Bassingbourn Belle 10 miler – 29th November 2015 by Jen

I entered this race with my off road cycling mates, Wendy and Catherine. We saw in this race an opportunity to redeem ourselves after our somewhat underwhelming performance in the 2015 Tour of the Cornfields. We had the same very modest goals – to not get lost and to actually finish this time, having done the ENTIRE course. Wendy had an additional personal goal to not come last which I thought was probably achievable, given that she is faster than me.

The race

The race takes place along a largely flat 10 mile course that takes the form of a figure of 8 with Bassingbourn Village College at the centre. It is mostly on quiet roads with about a mile and half of (very straight) off road running along the Icknield Way Path. After passing through Bassingbourn the second time you head out to Abington Piggots, after which you encounter the only noticeable hill on the way to Littlington. After a left, then a right, you have straight and trouble free run back to the finish line at Bassingbourn Village College.

The organisation

The race is not particularly well publicised – (a local race for local people?) – but there were runners there from clubs from March, Ely and Newmarket etc so it looks like the running bush telegraph works pretty well. The organisers have clearly worked hard to get local sponsors interested and involved. This, of course, means more in the way of proceeds to the official race charity, which this year was Tom’s Trust. The race is still small enough for race organisers Ashley and Kirsty Hawkins to be able to take a personal interest in race details and the well-being of runners and it showed. It’s a lovely, friendly, well organised, no hassle race. The Bassingbourn Sports Centre provides an excellent, comfortable base for getting changed and storing kit, with easy access to loos. The finish line was well stocked with Powerade and bananas and it was possible to get hot drinks. The race started on time and the marshals were LOVELY (see below).

On the day …

The weather was not ideal. November can deliver crisp, golden, light-filled days but this was not one of them. Above the Bassingbourn Sports Centre swirled ominous black clouds. Drizzle began to fall and a strong and freezing westerly wind was causing trees to creak and bend.

This of course created a number of clothing and kit dilemmas for an inexperienced fair weather runner like me. Tights or no tights? Running top under or over thermal layers? How many layers? I decide at the last minute that tights AND layers will be the order of the day, but feel a bit like the Michelin man as I head for the start. I look around at the very fit group of runners from lots of different East of England clubs and I am relieved to see that I am not the only one carrying a spare tyre. Yes, someone is carrying an ACTUAL spare tyre to raise money for a local charity. Crazy! (I am glad to say that I beat him – though not by as much as I would have liked!!)

Near the start I also spot a trio of Meridian TC men (Neil, Guy and Mr Stigwood) who, unlike me, all know their own minds when it comes to racing apparel. If it wasn’t for the gloves, they could have been heading for the beach – whereas I look set for an ice climbing expedition. Neil warns me I will be far too hot and questions whether the balaclava was actually needed (and he was right – by the time I get half way around I am carrying so much luggage that I look like a Sherpa for a mountaineering team). Neil also asks me why my MTC running top is hidden under so many layers where no one could see it! I tell him that the reasons for this shyness will probably be obvious in about two hours – and whether or not I stay incognito will depend very much on how my race is going …

Well it was a struggle, but I got around. I haven’t run 10 miles for a very long time (although I was pretty sure, based on a few longish training runs, I could go the distance). I was feeling pretty happy and optimistic at the two mile mark. But an old rowing injury chose that particular moment to come back and get me, and it then became a case of “one mile at a time”. I must pay tribute to the lovely marshals. Despite the foul weather and the awful conditions they were made to stand in, they were relentlessly smiling, encouraging and upbeat. That really helped me psychologically. The course was largely flat, for which I was grateful on the day. However, it was rather open and exposed in a lot of places and there were times I would have done anything to get out of the wind. The run into Abington Piggots was right into the teeth of the wind and I was barely moving at that point. It might have been quicker to crawl. The upside, I suppose, was that we were all pretty much blown back from Littlington to the finish line at Bassingbourn.

I was pleased to get around in under two hours. But my mates could see something was wrong straight away at the finish line from the way I was hunched over and I was dragged to the first aid tent and then to the sports massage people (who couldn’t really do much in the cold).

And so now the physio starts in earnest. Ugh! I am a bit sad about being injured again but of course I do not blame the race. If all goes well, I will enter this again next year and will do much better.

I just wanted to say a big CONGRATULATIONS to all the MTC members who did so well in very difficult conditions – Neil, Guy, Stig and Claire – well done. You are all such an inspiration! My good friends Wendy and Catherine did extremely well too and I have been nagging them on an almost daily basis to join the club. I will wear them down eventually.

My verdict

Course: 6/10. (Not bad but a bit flat and straight and open for my tastes – also, had a few too many near misses with cars coming in and out of drives, which is one of the hazards of timing the race to coincide with Church, I guess.)

Organisation: 9/10 (well done Ashley and Kirsty and everyone else at Fit 4 the Challenge).

Fun potential: 8/10 (I have chosen to overlook the weather on this occasion! I am sure the weather will be kinder next year – fingers crossed anyway).

PB potential: 10/10


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