Race Review – Chiltern 50

If a future version of myself had time travelled back to this weekend 5 years ago it would find the 2015 version of Darren in the multiple queuing system of the Berlin marathon at the disused Templehof airport. The day before his first attempt at running 26.2 miles. And looking back I was worried about it. If the future me then said that 5 years later to the day I’d be completing my 49th marathon and above and my 14th 50K in two years I would probably forget that a future version of myself had just time travelled and materialised in Germany to focus on the ludicrous idea that I’d continue running after what I was about to do. But here we are… the proof is in the time travelling pudding.

And so here we are in the time of the coronavirus, and the global mismanagement of it by the governments of the world, not least ours. Much like going for a walk, shopping, or anything it’s a Question of comfort levels versus fear factor. How comfortable are you in the fact there is a very slim chance of getting the virus, and a slimmer chance of dying from it, if you follow simple rules. Versus the fear factor. No one wants to die. Regardless of the high pitched screaming of the British mainstream media outlets.

To the race, hamstrung by the local council following often conflicting messages from parliament, adhered to all the rules. It would be the biggest race I had run since the global pandemic, my fourth in 9 weeks. And by big I mean “large scale” 1100 runners and walkers

With start times spread over 4 hours, enough hand sanitizer to drown an elephant, and the threat of cancelled up to the 11th hour due to the local council being dicks.

And it nearly didn’t happen for me, after the hotel booked a cab that never turned up, and I had to ponce a lift from a couple of fellow runners who were staying there too, allowing me to get to…

Number 49 The Chiltern 50 26th September 2020

You had to show your bib or you couldn’t get into the race village. No guests. No supporters. No family. Slather yourself in hand sanitizer and then time for a Temperature check, and no not with a rectal thermometer, with laser thermometer. More hand sanitizer and then a one way system into bag drop. One way system for tea. The staff worried about the local council shutting them down and fining people. Apparently they were threatening to shut it down up the night before. Manned water tables. You couldn’t pick food or drink. Pens, literal pens this time for us to stay socially distant and mouths covered the whole time in our time slots. Red flags on the ground 2 metres apart for a long zigzag with 2 people at a time let go 10 seconds apart. It was a bit of a dance, a safe one though….

  • It is safe to run,
  • we can run if we want to,
  • we can leave your friends behind
  • Cause your friends don’t run and if they don’t run
  • Well they’re are no friends of mine

And to the race. A hilly Figure 8 with the first half infinitely hillier, but that doesn’t mean the second half was flat. It wasn’t by Any stretch of the imagination. There was a brief time in leafy Marlowe, a brief time in leafy Henley, and the rest was trail, trail, more Thames Path and then more trail.

After waiting in a socially distanced conga for about 5 minutes it was my turn to head out under the inflatable Ultra Challenges arch after having my barcode scanned and then was out across the first field, crossing a country lane and then taking the left route out and up into the woods, through fields, and then more climbs, the kind of climbs that have your holding your hips or your lower back and your trudge your way up, wishing you’d brought your hiking poles. A few muddy patches under the trees from recent rains, nothing to speak of really and my feet were hurting in my trail shoes. I should probably have gone for roads and will do next time out and before too long…

Long straights through fields, livestock, sheep, cows, more sheep, cows, one sheep, two sheep, three sheep…. Starts snoring….

A few more fields, and a stately home that would house a jousting contest later that day. Joust-a-minute? We are under the scrutiny of the council for an organised running event, you can’t see both grandparents, but the local toff can organise a jousting contest. Well, it has always been one rule for the ram tupping mumblecrusts and one for the rest of us.

Finally out and onto some road the On trail shoes were really beating me up. I’d worn them for soggy trail races before but the summer of 2020 has been largely dry so the ground was hard underfoot. And this was before the paths of Henley town, then the stone bridge and along the waterfront, the Thames, which seemed to be the dominion of local row teams.

He still smiles even though he is upset sometimes? Psychopath alert. I ran a bit from here, the crowd thinning, and to a weir, where we had to don face masks and go single file, zigzagging our way to the other side of the river, before a road crossing, two fields, one with escaping sheep, and just over 3 hours in…

The lumps

You started the second half of the figure 8 by going out the same way, taking the same two fields that brought you back to the race village, but then turning left and into farmland, rolling hills, bales of hay and hills upon hills upon hills…

Sheep next and a particular scary ewe that jus stared at me. The others moved off as the train of runners went through the field, but this one sheep, I made eye contact with and it just stared. I thought it was going charge me. That sped me up a bit, out of the fields, into the woods, tough sharp climbs, and then slow comfy descents in the forest all the way to…

The final checkpoint next, and a cup of tea and a kit kat, a sit down as my feet were now throbbing after some time on the suburban streets of Marlowe, before heading out into the crowded parks, and the Thamespath. I stopped at an ice cream van for a 99 flake, as you do, a fellow runner said it looked good, and it was. Hmmm, ice cream. And then it was dodging the crowds walking by the river, with signs telling us to put on face masks as we crossed foot bridges, before signs after saying it was optional. You do have to be careful. You cannot fully exercise with a face covering, even the World Health Authority says that is dangerous, you need oxygen going over bridge after bridge after…

The end was now in sight, I was on the river knowing that this was the final part before heading home. I heard from Jenni, who was running the 25K as her first race in goodness know how long, certainly her first of the year, and she had just finished. This geed me on as the weather briefly took a turn for the worse…

45K feels

And the last bit was simple, it was deju-vu, the 50K route rejoined the 25 at the weir, donning my face covering I walked across it then through an alley or two, then a couple of field, now with a sign of the gate to close it as there were 3 sheep that had escaped already, and then onto the final field and over the line, barcode scanned, medal and a tshirt collected and not handed to you, free prosecco and…

Lumpy as my grandma’s porridge it may have been, but the race gave me hope for the future. Forget that it was the 4th race in 8 weeks, my 49th towards bla bla bla, it was the largest race to date, well over a thousand people (I was 203rd, Jen was 55th in her race) social distancing and sanitation guidelines followed to the letter, everyone participating took it seriously. Yeah, it was well run. I hope the bigger races can now go ahead, as long as they follow the rules. We shall have to see. Until then though…

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE CHILTERN 50? Despite the cost I probably would

WOULD I RUN THE CHILTERN 50 AGAIN? It is extreme but maybe

Next up Run to the Sea

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