This was a race I’d wanted to do the year before, but by the time I’d decided I wanted to do it there were no available places. So, when the the entries opened for 2015 I made sure I didn’t miss out. A friend had done this race a few years previous so it was one I wanted to do also, in part so we could compare times afterwards. However, after 3 weeks of almost zero runs, and going straight into the first week of marathon training (for the Robin Hood Marathon) I knew I wouldn’t be getting a PB but did think it’d be nice to be a little competitive and see if I could beat my friend’s time (yes, I know that makes me a horrible person). I know you’re only ever really racing against yourself, trying to beat your own time, but in my mind it was a way to set a target even if I knew I couldn’t set a PB.
I wasn’t really sure what time I needed to be at Warwick Castle for, some of the different pieces of information seemed to conflict so I decided to be safe and got there for 07:00. I was more or less the first runner to arrive it seemed, but I couldn’t see where the start was. There were signs for the information desk, toilets and the warm-up area but no indication of where to go for the start. Eventually I decided to head in the direction of the warm-up area.
In the main courtyard of Warwick Castle I heard a runner ask a marshal where they should go for the start line, and they told him not to worry it would be announced during the warm-up. I thought it seemed a bit of an odd thing to do, but I waited also. Time passed and at 08:30 they started the warm-up session – I watched as they did short runs around the courtyard and various stretches until about 08:45. At this point there was a health and safety briefing, but people started making their way to the main entrance – it seemed some people knew where the start line was, but the announcer asked people did not move yet and should make their way over to the start at 08:55.
By about 08:50 it seemed a lot of people were still moving despite the announcements still continuing so I decided I’d move with the crowd towards the start. The main entrance though is quite a bottleneck and by the time I got to the starting pens the race had already started and I was somewhere behind where the 45min pen was located. If I’d been wanting a PB then I’d have wanted to have started towards the front of that pen ideally. It was a little annoying though that because of the announcements and lack of direction that I’d missed the start.
The route goes out of Warwick Castle’s grounds and through the town before going out into the countryside. After the first couple of kilometres the spectator support died off until around the 5K mark – just over a kilometre after the first water station. I did notice there were a few water stations on this course, though as is fairly usual for me, I didn’t bother. After the 5K mark the spectators were sporadic until we reached Leek Wootton – from there until the finish we then had people out watching the race.
I was amazed at how tough the hills felt – I’d not thought about not having done any hills for well over a month and was finding them to be hard work in the heat of the sun. Very soon after the 6K marker we went around a bend and I stood in what I thought was a puddle, but turned out to be a pothole filled with water. This twisted my ankle and I started to fall forward (the lady running just behind me let out a short scream at this point!). I’m not entirely sure what happened, I thought I was about to face plant into the tarmac but it seems my other leg managed to stop me from going over. A thank you to the marshals on that corner that stayed quiet and looked at me as though I was crazy – I’m fairly certain I’m not that crazy.
For the next kilometre I was sort of half limping, and also trying not to slow down. By the 7K marker I wasn’t really feeling the discomfort any more and was able to run normally and started to return to a normal pace. When I saw the 9K marker I walked for about 10 seconds – my feet were starting to feel uncomfortable from the soggy socks following the pothole. I just wanted to try and adjust my socks a little, thinking for some bizarre reason that may help. I then carried on running, through the car park of Kenilworth Castle, around the hairpin bend (not good for twisted ankles), and then along the path up to the entrance to the castle.
As I saw the entrance to the castle approach I started to sprint, getting up to a fairly reasonable pace, and stopped as I crossed the entrance. However it turned out that was not the finish – just around the bend, about 100 metres away was the actual finish line. Unsure I could run around the corner after having stopped, I went at a half jogging / half walking pace up to the corner and then just gently jogged to the finish line to complete the race.
Looking at my watch for what was probably only the third time in the race I noticed I’d finished with a time of 42:33. It wasn’t an amazing time, and was quite a way from being a PB – but that was okay, it was never meant to be. It was just a race I wanted to do, and to enjoy. I think it was a tough one to try and enjoy though with the way it went, but I was happy to get the medal at the end of it. The goodie bag for this race consisted of:
- Finisher’s medal
- Finisher’s tee
- 330ml bottle of water
- Many leaflets
You could say it’s not the most amazing of goodie bags, but despite it’s flaws, it was a nice race and quite scenic. Whether I’d try this one again I’m not really sure, but I think it would be nice to attempt this one again with legs that are more prepared, and the knowledge of the route and how the start works.
After the race they then ran coaches back to the start which would leave as each one filled up with enough people. It took a while to get back to Warwick due to the road closures, but it was really good to have this free service available! I’d been tempted to run back, but with my next race only two days away I eventually decided it’d be a bad idea and took a coach ride.
My official chip time was 42:33 (for once exactly the same as my watch time!) in position 200 out of 3835 finishers (approximately top 5%). The gun time does actually show how far back I was at the start. Another statistics they provide – I finished 10th in my category of 227 runners. It does leave me with a few “what-ifs” going around my head, but I know not to dwell on them.