The Epping Forest Tough 10k
Cancer Research Tough 10k
Terrain: Hilly, Trail
Sunday morning gave us bright sunshine, blue skies and an autumnal crispness that was perfect for running. I'd packed everything I could possibly need into a excessively large kit bag that could comfortably carry a Labrador (and puppies).
The morning of races are always a bit surreal. You know what you are about to do. You've done it before, but you can't square in your mind why you'd do it instead of staying in bed but you do it anyway.
We left the house and made our way to the station bumping into a fellow racer on the way.
Sitting on the train you glance around and suddenly start to spot them. Fleeces, leggings / shorts and running shoes. The trickle becomes a.. well not a flood, but steady stream of slightly nervous runners chatting excitedly about the coming race, the conditions, the course.
We'd looked at the course on the race website and we were warned that it was hilly but how bad could it be? It's Epping Forest, it's not that hilly. Is it?
Well it turns out that there's hills in that there forest and some of them are absolute swines!!
The layers came off quickly as the day warmed up and after some mobility work, some jogs and strides we started getting our heads around the task at hand. As usual, pre-race time warps in the most perverse way. The start-time surges closer while the toilet cue slows to a speed that can only be captured by time-lapse photography. Your bladder asks you some uncomfortable questions but after the 5th time it's safe to say you are probably empty.
There's music, there's chat, but it's time to zone things out. Run through your checklist. Everything feels good (I need a wee), my calves feel good (I need a wee), I'm feeling fresh (I need a wee). I DON'T NEED A WEE!!!
We're heading into the the final few minutes. The MC is building up the excitement and the chatter dies. Silent... Still... BLAST of the air horn and the clatter and rustle of 332 pairs of shoes hit the trail.
The early trail rises gently into the forest, the path shaded by an arch of trees. The marshals get us across the first road crossing and the race settles into a nice strong pace. The trail takes us down hill and I relax my legs as I let the hill do the work. The first mile is cool and flat. The cover of the trees allow you to open your stride and build a strong rhythm, then the course opens out into a trimmed hay field. Golden and glorious in the bright October sun.
We start to climb gently and the faster guys start to put some speed down and pull away. We hit the corner of the field turn left and the first climb starts to hit the legs. It's worth it though, because once you get to the top you get to see this.
The view across the reservoirs is stunning. We take it across the top and by mile 2 we're back into the trees.
The trail does get pretty technical, and from this point on it seems that if you are not running up a hill, you are running down one. There is very little of anything that could be described as flat.
It's fun though. You have to keep thinking your way through, when to dig in, when to relax and when to walk.
Some of the hills are so steep that you are better off walking. You don't go significantly slower and your legs are fresher when you get to the top. I learned my lesson a couple of