The Mapledurham estate is my local patch. I’ve run or cycled here hundreds of times over the years so I’ve covered nearly all of the route for the Mapledurham 10 before. This meant I had a pretty good idea of just how hilly the hills were, just how slippery the trail would be, just how muddy the muddy parts would be. There hadn’t been much rain in the run up to the event so I figured it would be soft underfoot but not crazy muddy, and I wasn’t far off for most of it.

In these Covid times the race was handled a little differently. My race number was posted in advance, so no registration hassles on the morning. We were asked to estimate completion time on signing up, I guessed around 90 minutes. This allowed the race organiser to have us grouped in one of 10 different start pens, and these were set off at the start in groups of five or six, with the fastest runners off first. This meant we were fairly well dispersed on the course, minimising bunching at gates and narrow sections.

It was cold on the morning, not much above freezing with a decent frost on the ground. I dithered about how warm to wrap up, knowing for sure that too much would have me too hot within a mile of the start. In the end I settled on a base layer with t-shirt over, running tights, gloves and a beanie to keep my increasingly bare bonce warm. This was great for hanging around at the start, I didn’t get overly cold, but I did overheat a bit once we got going. Sleeves rolled up and gloves stuffed down the front of my shorts made for cooler going but did look a bit odd I expect.

The route for the 10 miler is a figure of eight, crossing over a little under the half way mark. The first section was flat and pretty fast, on concrete estate roads then a flinty track. I went pretty well here, faster than I intended, roughly tempo pace. I figured I would see how I went and knew I would be slowed right down by the uphill sections.

I plodded slowly up the first hill, taking on some water in the process. The next few km were either flat or downhill, a mix of trail and estate road. It’s difficult to know which shoes to wear in a mixed terrain race. Trail shoes would be too clumpy on the road but road shoes would see me skating around the muddy sections. I opted for the newish Asics Fujitrabucos which coped admirably with the gloopy parts.

After the crossover there was a long uphill section, by which time I didn’t have enough lung power to run. I just walked at a decent clip instead, I doubt I was a lot slower than if I’d attempted to run it. Certainly not many people overtook me while I was walking up the hill. After that things flattened out, with some nice muddy sections. I ran the 10k version of this race a few years ago with road shoes which made for a tentative approach and a lot of sliding about. It’s great running through the muddy sections with the confidence that good grip provides. The last section was down a gentle slope which made for a speedier finish.

I finished in 1:24:44, a wee bit faster than I’d estimated. I really enjoyed being back in a race, running with and against other folks. There were a few battles along the way, with some able to outpace me on the uphills that I then had to reel in again. I also enjoyed racing on familiar territory, it removed the element of terrain surprise, I knew exactly what was coming. Post race there was mulled wine and a mince pie, although we were encouraged not to lurk for covid reasons.

I will definitely come back to this event again in the future.