Competing for the 1st time as a club, Severn AC set them self the challenge of competing the over 100 mile Cotswold way Race. Split into 10 legs of different distance and ascent and on the hottest day of the year and highest temperatures recorded for the race the club finished 7th senior male team and 18th overall out of the 103 teams that entered with a combined time of 15:54:16.
Below is a write up from some of the athletes who completed….
Leg one – Dave Howells
I had a early rise 4am to get ready for the Cotswold relay. I had been given the task of attacking leg 1 from chipping camden to stanyway house .I arrived in chipping Camden at 6am to give me plenty of time it was slightly overcast which was good because the forecast was looking to be a scorcher of a day . My aim was to complete it around the 90min mark as I new my fellow teammates would be enduring some hot temperatures during the day. I surveyed the other competitors and recognised some good competition. Glos AC were fielding a 3 man team so my aim was to stick with them and work on my efforts during the race. With 20mins to go I needed the toilet so I had to leg it 300 yards down the high st to some public toilets making it back to the start with 5 mins to go the whistle went and we were off down the high st with a sharp right turn up hoo lane straight into the uphill section from chipping Camden up to the tower I managed to tuck in behind the Glos AC boys with a tough climb up to the tower going through fields of rapeseed .I managed to get into a comfortable running tempo over taking several runners on the upwards ascent .ounce we had reached the tower it was a downward descent into Broadway I lost a few positions on the downward section after negotiating Broadway it was a slow rise up to Stanton with some challenging ascents I managed to claw back several positions on the uphill section into Stanton. By now the temperature was starting to rise and I was literally soaked from persperation. There was a bit of cat n mouse going on between me and austin Blackman of Glos AC he’d take me on the downhill and I’d claw it back on the ascent we finally reached the grounds of the manor house where I lost three positions . So I dug deep and cracked on clawing back one position with a sprint around the manor to the finishing in 9th position .
Leg Three – James Rose
Club captain was going steady in 6th position at halfway, before gambling all on a breakaway with 2 other runners all aiming for 3rd spot ( 1st and 2nd far out of sight). With 1 mile to go a wrong turn was taken by the group, realised after half a mile, leading to an extra mile of running. Rose came in approx 15th overall / 6th runner men only teams
Leg Six – Alex Jenkins
UP was how we would begin! Taking shelter from the heat in a crowded thin tree line at the bottom of the field and hill; we waited for the start. Although I felt fresh and strong, I knew the heat and hills would soon get to me. How soon, was the issue. Most people started strong up the first km and 100m of climb and after a very short respite from the climb, it soon began in earnest again for another km and another 100m climb. At this point, many chose to to conserve their energy and walk, including me. So after an agonisingly slow 13 minutes for the first 2km, I could finally start running normally through the blissful shade of the trees. Before long though, I realised I was climbing again and surrounded by only 4 or 5 other runners. They too were clearly struggling just as much as myself as we continued to pass each other in some form of cat and mouse scenario.
As we exited the woods we were faced with a wall of hot air further slowing us; but were thankfully greeted by a water station. While I had plenty of water in my CamelBak, I still took the chance to thank a little girl who held out a jug of water for me that I gratefully poured over my face. This had a far greater benefit than I thought it would and I finally felt strong enough to run well again which I miraculously kept up for a few km both up and down even more hills. As I hit the road crossing, I was immediately anxious of what I knew was to come.
As I had already identified I was braver than others on the downhill so plowed ahead of the field while I had the chance, knowing full well I would be walking shortly. At the bottom of the downhill section I passed the farm and was presented with Cam Long Down; or as it turns out the locals refer to it; the nipple hill. As predicted though, I was soon caught going up the hill, as I wished for some climbing equipment. At the top, I rewarded myself for with a gel and used this to safely get back down the hill in good time to rejoin the growing pack of 8 or 9 runners.
