It seems this is a race I'm not supposed to race in ideal conditions. The first year I entered this I managed to trip over a pothole early on in the race. The second time I entered it was a DNS due to an ankle injury sustained in Moscow. This was the third time I've attempted to race this, and this time I would be hindered by a lingering cough and cold I caught before Clumber Park 10K the previous weekend.
The lead-up was filled with lack of sleep, and missed runs. At least it wasn't a half or full marathon - even with a cold I should be able to make it around 10K. Unfortunately they recommend arriving at 07:30 for this one, even though the race doesn't start until 09:00. This is because of the parking, and because they close access to the castle before the race start. I got there for the requested time and got the free parking; but most people didn't really start showing up until after 08:00. Sensible.
Outside of the castle they have plenty of portaloos so there's not really any queueing - but most of them are designated as female only (with the exception of two unisex ones). If you're male then you'll need to find some inside the castle instead.
The starting area was restricted not long after I arrived so that only club runners were allowed in. There was enough of them to mean that even though I'd normally be a sub-40 runner, I couldn't actually start with other runners doing that pace. To be honest I felt that was unlikely for this race anyway - still recovering from a cold meant I couldn't expect too much. If time is your priority, which for me it wasn't, it is worth bearing in mind the focus is on the Warwickshire Road League here.
After watching the warm-up they eventually let the rest of us through to the start at 08:45, and then a few minutes later we were moved forward down passed the stables car-park to where the actual start line was. I'd worked my way forward a little during this time and was now standing around people talking about doing 3hr30 marathons - so I felt like this was about the right sort of place. Though it was far enough back to not realise the race had started until people in front started to move.
We were all out onto the road pretty quickly, and running downhill through Warwick. When the route heads up Cliff Hill and crosses the Grand Union Canal it's a sign that you're almost out of the city already. In fact, just after the 1 mile marker the city gives way to countryside for which most of the remaining race is through. At this point I'd done the first mile in 6:19/mi which wasn't too bad for being ill - I didn't feel too bad either.
The second mile was fairly flat so ended up being a little quicker than my first mile, and still things seemed okay. I was surprised I hadn't started coughing at all. It was nice I'd got further than last week before feeling ill. The third mile ended with a hill and a water station at around the 5K point. This was actually the biggest hill in the entire race and took us from an elevation of 58 metres up to 91.5 metres in just 0.4 miles. At this point, in a village called Leek Wootton, I decided I was going to walk for a bit which may have been a bad idea - I then realised just how warm it was.
From then on I took regular walking breaks, though most of them then were for clearing my throat and nose as the cold started to make it difficult to breathe at times. At least this time I'd done more than half of the race before it'd started to cause me problems. If I'd not taken that walking break up the long hill perhaps it wouldn't have bothered me at all; though it seems unlikely.
What this did though was make me accept that it would be much slower in the second half, and I think when I could breathe I was actually enjoying the race and the sunshine. I watched the fields either side of me slowly pass by.
Towards the end of the six miles, the course finally reached Kenilworth, and the location of the finish. Although I'd visited the castle last year as a tourist I didn't really recognise the area I was running though. The fact I'd run this race several years ago didn't help much either (though earlier in the course I did recognise the corner I'd tripped on a pothole).
When the castle came into view I remembered that the turn towards the castle was not the end - it went across the car park and then doubled back with a very tight corner I was running too fast for at this point so had to slow back down. It then crosses the drawbridge with crowds of people on the otherside - standing either side of the running route. I couldn't see the finish line but figured it couldn't be much further. Once it came into view, after rounding that last corner, I didn't really have the distance to properly sprint but figured I'd make up a few seconds anyway as I do enjoy it.
I crossed the finish line in 41:08 in position 130 of 3,992 finishers. Faster than last week, though definitely much slower than I'm used to for this distance (in fact the average pace was a little slower than my half marathon PB). From the finish I collected the goodie bag (containing a t-shirt and medal), a bottle of water, a cereal bar, and headed out of the grounds. Lined up outside were a number of coaches ready for taking runners back to Warwick.
I hopped onto the first one and waited around twenty minutes for it to start going. It set off at exactly 10:00, and dropped everyone off outside the stable gate at 10:25 - giving me five minutes to get back to my car on the opposite side of the grounds. A good excuse for a cool-down run. With that my racing is over until September - for now I'll be training and getting ready for Amsterdam Marathon.