This weekend I had a lot of fun running the Shillington Shuffle Marathon as a training run in preparation for my longer events early next year. Organised by the Beds, Bucks and Northants branch of the Long Distance Walkers’ Association, this event is always sold out, with a mix of runners and walkers completing 26, 18 or 12 mile courses.
The event started from Barton-le-Clay Village Hall on a cold, crisp and bright morning. As with many LDWA events, you just clocked out when you were ready to go, so I set off at about 08:50, with the sun shining brightly as I ran through the beautiful Barton Hills Nature Reserve. The ground was initially a bit muddy and slippery, but this was actually the only really muddy part of the route, which was generally very dry for this time of year.
There was a steep climb to reach the top of the Barton Hills, but it was worth it for the beautiful views as we ran along the top! It was very much a race of two halves, with a hilly first half winding its way up and down the edge of the Chilterns, before a much flatter second half through farmland.
The first few miles passed quickly with wonderful views to admire and I was soon at the first checkpoint in Lilley Memorial Hall and confronted by the usual amazing LDWA spread!
From here the scenic views continued as we followed lovely long distance walking trails such as the Chiltern Way, John Bunyan Trail and Icknield Way to reach the second checkpoint in Pirton after almost 12 miles. As well as the fabulous views, I was able to admire the stunning mix of autumnal colours everywhere.
After Pirton, the character of the route changed and involved following field boundaries and crossing farmland linking a series of villages. The landscape here was pleasantly rolling and I was relieved that the dry weather meant the arable fields were not too muddy.
Through the final checkpoint at Meppershall and I felt very strong with only about 7 miles remaining. The route from here to the finish was quite fiddly, requiring close attention to the route description, but I only made one small error, going about 20m past a turning before realising my mistake and backtracking quickly.
I started to pick up the pace a bit and ran strongly to the end, finishing in 5 hrs 10 minutes, feeling very comfortable and even running a negative split (running the second half faster than the first half). It has given me a lot of confidence in my fitness level as my training peaks before the Spine Challenger race.
All in all it was a very enjoyable day out and a lovely event. One of the best aspects of LDWA events is that they are run by locals who pick the routes to really showcase the best of the local area and this was most definitely the case here. No wonder so many of those taking part come back year after year!