Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Running in the lands of the gentry

I have had the good fortune to run in a couple of 10km races in some pretty scenic locations in the last month.

Over Whit Bank Holiday, there was the Raby Castle 10km, which I have run for the last 3 or 4 years. The castle is on the outskirts of the village of Staindrop, 10 miles or so west of Darlington in the south of County Durham, and is the home to Lord Barnard. The parkland surrounding the castle is home to a large herd of deer.

The race is a two lapper, all within the grounds of the Estate surrounding the castle, and all but about 1km on beautifully smooth tarmac! Even the section of forest track is very well maintained!

Although much of the route is through farmland or the woodland, the start, finish and middle section are in the deer park. Just after 4k and 9k, the route crests a short, sharp climb to reveal the castle away to your right, guarded by it's moat, and then at the turn for the second lap, you get a great view across to the walled formal gardens.

The weather conditions this year were really quite good, without the gale force winds of a couple of years ago.

We got there early so that E (who is 11) could run the 5km fun run. She did really well, considering it was the furthest she had ever run (as most Orange/JW3 orienteering courses a shorter than this). This gave me plenty of time to warm up.

I started quite well, but then faltered a little, but didn't really get into my running until the second lap, when I started to pass a few people. I had a chap from the Quakers club in Darlington as a target, and worked hard to reel him in. Given the undulating nature of the course, I was pleased with 51st in 41.56.

A couple of weeks later, it was off to Castle Howard for their 10k trail race (and kids 1k dash for E). The home of Sir Simon Howard and family, and famous for the location for the filming of 'Brideshead Revisited', this palatial pile and it's grounds has just about everything - formal gardens with fountains, the walled rose garden, informal gardens, woodland and a great big lake.

Dotted around the estate are various monuments, follies and edifices, and the trail race passes quite a few of these in the two lap course, which starts and finishes by the lake on the lawns below the house.

The race is organised by the local school 'Parent and Teachers Association', and if only for that, it deserves support. The organisers have worked really hard to make it a family day out - the adventure playground and the lakeside tearoom were alive with runners and their families.

There were a few spots of rain on the day, but generally the weather was good for running. The course is mainly on gravel farm tracks, with about 1k on tarmac on an estate road, plus some grassland. There is a rather steep 'hump backed' ornamental bridge at the 4.5k/8.5k mark, just before a climb up a grass path to the Temple of the Four Winds - these two efforts are surprisingly effective in breaking your running rhythm!

I tried to get away well again, but seemed to be going backwards from then on. Had a bit of a battle with a chap from Thirsk & Sowerby Harriers, and was a bit disappoined when he went away from me in the last 1k.

I did manage a bit of a fast finish, to hold of someone who had crept up on me in that last 1k. My time of 42.30 for this slightly over distance race was fine, and 17 seconds faster than in 2007, though I dropped from 32nd to 35th.

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