Chiltern Hills Challenge May 2014 - Event Report
It was a beautiful sunny morning in Henley as our runners headed off under the watchful eye of their lead runner – Chris Walker. Our logistics team had a few miles to cover today in order to meet the team on the route but it was a joy to drive through the country lanes. We all wanted to be out running today, the weather doesn’t get much more perfect than those sort of conditions, so it was with a tinge of jealousy that we waved them on their way! The first leg for our runners was around 8 miles and took them through the tiny village of Hambleden famous for starring in many 1940s films as it has remained unchanged since those days. The team arrived bang on time and we handed over much needed refreshments, to the jealousy of other runners and hikers around that day. Easy bit done of the route, the hilly sections now started, it was certainly going to be a testing day. But everyone was in great spirits and enjoying the fantastic views and varied route.
Another 10 miles further on and the support crew and I hung around in the cool of a wood just off the path. It wasn’t long before we spotted the team who seemed happy to see us and fresher than I had expected. Sun screen was being passed around as it was pretty hot out there. They were still chatting and laughing so I knew they were still having a good time, Chris is a great motivational runner so I knew he’d keep them going, I’ve had to stop once before when we were recceing the route simply because he’d made me laugh too much!
7 miles left, again over another challenging hill section but through some beautiful wooded routes which were full of bluebells. The trees had literally just started to produce their leaves and were a vibrant green. We waited patiently for the team to arrive at the pub on Bledlow Ridge, knowing they must be feeling pretty shattered by now. The last 500m was up the steepest section of the route, I was imagining the calf burn. My radio crackled to life, they were 2 minutes away. About 7 hours since the team had started they were welcomed with a cold pint and a well deserved rest. A fantastic first day effort!
After some rest and sports massage we sat down to 3 course meal, where the runners got to retell the stories from the day. We chatted about the many races and places we had run. It was really good fun and a great way to finish the day. Time for an early night though, runners and crew were ready to hit the sack at 9pm.
Sunday, was another beautiful morning. Today’s route was a little more gentle on the hills and fortunately started with a downhill. The team assembled at the start for a group photo before heading off on the next 25 miles. The support crew headed off to a 7 mile stop, at the top of a hill in the middle of the wood. There were a few people around today and clearly a few celebrating May day in the local pubs noticeable by their Morris-dancer-esk garb, one even carrying a wooden trident?!! The climb up above Princes Risbrough was long and I think this would be another 1,000m ascent day for the team. They arrived 2hrs after Bledlow, it had been tough, following on from the previous day’s 25 miles. The next checkpoint was 10 miles away so they stocked up ready for the route ahead. Fortunately the first half was shaded by the woods as it was starting to get quite hot again. At mile 17 we waited in the sunshine for the team who looked pretty tired and very happy to see us. They didn’t hang around long though ensuring muscles didn’t go into recovery mode. Chris led a focussed team and it was great to see the camaraderie that was building up.
The finish finally came into sight, the climb up to the Bridgwater monument can be seen from miles away. Despite the distance and the steep calf burning climb, Keith still had a last minute sprint for the monument closely matched by John. The team had done fantastically well, 50 miles over 2 days on some of the hilliest sections around London, this was not a route for the faint hearted. Around 7.5hrs each day – it had been an epic challenge. The weather had been fantastic. I was proud of their efforts and the way they had encouraged each other and stuck together. Time for a well-deserved hot chocolate with marsh mallows, a Run the Wild finisher T-shirt and a ride home! Well done guys!