Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Four Seasons In One Day : New Forest Running Festival

It’s not too often you have to content with ponies on the course in a race but that’s part of the beauty of the New Forest Running Festival. Over the course of two days there are six events to take part in ranging from 10k to 50k. The OH challenged himself to three half marathons in three weekends, of which this was the last. We’d run Surrey together, I marshalled last week and although tempted by another half, I’m still trying to be sensible so signed up with the 10k instead.

My Tough Mudder experience is still vivid in my memory as I cowered in the car praying for the hail to stop. If it hadn’t I almost certainly wouldn’t have run and that would have been a mighty shame. As the weather downgraded from “filthy” to “miserable” the 100 or so 10k’ers huddled in the tea tent to listen to the briefing before being led up to the pub at the top of the road, not for a warming brandy but for the race start… a sort of 3-2-1-GO! Die-hard cross-country runners, average Joe’s and one delightfully enthusiastic cani-x stormed off.

Keeping warm with a hot chocolate and three layers between races
An out and back along the main road ensured we hit the distance and gave us a good idea of what was yet to come… hills. I’m not much for hills. I am one for scenery though and this race has it in buckets, if you can remember to look around every now and again and trust your foot won’t find a rock or dip. It reminded me of summer runs with my old run club and having forgotten my Garmin I decided to just enjoy it. I wasn’t likely to get a PB on this sort of terrain so I let myself walk some of the tougher inclines but enjoyed being able to power up most of them. As I’ve often found in smaller events, there was a lovely sense of camaraderie amongst the runners and as the weather finally decided to settle at “glorious” with blue skies and sunshine it was all the more enjoyable. There were no race markers on our route (or water stations that I saw for that matter) so I had no idea how far I had run or what my pace was like at any point until mile 5 when the lady next to me announced that we only had one mile to go. Surely not? I honestly felt as though we were only half way round. The joys of running free. The last half a mile was all downhill and as we passed the pub I was challenged to beat the guy I’d just passed. A sprint finish ensued, down the dirt track path and into the finishing field. I didn’t beat him but I finished with a grin.
OH crossing the line
Medal, water, banana and race time collected I sat in the car to keep warm for an hour before heading back to the finish line to cheer the OH home. A few ponies decided to venture onto the home straight and one even thought about crossing the finish line for a while. Thankfully no harm came to ponies nor runners. Each runner was congratulated over the line by the wonderful announcer and we happened to be present for the half marathon prize giving which was fun. The race and the day went all too quickly. 
No PB but a time and medal I'm very happy with
The races are organised by Naked Strength and your race entry (a reasonable £15 for 10k and £22 for half marathon distance) includes a tech t-shirt, medal and goody bag featuring a clif bar and sweatshop vouchers. Race HQ was at a campsite in the forest so facilities were clean and plentiful. Parking was a breeze, as was registration, and it was nice to pass the time browsing the sweatshop stall between races. I would definitely consider doing the 10k again, or maybe the half if I was feeling brave. Someone had completed the 50k, 20 miler AND half marathon over the weekend… with that gorgeous scenery I can understand why. A beautiful and slightly challenging event that’s got a lovely friendly vibe.
Different distances, same event, both happy


  1. Sounds like a beautiful race! It's really close to my brother, so maybe one to consider over a long weekend next year!

    1. I would definitely include it on my "should do it once" list of races. What's great is that it is such an inclusive event because you can choose your distance. I'd love to hear your view of it if you do decide to run next year :)