This morning, the Husband and I ran the Avebury 8. This is a local trail race put on by the Marlborough Running Club, of which I have been a proud, enthusiastic member for two whole weeks! It starts and finishes in the tiny village of Avebury, which is home to a really spectacular and important neolithic henge and goes out on a figure-8 around the beautiful, rural, surrounding countryside. The route was revamped a few years ago and now the distance is just over 9 miles…but the name Avebury 8 remains.
My training had been…okay. I’d done lots of distance and several hill sessions (every single run these days is basically a hill session) but I wasn’t feeling particularly fit. In addition, my mental game on race morning wasn’t very strong. It’s been FREEZING cold this past week – the forecast at the race start was only 2 degrees C and I struggled to muster enthusiasm to run and race, even though I’d been really excited in the run-up. In addition, I’d run too much this week; there had been the opportunity to run with a new friend and the opportunity to go to parkrun and my legs just felt heavy. So mentally, my game wasn’t great.
We parked at the house of a friend from the Dude’s school – she was running too – and walked to the race HQ. Parking is a contentious issue in Avebury due to the sensitivity of the land so it was good to have that as an option but there was plenty of parking for racers either in the National Trust car-park (if you’re a member) or at the Social Club which was Race HQ.
The Social Club was warm and buzzing – we picked up our numbers, enjoyed the hot and cold drinks available for donations, bumped into Nick from the Shrewton Running Club and I dropped off the pumpkin bread I’d made for the post-race cake-fest. There were a few trips to the loo (nice, warm indoor loos), and then we joined all the runners walking the 10 minutes to the race start in Avebury village. I saw a lovely girl I’d met up with last week to run with and said hi to a lady I’d ‘met’ on Instagram (as you do). E’s husband was there to very kindly take our warm layers whilst we raced. There was sadly no national anthem, just a muffled encouragement from the race director…and we were off!
I don’t know the area well so can’t describe the actual places we ran but I know we first headed up Windmill Hill. The climb was steady and very runnable but the terrain was rutted and muddy, so I just settled down and tried to find a pace that was faster than a usual run but was sustainable for 9 miles in the mud. We plunged into a wood at some point and down a slippy hill and a VERY slippy path through the trees. The Husband flew past me (he was very keen to beat me today) but I knew he didn’t have the endurance I had, so I let him go and tried to just run my own race.
We ran into the open air again, up hill and into a wide, ploughed field. It was solid mud which sucked at my shoes and slowed me (and everyone) down. When we came off the field onto trail again, everyone wore two heavy, brown mud-boots which weighed a ton and took a long time to be shaken free.
At last we turned left, down a hill, and I passed the Husband for the final time. The trail was decent so I pressed on and we even ran a short stretch of blissfully paved road into Yatesbury. From then, we climbed again on a muddy trail, ran back through the mud-fest of the woods and out onto a beautiful field. The winter sun was slightly warmed, the grass was soft and the route ran downhill and it was gorgeous.
The final stretch was tougher – flat muddy fields for a mile or so, with at least 5 stiles to climb over; some were slippery and rickety but I appreciated the breather they gave me. I ran back through Avebury village and across the sports field and happily crossed the finish line in 1.33.
E’s little daughter ran across to show me where my puffy jacket was stowed and snuggled in my jacket, I went back to cheer as E crossed the line a few minutes later and then the Husband a minute after that!
The Social Club was warm and welcoming (although everyone was asked to take off their filthy muddy trainers at the door so it smelt a little ‘cheesy’). There was plentiful cake (for a donation to the Wiltshire Air Ambulance) and hot tea and coffee, and all finishers got a beautiful ceramic mug from a local pottery instead of a medal. It’s a big, American-sized beast and is already a favourite in our family!
I feel a bit ‘meh’ about my own race. I never felt like I was running and racing well, it was bit of a slog for me despite the beautiful views and bright sunshine. My time was okay but I would have liked to have done a bit better. At least I beat the Husband, eh?
All in all, this was a great morning out. I’m biased but the Marlborough Running Club did a great job organising the event – the marshals were cheerful and encouraging throughout and they must have been FREEZING! My garmin came in at 9.17 miles, the Husband’s was a little different but it’s roughly 9.1 miles. Next year, as part of the club, I’ll be volunteering at the race, and I’m already looking forward to it. I’m also looking forward to that cake spread again.
One thing that struck me today was how much progress we’ve made in this past month in terms of settling into our new lives. I’ve worked hard reaching out to local runners on the internet and in real life, I’ve joined the friendly running club and the Husband was staggered at how many people I knew to say hi to today. It’s early days, but I definitely came away feeling like we’re starting to make progress here and that was really lovely.