Whilst the Barns Green 10km race is only in its second year, you can tell the Half Marathon event has been running for years (about 35 I think!) as the organisation and event village was pretty darn awesome. I parked easily and the glorious sunshine, rare this September, made it pleasant to walk around the well-appointed race village. The village hall was used for kit storage and last minute entries – not a facility I had to use, so I can’t comment on how smoothly that was working. The village included charity stalls, massage tents, an oatmeal wagon, fish and chips, burgers, ice cream, a carousel and other fun-fair events, and a stage where a pre-run warm up was hosted.
As a creature of habit, I declined the offer of a group workout to music, and settled instead for a few laps of the field and my tried-and-tested high knees, heel kicks, twinkle toes, and Eric & Ernies. A few little burnouts across the football pitch and I was about ready to go.
Again, a smooth process as we headed across the field at Barns Green Village Hall and lined up ready to go. The race briefing had asked people running forty minutes or less to line up at the front, so I duly obliged given that 39:59 was my target. With a brief word of support for the event’s charity, St. Catherine’s Hospice, at exactly 10:20 we were off.
I had set my watch to record the laps (miles) of the race, but actively turned off the alerts and beeps so that it wasn’t warning me or telling me when I was clocking off the miles and encouraging me to glance down and see what was going on with my pace. Whether this was the right idea, who knows, but I was keen to try and get out and just run to the best of my ability.
I was aware that I was in the top 15-20 or so – a group of three or four had broken away, another 6-8 seemed to have grouped behind them and I was in the next 6-8 that seemed a little more stretched out. A guy in a bright orange top was four or five meters ahead, and in the opening few miles the fella from Dorking and Mole Valley swapped places once or twice before he finally pulled away as we cruised through Christ’s Hospital.
Christ’s Hospital, by the way, is even more glorious than it looked in School of Rock. What a stunning location for a run. The gravel sections caused me to loose pace a few times, and I tried hard to get back into me 1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2,3… rhythm in my mind and as we crossed the playing fields the wind whipping around slowed me further – convincing me that I was started to struggle. The footstrike behind me and the breathing I could practically feel on my back signalled to me that I was being caught, and quickly. As we were about to leave the school grounds I was overtaken by a guy with a man-bun! I tried to hold on, but it didn’t last long. Back to my own race again.
The drive into Barns Green had shown me that the course wasn’t so flat as advertised and I knew that turning left would see a hill in my vision. Head down and focus. That was all I had to think about. As my pace slowed the leading lady came absolutely cruising past me. She flew up that hill like nobodies business – at this point all I could think about was that I needed to do more hill training. The hill lasted longer than it seemed to have done on the drive in, and whilst I still wasn’t looking at my watch, I was pretty sure I was slowing down and had likely missed my target by now!
The final stretch was all downhill, and this was my chance to gain whatever time I could. I had been passed by one other runner as we crested the hill, but coming down the other side allowed me to catch one ( a guy who I have seen at Cranleigh parkrun int he past, and who has always beaten me.)
As I saw the clock at the finish line my heart sunk. I hadn’t looked at the time throughout the whole race, but there it was in day-glo yellow: 40:45 – I had missed my target. I pushed on as best I could and stopped my clock at 41:01.
With chip removed, medal hung around my neck, and banana eaten, I headed to the massage tent to get my pre-booked post-race massage and stretch from Alan Law Physiotherapy. Holy crap it was great. First, the physio performed some lovely massage to leave my legs feeling better then when I had started the race, and then a lovely lady did some active stretching on my lower muscles, all while I enjoyed a freshly brewed glass of Mint Chocolate Torq recovery drink. Perfect!
The race pack had threatened that the car parks wouldn’t allow runners to leave before 12:30 but once it became clear that other cars were moving, I was keen to get home. The race village offered a range of food and entertainment options, but really I just wanted to be back with the family so I was pleased I was able to leave.
I would recommend the Barns Green race to anyone – it was superbly well organised, bands on the course were good, and the chance to run on closed roads is always welcome. What I don’t agree with though is the billing of a flat race! The route could be pancake flat throughout (which it isn’t, with the odd rise interspersing the route) and that final hill would still be a complete pain in the arse, or glutes! I can’t say much about the half (though of course it does follow much of the same route for quite a way, but I suspect that there is a reason it has been running for so long, and that is because it is just a jolly good event. I am already considering an early bird entry to the 10km next year, so it must be pretty good!