Forest of Dean Autumn Half Marathon

Race Reports

I was quite surprised I was the only runner from Croft at this event as it is a decent trail half
marathon that is totally off the roads (unlike the Spring Half) with around 1000ft of
elevation over the 13.1 miles. Perhaps there were too many competing events or it was not
flat enough for those chasing fast Half PBs or perhaps not rugged enough for some of our
more hardcore members!
I felt quite nervous before this run – probably because I didn’t recognise anyone to talk to –
so had to keep my thoughts to myself! (Always a challenge!). It made me realise how lovely
and social the cross-country league is in that respect.
It was a rather miserable, damp and drizzly day so I was glad once we got going. We were
about 700 runners in all (almost half the amount of the Spring race), starting from the
middle of the Speech House field and heading off into the woods. The race was reasonably
flat and fast to start followed by a decent stretch of downhill turning into a long and gradual
steady climb around 4.5 miles which seemed to carry on forever (about 2 miles worth),
before a bit of downhill respite. Then it continued, gently undulating before a straight, flat
and puddle-ridden trail took us virtually to the end. I wore my off-road shoes which proved
to be a wise decision for me as it had rained so much the night before that it was slippery,
wet and muddy in places (although we were on packed trail so not as muddy as our cross-
country courses get!). I couldn’t believe what a contrast it was from the Spring half where it
was bone-dry underfoot and road trainers were by far the best option.
Once we hit the first major hill, numbers thinned out a bit and by mile 6, I found I was
running with plenty of space around me, which I prefer, and had time to take in the scenery,
relax a bit and enjoy being in the forest. The route was prettier than the Spring event so all
in all it suited me better. Apart from a few men that pounded past me, I was only
overtaken by one woman in the last 7 miles which was unusual. I certainly didn’t find it
easy; I tried not to look at my watch and just run as fast and steady as I reasonably could. I
was definitely feeling tired and ready for it all to be over by mile 11 but managed to hang on
and sprint past one lady on the finishing straight which felt good! The photos on the
website show me grimacing horribly at this point!
I was really thrilled and surprised to be 22 nd woman (out of 297) and first in my age category
FV50 (1/52 runners) in 1:45:44. The male winner overall was Eliot Taylor in 1:16:22 and
over 3 minutes clear of her nearest female rival was Molly Browne in 1:25:21.

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