Race Review: New Forest 20 Miler

So Sunday was my last 20 mile training run. I would normally do this with my friend Stu but he has gotten himself injured and has had to pull out of Manchester 😦. Another friend who I run long runs with, whose training for London, was running this race so I thought I’d join him rather than running alone, another friend Paul joined us as well.

So sign up was nice and easy online and it was nice to have the option on whether I wanted a t-shirt or not, price difference £5.

So Dave, Paul and I set off early morning with a definite chill in the air. I realised mid journey that I had forgotten my watch 😠 but thought “well its just a training run and I’ll run alongside Dave and he can keep me informed on splits and distance for fuelling”.

Parking was excellently organised by the local Army Cadets and registration was nice and simple with gift bags provided beforehand. Gift bag included some etixx energy gels and isotonic drink mixes, t-shirt and buff; a nice little coup.

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It was even colder in the New Forest than at home and I regreted not bringing a baselayer but I had my new buff so I put that on with great hast!!!

We met at 09:15 under the tipee tent for the race brief which was excellently delivered in a light hearted fashion but got the important points across well.

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As it was so cold I avoided the normal mile warm up and instead just did a gentle jog to the start and a few dynamic stretches. The field was very small with only about 90 runners.

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I didn’t have a race plan as such as was treating this very much as a training run. The course was a 2 lap 10 mile course through trail, bridleways and a bit of road. My plan was to run a steady 7m/mi on the first 10 miles and then up it to 6:40 for the remaining half.

Now I stupidly thought when it said undulating that ‘this is the New Forest it’s relatively flat it’s probably just a few mild ups and downs’ how do very stupid of me!!!

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As you can see this was more than mild, not hilly by any means but certainly not what I expected….oh stupid me!

So we lined up outside of the Red Shoot pub and was given a motivating speech and then sent upon our way.

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You head down the road before a small incline and then a left turn takes you onto a trail and you’re upon a small hill.

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The rest, well the rest is idyllic trees and heath. Surprisingly Paul dropped off straight away and we didn’t see him again until the finish, which was a surprise as he’s a strong runner but he wasn’t happy with the cold. I ran with Dave for the first 3 miles having a good chat but then all those trees looked like they needed watering so I jumped of track and did my bit for nature. I then slowly chased down Dave, taking a gel at mile 5 (complete guess but actually spot on). I caught him just before mile 6 and we continued our chat. There are quite a few gates along the route and I think we made quite a few people laugh along the route with our over gentlemanly manners, taking turns to open the gates for one another.

I saw a few comments on other reviews about the car noise from the A31 but you hardly heard anything other than a gentle buzz of traffic for about a mile.

When you get to about mile 8/9, you hit some sweet tarmac for about a quarter of a mile and it’s then you realise how lovely tarmac is to run on and then you’re back on the trail.

Dave’s watch beeped for 10 miles and we were no where near the start line, it was then we realised that this course was a bit over, 1.1 miles over on the entirety to be exact. I took another gel at this point.

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The start of the 2nd lap was quite amusing as some ponies decided to slow us down by cutting across the road just as we were passing so quick manoeuvring was required.

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I picked it up slightly as planned and move slightly ahead of Dave, it was now that I became frustrated not having my watch as couldn’t judge my pace with the undulations and so on. I took another gel at mile 15 and tried to pull in the 1st lady. She seem to struggle on the hilly sections and I was able to pass her about mile 17/18. Fair play to her though as she then reeled me in on mile 19 and used the slight descent to pass me. I did consider taking it to her but this wasn’t my race and I just tried to stay behind her. She ran those last two miles fantastically, really pushing hard and pulled away from me,  I closed the gap again on the hill near the end but she had created too much gap and finished 20 seconds in front. I spoke to her at the end and congratulated her on running brilliantly, to run that course at 6:45 m/mi is very impressive!

Overall this is a very scenic run, friendly and well organised race. With a smaller field it was important to be well signposted and marshaled at key points and they did this excellently. I hope they try to tweak the course slightly so it’s 20 miles on the nose.

The negatives are that it’s a loop, I knew that going into it thus race but the second lap became a bit boring especially as I ran alone for most of it because of the small field.

If you’re a beginner and running solo this race isn’t for you. If you’re running with friends or perhaps an experienced runner then give this event a go as it’s friendly, challenging and a good warm up in marathon season.

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