I never knew the combination of mud, hills and strong winds could be so mentally tiring! Last Saturday (10th Jan), I took part in my first ever proper trail race, the Trailscape Ashurst (Kent) 10k
These guys have organised the Rail to Trail series, enabling Londoners to get out into the country to experience some muddy trail running. All the routes have started in locations easily accessible by train, in a north/south/east/west direction from the City, with 10k, half marathon and full marathon options available.
|Street food van available for post-race refuelling
The Ashurst race was South, and a 30minute train journey from East Croydon, so I had no excuse not to go along!
Registration was in the village hall, with toilets and a bag drop, and although there were queues (one train an hour means everyone arrives at the same time!) everything was dealt with efficiently. Race start times were staggered depending on distance which meant those running the 10k didn’t set off until 11:30- a nice late start time compared to most races!
The course was beautiful but after the wet weather during the few days prior, it was so muddy! At times I felt like I was wading rather than running, and on the downhills I just slipped and slid!
Having to concentrate so hard on where I was putting my feet was pretty exhausting, and definitely required your full attention- no listening to music here! We had to negotiate stiles and a fallen tree too, which added to the “adventure feel” of the experience. It was definitely one of the most challenging races I’ve done- although it reminded me a bit of the 10miler I did with my brother
This course was significantly more hilly though! I will admit I did a lot of walking, saving my legs for the flat and downhill sections. It gave me a better opportunity to enjoy the views too!
It was a really nice reminder that travelling just a short way out of London provides you with such beautiful open countryside. I’m definitely going to try and take more day trips on the train for cycling or running or just plain exploring this year!
The 10k course was a loop repeating the last final section back to the start/finish line, and the promise of water, tea and cake! It took me a lot longer than a flat regular 10k would and I had to dig deep to keep running at points, but I really enjoyed the challenge of a tough race with a more varied terrain. Battling the elements of mud, wind, rain, and hills required a mental fortitude which I’m hoping will help me in completing Brighton Half Marathon too!
And rewarding myself with a homemade date and apple oat slice afterwards was pretty awesome! Retrieving my bag was easy, and I was given a print out of my time. Timing was done with a wrist chip which had to be “tapped in” at checkpoints along the way (only 1 for the 10k at approx. 6k) and at the finish.
I can definitely recommend the Rail to Trail series if you’re looking for something a bit different- trail running is a new challenge, but the race was totally accessible to newbies (like me!) and really enjoyable. I’d be signing up to the last one in the series (Wendover, Bucks on 21st Feb) if it wasn’t the day before Brighton!
Do you love trail running? What’s your favourite post-race cake?! 🙂