I took part in the Ridgeway 40 event today which was organised by the Long Distance Walkers Association. The event was primarily aimed at walkers but runners were allowed to enter and I had decided this would be the last long training run before the GUCR.
Stouty also joined me on the run as my unofficial and unsupported buddy.
The route covers a distance of 40 miles from Overton Hill to Streatley over the chalk downs following the Ridgeway Route. Those familiar with the various Ridgeway runs will know it’s up and down the whole way.
Following the recent glorious weather I had packed sun-tan lotion, a hat and shades and added my rain jacket following a cursory check of the weather forecast. However, when I awoke to torrential downpour on the morning of the race I swiftly added waterproof leggings and spare socks.
The weather was horrendous as we drove to the start and I checked in. Thankfully, it eased sightly at my alloted start time of 8.30am. Some of the walkers had started earlier although runners were all due to start at 8.30am, however people just seemed to start leaving in dribs and drabs well before the alloted start time so some results may not be entirely accurate. However, as the event was primarily a walk and not a race it wasn’t any sort of issue.
Stouty and I set off at towards the first checkpoint at Barbury Castle at a comfortable pace in the rain and we arrived their about 9.45. We passed quite a few walkers and a couple of runners and walked briefly after the Checkpoint 1 to eat some pre-made sausage sandwiches before carrying on to Checkpoint 2 at Whitefield Hill 2-3 miles later.
The Checkpoints were set out every 3-5 miles and were well stocked with water, orange juice and an assortment of snacks (including rice pudding and jam at Checkpoint 4).
As we passed Checkpoint 2, the number of walkers ahead of us started thinning out leaving a small handful of runners in sight. The atmosphere felt sociable as there were no prizes for winning and this may have worked against me somewhat as I was treating this as a training run and making little effort to tackle any hills. In fact I steadfastedly refused to run any of them the whole race much to Stouty’s distaste.
We met another couple of runners (Hello, Lucy and Martin) whom we had recognised from the Compton 40 and North Dorset Marathon (it’s a small world for Ultra Runners) and ran and chatted with them for a little while (they will be crewing at the GUCR this year and Lucy had completed it in 2007 supported by Martin so there was a topic of common interest) until they gradually moved on ahead of us.
We managed a fairly consistent pace of between 9 – 11 minute/miles for the first half of the race with the pace slowing on some of the hillier sections as we slowed to a walk up these.
There seemed to be more activity as we entered the second part of the race with Checkpoints occupied by more people and having chatted with a few people we learned there was a 20 miler walk also taking place which must have started at the half way point.
Mile 20 – 30 wasn’t great for me, they always seem to be one of the toughest parts of the race which I have put down to the fact that my weekly runs never go beyond this point. In addition, this seemed to be the most uphill part of the course and we (me really and Stouty followed) a run/walk strategy by walking up the hills and running down them. The mile splits for this section slowed to 12+ minute/miles.
At the 28 mile Checkpoint I took a few minutes out to attend to a blister (toe socks had protected my toes) but wet shoes had caused some rubbing of the skin underneath my foot and I also changed to a fresh pair of socks which felt heavenly. I took on some more food and water and after a mile or so started to pick the pace up again.
By this point the weather had turned out rather well with the sun in full effect and we started to feel the warmth of the day, a fary cry from the morning weather. Our pace increased towards 10 minute/miles again between miles 30 – 35.
We passed a handful of walkers towards the later stages of the race including a group of ladies who gave us a nice cheer as we jogged past them just before Checkpoint 9 at the 36 mile point.
After a small hill, the rest of the route was pretty much downhill.. at last! We jogged a good section of the path so I’m not sure why our pace had slowed in the last few miles although we did our quickest pace at mile 38 so maybe we took a few longer walking breaks than I had thought.
We were overtaken by a young lad who had been doing the 20 mile walk with his parents and a few friends and seeing us plodding along had inspired him to run as much as he could for the last couple of miles. He mentioned he had completed the event last year and showed great spirit in his determination to beat his time this year. He left his parents and mates behind as he sprinted, then walked, then sprinted, then walked the last 2 miles (i.e. my early 10k strategy).
It was great to see families taking part in a healthy activity and we kept the lad in sight and gradually reeled him in just before the finish as we headed into Streatley and jogged the last mile or so before the youth hostel which was the location of the finish.
As we traversed the last few yards, we let the lad run ahead of us and gave him a cheer as he entered the finishing area to record his finish. A few moments later I joined him to finish in a time of 7.42.
It was a hilly course and conditions had been poor at the start and the finishing time was only a few minutes slower than my Compton 40 PB a couple of weeks earlier but I know there is room for improvement there as Stouty had pretty much dragged me round the second half of the course.
As we waited at the finish, we saw Lucy and Martin who had finished in around 7.20 and I must give a shout out to Fetchie Blackbird leys boy who finished in around 7.05.
The event was well organised with plenty of supplies and food at each of the Checkpoints and the atmosphere on the day was friendly and sociable. The route followed the Ridgway Trail but there was the occasional arrow or marker or marshall at a major road or turn point.
The entry fee was pretty inexpensive (£11 I think excluding a Coach from the finish to the start if you wished to pay extra and take advantage of this) but the event is primarily a walkers event so don’t expect any goodies or medals. All finishers received a certificate at the end and there were hot and cold drinks and snacks at the end aswell.
Overall, an enjoyable run on a traditional route and no complaints about the organisation.
My own performance could have been a bit better but I wasn’t too concerned with it particularly as I had set a Marathon PB and a 40 Mile PB in the previous two weeks. Therefore, I was hoping Stouty would excuse me with an average performance this week!