It’s always nice to escape London for the weekend, especially when I manage to fit in a sneaky run too. I timed a trip home to see my parents with the Gilly Hilly 7.5 mile race. Spoiler alert: there were a few hills.
In advance: £6 affiliated, £8 non-affiliated. On the day: £8 affiliated, £10 non-affiliated.
Advance entries were the old-school print off a form and send it away, so I just got my entry on the day. We got there reasonably early, but there were plenty of people doing entries so nobody had to wait long. I think it took me all of 30 seconds to get my number. Race HQ was a school, so no need to brave public toilets or portaloos!
The start was about a 5 minute walk from race HQ, but well signposted with plenty of marshals leading the way. A little muddy but this was the only mud we’d encounter during the race. A quick trip over a stile and we were ready to set off.
As for the course, the clue is in the name. It’s fair to say the route is ‘undulating’, with the first incline beginning about two minutes in. I lost count of the hills in the end, but there were a fair few. Some are fairly gradual so aren’t too much of a challenge, but one hill roughly halfway in was particularly steep. I probably found the steep downhill preceding it more difficult, as I still haven’t fully mastered the art of running downhill efficiently.
Some runners might be put off by the fact the roads aren’t closed off, but given the fact these were quiet country roads it wasn’t much of an issue. There are plenty of (very friendly) marshals around the course, and runners behind or in front would give you fair warning if they spotted a car!
Weather-wise conditions were pretty much perfect. Dry and not too cold for November, it meant we weren’t freezing at the start and didn’t have to worry about falling over on the hills!
Time-wise I was pleasantly surprised with my result. Having never tried this race before I had no expectations, and given the fact I’ve only been averaging one run a week since Berlin I wasn’t expecting much. Not to mention the fact this would be my longest run since the marathon, and I have also been pretty slow all year!
Running the first four miles with my dad, I was doing pretty much bang on 10 minutes a mile. Once he pulled ahead I fully expected to slow down as the hills took their toll, but tried to keep him in sight for as long as possible. Catching up with a lovely lady from Dorset Doddlers, the next couple of miles flew by as we ran along and chatted. We passed 6 miles just past the hour mark, so I decided to try and aim for 1 hour 15. No mean feat given the hills and the fact I haven’t even managed a sub-30min parkrun this year. My new friend – a local and a Gilly Hilly veteran – warned me there was one big hill to go just before the end. I decided to see where I was once I’d made it to the top and do my best to keep 1:15 in sight! I went past the 7 mile marker at 1:10:03 on my watch, so pushed on. Unfortunately the last half mile involves a few twists and turns as well as the hills, and I could see my 1:15 slipping away. In the end I mustered up the energy for a sprint finish, and looked up to see the clock said 1:14:59 as I crossed the line. I was delighted.
Nice medal emblazoned with the Gillingham Trotters flying pig. Good quality considering the low cost of entry.
Well organised, very reasonably priced with a friendly atmosphere and lovely country roads. A challenging but rewarding course.