Last weekend a friend Jason and I headed out to the New Forest in Hampshire to take part in the 2017 New Forest Running Festival. I always enjoy reflecting upon the events after they are done, so here goes. We both entered the 75km race and aimed to treat it as a training run for our first 100 miler coming up in June. Because we were treating it as such, it really did creep up quickly, and in a way I had kind of neglected to give it too much thought before hand. Eeeeeek! It only dawned on me shortly before that it is a very long way. The route was near Fordingbridge by the Red Shoot Camping Park, and it was going to be three sixteen mile loops, to make up 75km. At the same time as we were, a good friend and runner Colin was doing the Hardmoor 55 mile race up north. I definitely think we had the easier option today
The run itself was organised by RGActive Events. The entry process was all good and the price was great for a 75km run being just £49. And being in the New Forest made it even more attractive to run. The planning for the event was nice and easy this time. Nothing was mandatory in terms of kit and it was left mostly to common sense, which I always like. There was a slight parking change a day or so before the event due to the fields and rain that had fallen, but this was all communicated with the runners and made simple with a map. A shuttle bus was put on to get runners to and from the start area from the new location and these ran very frequently.
We left really early and headed for an easy trip along the M27. An hour later we were parked up and heading to the mini bus service. Upon entering the bus in we were greeted by a few friendly runners, including a running friend I know which was great. We got chatting and I was introduced to a few other people who were running as well. Isn’t that early morning, pre race chat cool? Everyone feels the same way, thinking about the challenge ahead, talking about
injuries and pains and how much sleep was got the night before. Good times. Before long, the bus was off. Five minutes later we arrived at the Red Shoot Camping Park. First thing we spot is a huge pub on site. Smiles all round! This pleased Jason in particular who is known to enjoy a good pint before and after events. Jokes were exchanged about using it as a feed station – to be expected! I had been told previously by a friend who had run these events before that they did great chips in the pub, so it was on the agenda for later that evening when we were done. Something to definitely look forward to. Without going into detail about the pre-race routine, we got to the race village itself, signed in which was really pleasant and easy to do, dropped our bags in a drop bag area and prepared to start. Being a little cooler and really windier than normal, plus with it spitting a bit of rain Jason and I both decided to go out and start sporting our nice, shiney new New Forest Running Festival beanies. Before long we were getting the race briefing and we were off to the start. This is where a first bit of confusion came in. I had assumed that where our drop bags were in the village
would be where we would come through as we did the loops. Before we started (about 200 meters out of the run village) the run director told me that I’d need to head into the village if I wanted anything out of my bag. Ooops. I hadn’t really taken anything major with me like my p&j sarnies. Oh well. My plan had a slight adjustment. I’d have to leave the route and run back into the village to grab stuff in between loops – sorted.
Just after 9am, we were off, led by a cyclist from the RGActive team who would be riding in front for the first 10km. After that, we were on our own. The signs were all brilliant though. It was clear early on that there would be zero chance of getting lost. The first 12km of this run was brilliant. A few hills in and around the paths of the New Forest – what more could you ask for in a run. Beautiful surroundings, tall trees and just feeling completely natural. Strangely, the first feed station was about a mile or two after we started which was odd. I wasn’t sure why it had
been placed there as we were all packed up with liquids at that point. We pressed on over some uneven paths which had a fair bit of mud from the rain but then got onto the gorgeous gravel paths. About seven miles into the run we passed another feed station again. I was a little shocked to see a plastic crate on the floor filled with water and cups. People were dipping their cups in (and hands!) and just filling up their bottles like that. Not sure if I’ve been spoiled in previous runs but I really didn’t like doing that. A few large, contained bottles would have been a bit more hygenic. Yes, I saw a few things floating in there, but I didn’t care. The feed stations themselves were really not stocked well. If there’s one thing I look forward to, it’s grabbing a few things at the stations and having a selection to pick from. The coke was a cheap copy, which I never enjoy, the gels which Jason tried were apparently disgusting, the water was in a plastic, open crate, and there were only really jelly babies and packets of mini cheddars. I did find some bananas at the stop too which were lovely and really worked for me on the day. We were a bit shocked at the feed stations though. Personally, I think there should have been a lot more stuff to select from. I also think that if the feed stations had been positioned better, there would have only needed to be two. But then again, I’m not a run director and there may have been reasons why this was.
The route was going well until we hit the road, if I remember correctly – at about mile seven. We then headed onto an extra bit which the 75km runners had to do. It was a pretty hard bit of road to get through as it was just mega straight and pretty long. It went on for what felt like ages! You had to get through the road bit and then turn around at one of the marshals and then head all the way back before getting onto the main portion of the route again. Tough to do mentally. Another feed station appeared about three miles from the finish, where it was all in the forest again and over compressed gravel paths. Absolutely beautiful it was. At this final feed station, the first time we went around the loop, the marshals sent us along another road in the wrong direction! A very poor bit of advice for already tired runners. Still, we got in an extra mile of running which didn’t bother me. Jason and I came in after the first loop probably in about 20th place, and in just over two hours. I was absolutely gutted for another friend Matt who had to drop out after the first loop due to injury and a recovering illness. He’d have been on for winning it if healthy as he was last years 2nd place finisher. Still he had a good first 16 miles. A lady we’d met via Matt Liz was running
really well. Another Denmead Strider runner. They seem to have so many really good runners. Liz was running ahead of us until the end of loop two when she decided to call it a day. A really good effort for thirty two miles!!
That was pretty much the route, which we broke into three parts – the forest bit, the road bit, the final bit. On the second and third loops the forest bit felt hard with the hills. We started to walk some on the second, and walked most on the third loop. The road bit got harder and harder each time. The third time was absolutely draining. Many had dropped out of the race by then. People we’d been saying hello to during passings were no longer around. The course started to really thin out of runners and by the end it seemed there were only a few of us left out. The feed stations let us down during the end and I felt ill in the last three miles, but not enough to slow down. We had a good final three miles and Jason and came through the finish in joint 3rd place. A fantastic result for us both. We even got another good bag of prizes made up for us, so thanks go out to the RGActive team for doing that – very kind! We scored a nice technical shirt, some compression socks and various other bits and bobs. Well pleased receiving running goodies.
Would I run this one again? Probably not the 75km, but I’d do one of the shorter ones (if the feed stations get better stocked!). The New Forest is absolutely gorgeous. People who haven’t run there who live close by really should use it. I know I will be heading out there a few more times over the coming year. So much land to explore! Thanks goes out to everyone involved who made the run possible. Thanks to Jason for pushing us through the finish, and thanks and apologies as always to family who have to do without me for the day …. once again! xx
Oh, and this is what I look forward to the most after running – the prized Coke! Nothing beats downing a coke after a hard run. Here is the Strava trace from the run.