Monday, 27 June 2016

Event Review : Forest Five

It's rare that I get nervous before races these days, yet all day I had butterflies in anticipation. The distance wasn't new to me, nor was the event (having run it a couple of times a few years back). What was new to me was running as part of a club. I'd joined Bracknell Forest Runners back in April but with only one social run under my belt and a brand new, unworn club t-shirt, I'd never really known what it felt like to be part of something so much bigger. Would I be shunned because I'd not been to track night? Would I feel as though I'd done the club colours justice?

The Forest Five is Bracknell Forest Runners' own event, open to all, of course, but I'd say it was pretty much the highlight of the race calendar for the club. It's a five mile run around Swinley Forest, always on a Wednesday night in June. So of course I had all day to get nervous. Thankfully I had work to keep me occupied. Normally I have PT clients on a Wednesday night but as it was a quieter evening and I knew so many people also taking part, I rescheduled appointments just so that I could run. And it was well worth the effort.
Club photo, pre-race
By 6:30pm I was on site, number pinned to my t-shirt, citronella oil strategically dabbed on hems and trainers. Hellos and hugs were dealt out to the myriad of people I discovered I knew running, including my RunFitUK girls, Ellie and Ian of Barnes Fitness, members of Box Bell Fit and of course, fellow club members. It was a warm, dry evening, the bugs were out in full force and there was a huge turn out. All set to be a great event.
I believe there was some sort of pre-race briefing but I couldn't hear it above the babble in the crowd. The starting horn was audible, though, just... The route had changed somewhat since I last ran, with the start in a different place and a long gentle uphill drag for the first few hundred meters. It was all pretty cramped to start off, but as ever, the field spread out eventually, with only minimal jostling around puddles, tree roots and muddy bits. There were plenty of (encouraging) marshals and no opportunities to take a wrong turn. A pretty, varied and fun course.
The surface underfoot varied from gravelly, hard packed trail, sand, undulating and downright hilly in places. There was The Hill, which actually seemed smaller than I remember from previous years, and of course where there's up, there's down and downhill I'm good at so I was able to pick up a few places there. I hadn't *intended* to race, but my legs felt good and I felt duty bound to stay ahead of as many of my RunFit girls as possible. What made a huge difference was the support. I started to realise that being part of a club is a bit magical. Those shouts of "come on Bracknell" suddenly applied to me! That was me they were cheering on. Other club runners gave words of encouragement as they passed me or I passed them and I endeavoured to do the same. One guy kept overtaking me, then I'd overtake him... I didn't beat him to the finish but it was great trying to push each other a little more.
The roar coming in to the finish was just fantastic and I made sure that I gave as good as I got when I finally caught my breath enough to shout others over the line. In previous years there was no medal given out, nor a goody bag, just water, a banana or mars bar and possibly some sort of memento. Times have changed, however, and this year there was a bespoke, eco-friendly wooden medal on offer, each one slightly different and one that I'm just as proud of as the super shiny, beasts of medals from the likes of Cakeathon. There was also a goody bag containing the obligatory water and mars bar, but also foot soak salts and granola - useful stuff!
It was one of the most enjoyable races I've done in ages. The support, the camaraderie, that atmosphere... it's a greta distance to race and the location is just brilliant. I'm a long-time fan of mid-week, evening races anyway and having this on my doorstep... well I feel very lucky. The icing on the cake was a course PB with a Garmin reading of 46:09!

Thank you to everyone who made the event possible, to everyone who shouted encouragement at me and especially to Dean for taking some great photos and making me run quicker. I'll get my own back soon enough.

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