Saturday, 26 June 2010
Cotswold Way Relay - Chipping Campden to Stanway
Climbing up out of Chippy we run beside rich green dock leaves and cow parsley, flowers set at crazy angles like spinning plates on sticks. Seventy of us or thereabouts, at the beginning of a day already starting to broil, stringing out along the path that leads up to Dovers Hill where the annual sport of shin kicking takes place.
The late great Ronnie Barker retired to Chipping Campden to sell antiques for a hobby. It's a place that is likely to have featured on the lid of many a chocolate box whose richness of heritage - for me - tends boil over into acute tweeness. A place of yellow limestone, thatched roofs and clipped box hedges. You would not be surprised to meet Miss Marple sleuthing among the blooming roses. The shin kicking - to me - speaks of an engaging and mildly anarchic underlying local spirit (and taste for zoider).
It bodes to be a swelterer and I'm relieved to be getting my stage out of the way early. Everyone takes the road instead of the footpath at one point so I feel ok about using my local knowledge to take a direct line along the old drovers lane known as the Mile Drive. I make a few places by doing this before we have to go into single file to cross fields of motionless unripened wheat.
Fall into conversation with Keith a vet 50 from Pewsey Vale and an ex army PT instructor with a marathon best of 2hrs 50 something and we bez down into Broadway from the tower together and then out and up the hill on the other side.
The long sections of track, white and bright, come and go - they're a less inspiring section of this leg. Then I open it up coming down through the dingly dell valley leading into Stanton and overtake the guy ahead. Keith's on my shoulder.
Stanton is just insanely twee.
Through the parkland trees that surround the village of Stanway. Keith seems to have dropped away. There's not much left in the tank as I dig deep and push it along the last short road section to the finish in front of the grandiose gates to the Big House. 1:33:19, 18th overall. Team wise (Almost Ultimates): 28th out of 74.
The Cotswold Way relay is run by Bath AC. The 103 mile route is divided up into 10 sections. It's not a baton-carrying style relay, each leg starts as the lead runner from the previous leg arrives. It's worth doing if only for the pre-race briefing delivered with military precision and well worn but nonetheless funny jokes.