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3 weeks of participating in races

This is a bit of a catchup post, talking about the last three weekends, but there is a common theme, focusing on participating, rather than racing. On each of the last three weekends, I have participated in races.

This is a bit of a catchup post, talking about the last three weekends, but there is a common theme, focusing on participating, rather than racing. On each of the last three weekends, I have participated in races.

What do I mean by races? I mean events where somebody has organized them, there was a fixed route, we had to enter the race via a website, there were marshals, official timekeeping, and medals for the winners. These are quite different from the social runs I often take part in, and different from Parkruns.

What do I mean by participating? At the moment, I am still getting my speed back after the Spine race earlier in the year. So, my focus in all three races was to take part, to run as well as I could without pushing myself too hard, aiming to enjoy the experience without any expectation of getting a personal best or winning an age-grade medal.

Wolf’s Pit Fell Race
This is a fell race in the Peak District and one I have run several times before. This year the race incorporated the Nottinghamshire Fell Championships (we don’t have fells in Nottinghamshire, so our race is in Derbyshire). Along with several club mates from Redhill Road Runners, I drove up to Derbyshire on the morning of Sunday, March 10.

The Wolf’s Pit Fell Race is not long, just 9.16 km (5.7 miles), but the terrain is tough and the elevation severe, a climb of 490 metres (1607 feet). For a fell race, we need to carry some kit (for example, a waterproof jacket and trousers, a bivvy bag, compass, map, whistle, and food). For this course, the runners need to wear running shoes with serious lugs to enable them to run on slippery ground, especially down the hill.

The winner was able to run the course in an impressive 39 minutes 16 seconds. I completed the course in 1 hour 10 minutes, 11 seconds (5 minutes slower than in 2023). I finished 143 out of 194 runners – which meant I was faster than just over 25% of the runners and slower than nearly 75% of them. In the Nottinghamshire County Championship, I was in the men aged 60 to 69 category and finished 4th out of 5. In the team race, in the Veteran’s age group (men over 40), I picked up a bronze, along with my teammates Michael and Clive. However, this was mainly because of how few teams had been entered – but as they say, you have to be in it to win it ????.

Redhill Road Runners at the Wolf's Pit Fell Race
Redhill Road Runners at the Wolf’s Pit Fell Race

Ranger Ultras 55 KM Race
The following weekend, on Saturday, 16 March, I participated in the Ultra Rangers Pennine Bridleway PB55KM race. Ranger Ultras organize a large number of events, all low-key, affordable, and very friendly. The route starts in Hayfield, travels south on the Pennine Bridleway for 27.5 km and then retraces its route back to Hayfield. This gives the total distance of 55 km (just over 34 miles). For this event, the kit list is quite a bit larger than for the fell race, making the bag heavier.

Part of the track on the PB55
Part of the track on the PB55

Although the route is a bridleway, it has steep ups and downs, slippery sections, and rocky sections, so trail shoes were necessary.

Great views from the PB55
Great views from the PB55

I completed the race in 8 hours 19 minutes,11 seconds, which means I finished 36 out of 59. About 60% of the runners were faster than me and 40% slower. In terms of ultra races, I consider myself a ‘mid-packer’, and this race counts as middle of the pack.

Forest of Dean Trail Half Marathon
Today’s run, Sunday, 24 March, was the third of my trio. The Forest of Dean race was an off-road, very hilly run, which was also the British Trails Short-course Championships. I needed trail shoes to cope with the surface, but for this race, there was no need to carry anything, and we were provided with water every 5 km.

At the start of the Forest of Dean trail half marathon
At the start of the Forest of Dean trail half marathon

This was my first trip to the Forest of Dean, and it is somewhere I want to visit again. Since the drive to the race was 2.5 hours, I travelled there on Saturday. I stayed at the Speech House Hotel, which was adjacent to the start. If you are interested in running this race (and I do warmly recommend it) I would definitely suggest staying at the Speech House Hotel. It was really close to the race, I could even see the registration tent from my window.

As with the previous two races I kept to a comfortable pace for the circumstances. I finished in 1 hour 56 minutes, 48 seconds. In the circumstances, I was happy with that time. I finished 304th out of 926 runners, and 6th in my age group (male 65 to 69 years) out of 13.

The Big Picture?
Of the three races, this was my best relative finish, in the top third. The reason for that had nothing to do with my pace or effort. In the Fell Race, most of the runners were serious about training and running reasonably fast. In the 55km race, the runners were all regular ultrarunners. In the Forest of Dean race, there were lots of people who were occasional runners. This is another reason I focus on my performance, how I feel, and how much I enjoy the event – rather than how high or low my ranking is.

One benefit of running comfortably is being able to do things after running. When I finished today, I had a brief chat with people I had spoken to at the start or on the way round. After that, I jumped into the car and drove the 2.5 hours to get home. The first 30 minutes was an interesting drive through the Forest, through old-fashioned villages, and then along the River Severn. Most of the rest of the drive was on motorways.

I may start racing again later this year, but until then, I will be very happy to participate in races, run comfortably, enjoy the experience, and treat it as an adventure.

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