Last summer, I DNSed the Bacchus Marathon, due to a broken foot. However, since the organisers, Events to Live, allowed on the day transfers, and since I’d managed to find a runner who had been unable to get to his planned marathon overseas due to a lost boarding card and an intransigent airline, I went along to the start to pass my number over to a good home.
I was impressed. Rather than marquee tents, portaloos and burger vans, the race HQ was at the Denbies Wine Estate. There was a café serving full cooked breakfasts, indoor plumbing and seating galore.
Last week, I was idly flicking through a list of local trail races when I noticed that the Denbies 10M, from Events to Live, was this weekend. Online entries had closed, but on the day entry was available, and once again the Race HQ would be at Denbies. I checked my training plan. 90 minutes of rolling trail in full Winter 100 kit. Granted, Denbies 10M describes itself as hilly, and granted in full Winter 100 kit I was likely to take nearer 2 hours than 90 minutes, but the appeal was strong.
So this morning, having failed to talk myself into a solo jaunt, I turned up at Denbies and registered.
Registration took all of five minutes. Fill out a short form, pay your money, pick up a race number. After which I bought a hot chocolate at the café, chatted to some club mates and parkrunners and then wandered outside for the run briefing. And then, at 10 o’clock, we were off. Up 1.5 miles of hill.
I consoled myself with the fact that 1.5 miles of uphill on the way out would translate into 1.5 miles of down hill on the way back, and plodded on. I negotiated the slippery gooey section, breezed past the water station, pootled my way through the trees and then took full advantage of the long, chalky descent off the ridge.
At the bottom of the hill, I tucked in behind some runners for a short uphill section which brought us to the second water station. And a stile. Ugh. What followed was a gloriously runnable downhill road section, definite Running Goddess terrain, which came to an end all too soon when we came across a cattle grid. The run briefing had mentioned cattle grids. We’d been told to look out for them because… because… um… I wracked my brain. Feral cows? Evil cows? Plentiful cows? I looked around. There wasn’t a cow in the vicinity. I scanned the path ahead. Still no cows. I looked ahead. There may not have been cows, but there was a very big hill. With what looked like a trail of neon-clad runners at the top of it. We had to go up that? I gave up worrying about cows and started bracing myself for the hill. I bypassed the second cattle grid, and gritted my teeth.
A mile too soon. Rather than taking us directly up the hill, the path swung round to the left for a more gradual ascent. I checked with the runner behind that she wasn’t in any rush to pass me, and settled in for another long plod. After which it was through a gate, up a really rather steep but mercifully short grassy slope, through the water station, and back through the goo. Before one of the most enjoyable downhill finishes of any race I’ve ever run.
This race was well organised, well marked, well marshalled and very scenic. There is ample parking at the start, the café is great and you come away with a technical t-shirt, a chocolate bar, some cake and, in my case, a Cheshire Cat grin.