I subscribe to running blogs where runners review events they have partaken in and I thought I’d give it a go.
I’ve eyed up The Ridgeway Run for many months… in fact a year… but had forgotten about it recently because of all the changes happening. So, whilst browsing idly on Facebook on a lazy day a sponsored post popped up informing me that entries were open for this event. Having a glance at their website and Facebook page the event described itself as:
“A trail run of either 5 or 10 miles starting and finishing in Ashbury, the route will take you to Uffington White Horse Hill, Wayland’s Smithy along the Ridgeway and surrounding countryside. The Children’s trail run is within the Coombes at Ashbury.
Whether you are a hare or a tortoise the event is for everyone; run individually or as part of a team. To qualify as a team you must all be running the same distance and be made up of 3-6 people.”
And being a big fan of walking /exploring the Ridgeway and knowing the local area I thought I’d enter this year. I wasn’t going to initially, as I thought I’d be in North Wales during the time of the event but as luck would have it, our tutor is in Slovenia this week so I would be back in Swindon during the time of the event… so I booked it without thinking twice.
At £18 for an individual entry, I thought this was a very reasonable cost. I have seen 5K (3.2 miles) entry fees for £25 before so an 8K (5mile) event for this cost is great.
The 5-mile route looked interesting; with a combination of hills, the flat Ridgeway, the Uffington White Horse and back again, I thought “I could do that“.
Finding the starting location was easy. Starting and finishing in the village of Ashbury signs direct you to the field car park close to the running start/finish.
The registration was quick and easy. We arrived at 9:15am (registration was due to close at 9:30am) and I was able to collect my bib number and sign the wavier about 8 minutes after I started queueing – even had time to go to the portaloo! The system they had for registration was efficient and it was great to see they had young people helping out.
Outside registration were the portaloos (queueing was quick), a trailer cafe serving hot food (bacon butties – yum!) and drink, a water station where you could top up or buy a Ridgeway Run bottle for a £1 donation and another event(?) being advertised (I didn’t look at this).
The 10 milers race began at 10 am and the 5 milers began at 10:10am. A nice time between the two to warm up and remove excess kit keeping you warm on this cold wet morning. When it was our turn to gather we all move towards the start.
After the countdown, the horn sounded and we all set off. The first part is along a ploughed field and the trail was the usual one person walking path on the edge of the field… so, you can probably work out that for the first 200metres there was a bundle of people trying to stay on this path and not on the muddy field… but this soon opened up as you passed the fenceline and then it opened up into open green fields and many people shot off to tackle the first steep part.
Steep is steep and luckily this steep bit doesn’t last too long. I vowed to walk the hill bits and run/walk the rest, as much as my body and mind wanted too, so I dropped back to the back of the group and took my time getting up and onto the D’Arcy Way path talking with the walkers at the back of the group (surprisingly there were only 2 people who had ‘officially’ adopted to walk the event, I thought they would have been more).
Once reaching the D’Arcy Way it was on to the Ridgeway. This part of the route isn’t maintained so you have to watch your step within the ruts from the vehicles but once on to the Ridgeway the ground is more level and flat all the way until the route meets the Lambourne Valley Way, passing Wayland’s Smithy, then up the Chalky hill.
Before I mention the Chalky Hill, I just wanted to say that I passed so many DofE groups out in the morning. I think it must have been about five groups, all with their maps out, waterproofs on, oversized rucksacks and one member of the group trailing behind the rest… Still, it was good to see young people out and about on a Saturday morning.
The Chalky Hill is deadly in the rain – chalk doesn’t absorb water instead it mixes with the chalk to create a waxy surface which, when combined with inappropriate trail shoes (such as road running trainers with no grip) it becomes a bit of a mini nightmare! Sticking to as much grass on the trail until I was able to step off the chalk on to the grass verge took a lot of effort and mental calculations but thankful this was short lived until meeting the very friendly marshalls at the top (I must say, all the marshalls were lovely and encouraging during this event) with sweeties.
Then it was a run around the remains of the castle fort, this time though, using a lot of mental effort to avoid slipping downhill on the wet grass! Again, friendly marshalls with jelly beans and young children cheered the runners on to the next turning point up the tarmac’d road on to Lambourne Valley Way and back the same way we’d run earlier on.
By this time, being near the back, the first of the 10 milers begun passing – many of them encouraging us to “keep going” and congratulating us for making it this far – which was very nice of them and motivating as well.
Terry, my other half, was waiting for me by Wayland’s Smithy to show his support – he’d taken our dog, Bailey, out for a walk as well to pass the time. Bailey decided he wanted to run with me (he loves to run) for the last mile and a half and despite Terry’s best recall efforts Bailey wasn’t listening…
As we passed the finished point together Bailey was congratulated by many people, they found it amusing he was running with me (or somewhere near me) and many found it fascinating how he was running across the fields and back again to me and still had a lot of energy at the end. Has he run the 5-miler I’m sure Bailey would have completed it in half the time it took me…
The medal is beautiful. I’m so glad to have run this race. I had goal-planned what I wanted to achieve and happy to say I knocked 15minutes off my intended time with my intended plans. Go Jo. Whoop.
Overall, I would recommend this race to anyone interested in trail running. It was very well organised for such a small event. The communications and information beforehand was detailed, the registration and starting process was quick and easy, the marshalls and other runners were so friendly and encouraging (it has a family feel about this event), the medal was totally worth the effort but the best bit was the route and the views – I loved the variety of the trails you had to run on, from the easy flat to the chalky awkward uphill and very rarely on tarmac’d road/any road – I didn’t even mind the cold and the rain.
I’m hoping I will get another opportunity to run this event again, maybe even work my way up to the 10-miler one year, for now, it has inspired me to do some more trail running when I head back to Snowdonia.
A big shout out to the organisers for this event. Excellent event!