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The Odlo Glentress 11: fun in the forest

by Sue P
Monday 29th May 2017
When I was asked back in April if I would like to travel up to Glentress Forest in the Scottish Borders to take part in the inaugural Odlo Glentress 11 trail run on 26th May, I jumped at the chance. This would be an opportunity to run in an area of the country that I have never visited before; Glentress Forest is just under an hour outside Edinburgh, but it feels a world away. Whereas Edinburgh is all hustle and bustle, Peebles, the closest town to Glentress Forest, is tranquil and peaceful, and surrounded by some spectacular countryside. 
The event was being held on the Friday evening, with an 18.30 race start. There aren’t many races that are held in the evening, so I was interested to see how this would work. The route for the Odlo Glentress 11 is virtually the same as that for the Odlo Glentress 7 endurance mountain bike event, which is part of the Tweedlove Bike Festival, and which has been run successfully for the last 6 years. 
I haven’t taken part in many trail races, although in the summer months, our Thursday night running club sessions, which focus on hill training, intervals or speed work, are held off road. Trail shoes were recommended for the race, although as the conditions had been so dry, many runners were able to run in road shoes. 
There was a small race village where all runners had to register before the event, and there was free water for all both before and after the race. There was a mobile coffee wagon, a beer tent and physiotherapy on site, and Jamie Birks, a member of the TweedLove team, provided commentary as everyone arrived at the race village, keeping everyone updated with what was happening. Odlo had an area where runners could purchase Odlo clothing and speak to some of the members of the Odlo team. 
There were around 200 runners taking part, some from local running clubs, and many from the local area, keen to challenge themselves on this run. The weather was unseasonably hot; the sun had been out all day and the temperature was still warm by the time the race started. The race briefing before the start told us what we could expect, and we all gathered at the race start, to be led out on the first part of the course by the race vehicle. It’s a physically demanding course, with over 375m of ascent; we were told at the race briefing that the course was mostly uphill in the first half and mainly downhill in the second half, but that didn’t prepare me for what was ahead! 

Glentress briefing
Nervous runners listen to the briefing. How many hills? 

The first part of the race was on a wide track, which allowed all the runners to settle down and to find their own pace. We were soon into the forest itself, running along narrow and undulating paths through the trees. The forest offered some protection from the sun, and it was lovely to run through the dappled shade. As we had been told, there was a lot of uphill for the first part of the race, although there were sections which were flatter and slightly downhill, so that we were able to use these to recover before the next hill. There were two water stations on the course, one at just over 3 miles, and one a little further on at the highest part of the course, with the second water station supplying energy gels for those runners that wanted them.
Just after the highest point on the course, runners entered the ‘Tunnel of Love’, a very steep and narrow downhill section, and this started us off on our descent to the race finish. There were a few more uphill sections in the second half which caught us out, but I ran the whole of the second half of the race (I have to admit that there were a couple of points in the first half where I did have to break into a fast walk, and I wasn’t the only one!). 
The second half of the race was mainly on very narrow footpaths, which had lots of tree roots and stones to catch out the unwary, and there were lots of twists and turns. However, we were rewarded with some spectacular views of the countryside through the trees; it was very easy to get distracted, and I had to remember not to spend too long looking at the views, but to concentrate on where I was putting my feet!
The course was very well marked, and the marshalls were very encouraging and did a great job. There was a lot of camaraderie between many of the runners, with people supporting and encouraging each other. As we approached the half way point, I chatted to Casey from Edinburgh, whose husband was taking part in the bike event the following day, and we were able to help each other on that part of the course. 
There was a mass start, so that all runners were given the same start time. Finish times were provided by means of an electronic tag which we had to place on the receptors at the finish. In return for handing back your electronic tag, runners were provided with their finish time. 

Sue on the finishing straight (left) and with her team (right)

I think that there was some disappointment at the end of the race that there wasn’t a prizegiving ceremony and there were no medals awarded, although all runners did receive a drinks bottle and some energy products as well as a Buff at registration. As this was the first trail running event that has been held as part of this festival, these are probably areas that the organisers can consider for future years. 
Overall, this was a very well run, friendly and all-inclusive running event. Would I do it again? Absolutely! I loved every part of it; it was hard but the atmosphere and the stunning location were the reward for all those who took part. It was a great event, and one which I hope that the organisers will continue, as it gives runners of all abilities the chance to tackle an absolutely beautiful course.

view from hotel
The view from the hotel

There is plenty of accommodation in the local area, and I stayed at the Peebles Hydro Hotel, which is a short drive from Glentress Forest. The hotel is being refurbished, after having been taken over a couple of years ago, and the rooms are clean and spacious. There is an excellent restaurant, and the views from the hotel are wonderful; all the rooms at the front of the hotel enjoy this magnificent view.

Find out more about the race here

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