I was planning to take part in a cross-country cycling event on Exmoor but travel plans went awry. With the weekend now free, I decided to enter the Angels 10k on a bit of a whim (a bit like wanting to hum The Lion Sleeps Tonight… it’s just a whim away… yes, I have my coat on standby).
This race is run from the village of Ashleworth (using the cricket club as its HQ) and along some nice quiet back lanes. It’s not exactly flat: there is quite a stiff climb (for a road 10k, that is!) just prior to the halfway point and the second half is a bit undulating. So I was informed.
There was a reasonably generous club turnout on what was a rather breezy morning. I contemplated over the number of layers I’d want to wear, decided on vest only (plus shorts..!) and wrapped myself up in a convenient curtain as a rather bizarre warm-up whilst waiting for the call to make our way to the start.
We walked the 100 or so metres to the start where I had to navigate my way along the verge to get myself to the correct end of the group (namely, nearer the back) and was savagely ambushed by stinging nettles. Rubbing ones lower leg and trying not to cry like a toddler is less than ideal preparation.
Once we were off, and immediately navigating a gentle descent though the village, I managed to forget all about the stinging leg and focus instead on easing into a ‘comfortable’ pace. With a trail marathon just a week away I was conscious that I did not want to pull, tear or even slightly inconvenience anything; I was aiming for comfort.
We ran into the breeze for the first three and a half kilometres before turning left. With high hedges, the breeze was immediately gone and it instantly felt quite warm. I was quite thankful for the one-layer decision, made earlier.
Not much further along, we encountered the hill that I had been informed about. It was sufficient an incline to shed off some pace (one or two runners around me reverted to walking) and increase the breathing towards near-panting level.
We crested the rise and were greeted by the water station. As a bonus, it was manned by on-the-spot volunteer Dave Chittock (who had simply come along to watch and found himself roped into handing out cups). One cheery smile and a few words of encouragement put a spring in my step, which lasted all the way to the next incline.
The second portion of the race was a little undulating. Nothing as severe as the ‘hill’ but noticeable nonetheless. At one point (roughly 7k in) I was descending towards a junction where we would turn left, took a look across where I wold be heading, saw a couple of heads bobbing above the hedge-line, clearly going upwards, and silently let loose a curse.
Towards the end I observed that we were re-joining the road we had exited the village on. It didn’t take me long to work out that (i) we had descended through the village and (ii) were now running in the opposite direction. Time to grit ones teeth.
Fortunately we did not have to ascend the entire way, as we were shepherded onto a path which led directly back into the cricket club and the finish. There was no sprint finish for me, and a time unworthy of writing home about, but that lends itself more to my approach to the race than to the course itself.
We were greeted by fellow finishers and took a collapsible bottle as a race momento. Undulating this 10k may be, but it is a great run, well managed, well supported, and I was quite happy with my spot decision, made just days earlier, to enter.