Holly Challenge – 26.1.19

Race Report by Brenda Lee

So 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning and I’m not getting ready for Park run! Instead the lovely Nicky Chambers was picking me up for us to go to the Winter Holly Challenge in Telford.

We set off and journey was good. We had been sent detailed pictures and instructions which proved useful. This is a “How Hard Can it Be” event and we received a friendly welcome and registration was straight forward. There were only a total of about 50 runners taking part in the event so nice atmosphere and immediately felt like a race for runners.

However at this point Nicky decided to tell me that a Half Marathon meant a total of 16 laps! Far too late to change my mind so I just had to embrace the occasion.

We started promptly, in what was a beautiful location, and off we went to discover what the .8 mile lap would be. Well – after a few meters we met “The Hill” it was big and as you reached the summit it bent round to the left and carried on up! My first thought was how on earth am I going to do this 16 times but I just accepted I had to do it and thought of Mark/Daniel’s advice on hills and got on with it. There was a welcome downhill but then – another hill! However this was nowhere near as bad and once that was done it was a nice flat course.

My mistake was not to wear my trail shoes – it is basically a dirt track but there were a few puddles and muddy patches. The mud increased as lap after lap was completed by runners.

This soon becomes a race for metal training and not just physical. I personally think it is good to do a race of “laps” because you need to have you mental strength right for long runs. I also realised it wasn’t going to be a PB course so, as a wiser more experienced runner than I always says, treat it as a training run. It was a wonderful location, sounds of birds signing and even donkeys made it feel like a real escape from everyday life.

Lap after lap passed and I soon reached lap 11. Nicky had changed to the 10k as it fitted better with her training plan so she than became my chief supporter. For this I was very grateful as lap 11/12 was the toughest. At this point I changed my strategy from 4:1 to walking both hills and running the rest. This seemed to work well and also at about the same pace – so all good.

I was completely in awe of the marathon and ultra marathon runners who had a minimum of 32 laps. They were simply incredible.

I reached the finish line and rang the bell – a little quirk to this race which I loved. I was greeted with a hug from Nicky, a nice medal, couple of magazines, photo call, biscuits, sweets, and hot/cold drinks.

The positives – beautiful location, great support from the marshals/organisers and fellow runners, a Saturday run which is a good alternative to Sunday, field of runners who love running, registration and parking straightforward, nice medal.

The negatives – you have to miss Park run!

So did I enjoy, yes, would I recommend? Well all I can say is it isn’t called the “Winter Holly Challenge” for nothing – if it didn’t have the hill it wouldn’t be so satisfying to complete and it wouldn’t be a challenge! I think there are a lot of Massey family who would enjoy this – give it a go.