Last weekend was definitely busy for runners, with lots of big races taking place across the country including the Royal Parks Half and Manchester Half Marathon to name just a couple. I opted to head across to Henley for the Maverick Oxfordshire Trail Race.
Sitting in the car park with the torrential rain pouring down and my windows slowly steaming up, I definitely wondered what on earth I was doing! I’d checked the forecast, which had promised sunshine and warm temperatures so I hadn’t even brought a running jacket, something I was starting to regret.
At quarter to ten, I dashed across to join the queue for the portaloos – the rain had eased off and the clouds were starting to clear so I felt more hopeful. Running in the rain when you’re unprepared is pretty miserable! It took a while to get to the front of the queue – no matter the size of a race there never seem to be enough toilets and despite the small field here, it took about 20 minutes until I was able to head to the start line.
The noise of all the dogs running with their owners was deafening! I’d definitely love to investigate running races with our dog, but he’s never run for a long time or really had experience wearing a harness that’s attached to someone – he’d either pull me off my feet or stop and sniff absolutely everything and we’d never get anywhere!
Still, once we’d crossed the start line off and immediately hit a steep hill I was wishing I had a four-legged friend to pull me up…
I do love running trails but the Maverick Oxfordshire was a pretty hilly race, at least for someone who’s not used to them. I ended up walking up the hills mainly and letting my legs freewheel on the downhills. My Salomon Speedcross that I got for my birthday earlier this year were great, and despite the mud and the wet fallen leaves I didn’t slip or fall over at all.
The views from the top of the hills were also pretty spectacular – the sun did actually come out as promised and the contrasting blue skies and green fields were a welcome distraction from the steep inclines. I took advantage of pausing to take photos to catch my breath!
There were three different distances available, and I’d opted for the short route which was approximately 8km. I was pretty much at the back of the people doing the short route, but one of the benefits of there being runners out on the course doing much longer distances meant I was never going to be last across the line! It is definitely a fear of being a slow runner, especially when you sign up for a race that is a smaller scale event and stereotypically full of speedy trail ultra-runners.
The last 200m or so of the course emerged onto a main road and then back into the grounds of Stonor Park where I claimed my medal, a carton of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, a Trail Ale and a TRIBE bar – some of the best stash I’ve had following a race, especially compared with some of the bigger events. The iced coffee was particularly welcome given it had warmed up so much!
I’m really keen to do some more trail events, provided they are as inclusive and friendly as the Maverick Oxfordshire – I’m actually eyeing up one of their Dark Series events, where you get to take to the trails at night with a headtorch. The description on their website sounds pretty awesome!
“It’s an amazing experience; your senses are heightened, you immerse yourself deep in the surroundings, with your head torch on the trails streak past you at warp speed, you concentrate on making that perfect foot placement so as not to take a tumble.”
Have you done any trail running events that you would recommend? Let me know!