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If you go down to Wendover Woods today...

by kirsty
Monday 28th November 2016
There are some things it’s hard to explain to a non-runner. The badge of honour that is having black toenails. Getting up early on a Saturday morning to parkrun no matter how hungover you are. Being able to talk about bodily functions in an unselfconscious manner with people you’ve just met. But here’s one that’s quite a tough sell to the non-runner: going to the woods at the end of November to run five ten mile loops of hilly, muddy paths full of the ultimate trip hazard - tree roots. And calling it fun. 
But this was one of Centurion’s new races this year - the Wendover Woods 50. Devised by the evil genius that is James Elson and his team, he managed to find the hilliest route possible to make up a ten mile lap, then encourage us all to run it five times. Oh, and let’s make it at the end of November so it’s cold and most of us will have to run at least one loop in the dark. Because navigating tree roots in the dark is good fun. 
But won’t laps be boring? Maybe they would if it was a flat, routine lap but this was a lap of so many dastardly twists and turns, ups and downs, gravelly paths, muddy slopes, long runnable stretches, short, sharp reduce-you-to-a-crawl inclines that it could never be boring. In fact, I barely managed to memorise it by the last one (when it all looked different anyway because it was dark). But that didn’t matter because, like all Centurion events it was expertly marked and marshalled in all the right places.
So it was a great route, the organisation was brilliant, but I still don’t feel like I’m fully selling the whole thing to the casual observer. Why was running five ten mile loops of a hilly course in the woods such fun? 

WW50 2

Well, the people were great. The Centurion team were relentlessly cheery despite spending 12+ hours standing in a chilly field. I shared a few laps with fellow Run247 contributors Pip and Susie and the time flew by. It was a lovely surprise to see Gary Dalton on the way round too - he was just out for a run to support. I met people I knew from Strava but had never met in person, like Cat Simpson. The checkpoint halfway around was stocked with the perfect mix of sweet, salty and savoury snacks and staffed by amazing, supportive people whose enthusiasm didn’t wane despite the amount of time they’d been there. In fact it seemed to increase. Centurion races are like a big family day out, with all the snacks, chat and laughter but none of the booze and arguments. 

WW50 1

The location was just so beautiful and varied. One minute you were in the woods and enjoying lovely soft trails, the next you were tearing down an open gravelly path with views of open countryside, then you were kicking through leaves on a nice gentle incline before sliding down a muddy slope. 
The only time it became not fun for me was the start of the fifth loop when my eyesight was struggling to adjust to having my head torch on and I seemed to be tripping over everything. Or so I thought. Turned out it just needed new batteries and the lovely marshal in the woods (Lisa) helped me to swap them over in the darkness. Being able to see properly, unsurprisingly, gave me a big boost. 

WW50 elevation

But despite the temporary battery-related blip and a few trips and slips (and associated swears) this race was a complete and utter joy. It was a perfect example of UK trail running at its best and of a toughness you might associate with the Lakes/Wales/Scotland (albeit with much shorter slopes) but delivered in Buckinghamshire. Centurion has really pulled off something special with this new race. 
Enter next year here: www.centurionrunning.com

Photos by Pip Haylett

About The Author

Kirsty Reade

I’d describe myself as borderline obsessed with running, racing, reading about running, and watching others run so hopefully I’m fairly typical of Run247’s visitors. I tend to do longer races, particularly off-road marathons and ultras, but am pretty much a fan of any distance. I'm passionate about helping runners of all levels to improve through running communities I'm involved in, such as Underground Ultra and Free Range Runners. 


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