Basingstoke Half Marathon was on today and that it was possible to sign up on the day. I was tempted. But, getting there and back again would be a pain (they close the road from our house to Basingstoke) and the route is reputed to be very hilly (853ft of elevation in 13.1 miles). I also know that the minute you stick a race number on my shirt I tend to get a bit competitive - especially if it is a road race. I could happily run my 1hr 31 min training run on my own.
And then... I saw on Facebook that the Alton 10k Downland Challenge was on today. Again, we could enter on the day and the start line was a 10 minute drive from our front door. OK, so it was only 10k, and I needed to run for an hour and a half, but that meant I could just carry on after the finish. Husbando was up for it too, as were several people we know from the children's school.
We left the house at 9.40am for a race that started at 10.30am - bliss! Parking was easy and well signposted, signing up for the race was hassle free and we got to watch the children's races while we were waiting to start our race. The Mayor blew the horn to start the race on the dot of 10.30 and we were off, across the park and then onto the pavement for the first 2k through Holybourne before turning off onto tracks across the Bonham Estate. A lot of these tracks were tarmac - which was hard going in trail shoes, a steady drag up to 2 miles followed by a brief respite of gentle downhill slopes. We were then off the roads and onto the trails, the muddy trails!
I do love a bit of trail running, and was just thinking 'It has been a long time since I've fallen over while running down muddy hills!' when I did just that! No serious damage was done - just rather a lot of mud and a rather more cautious approach for the rest of the race, which was probably just as well - I'd gone off a bit faster than I'd wanted to at the start and needed to be a bit mindful of the extra time I'd need to run after the race.
At about 8km we were back on the road again, I had no goal for this race because I hadn't done any research into how hilly/muddy it would be, but at this point I realised that I'd have to get my skates on if I wanted to finish in under an hour. I picked up my pace a little and started picking off runners. The last section of the race was one of those soul destroying circuits of a park (Anstey Park) where you can see the finish line but you have to run all the way around the park, past all the children playing rugby, over long, muddy grass (and I am always watchful for doggy land mines!) until, eventually, you get to the finish. I overtook 5 or 6 people in the park, I was on a mission for my sub 60! I made it, just, crossing the line in 59:56!
A brief stop to drink some water, collect my medal and goodie bag (a lovely 'Alton Runners' buff and some vouchers that are actually useful!) and then I was off for another 30 minutes of running around Alton. You can see the video of the run here - I quite like these 'Relive' videos as it helps me to work out where I have actually been!
The race was well organised, low key and enjoyable. A lovely opportunity to run on land that is normally not open to the public. The hills were challenging - I may have found the Basingstoke Half less taxing as at least they were on roads! In 6.2 miles we clocked up 538 ft of elevation gain, that's 94ft for every mile as opposed to 65ft for every mile at Basingstoke - which makes a bit of a nonsense of me choosing to do an 'easier' route! Still I am glad to have supported a local race and it was great to bump into some friends I haven't seen for a wee while.
Next Sunday is the Royal Parks Half Marathon. The only race I have done repeatedly and still enjoyed it as much each time as the first time. It is where I have my half marathon PB (1hr 43mins), that PB is not under threat this year! I've been lucky enough to get a ballot place for the last 2 years, the race is massively oversubscribed, not quite on a London Marathon scale but not far off and, while charity places are always available, it is lovely to be able to just turn up and run without having to struggle to get sponsorship.