Overweight, unfit, and barely running. None of which are valid reasons to stop a last-minute sign-up for the Ridgeway Run trail race.
I spotted an old Facebook post on the Eagles page and could not resist a hilly countryside run. The race is organised by Tring Running Club and usually held on the second Sunday in October. It’s a 15km run, over a scenic route mainly on footpaths and bridleways with stunning Chiltern views. I knew it was in the same area as Tring parkrun, which I loved, so figured I would enjoy this as well.
Race HQ is at the local cricket club where there was ample parking, even with kids football taking place at the same place. I arrived early (as usual) so had plenty of time to wander around after collecting my race pack and pinning my number onto my top. I also had the chance to use the portaloo before the inevitable queues formed. Other Eagles began to arrive, which gave us the opportunity to compare shoe choices, talk tactics, and generally talk running.
There’s a 5-10 minute walk from race HQ to the start line and there’s no facilities at the start area other than a handily placed wheat field (great for the men, not so great for the women) plus the pathway which provided space for a gentle warm-up jog. Note that the start is fairly narrow so if you’re racing this one and want a strong time or finishing position, then you’ll need to elbow your way through the crowd cross-country style. Or get there early. Or learn to fly.
The route starts on a tarmac path that leads up to a road crossing, which was expertly marshaled to halt the traffic so the stampeding runners could cross, before heading up onto the footpaths. The seemingly never-ending uphill footpath. My pace slowed but I was determined not to walk this early in a race so latched onto the runner ahead of me and kept the legs moving. I also didn’t fancy being the numpty walking up a narrow path, holding up everyone behind me.
The ups finally turned into rolling pathways and bridleways that provided spectacular Chiltern views. I had been gradually catching up with a Eagles vest and I overtook him as I grabbed some water at the first drinks station. He would normally be way ahead of me but racing cross-country the day before and, more importantly, getting steaming drunk the night before for his birthday took its toll. I couldn’t resist giving him a cheery wave & smile as I
glided serenely plodded past.
I hit my trail running groove along the ridgeway where I began to reel in the runners ahead of me. I might be unfit but the love of trails sits deep in my bones and my legs knew how to respond. In the distance I could see a deep descent approaching, which gave me another chance to overtake as I released the hand brake, leant forward, and stormed down the hill. What goes up, down, up, down on a trail race typically means more up and I could see runners snaking upwards for the next mile. I gritted my teeth, ran a bit, then thought bollocks to this and walked a bit so I could look round to take in the stunning scenery.
A game of cat & mouse with another Eagle over the last few miles saw me catch-up in the woodland before being firmly smacked once we hit the tarmac. It turns out that she isn’t a confident woodland tree root dodger like me and was holding back until there was firm footing.
The finish was back at the cricket club where I managed to overtake a few people in the last few hundred metres. Drink, fruit, and a Ridgeway technical tee were handed out at the end and the shirt is pretty good so I’ve worn it a few times since the race. The Ridgeway Run ticks all my running boxes: technical trails, hills, stunning views, brilliant organisation by a friendly running club, and awesome weather. I’ll be back in 2016 for more of the same… fingers crossed about the weather.