On Sunday the 23rd of October I took part in the Tough 10 race in Epping Forest. Tough 10 is a new series of races from Cancer Research UK. The events have been organised so runners can challenge themselves and take on some of the UK’s toughest terrain. At the same time participants would be raising money for a great cause and helping to beat cancer sooner. I decided to sign up to the Epping Forest event because I’d run there a couple of times and knew how nice the trails are. I also signed up because it was relatively easy to get to and some of the Advent Running guys were going to be there as James and Claudia are ambassadors for the series.
I woke up around 7:30ish on Sunday morning to get organised and travel across London to the forest. I was really looking forward to the event as I was wondering just how tough the race would be and I knew the route would be nice and scenic and a good change from running on the road. Due to the race not being a main focus for me I had run 20k on the Saturday along the river. I got to Epping Forest at 9:15am so I had plenty of time to pick up my race number and drop my bag off.
Being a new event I wasn’t sure how many runners would be taking part but I was pleasantly surprised to see a few hundred or so people around the start area. As I previously mentioned some of the Advent Running group were racing, this included: James, Claudia, Ben, Alice, Alan, Emma, Jason and Laura. As there wasn’t long to go before the start we had a quick catch up and got in a short jog to warm up. It was needed, it was absolutely freezing! Racing vest and split shorts seemed like a bad idea.
We made our way to the start line and some of us got into the first group of fifty runners. The organisers let us know that we would be set off in waves as parts of the course were narrow. It was recommended that those of us aiming for below 45 minutes should get near the front. On the start line I bumped into Alex, a friend who I met racing in a couple of the Run Through events (we had an epic sprint finish back in 2014 I think it was). We had a quick catch up but before long we were off.
To begin with there was a group of five or six of us at the front, however after a kilometre or so Alex and another runner had opened up a gap from myself, James and another couple runners. The first kilometre or so was relatively flat and there was a nice short downhill section through the trees. The first steep hill came at around the 2k point. We followed the edge of a field whilst heading up, having started along a flat trail this was a shock to the system and the longer grass killed the initial pace at which we started. The route then took us most of the way down the hill to the middle of the field for us to then climb back up, how cruel! One plus point of being on higher ground was the great views.
After about 3/4k I was thinking “I hope this whole 10k isn’t as up and down as the last few kilometres!” and “Why did I decide to run 20k yesterday”. My legs were feeling heavy on the uphill sections but I loved the downhills. Once I got over the hills and caught my breath back I was feeling good. I got to 6k and was holding a decent pace, luckily I had a couple of runners just in front of me to focus on and try to chase down. At around the 6k point one of the marshals said “last hill!” I immediately thought “this is going to be a big climb”. However, I was also looking forward to getting over the hill and then enjoying the flat last few kilometres. The hill seemed to go on forever; I just focused on keeping a consistent gap between myself and the two runners just in front.
At the top of the hill I was in familiar settings. I had run on some of the trails as part of the Orion Fell Race last year. Unfortunately I couldn’t make that event this year but I’ll definitely be trying to squeeze it in the race calendar for 2017. From kilometre 7 the rest of the route was nice and flat with a few slight downhills. At 8k we had to cross over Bury Road, there was a marshal positioned there and she told us to cross straight over and take the immediate right. The three of us had picked up our pace knowing we were so close to the finish. We headed through the trees along trails used for the Orion Forest Five, another great race. With a kilometre to go I upped my pace and managed to pass the two runners I was tailing for the majority of the event. My legs felt strong on the flat after tackling some tough hills around the course. I crossed the line in just over 40 minutes which I’m happy with considering the elevation and terrain and the amount of racing I’ve done over the last four weeks.
Having crossed the finish line I was surprised not to see Alex and the other runner that were flying from the start. Apparently they had got a little lost, they still finished 6th/7th or so which is impressive. James finished shortly after me; I can’t imagine how his legs must feel just three weeks after Spartathlon and having paced Nicolas for part of Autumn 100. Alan was next across the line and looked really strong before Claudia took the win in the women’s race. She maintains she hates 10ks but still tears it up despite preferring the longer distances, well done! The whole Advent Running group ran strong and really enjoyed the event.
I’m not sure whether I am able to make any of the other Tough 10 races but I definitely recommend them to anyone that’s up for a challenge. I’ll be keeping a close eye on them to see how everyone gets on; Box Hill is going to be an epic one for sure! If you want any more info on the Tough 10 series head to the website: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/support-us/find-an-event/charity-runs/tough-10
I hope everyone that took part enjoyed it. Tough 10 was the last event of four races on back to back weekends for me. I’ve loved racing regularly over the last month taking on distances from 10k to a marathon. I’m looking forward to getting in a few good weeks of decent mileage including track and then taking on the Kingston 10k at the end of November.
See a lot of you soon