Last week, as the Husband and I drove through our future home-town of Marlborough, we noticed a banner on some railings advertising a trail half-marathon – the Temple Trail Half Marathon. I’m very definitely not in half-marathon shape but I saw when googling that there was also a 5-miler, named the Tiny Temple. I could do that. I could run it hard. I might not get a great result but I’ve been dying to dip my toe into the British running community, so I signed up. Bearing in mind it was only 14 quid, the Husband signed up too.
The race website said rather cutely that it was ‘5-ish’ miles. Two days before, we got an email saying that all the recent rain had made some trails impassable so they’d rerouted and now it was 7 miles. They hoped we’d enjoy the bonus miles and see them as extra value for money. The Husband went a little pale at 7 miles but we’re always up for bonus miles!!
That was pretty much all we knew about the race – there was no route map, no aid station details, no elevation guide. All we knew was to be at the rugby club for a 10.30 start, it would be hilly and muddy and that we’d get a medal and a buff.
My goals for the race were:
- No time goal. This was a given, bearing in mind that we had no idea how long the race was or what the elevation profile was like.
- To use this race as my speedwork for the week.
- To run my socks off – I just wanted to run as hard as I could for the duration. As I get older, I’m finding that I’m more bothered that I’m simply giving as much as I can and running as hard as I can than I am about my finishing time.
- To explore some of the trails in our new town. I’ll be doing as many local races as I can, simply to get to know our new patch.
So we turned up at Marlborough Rugby Club at 10am ready to run. Marlborough Common was packed with people being active – loads of kids playing rugby, some kids playing footie and about 100 people ready to run. We used the loos in the nice, warm rugby club, left our warm layers in the car and braved the cold for the race briefing. It was a blooming chilly morning – we are definitely not hardened Brits yet. We saw loads of people in shorts and t-shirts or singlets, one brave woman was wearing just a sports bra and shorts. I huddled into my lightweight jacket and shivered.
One key thing about the British running community seems to be the strong club system. We saw a lot of people wearing running club singlets – the Royal Wooten Basset Hounds were fielding an enormous team, but we didn’t see anyone wearing a shirt from the Marlborough Running Club, which we’ll be joining as soon as we move house. People were really friendly as we huddled together for warmth. And before we knew it, we were off.
The first half a mile or so was on a little lane with what seemed like a slight downhill. We were running quite fast to warm up but it was fun. We branched off onto a gravel road which followed the Marlborough Gallops for a good few miles – there are several racehorse training gallops in the area. It was fairly flat and nice and wide, so we spread out and ran steadily. My first mile was about 8.30 which was really too fast, especially for the Husband, who immediately slowed down to pace himself better. I felt okay, so I pressed on. There were a lot of fast runners out there today! Both the Husband and I were surprised at how fast everyone seemed! Maybe we’re just slowing down.
The half-marathoners and Tiny Temple runners split just after M2 and we ran up a long, steady hill. It wasn’t steep but I really struggled up it as it was so long. I was grateful when, at the top, we turned onto more gravel road with a steady downhill for a while.
After a mile or so, we branched off onto trail. There was a stretch of muddy field and then a muddy, slippery, super-narrow path between walls of stinging nettles. I was fairly close behind a lady whilst we were on the road – I lost a lot of time being cautious on the trail because when I looked up, she was gone. The remainder of the race was pretty much entirely on trail. The last two miles had nearly all the hills in it, including two short and steep little numbers. The second one, at M6, was so steep I decided to hike it. As I got to the top, I heard a Mockingjay whistle and looked behind to see the Husband at the bottom. Damn, I thought, I’ve running on fumes now, he’s going to beat me, this is the day I stop being the fastest runner in the family.
I ran that last half-mile as fast as I could but it felt painfully slow and I was constantly waiting for the Husband to breeze past me. I headed into the finishing chute and glanced behind me but there was no sign of him. Crossed the line! Woohoo.
In the end, I ran 6.7 miles in 1.02. I was happy with the effort, I couldn’t have run it any harder, but I was a little disappointed at a 9.10 average pace. When I looked at my splits, most of the miles were under 9 minute miles, but the hills in the last mile or so really slowed me down. All in all, I was pretty happy with it, especially given recent cake and curry consumption.
The Husband came in about a minute later, he’d really faded in the last half-mile. (Phew!) He was pleased with his run too.
Ironically, I didn’t see much of the beautiful countryside we ran through. I was watching my footing for a lot of it, and the skies were grey and dull. But it was really pretty when I did look up!
Race loot included a medal and a buff (always useful), and there were bacon & egg sandwiches for carnivores and cups of tea for everyone in the rugby club to warm up! We changed into warm clothes and went for lunch at my new favourite Marlborough cafe, The Food Gallery!
We really enjoyed the event – I’ll definitely look for other Cadence Events races again! Really happy we got to race today. Britain, we’re back!