Chiltern Ridge Ultra Trail 50k

3rd October 2020 - Jim Dorrington 

There’s a moral to this.

 With every other event I’d entered this year being cancelled I should have been really looking forward to this one. The first event to finally get the COVID green light, my first chance to actually get back to a real live event…. What’s not to like?

 However in the week building up to it I just struggled with a list of negatives which is most unlike me. I’d trained ok but both knees were aching, I’d been wearing myself out doing loads of decorating, my job uncertainty was still on my mind, my race partner had to pull out 2 days prior and was also due to be my lift to the event by the way (I won’t name her as it would be unfair to mention Emma’s name, ha!!), I’d been sleeping terrible all week and the weather was looking grim. So as I lay in bed awake most of the night on the eve of the race, the rain was lashing down and I still had no mojo or excitement for the race at all. The alarm goes off, the weather is howling outside, do I just roll over and sack the whole thing off? Trust me, I was VERY close to doing so. No, get up Dorrington and do this, you’re lucky the events on, many people during this wretched year would love to be fortunate enough to be able to just go off for a run.

 So there I was enduring the 2 hour drive to the event in what can only be described as conditions of epic proportions. I could barely see out the windscreen due to the rain and mist. Even now I was still considering turning around and pulling out. Even more so when the sat nav took me down the final country lanes to get to the event start where I had to drive quite literally through rivers, one of which very nearly stalled the car right in the middle of it, but then I’d made it, finally into the mud bath field for the event.

 You could literally only see 20ft or so in front of you as it was so foggy but that was when FINALLY it kicked in for me. It’s a fairly small event run by Freedom Racing with only just over 100 participants, but just seeing them all getting ready and the buzz of an actual event truly happening. Come on, let’s go, let’s do this.

 Having picked up my chip timing wrist band and race number, it was straight onto the start line and away. COVID distancing meant a staggered start where you had a ‘window’ of time to begin at your own leisure. This worked well but was very different to previous events when you all line up together and set off as one.

 However we were off and heading into the heavy fog and rain. Visibility therefore was pretty low so I can’t really tell you much about the scenery, I’m sure it was lovely!! Race wise you head off and do quite a long out and back section before veering off for the final stretch to complete the 50k distance. The start of the race was downhill, always nice at the start but aware that it meant the final slog would be uphill. Having passed the first aid station you then head up the longest toughest hill section to the top of the beacon. The conditions up there were bleak to say the least, not good for us runners but worse for the solitary marshal who was stood there for 3 hours or so. A quick chat & thanks to him and back down I went, trying not to slip over on the descent like I’d seen a few do on my way up. Back at the bottom was the second checkpoint. These checkpoints were fairly well organised but being a smaller event not quite as well stocked as I’ve seen before. You also obviously had to sanitise hands, put on face coverings, keep distance etc – all of which is a right pain and hinderance when you’re cold, soaked and miles into an event. Not the organisors fault, they had set up as best they could.

 The weather had cleared a bit now down on the lower elevation parts so was a nice section through woods and trails and dare I say enjoyable? I knew I was doing ok time wise as well all things considered. Not that there was any reason for me to try and complete this in a particular time, but now I was in good shape I thought why not push to see what I could do.

 With about 6 miles to go you joined up with the runners from the Half Marathon event that they were also hosting. Their route followed the same closing section as the Ultra. It was nice to see some cheery faces, maybe that’s because they hadn’t had to endure the top of that cold/foggy beacon!

 The rest of the course was good, a mixture of trail and road. Then back into the woods, to face the sting in the tail of that climb back up to the finish. So this was the section that had been so nice coming down from the start but wow it was sapping on the legs getting back up it. It was a nice surprise though to find that as soon as the ascent was over it was literally up and over a stile, and there was the finish line. The fog was all gone, and although still very cloudy there was even a glimmer of sunshine. I crossed the finish line, stopping my watch to realise I’d smashed my PB, being congratulated and greeted by the event organisor (a nice touch on these slightly smaller events) and he duly gave me my medal. What a feeling, it was incredible, how on earth was I thinking of not even starting just earlier that day???

 So my summary is this. It’s a great event, it’s well organised, ok it would have been better if the weather had meant we could actually see more as the area is no doubt lovely. There are some big hills - though the name Chiltern ‘Ridge’ should have given that away.  I would fully recommend it as an event and will probably do it again in the future on hopefully a nicer day.

 Most importantly though…

 My moral of the story. Even when you think you don’t want to do something, or on those days when everything is trying to tell you just to roll over and not bother…. fight against those feelings and get out there and do it – like me on this day you may just totally surprise yourself, fill yourself with elation and be oh so thankful that you did! 

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