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Woodhouse Challenge 13.5M May Bank Holiday Monday

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Woodhouse Challenge 13.5M May Bank Holiday Monday

Despite taking this one easy as I'd run 38 miles 2 days before and that the scenery was at least as good as the Oxon 40, I failed to bring my phone so all photos herein are stolen.  I've pinched a couple from the race web site and I hope to blag one or two more from @mikew30 who was far better organised than me.

This race rounded off a fabulous bank holiday weekend of running.  Not one I'd heard of before until @ainsina brought it to my attention moons ago and I entered immediately. I must have been quick off the mark as I had bib no.4

The Woodhouse Challenge is based in Woodhouse Eaves next to Loughborough, Leicestershire. It's a trail race taking in Beacon Hill, just missing the Outwoods - my Cross Country league venue as a Secondary School student at Loughborough Grammar (and a pretty unenthusiastic participant I was too - I'd no idea then) and Bradgate Park.

The route is steeped in history. In 'modern' terms because it passes the reputed birthplace of Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England for 9 days (curiously I once went out with a girl called Jane for 9 days) and ancient as it's part of Charnwood which boasts the oldest rocks on Earth. David Attenborough cut his teeth studying fossils here (Charnia is an ancient fern found fossilised in the area). And in prosaic terms too because I used to live in Woodhouse Eaves and the route goes past my old house within the first mile so I'd have entered for that reason alone. 

The local town crier set us off, barely audible above the din of barking dogs who were also taking part.  I was running with the lovely @emmaeliholland before she clears off to the USA for a year - for the first couple of miles at least before chivalry gave out rather like it did for Lady Jane.  All we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history as my history teacher used to repeat. He also used to claim every event in history had a minimum of 4 causes and a maximum of 6 but that really isn't relevant here. Revise the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand and let me know if you think he was right.

The course is almost all off road and goes through some private land only available for this race as well as the gorgeous, public Bradgate park where I lost a welly in the stream when I was 5 and could always rely on a trip to the ice cream shop next to the Newtown Linford car park for a rum and raisin courtesy of my folks. I firmly believe this is where my taste for alcohol started.

Em and I started out slowly and most components of my legs were groaning a bit since I'd mashed them on the trails round Henley not 48 hours before. You climb to the highest point of the race within 2-3 miles and then there are no serious uphills from then on. I glanced to the right long enough to spot my old bedroom and the addition of some sort of dovecote/birdhouse thing in the garden and jogged on up the ascent. 

To my surprise the aches eased quickly and I thought after a go at the facilities at 3 miles ish I'd push on a bit. It was a lovely warm day, soft trails underfoot and at that point a decent stretch of downhill so it was just crying out to be made the most of. 

I probably went a bit too fast but as fate would have it I met my aunt just before Bradgate Park who turned out to be doing the accompanying walk (they live right behind the finish field) and I had a chat with her for a few minutes (apologising for not telling her I was in this race, not visiting any time in the last n years etc etc, you know the sort of thing) so that probably stopped me pushing the damaged thigh muscles too far.

Being a sunny bank holiday the park was stuffed with people so we were weaving around the general public before finding refreshment stop 2.  I'd completely missed stop 1 and frankly I'd been told this race had amazing catering and was worth entering for that reason alone.  I must have suffered from temporary blindness as everyone else found it ok.

I stopped in the bogs simply to splash some cold water over me as it was getting pretty warm by then, exchanged race-based platitudes with another competitor in there (the only time you can really start a chat with another bloke in the Gents) and pushed on.

We ran through a herd of cows that seemed to be screwing up the courage for a mass charge, a few more fields and trackways and ended up back in the village, in my case 1hr 41 mins after I left it. 

The race announcer suggested I might have run there from Windsor, then more helpfully pointed out there was food available in the Hall.  And indeed there was. A full clingfilmed lunch for every competitor plus unlimited homemade cake, tea and coffee.

For the second time this weekend I marveled at the food on offer and got stuck in, this time polishing off 3 cakes supplied by the indefatigable WI as well as the ploughman's style lunch. Fortunately for me Em didn't much care for most of the ingredients so I got seconds of that too.

What a great race.  After the 38 miler this seemed to last about 5 minutes and actually I wished it had been longer.  It seemed a shame to stop running on such a fabulous day for it.

The race is held the first bank holiday in May and if it's anywhere near reachable for you I heartily recommend it.  I'll definitely come back next year.

Race web site


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