With this out the way, we all realised we were within the final 2km and with no major hills left, we were now having to race seriously with whatever remaining energy and water we had left. Frustratingly I wasn’t strong enough to hold on to most of the runners as the lack of shelter meant the searing afternoon sun of 30 degrees crippled whatever ability I thought I had. Entering Dursley though, my infamous final wind took effect and I pushed passed a couple of runners along the high street and was shocked to see a competitor collapsed and surrounded by people.
Based on my recce I had targeted 90 mins but the with sun so powerful that day, I was two and a half minutes off of that so overall was relatively happy, and grateful that I was part of such a strong team who I hoped had fared better than myself.
Leg eight – Richard Brown
Arriving to the registration area for the start of leg 8, I found myself looking for much needed shade from the beating warmth of the sun. With registration done, next up was the appropriate preparation of running equipment and accessories. Not one for running with water, the mandatory rule to either carry a water bottle or bladder, was the first unwanted issue before the start of the race. Whilst applying my bladder, I noticed it was missing a valuable strap to keep it nicely snug around my chest. So I had to think quickly and make a boy’s scout knot. Then we had the pre-race instructions, from the race organisers, to whom thankfully has adjusted the sweeper time before you were kindly ask to step aside from the joy of running in the extreme heat. Whilst quietly confidently thinking I had no cause for concern at the new sweeper time, the sound of clapping to my right and the sight of Pete Stephens just finishing and looking slightly worse for wear, made me buck up an prepare myself for the 19.2km ahead.With the sound advice from the experienced running elder, I thought let’s just take it easy at the start and so I placed myself nicely within the middle of the group of runners. Also this was an opportunity to steal a bit more shade before the sound of the gun.Now being a converted Londoner and not doing the recommended Recce, just 200 meters into the trek, a 150 meter single track climb and 30+ runners, well at this point walkers in front of me the realisation I had just made a schoolboy error. Unable to pass fellow competitors and the thought of poor Pete and his heroics at the end of Leg 7 the daunt of the task ahead had now sunk in! For the next 6 miles, of the beating sunshine, free running cows , gate closing, gate holding, stile stepping, stile jumping and the undulating course and what seemed 1000’s of obstacles, by which I mean unhelpful walkers , I tried to keep my morale up. However, with the annoying sound of my poorly knotted (I never went to boys scout) bladder swooshing as I ran, action was required. I had to change my running action. In other words restrict my arms to my side to aid as support for my now extremely annoying faulty bladder! Thankfully the experienced runner elder and I had made a plan at the halfway point. I was able to get rid of this bladder. Now with my arms free, I began to feel like Usain Bolt, until I had ran approximately 50 meters the sight of more hills and those pesky walkers, I suddenly became the middle-aged part time runner again. Whilst running, well Olympic walking myself through the final 8 km of the trek, I began to gain some momentum and the realisation I may actually finish this under 2 hours. However, this suddenly came to a short pit stop, when a fellow competitor required assistance. With my shoulder angel taking more hold than my shoulder devil, I gave my help. Whilst making contact with the competitor’s aid at the finish line, trying to establish the co-ordinates of our exact location (remembering I am now a converted Londoner, who doesn’t know anything else exists outside the M25) this proved to me challenging. Once we had established location, I tried to make contact with my finish contact; the experienced running elder, to inform them that I was well and no need to worry. However, they were tied up trying to help with establishing the location of a reported competitor in distress. Yep, my distressed competitor. Once, appropriate help had arrived, I made my way to the finish line, with the 2 hours now passed, I was feeling slightly dejected as what affect this would have on my team. Over the final climb with the finish line in sight, one final obstacle was left in my way; a church tea party full of pesky walkers, sipping their tea and scoffing on cakes. As I battled through them, wishing I was one of the pesky walkers, I made my final sprint to the end only to be confronted by a final stile and a sudden stop. Once through, the trek was over and the satisfaction of competing in the hardest race I have ever came across was over.On reflection, despite the above, it was enjoyable. Honest. Only another 365 days to go till next time!