I submitted an entry for the Festive Forest race organised by Positive Steps at the last possible minute. My marathon plans for the previous weekend had been derailed by a stinking cold and I was desperate to get out and enjoy the atmosphere of an organised event, having not raced since the Lakeland 100 in July. I had had a great time blasting round the 10km race here last year (there is also a half marathon distance available) and so decided to use this event in King’s Forest near Bury St Edmunds as a training run with company!
The morning of the event dawned to glorious weather; cold and sunny with just a hint of low lying atmospheric mist still lingering. The event centre at West Stow Country Park was full of excited runners stamping cold feet and breathing great plumes of smoke into the cold air as we waited for the race brief. A few instructions about the course and the fantastic news that £5,500 had been raised for St Nicholas’ Hospice and we were set off bang on time.
I had positioned myself in the middle of the field, anticipating that with the 10km and half marathon starting at the same time there would be plenty of other runners going quicker than me, but unfortunately I was still a bit far back. This lead to a frustrating opening 5 minutes trying to squeeze past slower runners and walkers on the initial narrow path, but thankfully before long we were onto a wider track and I could get into a better rhythm. I settled into an easy pace and enjoyed the early morning views of the forest as we made our way around the initial 10km loop. The ground underfoot was dry and the terrain made for very easy going, other than the odd track that had been churned up by forestry operations and the slightly muddy approach back into West Stow Country Park.
After the first 10km loop we passed through a checkpoint at the event centre, before heading out to complete two loops of a separate circuit to finish the 20 mile course. I had now warmed up in the morning sun, so took the opportunity to leave my gloves in my bag at the checkpoint before continuing. My second lap passed uneventfully and it wasn’t long before I was again making my way around the lake at West Stow and back into the checkpoint.
Until now I had been very controlled in sticking to my planned normal long training run pace, but as I came out of the checkpoint for the second and last time, I started to feel a bit more competitive. I was feeling good and could see a few runners up ahead to target; however, I kept reminding myself that I had an orienteering competition the following day and I would certainly pay for pushing the pace. This internal conflict carried on for about a mile until the sensible side was over ruled and I decided to just enjoy my last lap, pick up the pace and see if I could catch a few people. So, off I went, skipping along, enjoying the faster pace and having great fun. It is always a great feeling to overtake people towards the end of a race if you have paced it well and others are going backwards! I had plenty left in the tank and actually completed my last lap 10 minutes quicker than my previous one!
I crossed the finish line feeling content with a great training session, but one with the bonus of a lovely medal at the end! There was then the opportunity to help myself to the fantastic spread laid on at the finish – cakes galore! Then home to try and recover for the following day’s orienteering (which went fairly well considering the miles in my legs from the day before; 11th on my course and 1st lady).
This is a super event, really well organised and friendly and I’m glad I had a chance to run it again this year. It has also provided a great confidence boost that my fitness is reaching a good level again in preparation for next year’s adventures!
(Photo by the race organisers, Positive Steps.)