Sunday, 24 September 2017

Highclere Castle 10k

(photo off net)

Many of you will know Highclere Castle as Downton Abbey. I'd never been before, but while looking for a 10k race to replace this weekend's Winchester Half, I came across the Highclere Castle Challenge, and we accordingly spent an hour this morning racing round the park and estate with four hundred or so other runners.

It was misty when we arrived and the parkland looked very eerie and beautiful as the early morning sunshine tried to break through....


We made our way over to collect numbers and had a look at the course map (showing various hills inclines) and then went back to the car to wait for the start.


I started at the front today, because I've been getting grumpy having to wade through runners before I can get into my stride. As a result, there was a huge surge of energy as the front runners sped off down the hill.

We started out over the park, over long, wet grass which isn't the easiest surface to run on, and then turned left out along a lane that wound up and down and round about until it reached the castle. It's a very beautiful building and I had a bit of time to admire it as we ran past. I want to go back and visit when it's open to the public.

The course took us along tarmac for a mile or so (they'd put in a detour to avoid mud, much to mine and M's disappointment, although everyone else seemed relieved at this!) and then went off through pine forest along a gravel track. Once we'd done the first couple of miles I felt I'd warmed up and my pace started to flow better. I picked up some speed and started to overtake, instead of being overtaken, which always feels good. As usual, I'd clocked a few runners ahead of me who'd gone past me at the start that I knew I wanted to reel in, so I kept my focus lightly on them and gradually the distance between us began to wear down.

The hills were my friends and I overtook more people on them, then got past the people I'd had my eye on. I knew I was running faster than last week and the knee was holding up well so I decided to give it a bit of a test and kept my pace up.

A lady kept running past me, then I'd catch her on the hills, then she'd zoom past again. I suspected she was a novice runner because the more experienced ones keep an even pace and can run all the way up the hills. We fell in together at mile 5 and I congratulated her as she came past me again. She steadied her pace and we chatted a bit. This was her first 10k! I thought she was doing brilliantly and told her so. 

I knew there was a final hill to come and warned her it was ahead, but where I knew I needed to hold something back to get up it and be able to sprint the final km strongly home, she cracked on and then half way up the hill flagged so I went past.

We could see the finish about half a km away, but I knew from my watch that we were only at 8.5km and had another 1.5 to run. Sure enough, the marshals turned us away and we headed off in the opposite direction. The lady ahead of me groaned and her pace slowed. Races are so much about the mental approach. Because I'd been prepared for the extra loop it didn't effect me, but it really got to her. We ran together for a bit, and it turned out this was only her second 10k. A little ahead of us a lady in a green t-shirt looked to me catchable. I suggested we aimed to overtake her, thinking it might boost my running companion's morale, but she didn't feel able, so I went on on my own.

When I caught the lady in green I could hear she was breathing heavily. You could tell from the way she was running that she didn't have much left in the tank whereas I was feeling strong and had energy left for the finish, thanks to conserving it earlier. I drew level; she made a valiant effort to keep up but I knew she wouldn't. It felt good to run strongly past her and gave me a boost that fired more energy into my legs.

Next up was a chap I'd been running near for most of the race, only he'd gone ahead a km or two back. Now I could see he too was paying the price for having pushed too fast too soon. I suspected he was also new to running the distance, so I called out some encouragement as I went past, and he told me my footsteps behind him had spurred him on a bit but now he was fading again. Follow me, I suggested, I'll get you there. But by now we were in the final 800m and I knew I'd got energy left over to sprint, so I picked up the pace and he just didn't have the oomph to stay with me.

One of the things you fear when you're sprinting ahead to the finish is that someone will come up behind you and overtake. All the power in a sprint is with the person behind- they've got all the information and then can choose to sit on your heels and time their overtake to maximum impact, ie so close to the line you won't have time to catch them. I know- I've done this myself before :o)

I was running hard and could hear voices and footfalls behind me, so I pushed as much as I could and then risked a glance behind to see how close they were. Relieved, I realised they were too far behind to catch me. I could see from my watch I was going to beat last week's time by five minutes, so I ran as fast as I could and crossed the line feeling thrilled at the way the race had gone. Five minutes faster than last week and no knee pain.

