Trailblazer

IMG_0135This weekend I ran in my first trail race. The event was part of the Rat Race Trailblazer series, in association with Runner’s World; held in Bedgebury Forest, just outside of Tunbridge Wells, it was the perfect setting on the most beautiful, sunny day.

I entered the race with my Tough Mudder pals, Lucy and Anna. Sandra had also hoped to join us, but unfortunately she was injured and unable to run.

I was up at 6:15am and prepared with a bowl of oats, topped with cinnamon, raisins and pumpkin seeds, before getting to train to meet the others at Anna’s. Anna drove us from London to Kent and we arrived with plenty of time for pre-race preparations – collecting our numbers and race packs, dropping off our bags and warming up – before being led to the start of the race by one of the volunteers.

There were eight waves of racers and we were in wave two. Despite my usual pre-race anxiety, I felt surprisingly relaxed – I think this was primarily because this was my first trail race and I had no idea of how I’d fare on the hilly, uneven terrain. For this reason I had no targets or expectations regarding times, which really took away any pressure.The only objective I hadset for myself was to enjoy the run and my surroundings, and given the beauty of the route, this second objective wasn’t going to be hard to achieve!

We were warned at the start,that the first kilometre was up hill, so I took it easy, getting into my stride and picking up the pace on kilometres two and three.

The kilometres ticked over pretty quickly, as they are apt to do in races, and before I knew it I’d hit 6k. There was a tricky long pull up hill from 6 to 7 kilometres, during which I kept my head down and focused on keeping my legs turning over, thinking of Clay’s advice about taking lots of little steps. It was soon over and I started to let my legs out for the last few kilometres.

I’d hoped to really accelerate through the final kilometre, as I could feel I still had plenty left in the tank (probably not something to admit under race conditions!) but then we hit the final hill.

IMG_0159With no cover from the sun, which was by now beating down, the hill went on for what seemed an eternity; it was a killer to end on. My pace dropped right off and I focused on the heels of the man in front of me as I tiptoed up and up. When we reached the top we were greeted by the sight of the finish line. The very last stretch into the race ‘village’ was flat (thank goodness) and across soft grass, so I pushed a last sprint, past then guy whose heels I had followed up the hill. Spurred on by my run past him, he also sprinted, and we raced to the end!

It was such a fun experience and with no pressure to hit a particular time target I really enjoyed every minute – if anything it was over all too soon.

I met the other girls at our pre-arranged spot and we all agreed we’d definitely be doing more trail runs and would be revisiting this route next year. We also gushed over the amazing post-race packs, in which got water, coconut water, Matcha tea, a copy of Runner’s World, a Trek bar, some dried fruit and a Bounce ball, all vegan and gluten free – a rare treat for Lucy and I who could, for once, enjoy everything!

The event was so well organised and with lots of really helpful friendly volunteers, I’d strongly recommend it to anyone thinking of trying out their first trail run.

IMG_0160My glutes were suffering a bit on Sunday after those hills, but luckily, after a morning of painting and decorating, R and I had a blissfully relaxing afternoon visiting some friends of ours in Barnes.

After a heavenly weekend of good company and sunshine it’s perhaps unsurprising that I had a touch of the Monday blues (and a touch of sunburn!) so in a bid to cheer myself up, I may have entered another marathon…

Happy running

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