[Thanks to Simon Cope for this fascinating race report.]
This race takes place around Bledlow Ridge, a couple of miles from my home, so knowing what the terrain is like, I’d avoided it until now!
In a sudden burst of enthusiasm, however, I decided to chuck in my application form and go for it.
Here’s how it panned out…
My better half dropped me off an hour before the start. With hindsight this was too early as I then queued for the portaloos, popped in to see the John Piper window in the church, and generally wandered about aimlessly whilst waiting for the off. I opted not to participate in the frenetic zumba-style warm-up as my fellow competitors jumped and jiggled along to music all too reminiscent of some lost weekends in a warehouse in the late 1980s.
Right on cue (and indeed on queue for those still waiting for a portaloo) it started drizzling as we trooped to the start line: and then we were off. The first stretch was along the road that runs along the top of the ridge, heading east, so nice firm footing and steady going. Just after 1km it was left turn and down into the valley, before a short dip down-and-up to the 2km marker. A brief climb part-way back towards the ridge led on to a long level(ish) stretch that took us past the old Molins factory complex, where they used to make the machines that made cigarettes. This is scheduled to become a few hundred houses, subject to all the usual planning rigmarole, but recently it doubled as Auschwitz for the filming of ‘Denial’.
As we chugged gently uphill past the 4km marker, there was Lodge Hill looming before us. Being a local I knew what was in store: a short, sharp, and very steep climb. Now, in the normal course of things, this is hard work but do-able, but after the lead group of runners had churned up the already horse and bike-rutted path, it was nigh on impossible to get any kind of purchase, so my run slowed to a hop, skip, jump routine as I sought a route that would keep me upright.
Once on top the going was easier, with wonderful views over towards Princes Risborough and the Vale of Aylesbury, but this was a short-lived pleasure as we were soon headed down a precipitous slope and once again faced the challenge of keeping on our feet. I resorted to clutching at trees as I descended, making slow but steady progress.
Arriving at the bottom I could pick up the pace a little, though by now the path was mostly of slippery chalky clay. Just after 6km was the turn back towards Bledlow Ridge and a water stop. The marshal handing out the plastic cups had thoughtfully provided something to keep us going. The jelly babies were a no-no for a veggie of course, but what was this? A box of Jaffa Cakes! Well done that man!
Refuelled with chocolatey-orangey goodness, I put on a bit of pace between 7km and 8km, but then the trail joined a farm track that was about as slippery and as mucky as anything yet encountered; it was like wheel-spinning in a car trying to get any sort of speed up; heavy going indeed.
Another very stiff climb—which I admit I took at a steady walk—brought us back onto the ridge, so the last kilometer at least was straightforward enough. Round a school field (with some annoyingly low-hanging tree branches to dodge) and the welcome sight of the finish line, a medal, and a goody bag. 1hr 04m 42s was my recorded time: way off a PB but this was neither the course nor the weather for that. A good first taste of the ROR and I shall almost certainly be back next year for more punishment!