Friday, 17 June 2016

Event Review : Polesden Lacey 10k

One of the things I really wanted to do this year was to race at a National Trust property. I've been a member of the NT for years and admire the work they do. Heck I've even been on working holidays with them (although making cider and learning to surf and turf didn't really feel like "work"). The grounds of the properties they own and the swathes of countryside are stunning and it just seemed like a lovely thing to do, given the opportunity.

My friend and RunFitter, Rachel, took part in the Polesden Lacey 10k last year and hearing her description of the event, even with mention of the huge hill, was enough to get me signed up. Polesden Lacey is a National Trust property with a beautiful 1400 acre estate with stunning views across the Surrey Hills. It was owned from 1906 by the famous Edwardian hostess, Mrs Greville, who entertained royalty, politicians and the cream of society. The route takes in the grounds and some of the woodland walks that surround the house. The 10k only cost £18 which gets you a fine medal, chip timing and chocolate at the end of the race. There is also a 2k fun run for those who don't want to tackle the whole thing.
It was a grey and drizzly sort of morning as we set out to make the hour drive to the event. As we stepped out of the car I regretted my choice of attire; vest, shorts, thin long sleeved top. The wind bit through and I could feel the rain seeping through to my skin. A brisk walk to the shelter of registration tent to collect my number and then to the woods near the start line to eat a picnic breakfast. Overnight oats for me and mum, sausage sandwich for dad.
On the way we stopped at the Hoka tent to eye up the brightly coloured trainers. The guy there said that I could try a pair of trainers for the race so ignoring the rule of "no new things on race day" I promptly ditched my beaten up old Salomons and laced my feet into a bright new pair of hokas. After breakfast when I found Rachel and the rest of the Tool Station Posse (as we now call ourselves at RunFit) it didn't take much to persuade Rachel to try a pair too. So kitted out in fresh kicks and snazzy visors to keep the rain out of our faces we huddled into the crowd on the start line, bracing ourselves for "the hill".
It wasn't a huge event, around 400 people and so there wasn't too much jostling at the start. The route quickly lead out of the main grounds and into the woods. The terrain became progressively gravelly, then muddy, first down hill then up hill. For a mile. I am not ashamed to admit I broke and walked. My legs weren't fully recovered from the previous week's marathons and I'm not strong at hills at the best of times. Spirits refused to be dampened by the rain, although the trees offered respite from the down pour, and soon we were tackling another, shorter uphill through meadows back towards the property. The steps up and through the pagoda must have been someone's idea of a joke but the views before we turned into a dense wooded area were stunning, even in the rain. My legs found a sprint finish, thanks to the cheers from parents and friends.
Soaked to the skin and a time of 1:03:35 could have left me feeling deflated but instead I felt a sense of achievement and wellbeing. It was a joy to cheer Rachel over the line as she finished in a time 12 minutes faster than the year before. Well done! Medals and chocolate bars collected, hugs all round and tags snipped from our now not so new-looking trainers. Regrettably we did have to return the shoes but the consolation was that our own trainers were nice and dry!
So without further ado it was a quick dry and change and to the cafe where we partook of tea, cake and other various lunch items. If the sun had been out we would have stayed for a picnic and made a day of it, but alas, t'was not to be. We will be back though, to visit the property and to race again no doubt. We're also talking of trying a night run at another NT property in the autumn.

My thoughts? The marshals were all cheery and genuinely helpful, the organisation good, too few toilets but an excellent medal. The rout, although slightly challenging was not beyond most and very picturesque. Having the fun run was a great way to make it more of a family day out and an extra marque for shelter (mainly for spectators) would have been nice. I'm adding it to the list of "would do again" races.

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