The Clarendon half next weekend is looking healthier than it has in a while!

The race was topped off by M receiving an age category prize from Lady Carnarvon for being the fastest old man in his age group  :o)



What a fantastic race- we will be back!

Happy Days!

How was your weekend?

CT :o)


27 comments:

  1. It sounds fantastic and what beautiful scenery to admire on your way around the course. Well done to you on beating last week's time and to M for being a fast old man. 😉
    Your knee seems to be holding up well and it all looks very positive for next week. Tomorrow morning I will be putting on my trainers for the first time in a very long time. I must say, you are an inspiration. X

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    1. Hooray! Have a fab time running. I'm sure you will especially after a break x

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  2. Oh fantastic CT, well done to you both. I am loving how you approach each race so tactically. We had a good sea swim yesterday and today walked 10 miles round Thorney Island in Chichester harbour which was absolutely fascinating. It would make a good running loop except for the MOD "keep out" signs everywhere and Checkpoint Point Charlie! Now I'm ready for roast chicken with apple crumble for pud, prepped and cooked by my son and his girlfriend. Hope you're having something good for your dinner too. Actually who does do the cooking when you've both been racing?

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    1. M was hoping to swim off keyhaven yesterday but the current was something else. Re cooking after a race we usually treat ourselves to a take away (Thai tonight. Yum) x

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  3. What a wonderful location for your race. One of the things I enjoy about running is the opportunity to go to places I wouldn't normally go to. And much more often than not I'm very pleasantly surprised when I get there.
    Today's run, you could pick your own distance, was in our local park and I used it to complete my second half marathon of the year.

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    1. I've just read your account- a very worthy cause and I must say a tremendous effort on your part, especially with that climb.

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  4. Well done to M on his achievement and to you and your ever improving knee. Highclere sounds a perfect place to run although preferably without the inclines :) sounds like you will be fit and well for the Clarendon. I must get out for a run soon, the walking has taken over for the last week. B x

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    1. Ooh yes- would love to hear more of your running tales x

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  5. Did tem miles on SAturday, 8km today, then wrecked the hard work by eating huge plates of pasta! Looks like you all had a good race

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    1. I should think you deserved the pasta after 15 miles in two days!

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  6. Well done both, that's brilliant running, and what an amazing setting. You've got your confidence back I think, you sound very positive about it all and you've definitely got the race sussed hillwise and keeping something in reserve-wise. Really well done, I'm so pleased it was a good race for you, it is very well deserved. Keep it up! CJ xx

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    1. Thanks, CJ. You're right, the last two races have rebuilt my confidence. Phew! Plan with Clarendon is to run it, but if the knee ain't right at any point to stop rather than plough on, a la The Beast! X

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  7. Highclere Castle is just down the road from us, so I loved your photos. Many congratulations to you and your knee! I'll keep my fingers crossed for you next weekend. xx

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    1. Thanks VM. Next time we should try and meet up for a hello before the race x

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  8. A beautiful run, a big win and a Lady handing out the award !
    What a fabulous morning !

    cheers, parsnip

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  9. Fantastic. I must get to Highclere, each year I plan to go but miss the opening days. x

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    1. It's a really lovely place, well worth a visit x

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  10. What a fabulous place to have a race. Have a great week ahead.

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  11. What an amazing house...it suits my slight OCD as its so well proportioned. Good running..well done CT.
    xxx

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  12. oh what a fabulous place for a race! well done you and so glad your knee is holding steady.

    dubious news from physio Allan today (sprained MCL and tendonitis- caused by my conformational defects, it seems :)) I may have to take up cycling instead...;) xoxo

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    1. Bummer 😡 How annoying. Hope you feel more comfortable soon xx

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  13. What a beautiful location in which to run. Glad the knee is holding up for you.

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  14. That's definitely one to ad to the ever-expanding list! So glad it went well :-) Did you watch Downton? Was it any good? xx

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  15. Well done to both of you, so glad your knee held up. Have run so many races now your experience just shines through! Sarah x

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x