Another weekend, another event. Happily fortune favours those training for half marathons it would seem, as on the week I was scheduled to run a 10k, I managed to get a space in the Bad Cow 10k, run by the fabulous White Star Running. Run by my pal Andy “not a postman” Palmer and his team, WSR put on mostly hilly events in Dorset (near France). It’s fair to say that their events usually involve huge hills, and tend to be slightly longer than the stated race distance, so I turned up not being quite sure whether the race would be 10K or maybe 11 or God only knows how far. I was assured that it was, strangely for WSR, flat. I confess to not believing this, but it turned out to be true! Despite having helped out at a couple of Giant’s Head Marathons, I’d never actually run any WSR races, so this would be my first. The Bad Cow weekender takes place over two days in Holton Lee near Poole, which is a purpose-built charitable trust for the disabled. Set in a Site of Special Scientific Interest the centre promotes physical, mental, spiritual and social wellbeing. Well, it certainly sounded like an interesting place, and as it turns out it is really beautiful. The Weekender includes a marathon each day, with an additional 10K on the Saturday and a half marathon on the Sunday. The 10k was a two-lapped route, each lap about 5.3K through the lovely Holton Lee heathland. The terrain varies from fields to heathland, woodland, and you even run close to the sea at one point.
Initially I’d planned to camp overnight, but having been totally and utterly drenched at Parkrun that morning (volunteering, i’m not mad enough to run twice in a day!), I decided not to risk getting drenched camping so just popped along for the afternoon. The race started at 6pm so I got there just after 5pm to pick up my number and happily bumped into some friends that I hadn’t realised were doing the race too. After pottering about for a bit, the race brief began, and in typical WSR style it was short and sweet, and faff-less. Then we were off! As usual I started near the back with my pals, and stuck to a run 3/walk 1 strategy throughout. As a consummate road runner, running on pretty uneven ground over a field is something new, but I managed to stay upright (for someone who, as a child, was forever in A&E for badly rolling my ankle, this is no small feat). Round the edge of the field we went before turning left into the heathland. There are paths all over the heath and through the woods, all wheelchair accessible and therefore great for running on. The course was well signposted (follow the yellow arrows!) which is just as well because there are so many criss-crossing paths that without the arrows I fear I’d still be out there, ambling about trying to find my way back to the start.
One of the best things about WSR races is the Lovestation. The Lovestation is basically a feed station where you can of course get lots of water and food, but also booze and hugs. This time, the Lovestation was upgraded to the wonderful Fernando’s Cocktail Bar and All Day Disco! Happily you could hear the Abba-themed feed station long before you could see it, and to turn a corner and be greeted with dancing volunteers clad in spangly 70s outfits was brilliant :D. Even better was the offer of a cup of Sangria, and seeing as I’m in training for the Bacchus Half where you get wine at the feed stations, I thought it only right to have a practice-Sangria. Aaaah it was lovely. I snatched a couple of jelly babies and plodded on. Normally I’m not a fan of a lapped races because I always worry I’ll never want to start the next lap, but actually they’re growing on me. The route for the Bad Cow is so varied and pretty that actually I really enjoyed the second lap. Oh yeah I have to say that even though i’m slow, I was hoping to reach the end of the first lap before the winner shot past, but alas not! He blasted past just as I reached the 5k mark (ish), and the guy that took second sprinted past when I was about 100m away from the end of lap 1. I could have pretended that I was actually 3rd and headed straight for the finish, but I’m not sure anyone would have believed me…
So second time round and back to Fernandos for some sustenance. This time cider was on offer, so with the Bacchus in mind I gladly imbibed (I take all my training seriously). Just to be sensible I also had some water, and a little dance with a hot blond in a flared-pink number before plodding off again. (For some great videos of the antics at Fernandos throughout the day, check out WSRs Facebook page). Off again and the rain had started to spit slightly. However, it didn’t come on too heavily, so it seemed we were going to be spared a drenching. Before long the end was in sight, and I finally crossed the line in 1:27:02 (chip time) for approx. 10.6K. I was pretty happy with that. One day I’ll work on trying to speed up, but for now I’m just enjoying my running and not worrying about speed. Over the line with a hug from Andy, the fabulous Bad Cow medal was placed round my neck, and I was handed a goodie bag containing a mug, a flapjack and a bottle of cider. Ker-ching! At this point the heavens decided to open and it pissed down for a few minutes but then stopped again. I watched my pals come in a couple of minutes later, and after a bit of a mooch about I headed off as it was getting chilly. All in all a fabulous event. Everyone was really friendly, loads of folk dressed up which was great, and of course fabulous Fernando’s bar was the highlight of a lovely course. If you’ve not tried a WSR race, then have a look at their website & FB page, they have a great collection of races going, especially if you’re mad enough to love hills.