The fog that had lingered throughout the day had lifted and it was a perfect night for a Rogue Runs race. With perfectly clear skies and not too cold, paired with a perfectly organised and friendly race and the prospect of cake at the end, it was going to be a fun night.
Heading off Too Quick?
Starting in the far south corner of the racecourse grounds, the start line is at the base of a tarmac hill. With 294 in the field I ensured I positioned myself near the front of the pack but the risk of doing so is that you can all too easy find yourself getting carried away with the fast runners, and with the top runner finishing in 34:45 there were some seriously fast runners.
After the initial hill it’s a gradual climb through a trail in Alcove Wood and then out onto Piercefield Park for a long stretch of field. For the first 2km of the race I definitely felt as though I as going too fast but was trying to gauge whether I was finding it tough due to the pace or just the usual feeling at the beginning of a race where your body is wondering what the hell you are doing to it!
Danger! Cliff Edge!
The section through Piercefield Park did include a small detour through a group of trees and the first muddy section. Exiting Piercefield you join the Wye Valley Walk and Piercefield Cliffs. This section quickly became extremely technical with rocks and tree roots to avoid in addition to the slippery mud. In some places the path was at an angle which meant keeping very alert as to where you were stepping. Being a very narrow path and running in a fast pack added to the complexity and I was acutely aware of the steep drop to the right but was too nervous to look in case I lost my footing.
I knew this section had Giant’s Cave where the path enters the small cave and exits at the rear of it. Having walked this section in the past I knew if you kept going you would end at numerous steep steps so wasn’t sure if the route would go this way or along a different path.
It transpired that after the cave there is a very steep muddy ‘path’ which you had to clamber up. The path then rejoins the Wye Valley Path and firmer woodland terrain. The was a bit of an ascent going through the wood as it headed up to The Temple at the northern end of the racecourse grounds but I knew that as soon as I reached the top there would be open field and a descent back towards the racecourse.
As the path descends and begins to follow the edge of the racecourse you can see the illuminated Severn Bridge peeking through the trees and combined with star-filled sky, I was really enjoying this section.
The Water Jump
Whilst waiting to start the race another runner mentioned that he thought there was a water obstacle on the course. I replied that I didn’t think there was although deep down I did wonder if I had seen a photo somewhere. I didn’t give it another thought and then just as I was enjoying the race a marshal shouted out to watch out for the ‘puddle’! It was muddy, cold and I still had about another 2K to go!
The video below is from this year’s cross country race.
The route then heads back across Piercefield Park and joins the Wye Valley Walk but heads in the other direction. This was another winding wooded trail with lots of roots, rocks and mud to contend with.
The trail then emerges at the top of the initial climb and after descending there was a 300m climb up to the finish line. With a runner in my sights I went into cross country mode and put my foot down to gain that extra place. I was thoroughly knackered by the end but made it around in one piece. I’ve already signed up for their next race in February which sees a return to the Forest of Dean.
You can always rely on Rogue Runs for an excellent selection of cakes when you finish.
Route Map and Race Profile
* Photo: Rogue Runs/Tosh K Simpkin