As the clocks went back this weekend, the wintry temperatures moved in but there was still lots of great racing around the UK…
Top of the races on the South Coast it seems, was the Beachy Head Marathon and 10km, which starts in Eastbourne. We had lots of runners from the community taking part in one or other of the distances. If you’ve not heard of this race, look it up for next year (Oct 26, 2019) because it is a stunning route (particularly the longer marathon route) which takes in the beauty of the South Downs National Park in the Autumn.
Renowned for spectacular scenery, steep ascents, punishing descents and a fantastic friendly atmosphere (even a music band and a tabletop of currant buns and sugary tea at some of the refreshment stops), this is a fantastic bucket-list event. Or you can use it as training for an ultra.
In, fact, we were on a 50 mile bike ride the following day with the third placed women’s marathon finisher, Bethan Male, who got to the podium with a time of 3 hrs, 21 minutes and was using the event as training for an ultra race in about a month’s time which involves a double – almost-ascent of Pen Y Fan!
As the clocks go back, this was the weekend that saw the launch into the night trail races, with Maverick Silva Dark Series in West Sussex (try their Surrey one on 10th November if you’re in the South). But our favourite of the weekend was definitely an event that one of our Scottish GRTW contingent ran this weekend, the Illuminator Night Trail Race, a 15 mile route with four big ‘ole climbs, lit by your head torch only. Well done all those who ran it, it looks beautiful and tough.
Which brings us to another race that we missed mentioning last weekend when we missed our regular debrief, The Dramathon, which offers a marathon, a half or a 10km, with the full route tracking the Speyside Way from Glenfaricas Distillery to Glenfiddich and ending, of course with a dram.
Scotland, we salute you! Definitely winning hands down on the variety of the races offered, both in terms of challenging terrain and exploring!
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:
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!’
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.’
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!’
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.