Sunday, 26th March 2023
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Hills, thrills and knee aches

by RunningPip
Monday 8th February 2016
Tags  Country to Capital   |   Go Beyond   |   Pip Haylett
After the excesses of Christmas, and the inevitable ‘festive plumpness’, the first race of the season is always welcome, although somewhat of a shock to the system.  Whether it is the extra reason to keep dry January on track (in my case, it didn’t work as well as I’d hoped) or just an incentive to keep training over winter, the Country to Capital 45 miler is becoming a regular in my calendar.  By this, I mean ‘I did it last year too’.  Last year, it snowed, and I was in a fair amount of knee pain by the end of it, hobbling the last 10 miles with IT Band hurting knees.  I hoped this year would be different.  It didn’t start that well, as 20 minutes from home, I realized I had forgotten to have breakfast.
Go Beyond organize a good race, and the start is very well set up.  Plenty of parking at the station, and a nice pub to hang about in for registration meant that I soon forgot the lack of breakfast. 
Before too long, the first London – Wendover train arrives, and keen looking ultra runners overran the pub.  In the crowd, I recognize a few very good runners, and even though I am trying to make up for no breakfast with some 33 shake ‘chia gels’, any thoughts I had of winning the race go out the window. 
After a quick count down, 300 odd people head off down Wendover high street towards the Chilterns.  The first half of the race is wonderful, running across the Chilterns, though some fabulous countryside, beautiful villages and lovely forest.  


No snow this year, but it was still pretty cold, -6 degrees when I left my house, and a lot of the early potential mud was frozen which made the going a little easier. Once the sun came up, it was pretty much perfect running weather.  The first half the course is great, hilly, but not too steep, interesting terrain, but not too difficult, self navigated, but mostly quite obvious where the path goes.
Unfortunately, soon you cross the M25, and lovely rolling hills give way the flat and relatively dull Grand Union canal tow path, and the second half of the race is run on this.


Admittedly, this is easier to navigate, although it is quite a test of attrition grinding out the miles on this flat and beer can littered path.  As long as you spot the big ‘turn left to Paddington’ sign about 13 miles from the end, you just have to keep going.
Not long after this sign, not surprisingly, my knees started to complain again and I had to stop and try to stretch my IT Band (as much as you can).  Hobbling along, the miles (and overtaking runners) tick by, and before long there are signposts to Paddington.
As the canal path started to get busy with non-runners, it feels like we are close to town, and can stop running soon… then all of a sudden, the magic ‘finishing bridge’ is in sight!  I run across this bridge a few times a week as part of my commute, but today is only the second time I can say I am glad to see it.  I finished 16 minutes quicker than last year, which I’m very happy about.  I had pre booked a post run massage, and spent a lovely 15 minutes in the back of a van whilst having my legs rubbed a bit, before heading to the pub behind the finish to have a beer with friends.  


January became a little bit less dry.

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