Over the Hill

The day after my little adventure in Scotland, 13th October, I drove back down the country and stopped off in Great Malvern to run in the Worcestershire Beacon Race. I’ve run it a couple of times before and it’s a real blast: 7 miles up, over and round the back of Worcestershire Beacon, the highest of the Malvern Hills.

I had plenty of time to enjoy lunch in Malvern and to wonder whether the heavy rain shower that was falling would ease off before the race. The rain was still coming and going, but never quite stopping, when I made my way to the start at the Rose Bank Gardens, replete with disposable polythene rain poncho.

One of the keys to this particular race is the relatively narrow gate-way at the end of the Rose Bank Gardens, a bottleneck to be avoided. I stood near the front of the race pack and got off quickly as soon as we started. A runner fell on the wet grass just behind me as we set off; a indication of the likely condition of the course.

I got through the gap with no difficulty, and was soon grinding my way up the switchback paths on the hillside. It was still raining, but the lower parts of the hill are wooded, so we had some shelter. In this early part of the race I took some grim satisfaction that a young runner was clinging to my heels and finding it quite a struggle, judging by his breathing!

Me being chased by a younger runner

I gained on some members of the field on the steeper climbs. A fellow member of Chippenham Harriers, Paul Gilham was in view ahead and I just about caught him a couple of times: he eased away from me again as we ran through level or downhill sections.

Paul Gilham leads a group

The views across the plains on either side of the hill where wonderful, even through heavy rain that was still falling. The weather was ‘showery’, rather than ‘rainy’, so there were plenty of well lit patches to see off in the distance. Hills generate rain, so it perhaps not surprising that the Malverns didn’t seem to be getting any gaps!

I really enjoyed hammering down a fairly difficult descent high up and sweeping around the end of the hill prior to dropping back down to the Rose Bank Gardens. The last section has a steep hairpinned descent and short, level run to the finish. One runner, Richard Bevan, whom I’d gained on a little on the hairpins, clung to my back, then made a well judged sprint past me near the finish. I responded, but only managed to finish on his shoulder. I finished in 52:09, 22nd out of 246. Paul Gilham was 17th in 51:34 and another Chippenham Harrier, Mark Hooper, was 35th in 54:26.

Mark Hooper

It was still raining and I was seriously cold once I’d been stopped for a few minutes. I shivered as I changed in the back of my van, then really enjoyed the tea and cakes in the race HQ afterwards.




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