Archive Race Results & Reports
Organised by the Bowline Climbing Club **NEW**
You know that feeling when you see a race and you know you were just meant to run it? And you can't get it out of your head even though you resolved to enter fewer races and stay local? So you'll get how I felt when I saw the 33rd Charnwood Hills Race - 14 miles of trail through Bradgate Park and Beacon Hill Country Park in Leicestershire, some killer hills, only an hour away and not expensive. It was like a divine confluence of woman and race.
Then I saw that you could only run it if you got through a ballot. No problem! I put the date for the ballot in my diary, added the run to my events app, and started looking forward to it - how could I not get in when I was so clearly destined to be there? And in my excitement, I mentioned it to Gary Britnell, out of breath and not thinking straight at the top of a hill during a hill training session. He showed a respectable degree of polite interest, before we turned to run back downhill. Clearly, he did not feel that same connection with this race as I did!
You can imagine my surprise, then, at the news that Gary had entered the ballot. Even better, I thought; not only do I get to run the race, but I get to have some company too. Because why would we not both get through? The alternative was too sad to contemplate! But contemplate it I did, when Gary got through and I didn't. Was he gracious about it? Of course! Was he sorry for me? How could anyone doubt it! Did he offer me chocolate as some kind of compensation? I can't remember - possibly - but I was inconsolable.
But remember, this was my race. So, undeterred, I tried to wheedle my way onto the waiting list, then tried to find a transfer, and finally emailed the organisers and frankly begged. To no avail. But when you want something enough, you will do anything. So I asked if I could run along with everyone else but without a number. I was there to support a friend, I said. It was public land, they said; they couldn't stop me. Yes! I was in! And because Gary cannot bear to be beaten by a girl, it was good news for him too - now he was going to have the added push of me pursuing him up and down those hills (although everyone knows that I am no real threat - rather, it's the result of a very vivid imagination!)
The day of the race was perfect - why wouldn't it be when so far everything had gone right? The sun was shining, there was no wind and the ground was hard and easy to run on. The route covered public parkland and woods, and so we had the company of dog walkers, parents out with kids on bikes, and families out for their post-brunch stroll. There were two killer hills which reduced me to a walk (at the top of the first there were crowds cheering us on with cow bells and even a set of bongos), as well as some really long slopes - which these hill-starved Lincolnshire runners chewed up like juggernauts! And nothing could beat the views of Leicester in the distance, with its industrial chimneys, with the bright, snow-covered parkland falling away from the top of the hills. And all the way round there were supporters holding out bags of jelly babies and smiling as if they knew us.
I say us - Gary sped off ahead of me and I didn't see him again until the end. So, I can't say whether he stuck to the route or not- all I know is that he was .05 of a mile short of my distance (cutting corners again), went 200 feet higher (did he climb a tree? Leap up and punch the air with every mile completed?!), and was a good deal muddier! Congratulations are definitely due for Gary's official time of 2:02:24, quicker than hoped, and a place of 122 amongst the men, some of whom looked so gnarled and grizzly it was as if they'd been running trails since birth! My unofficial time was 2:06:44, which I was very happy with.
Coffee and cake were provided free after the race for runners with a number, and although I didn't qualify and Gary's number was in the car, he somehow charmed the nice lady not to charge us. Perhaps it was the big bobble hat that made her relent!
Because the race started and finished in a school hall, we managed to find a nice spot by a radiator to empty the contents of our bags all over the floor and generally faff about getting changed and moving clothes and valuables from one compartment of the bags to another. This is normal post-run behaviour, right? Which is how I lost my car key. Why wasn't it in my hat where I put it? Out came all the contents of the bag again. It had to be there, just like I had to run this race! And the thought that I'd dropped it in the hall somewhere between the coffee hatch and the nice warm radiator didn't bear thinking about, especially as it wasn't just us who had created their own personal jumble sale on the floor!
While I was trying not to panic, Gary set off in search of my key. He returned triumphant, having again used his charm to persuade a different nice lady, who had found it, that it was mine and that yes, that is a Mazda key even though it didn't say Mazda anywhere. I think you'll agree that the double dose of charm more than made up for taking my place in the race!
Although I knew I would love this race, I had no idea that it would be such an amazing run, and I loved every minute of it and want to go back to do it all again. It was everything I could ask of a trail race. Hopefully next year I'll get through the ballot, but if not, it doesn't matter - it means that some other lucky soul will get to have a go!
Thanks to Lisa Shona for her Report.