Runner Lucy Bird had been running for about five years (but had dabbled a bit in a previous life) when she took on the Larmer Tree 20 mile event, her first fully off-road race. Here is her experience.
Arriving at the event
I had never run a fully off-road race before, so I approached the race with a little bit of trepidation. We had also experienced some of the heaviest snowfall the previous weekend than the south west had seen in decades, followed by downpours of rain, so I was expecting rather soggy conditions underfoot. I had also heard there were some significant hills to contend with on the route. However, I like running hills so wasn’t too worried about them.
After arriving at the Rushmore Estate early on the Sunday morning, I was slightly disconcerted that the car next to me in the parking field was already spinning wheels in the mud! I picked up my race number from some very cheerful ladies in the hall, then headed to the toilets. I was pleasantly surprised that not only did I not have to queue, but they were relatively clean and there was plentiful loo roll.
The marathoners set off half an hour before those of us doing the 20-mile route. As they left I was a little sad that I hadn’t opted for the marathon, but as I was using the race as preparation for a spring marathon, a 20-mile race at this point was a sensible option. I waved goodbye to a friend who was doing the marathon and we arranged to meet at the end.
I decided to take it steady when we set out on the race, so for the first few kilometres I stayed with the crowd and chatted away to anyone who was within earshot. I made one significant discovery – people who do trail races are the friendliest and most easy going of all the runners I have come across. My chatter soon abated when I looked up and saw one of the longest, steepest hills ever. The field seemed to disappear into the clouds. I had been warned and there was nothing for it but to get cracking and get to the top as quickly as possible. I walked this hill and two others later in the race, as it was quicker and less tiring to do so.
The benefit of running up such a long hill right at the beginning is that you then feel on top of the world from then on. The views across Wiltshire were spectacular and the route took me through some amazing countryside. There were fields to cross, paths through woods, windy trails and wider forest tracks. The miles just passed by as I took in all the scenery and nature. On the crest of (another) hill there were still some snow drifts to run through and there was plenty of mud to contend with through gateways. I passed a couple of water stations that were stocked with a variety of different drinks and staffed by more very cheerful encouraging volunteers.
Miles passing by
As the miles passed the field of runners really thinned out and I was a little anxious that I would get lost (I have a terrible sense of direction at the best of times!), but there were plenty of clear signs on trees and posts to guide me around the race. Slowly but surely, I was passing other runners and as I approached one I looked at my watch and couldn’t believe that I had run over 15 miles. The varying terrain and stunning landscape meant that I hadn’t noticed the time passing.
The runner I passed then told me that there were only two female runners ahead of me and they weren’t that far. It was at that point that my attitude of treating the race as a long training run slipped away as I decided to try and catch up with the front runners. The last five miles (or six really; it was a 21-mile course) were rather harder work as I tried to reel in the faster runners. The last few miles were over undulating meadows and then back into the field where we started. I was thrilled to come in as second woman, and even more delighted to get a pack of beer and a framed picture as a prize, but also the beautiful peacock medal that Larmer Tree races are famed for.
At the finish
Instead of a t-shirt, all finishers received a food voucher as well as the splendid medal and there was a huge choice of home cooked meals to fill up on after racing. I tried to wait until my friend had finished the marathon, but my tummy was too persuasive and I had tucked into a plate of macaroni cheese, garlic bread and coleslaw before he got back.
The whole race was wonderful from start to finish. I can’t wait to do another White Star Running event.
The next Larmer Tree race weekend is 9th-10th March 2019. Some distances are selling fast and with new medal designs for 2019, they will sell out. Find out more at: http://whitestarrunning.co.uk/larmer-tree-races-2/