The West Wycombe Trails 10k is only in its second year, organised by the local Hazlemere Runners running club. Unfortuntely, I had to give it a miss last year as I had reached the halfway point in my pregnancy and I felt ready to put running on hold until after my son Alex was born. I was therefore very much looking forward to lacing up for it this June.
Although not an official club event, quite a few of us represented Marlow Striders at this race. I also spotted my friends Brie and Dom, and another lady called Jenny whom I used to work with a few years ago and whom I hadn’t seen for ages! It was nice to see so many familiar faces. My Hubby Simon kindly agreed to accompany me and babysit Alex whilst I was running. Little did he know that babysitting Alex was just going to be one of his duties on the day – as soon as the event organisers spotted him walking around with his huge, professional grade camera, Simon was ‘volunteered’ to be an additional event photographer! (I think that secretly he felt flattered).
It happened to be a really hot day, but luckily enough, the sun decided to hide behind the clouds, so we did not end up being ‘Sunday roast’. We started the event with a fun group warmup which was led by Leanne Wellings who I had met at my gym and who has recently launched her running coaching business and Nina Turner who used to teach bootcamp and Pilates classes at the same gym before going solo.
The first mile of the race was run in the grassy park itself, giving us a tour of the picturesque grounds. West Wycombe Park has always been one of my favourite National Trust places in the local area – it is known as one of the most beautiful English country houses and has been the Dashwood family’s home for over 300 years. Set in 45 acres of landscaped park, the house has frequently featured in TV series and movies such as Downton Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Little Dorrit and The Duchess. Moreover, Paloma Faith videod a few scenes here for her hit song ‘Picking Up The Pieces’.
This aforementioned first segment in the park included a ‘bottleneck’ whereby we had to run up a small, makeshift bridge over a big puddle of water; however, some people who wanted to get ahead chose to dive into the water instead. Personally, I hate running in wet socks, so I chose the bridge instead. Shortly after leaving the park with thighs as heavy as a cannonball due to running in tall, untamed grass, I came to face the first big hill as our next punishment!
The real challenge was the terrain itself – I have done many hilly races recently, so the constant ups and downs did not come as a shock to my legs, however, nothing had prepared me for running in so much tall grass and constantly needing to put the brakes on on the insanely steep downhills to prevent myself from taking a tumble! Take this as a warning – if you have problems with your ankles and knees, you may want to sit this one out. Otherwise, prepare yourself for some breathtaking views over the surrounding hills and the iconic Wycombe Wanderers Football Stadium! I am not sure how much of the route was through private property, but I definitely want to return and explore more trails in the forest here.
During the run we saw a few horse-riders on the bridleways, it turns out West Wycombe is a popular area for horse riding. A friendly marshal was holding up a ‘free power up’ cartoon drawing around halfway into the race that we could high five at as we were running past her. This put a big smile on my face and I managed to pick up the pace again.
Descending back into the park for the final stretch was a real highlight, as we whizzed past the giant equestrian sculpture which had been erected as the focal point of a long tree lined vista from the house. As soon as I reached the bottom of this hill, I caught a glimpse of Simon holding Alex and a couple of Striders who had already finished. Seeing them made me smile, until I had to grit my teeth again a moment later as I came to face the final grassy hill just before the finish line… I dug deep and used up the last drop of energy in my tank to tackle the monster ahead. Somehow I managed a sprint finish, keeping my friend Brie in my sight all along as my moving target (she was about 200m ahead of me throughout the race). I was ready to collapse just before the finish line which also happened to be slightly uphill, had Becky from my running club not challenged me to push on! Becky and I had been running alongside each other and playing ‘catch me if you can’ during the race so it was nice to finish together. She told me she had doubted she could have run as fast as she did without glueing herself onto me – it was a nice feeling to have been able to help someone run a good time. I really went all out which was a bold (or probably a silly) move just a week before my next ultramarathon challenge which is going to be at the Jurassic Coast down in Devon. (Thankfully, I did not develop any niggles after this race).
On the whole, I can wholeheartedly recommend this trail race for those who enjoy scenic runs and want to up their running game on the testing hills and surfaces. But definitely not to be used up as a ‘warm up’ just before an ultra 😉
When would be your final run before a key race? Would you take time off to rest completely or keep the running engine warm like I did at this race?