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Malvern beacon 7 This is a race for serious hill runners only, I'm not being funny, really, this is not for the faint hearted. The race starts in a tiny park right at the top of the town (Gt Malvern). The first mile is very narrow and winds to-and-fro up towards the path that circumnavigates the ridge of Malvern hill itself. If you have any intention of doing a good time you need to elbow your way to the front of the start line because for the first mile your ability to overtake is almost nil. Each time the path was really steep the queue would fall to walking pace and then accelerate as the path flattened again. Actually running was the worse of the two options because, as those of you who know the Malverns will remember, the path is very rocky and running in a crowd without being able to see where to put your feet got very scary each time the pace increased. Gradually the field stretched out and there was a fast mile or so of narrow undulating path running south on the eastern side of the ridge. Then the real climb started. It went on for about a mile and a half and I was variously running, jogging, walking, walking with bent legs, walking with straight legs. Jog a few strides, walk a few strides, run a bit where it was flat enough. Anything really to try to distribute the pain and stop any particular muscles from seizing up, all the while keeping up a gut-busting pant to stay with the psychological tow of the group. Finally we arrived at the top at the Beacon. Phew! All downhill from here! Unfortunately this is where the real problems started. It had been raining hard for a couple of hours and now that we were out of the woods water was running down every surface. North from the Beacon is a very steep descent, a combination of smooth grass and rocky outcrops. I fell 3 times just in that couple of hundred meters and could easily have been injured if I had not happened to fall flat on my back each time onto the soft grass. The entry form had specifically said “not suitable for studs” because a lot of the course is a stone path but I think, on balance, studs were the only thing that was going to work in those wet conditions. There was a descending gravel and rock path running north-west which brought us to a wide, flat well made shale path running for about 2 miles clockwise around the north end of the ridge. Merciful relief, all our troubles are over! Time to look at those spectacular views mentioned on the entry form. Humph! All I could see was driving rain! Actually it turned out that the worst was still to come. We reached a marshal who told us there was a mile and a half to go and directed us off the main path onto a steeply descending path that led back to the town. This was, without doubt the scariest part of what was turning out to be one of the scariest races I have ever done. The path was grass, shale and rock and so steep that slowing down was almost impossible. I was basically jumping over the rocks at a fast run trying just to stay on the path. Eventually I managed to slow down enough to gain some measure of control but it meant that I was passed by 5 people who obviously had a lot more grip than I did. Finally after a couple of heart stopping zig-zags, where failing to stop really would have meant going over the edge, we arrived back on a road for the last half mile back to the start (which in the mean time had been converted into the finish).
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First#45:18 Laurie Hurman#58:56 Last#2:05:51