WHAT: Trail half marathon (full marathon and 10k also available)
WHERE: Newport, Essex
WHEN: 18th October 2014
The idea is simple. Rail to trail. Hop on a train to travel the surprisingly short journey from the busy pavements of London to beautifully muddy countryside trails and run your heart out. Rinse your shoes. Repeat.
In fact, there are four races in the Trailscape series and this was the first ever. Although you'd never have known. Race HQ (just a stumble from Newport train station) was completely organised and well equipped with even a hand-drawn weather map to show us what we were in for (luckily just some cloud). There was no last-minute flapping just endless smiles from the organisers and volunteers, who smoothly started the marathon, then it was an hour's wait until the half-marathon runners set off.
I say 'half marathon' but 15 miles of country tracks, fields and wooded paths had been carefully selected for us. It appears the organisers measure in 'trail miles' and weren't apologising for it. Nor were we complaining, our surroundings were beautiful and the weather was on our side, the longer I was out there, the better!
It's a good job this was my take on time. I wasn't in the best shape – nursing a few niggles and a bad cold, Essex would not be graced with my best running performance. But that's what a series is for. Surely, the idea is to see an improvement across the four races, achieving negative splits, the holy grail of racing. The fact that I shuffled round a big section of the course didn't matter. It was also not an issue that I and a few others accidentally added a mile to our run by getting temporarily lost (the course was actually very well marked, if you paid attention). I can make up my time in the next three races.
Being a small event with around 30 runners in each race, there was a very real chance of being last (and for the speedier runners, a very real chance of coming first!) but with such friendly encouragement from the marshals and fellow competitors, I wouldn't have minded. The event captured everything that is great about the trails – exploring beautiful new places, picking up inches of heavy mud on your shoes and interacting with an incredibly supportive community, who are never worried about time but excited by your achievements.
Roll on the next races in the Trailscape series:
Ashurst, East Sussex
You can register for the rest of the series or a single race, here.