Hills and thrills at the Bradenham Bolt 10k

The Bradenham Bolt 10k has always been one of those races that I haven’t paid much attention to, as being something right on my doorstep…How wrong I was not to give it a go until this year! It has been a wonderful opportunity to explore the ancient beech woodland and chalk flower meadows around the picturesque Bradenham Manor and West Wycombe Estate which I consider my home turf.

The event is organised by the National Trust and this year all the money raised from the proceeds was going to the conservation of this area which has become a home for some extremely rare and endangered butterflies in the UK. Ironically, I don’t even like butterflies, but it sounds like a great cause, and I’m all for running ‘miles that matter’.

Off we go!
Some excited doggies taking the lead

What makes this event unique amongst all similar cross-country races is that you don’t only need to navigate your way through muddy, slippery and steep trails, but you also get to encounter various obstacles as you zigzag your way through the woods and get to the finish line. There are three different tree log hurdles that spice things up a bit in the forest, and last but not least, car tyres and a large hay bale staircase are the final punishment for the shattered runners just before they can get across the finish line. Being able to stay on your feet without taking a tumble somewhere is an achievement in itself, and no doubt, you will need to work hard to earn that medal at the end.

Tree log obstacles – the first of three, all spaced out differently
This must have been fun for the dogs!

The event was also open to canicross runners, so the race village was buzzing with some very excitedly barking doggies. On this challenge I was joined by three friends – Emma from my running club; my friend Brie, and Lisa from my church running club. My hubby Simon also came to support me, bringing Alex along in a sling. It’s been really nice to have them with me at some of my races this year – I am hoping that when Alex is older, he will grow to love running as much as Simon and I do.

We were very lucky with the weather – after days of grottiness and rain, we finally woke up to a dry, albeit cloudy and dull morning. I was feeling quite shattered the day before so I spent the whole of Saturday resting and ‘lounging’, as far as mum duties allowed me to… I wasn’t sure how I was going to get on in the race, as I wasn’t feeling particularly energetic. Looking at the first big hill that was waiting for us just after crossing the start line did not fill me with much confidence, either!

I started the run with Lisa, however, I pulled away from her at the first hill as I was starting to feel much better and life was returning into my body as my heart rate was going up. (Maybe I just needed a killer hill to shock my body into functioning again!) Shortly after getting through the first hill, I managed to catch up with and overtake Brie. Emma remained slightly behind all of us, wanting to take things easy before her next key ace. I was feeling really strong and attacked the trails and obstacles as hard as I could manage, whilst navigating the sharp turns, the four-legged competitors, the slippery chalk on the steeper segments, and that final, ‘delicious’ hill with the finish line in sight. Just over half of the route was in the woods, after which we emerged back into the fields again, offering some stunning views over the surrounding countryside. It was also an opportunity for the spectators and supporters to spot the runners; Simon shouted some encouragements at me as I was whizzing past him about 2km before the finish. Seeing him and Alex gave my legs a fresh boost of energy which came in handy on the aforementioned final big hill.

I was just about to declare defeat on this hill when I heard Brie yell some encouragements at me from the other side of the hedge leading to the foot of this beast. I felt too embarassed then give up, so I shifted my focus onto quickening my stride as I was huffing and puffing my way up to the top. Here, I spotted a group of horses curiously measuring me up.

One smaller hill later (which slightly took me by surprise), I reached the hay bale obstacles – without hesitation, I threw myself over these. I then literally flew through the finish line with Simon and Alex smiling at me on the side. One of the best finishes I have ever had in a race! I was rewarded with a nice wooden medal, which Alex immediately started using as a teething toy after I took him into my arms (so that Daddy could have a yummy hot dog from the catering van).  

Hungarian Vizsla dogs are apparently great trail running companions
That badass feeling once you manage to climb to the top…
Almost there…

After cheering my friends through the finish line and posing for a photo together, we headed back home to have a lovely roast lunch with the family. Overall, I loved the race and the random obstacles, the great support on the course, and last, but not least, the scenery. My official time and positioning was texted to me fairly quickly after the event by Sports Systems who supplied the timing chips. One negative is that neither the full set of results, nor the race photos from this year were published by the organisers on their website and social media channels at the time of writing this article, which is more than a week after the event, so I am using photos from the previous year to illustrate this blog post. Therefore, I have no idea what my 64th place finish means! This has been one of my strongest trail runs this year so I should be pleased with how far I have come since I got back into running after giving birth, regardless of my actual finishing position in the pack.

Proudly posing with my medal, with Emma and Brie (Lisa missing)

Do you like to do races on your doorstep or do you prefer to venture out further afield to explore new trails?

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