Magical Bluebell Forest Run: Ibstone Circle 10k Race

The last Sunday of April 2019 appeared to be super popular for running races – it is not only the iconic London Marathon that took place that day, but also two local races to me: the Danesfield Dash 10k and the Ibstone Circle 10k. I had not got into the VLM through the ballot and I had run Danesfield twice already, so I ended up toeing up the start line at Ibstone Common on that cloudy morning.

The iconic common

I am always on the lookout for new races and I have to say that this small-ish and very friendly multi-terrain event near Stokenchurch did not disappoint! It was hard to believe it was only the second time they had organised that event.

A few weeks ago I ended up with posterior tibial tendon inflammation, following the completion of the Datchet Dashers 20 mile training run, so I have been making a cautious return to running and did not sign up for any more events in advance. Fortunately, the race organisers accepted entries on the day, which many other runners took advantage of as well. Those who wanted a shorter run had the option to register for the 5k distance which was a shortened version of the 10k loop. In addition, there was a 1k ‘fun run’ for kids as well.

At the start

What is special about this race is that it takes runners through a section of the picturesque Wormsley Estate which is not accessible to the public at any other time. The private estate is renowned for hosting a range of events, including SportsFest, concerts and  music festivals, outdoor cinemas, car rallies and cycling events.

Even though the first 2.5kms are fast and mainly downhill, make no mistake about the rest of the route! Shortly after leaving the paved road section at Wormsley Estate, runners are faced with the infamous Ibstone Kicker, a brutally steep hill, which puts every quad to the test. The route then turns and leads you out over an ancient field, across Ibstone Road and drops you down into Harecramp Valley. The route follows tracks through fields and woodland before climbing back up into the heart of the village. A brief descent into the beautiful Parsonage Woods brings you back onto Grays Lane, you continue up to the common and the finishing line at Race HQ.  

A beautiful day for racing!

The race exceeded all my expectations in terms of scenery: given the race takes place mid-spring, you will be rewarded with stunning displays of bluebells in the woods and clear views over the Chilterns countryside. The cherry on top is the impeccable organisation – there is plenty of free parking at the common; tons of well placed signage and lots of Marshalls directing you on the route, so it is impossible to get disoriented. All finishers are rewarded with a goodie bag and a cool medal. In addition, there is also tea, coffee, bacon rolls and lots of cake on offer to help you refuel after thrashing your legs on those gruelling hills.

I found out that apparently, there is also a crèche (situated at the school 1km away from the start line) which can be booked in advance for children aged 4-11. Alex is not old enough yet for the crèche (he was being looked after by his Daddy at home, whilst Mummy was running) but it is good to be aware of this option in the future. I wish more races offered this service; if I remember correctly, I have only seen a crèche at the Frieth Hilly  10k race which is another local gemstone for cross-country enthusiasts.

I feel I have done relatively well in the race; my PTT and ankle area were feeling perfectly fine so I was able to hit a challenging pace and unleash myself on the faster bits. As I mentioned before, the route is quite hilly, but the good news is that there are plenty of downhills and paved road sections as well which provide the perfect opportunity to give those tired legs some relief and pick up the pace again. Last, but not least, the trails are likely to be dry and firm under the foot at this time of the year, so you could get away wearing road shoes. I would have loved to finish within an hour but it wasn’t meant to be, I went over by 2 minutes. The main thing is that I was feeling great during the run and actually ended up feeling better physically after completing this testing race!

All in all, I can wholeheartedly recommend this beautiful and challenging event to all trail-lovers, it’s certainly going on my race planner for next year as well!

What is your favourite local race?

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