Each member takes it in turn to run 2.5km and then the entire team must run a final 2.5km together, ensuring that the whole team finishes together.

The Route: it is only 2.5km but with some short hills – don’t let that put you off though. It’s great fun and everyone is running different speeds so you never get left feeling like your the slowest runner.

The Weakest Link in June 2015, was the first event that I ever took part in with Girls Run the World. More a “team event” than a “race”, there were a few super speedy runners from athletic clubs ‘in it to win it,’ but my aim was ‘in it to finish it”. On entering, I’d done a few sessions of the GRTW hill training, Run for the Hills course but didn’t know anyone and was really new to running but GRTW organised all the teams and I found myself as part of a team a few other runners.

Before the day, we agreed that Karen would run the fourth lap as she was our strongest runner. It meant that she would have to run her 2.5km and then carry on running with the team without a break to finish. I’m always nervous on race days, and so I asked to go 2nd to get it out of the way. It also meant that I’d have someone to follow so I wouldn’t go the wrong way like one of our runners ended up doing!

There was a fantastic atmosphere with about 20 GRTW and runners from all the local running clubs – while there was racing it was also great for meeting people as there was lots of standing around cheering others while waiting for your chance to run. Plus, the distance is achievable and it was so informal and relaxed. Some people were even walking up the hills – not me, of course!

Our team was close to being last (or maybe we were?) but it really didn’t matter. We ran the final lap together and received a massive cheer from everyone as we crossed the finish line. I can’t wait to take part again this year. It’s great fun.

Race Review: Fort William Marathon

Kilts, killer single track and whiskey chasers mark this inaugural Scottish marathon in the highlands as one to try out

Kilts, midgie spray booths and downhill mountain bikers in full body armour. It’s not what you’d expect to see on a marathon start line, but it’s the scene that greeted me as I registered on the morning of the inaugural Fort William marathon.

With just 293 runners (the race is capped at 1000 due to restrictions on the route, so apply early for next year’s event on 31st July 2016 ) this was a small race. Yet the nationalities of runners milling around at the start beneath the Ben Nevis cable car was like a meeting of the UN; Bulgarian, American, Ukrainian, Australian, South African and of course Scottish. Not that the locals were wearing kilts, just the runners from Boston, US of A.


Registration was quick and easy in the cafe, perfect if there had been a rainy start although fortunately, the morning had dawned warm if a bit cloudy. And being at the chairlift meant that there were plenty of toilets and no need for portable toilets (although for once, there was a queue for the men’s toilets and not the women’s – hurrah!)

Other than a midgie spraying tent, there was little entertainment resulting in a subdued start to the race five minutes behind schedule. But what it lacked fanfare, the event made up for in terms of the beauty of it’s scenery.
The first six miles were stunning, along undulating fire roads, with Ben Nevis etched against the skyline, the last remaining patches of snow winking icily from the summit, while summer wildflowers nodded their heads below as I ran through the dark pine trees of Leanachan Forest.

Chatting to others as I ran, there was an American living in London who’d decided to run his first marathon in August and found a race to fit the date. ‘It means my family and I get the chance to visit Scotland too,’ he said.
Alongside him, a Bulgarian runner who’d lived in Edinburgh for the past ten years, was trialling a method of running for 8 minutes, walking for two. It seemed to work until mile 9 when I didn’t seem him again after playing tag with him for the first third of the race.

With a well sign posted route and cheerful marshals, I never had to worry I’d miss a turn while chatting. Just as well, as otherwise I may have thought I’d taken a wrong turn as we ran down a boggy, overgrown single track section.

After following a disused railway track through a flower strewn valley, the route veered towards the Commando Memorial, dedicated to men who fought in the Second World War for the British Commando Forces at mile 11, before hitting a quiet country road with a welcome downhill.

Over the Tolkien sounding Bridge of Mucomir, and past a few clapboard houses which would not have looked out of place in a Coloradan meadow, we hit the Caledonian Canal for the next seven miles.

A historic waterway which opened in 1822, allowing vessels to enter from the Atlantic Ocean in the North and exit into the North Sea at Inverness, the 60 mile canal which cuts through the Great Glen is now a major tourist attraction, where you can sail it’s length or cycle and walk along its towpath.

With the mountains reflected in its still waters, it was so quiet, it added to that marathon feeling of time slowing down as I eked out the miles. There was nothing to break the dreamy monotony except the wake of barges and boats that rippled the watery reflections, along with the occasional walker or cyclist who cheered their support.


I don’t like noisy marathons (to the point that London Marathon overwhelms me) but I couldn’t help wishing there was a bit more fanfare to keep me going along this stretch. Instead, I had to content myself with chatting to the runners I passed.

Finally, we left the canal, followed a main road before turning back into the forest back to the finish, a punishing final few miles, ascending by about 300 foot along rock strewn paths that saw many runners slow to a walk.

I’d started at the front and knew there were three women ahead of me, but had decided before I set off that I was going to run for fun rather than a place. So I was dismayed rather than happy to spy the third placed woman up ahead through the trees. Having seen her, I knew that couldn’t NOT try for third place. I also knew that it was going to hurt. I was right.

I passed her at the mile 24 mark and felt immediately stressed at the thought she now had the advantage of sticking close and sprinting past at the final hurdle.

Just a little bit of MTB single track to go
Just a little bit of MTB single track to go
As I ran under the high wires just near the Ben Nevis car park, I could hear the loud speakers hailing the finish. Expecting a left turn through the car park, I was horrified to discover the final 500 metres went up and a long a piece of single track MTB trail (thanks to the man on the corner who told me exactly how far was left of this track).

To sprint over that finish line to take third place in 3 hours 39 minutes was a relief. I didn’t care that the race ended short at 25.8miles, which may have been because the route was short or that I had just taken the inside of every bend.
A beautiful race in parts, this event is in it’s infancy and with a few tweaks to create more atmosphere at the start and finish, this can only add to what looks set to be a popular Scottish marathon which attracts running tourists from around the world.

Race footwear: Brooks Pure Cadence road shoes. It was dry and so there was no need to trail shoes. But even if it had been wet, most of the trails are rock strewn or it is tarmac road so road shoes are, in my opinion, the better choice.

Race Goody Bag: Haul It or Hoard It?

Loved the chunky medal with a runner etched against the mountains to make it look like we’d actually run up the mountain. Plus a Tunnock caramel wafer and an airline trolley-sized bottle of Ben Nevis whiskey gets my thumbs up. It also includes some jelly beans and a banana.

The only duff note? A technical race t-shirt in a man’s medium. Far too large.

Verdict: Hoard

The Good

Stunning scenery for a beautiful explore and run marathon

Seven well placed water stops, so there is no need to carry water

Friendly race where you can meet runners from all over the world

The Bad

Little atmosphere at the start or finish. A few bands, or even a Scottish bag pipe player, would have lent the event an incredibly atmospheric start

The canal slog. Both good and bad. Beautiful, meditative and flat, so great for increasing your pace. But if you’re hoping it’s all off-road trails, twists and turns, be prepared for a bit of monotony.

The Ugly

Pre-race pasta party. I usually NEVER go to these because I expect the food to be poor. This confirmed it. £20 for a plate of pasta (although it costs £12 to go up the Ben Nevis chairlift which is included in the ticket price), with the a celidh at the summit which was as flaccid and an unexciting as the pasta.

(This was a review of the inaugural race in 2015).