I took part in the Combe Gibbet to Overton 16m cross country run today with fellow Fetchies Stouty (Fetch: Stouty) and Sue (Fetch: Capricorn).
The event was well organised by Overton Harriers and we arrived at the designated check in with plenty of time to spare and collected our race numbers and were given clear coach/baggage instructions.
After having a snack before the race, we boarded one of four coaches which was due to transport us from the finish in Overton to the start of the race at Combe Gibbet.
Wiki tells us this landmark was erected in 1676 for the purpose of gibbeting the bodies of George Broomham and Dorothy Newman and has only ever been used for them. The gibbet was placed in such a prominent location as a warning, to deter others from committing crimes. A replica gibbet marks the site as the original was destroyed many years ago and subsequent replicas have been replaced several times.
We enjoyed a very pleasant coach road through some scenic landscape and quaint villages along with a police escort before we arrived at the start of the race. The hill was quite exposed and as a result very breezy but the sun was out and temperatures were fine for running.
The race began at 2pm as planned and we followed the stony path for half a mile or so before getting to a hard track/path and better footing. The stony path may have accounted for 1 pull out as we witnessed a runner hobbling back to the start less than half a mile in.
Sue V had started closer to the front and we spotted her racing ahead whilst Stouty and I started near the back of the group. I hadn’t specifically targeted this event as a particular goal or race but fancied an off road run of decent length as part of my GUCR training so had no firm plans or goals leading up to the race.
A 16 mile off road race across undulating hills was a comfortable distance but I wasn’t certain how to approach it with my events varying from “eyeballs out” 10k’s to ” plodding or run/walk” ultra’s. Just prior to the race, I decided to aim for 8 minute/miles and see how comfortable I felt with the anticipated hills.
I followed Stouty for the first couple of miles but then let him ease ahead a bit as we were running faster than I had planned. My first few mile splits were 8.04, 7.35, 7.57, 7.49 so I was pretty much on schedule.
The first water stop was at 3.5 miles and a slowed briefly to drink the full contents of the cup as I had decided not to carry a hydration pack for the event. The time was ticking along quite nicely as I enjoyed the scenery and views from the hills.
The splits for the next leg were 7.43, 8.00, 7.13 and 7.15 although this was the largest downhill stretch and I found myself speeding down the hills before the second water stop and which point I stopped briefly to take a carb gel and another full cup of water.
Miles 9-10 were a little slower as they started to go up hill and I must admit to taking a brief walk up one of the hills convincing myself I was conserving energy (in reality just taking a little break) and recorded my slowest two miles of 8.49 and 9.31. There was a nice cool cross breeze but I did notice that running along the sides of the hill did cause my right thigh to ache as I adjusted to the camber of the path.
There was a slight moment of hesitation just after the 11 mile mark when a runner ahead missed one of the marker arrows resulting in a confused look before being guided back on track by a fellow runner, the consequence being that everyone else started to question which direction we should be going for a moment. The course overall was well marked and marshalled to be honest and there were no issues with directions after that.
Miles 11 and 12 were 8.18 and 8.54 as we arrived at the final water point and I took a couple of jelly babies aswell.
The last 4 miles were probably more downhill than up and as a consequence the pace increased with mile splits of 7.52, 7.57, 8.08 and 7.39. The race was fairly stretched out at this point and I could only see a couple of people ahead or behind me.
I followed the path onto the road and was guided into the finishing area and completed the race in 2.10 coming 69th out of 156 runners, so just over half way on my Garmin. Stouty and Sue had already finished recording good times of 2.02 and 2.03 and were placed 50th and 51st respectively. The winner completed the course in 1.36 and the last runner came in at 3.09.
We were handed a bottle of water at the finish but unfortunately there was no medal (I like collecting the momento’s from the races I’ve done) or goody bag (not so fussed about this as long as I have a drink at the end) at all although the race entry did fund the cost of the coach so it wasn’t bad value overall. I’ve also noticed that the website does host some pictures of previous events so if any photos are added for free from todays event then that’s a bit of extra value. Website can be found here: http://www.overtonharriers.org.uk/index.htm
As we made our way back to the car, the weather darkened and rain began to fall so our finish was well timed. The weather today was fine although April can be a slightly hit and miss month so the race could enjoy warm sunshine or rain in other years. An enjoyable run overall.