Fairlands Valley Challenge

Well yesterday was a milestone with marathon number seven. I now have less races to do than I have done, which is a great feeling. The Fairlands Valley Challenge is organised by the Fairlands Valley Spartans AC and has been running for a number of years. Similar to the Cheltenham event last month this is a trail run but whereas Cheltenham had route markers (for all the good they did me) this was a completely self-navigated route. Several distances were available, both for walkers and runners, with each being a slightly different route so following someone else was not a good idea unless they were on the 26 mile course!! The instructions however were very clearly written with enough detail for you to orient yourself with landmarks along the way. You did have to keep track of where you’d got up to though as trying to subsequently find your place in the list was quite a task. We were also given maps but apart from occasionally using it to get a rough idea of how far round I was I pretty much relied entirely on the written instructions.

As with Cheltenham, you had a route card to be stamped at each checkpoint (which were also water/feeding stations) and you could effectively turn up and start at your leisure but they did have two organised mass starts, one at 9:30 for walkers and one at 10:30 for runners, which was the preferred option to make the timekeeping easier. After a few miles everyone seemed to settle into similar paced groups, which helped with the navigation and encouragement. This time around I managed to stay on course 100% and each checkpoint distance was almost spot-on with what my Garmin was telling me. The checkpoints were almost like mini cafes with a selection of sweets, biscuits and homemade bread pudding! as well as water & squash. This time around I didn’t stop the watch for the checkpoints so my time of 4h 43m was total time out on the route which is an improvement on last month. This was mainly due to the terrain being much more “runnable” as it used a lot of byways, bridleways and tracks that allowed us to keep the pace up – with the inevitable stop-start every so often to read the map etc…

I found this to be a very well organised event and one I would certainly do again. The free barbecue at the end was definitely a welcome sight after crossing the line too!

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About thearchitect

Enterprise Architect and self-confessed techno geek.
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