Report by Tory Dickinson
On Saturday 18 September Tom Powell and I set off in glorious early morning Herefordshire sunshine for a two drive to run a HM in the grounds of Badminton House, South Gloucestershire. The route was described as ‘flat, fast and runnable’ and offering lovely views around the estate – I’d rather imagined we’d be running the three day event course on foot taking in the beautiful scenery. We were both excited to be heading out to an event and I certainly felt this race had been a great incentive to get me out running longer distances this Summer.
The event car park was easy to find and clearly marked despite hitting thick fog as we left the M4. Car parking was in a large paddock with hard packed ground and short grass and with only 2,500 runners there was ample space. There wasn’t any formal car park marshalling, instead everyone was parking up (in surprisingly neat rows) – this laissez faire attitude by the organisers should have given us an inkling of what lay ahead!
Because of the fog we didn’t realise how close we were to the event start and organisational hub – so picking up our numbers was easy – I was a little surprised the numbers didn’t have chip timers as the event was advertised as ‘timed’ but instead it was just a mass start. With no loudspeakers Tom and I missed the very beginning of the race briefing but it sounded like the course was clearly marked and everyone was just excited to get going. Ultra and Marathon runners were already out on the course and 10k and 5k runners would start about an hour later. We saw a few runners from Ludlow and Hereford Couriers and lots of South West running clubs.
One thing that appealed about this event was they wanted to avoid single use plastic so you had to carry your own water or bring a collapsible cup to collect water at three stops on the course. I opted for a small amount of water in my backpack and Tom had raided her daughter’s DoE camping kit for a cup. With hindsight (such a wonderful thing) I should have either filled my backpack or taken a collapsible cup because whilst some of the early race was on woodland tracks after about four miles we found ourselves on open fields with the fog having lifted it was hot and sunny with little shade….
So fast forward to the end…. whilst the route was easy to follow there were no mile markers and turns out it was a bit longer than a HM – I had 14.37 miles on my watch….it wasn’t very flat – it was very lumpy and Tom’s watch recorded ascent of 790 feet and over half the race was around fields or the estate avenue which looks lovely from a distance but had long grass (flattened out by the early runners) and rough uneven ground underneath – poor Tom fell awkwardly on her ankle and I’m sure she wasn’t alone. And there was no looking at the scenery instead I was focussed on where I made my next step. At mile 9 there was even a locked gate so everyone had to climb over the fence (it wasn’t even a stile).
I completely ran out of water (and energy) by about mile 12 and found even the walking hard going….luckily a handful of jelly babies at the last water stop perked my up (I should have wondered why it was so close to the ‘finish’) but shortly afterwards when my watch pinged I’d completed the HM distance and there was no sign of the finishing line I almost came to a stop – it was a long slow slog to the end and by then I’d decided I’d never do another HM and maybe never run again – luckily Tom was there to encourage me the last few hundred metres. I think it probably took me about 24 hours to rehydrate.
48 hours later we’ve had an apology from the event organisers – last week they’d had to reroute the course because of ash dieback on the estate and then there’d been late changes the night before and with the morning fog they’d not been able to get and out and recheck the course…..it was also their first event with more than 1,000 runners.
So what have I learnt….I will run again and definitely do another HM but I really need to think carefully about hydration and fuel – whilst I may be able to run the distance on the road with little liquid/nutrition I can’t off road. I’m also going to read event details very carefully before signing up and check the credentials of the organisers….as they say you ‘live and learn’.
We did manage to smile at the end!