Posted by: stokiecat | May 10, 2014

Uttoxeter Half – NSRRA Race 5

One thing about being part of a running community is no-one is afraid to tell you their horror stories about previous races and courses. I’m certain that 90% of what people say is meant to be genuinely supportive or motivational, “look at how I overcame this terrible race”, “I’m a better runner for it” etc., but there is that 10% of mischievousness that seeks to terrify a newbie runner. Well, my discussions with my fellow runners prior to this race meant that I was dreading this run. I had already heard it was hilly and worse that the Potters Arf. Potters was my first half marathon last year and it was hard and it made me ill but I didn’t let it put me off. However to hear seasoned competitors saying it was worse that Potters had me on the back foot straight away.  Two people told me it had made them cry in 2013, several people said they had run it before and never again and one runner described it as her nemesis. Gulp.

I did a Google street view run through and could tell there were some significant hills. My decision was that I would have to check out the course route beforehand.  I thought It would be the perfect opportunity to get the other half off the sofa and we’d go out on our bikes. A beautiful sunny day in Easter week came round so we put on the Lycra and headed over to Uttoxeter. I don’t know if I had overestimated the OH’s fitness levels or underestimated how my fitness has improved but two miles in and he was already complaining. After a brief rest we cycled back into Uttoxeter and decided to drive the route. I said to the OH it was alright for him, but I had to run the bloody thing! On the drive I decided it was a rather pleasant route through woods and fields, very rural, however there were some serious climbs to worry about. It left me with mixed feelings because there would be few supporters on route but plenty of views so there was a danger I would bimble along enjoying the countryside rather than treat as a race. In addition the more I thought about the hill in the middle the more I worried. However I had noted that Hoar Cross Hall spa was only four miles away from one point of the race so if things got too bad I could just run off in that direction. My group leader Walter had warned me that pre-race course knowledge was not necessarily always advisable. In this case he may have been right.


Profile Scary race profile. I don’t even remember that downhill bit at 5 miles….


In the lead up to this race I had re-evaluated my priorities. Previously I had been training to get a sub two-hour Potts Arf. However I have decided that it more important that I can run the 20 miles for the South Cheshire 20 in September, which has meant I’m increasing my mileage instead. A better half marathon time is incidental, although I’d obviously be happy if it happens. It also meant that this was going to be treated as a training run not as a proper race. I thought a reasonable time (for me) would be 2 hours 20 minutes and with that thought I decided not to worry too much. What this change in mindset did mean was no taper. I ran my first ever 15 miler on the preceding Sunday, a 10 miler on Tuesday (which included a very poor showing in the club monthly time trial) then the rest of the week at yoga or cycling.

So anyway to the day of race, I had woken up and there was light drizzle so that was a bonus. Unfortunately that didn’t last for long and, as I have since learnt to my sunburnt cost, the weather actually turned out rather pleasant. I had plenty of time to chat with Alan before the race about the Stoke City annihilation of Fulham the previous day, whilst managing to bore my club companions David and Emily rigid. A very brief warm up, once around the racecourse, and we were ready to go. I did manage to introduce myself to the current leader in my NSRRA group,  a Stafford Harrier, who I keep coming second to. I think I worried her at first but she seemed to take my competition small-talk in good grace, no doubt because she confidently keeps kicking my arse.

The first five miles were really not too bad. The first hilly bit was fairly easy going, if a little bit precarious on the main road. The sheep ran with us for a bit, which gives you an idea of how “fast” I am, I was overtaken by blooming sheep. As the field of runners started to spread out it was possible to have a chat with some other runners as I went along. There were even pockets of people out on the course, including fellow club runners, so it wasn’t completely devoid of support. The support included a couple from another running club who cycled and kept popping up on various points . It was like they were taunting me, “look we made it here so much quicker  than you” but seriously they were really supportive and it was good to see them support even me at the back.

In fact all was going rather swimmingly however I should have seen the warning signs. I was going a little bit too fast and starting to tire. Some runners were already walking at about 6 miles. I reached the Woodroffe’s Cliffe, the big hill in the middle, and all was lost. I walked/ran to the top. My urge incontinence hit. I started to worry that I might be getting sun stroke. My whole race started to go to pot. There was a  brief respite with the steep downhill (6.45 min mile pace for all of 1/4 of a mile) but then it was back on the flat before nearly 2 and a half miles of constant climb. As we left the village of Marchington behind I knew the climb wasn’t done but the reccy meant I was prepared. It’s a long way up Moisty Lane and another runner asked me if it would ever end. I knew at that point it was only about a quarter of a mile to the peak of the race and then it really was a case of “it’s all down hill from here” as I passed the road sign for an 11% descent. I reached the marshal point at the top and saw Uttoxeter come into view at the bottom of the hill. The view in the sunshine was truly glorious, Uttoxeter is a nice enough place but it had never looked so good until this point.

final descent What an 11% descent looks like. Unfortunately it’s a bit more overcast in the pic than it was on race day so doesn’t really do the lovely view justice.

The marshals had been great throughout the race, happy and supportive, but not to let my stereotype down when I did reach the racecourse, at least three times I was told the finish was just round the next corner, when it most blatantly wasn’t. However when I did reach the funnel I saw various people cheering me on, so I actually look quite happy in my finish photos.

10253859_10152203842553347_902071439650242014_n I’m running over the finish unlike the OTT melodramatic flouncy-collapse of the last NSRRA race.

However a more accurate photo would be the one with my lovely teammates Emily and Jodie, where I am quite clearly flagging between the two of them. One of the more amusing things about this race is that due to a very small field of Trentham Ladies, my paltry time actually counted towards the club competition! The first time I have ever counted for the club results, and most likely the last. We came 9th, sorry TRC.

team Three quarters of the 9th placed team. Nicely showing off my spare tyre and slouchy posture between a pair of much younger and better looking athletes.


This race was hard, hard work and I pretty much ran walked for the second half of the race. The uphills are looooooong whilst the downs are steep and therefore over quickly, that didn’t really give me a chance to enjoy the relief or recover in time for the next one and I think this is what makes this race so tough. I really felt like I had earned this result, not a pb but 10 minutes quicker than I was hoping so I’m putting it down as a success. It’s only taken me a week to recover and post this 😀



  1. yikes!!! look at those hills


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