The first race of 2018, Freedom Racing's Clowance Woods kick started the 2018 season off in style, with just under 4 sunny miles around the Clowance Estate near Praze-an-Beeble. This estate, not normally open to the public, was packed out with enthusiastic runners ready to pound the muddy paths on Sunday morning. Despite the warm atmosphere and bright sunshine, a Siberian wind made it feel positively Arctic on the start line, as a crisp white frost hung on tenaciously in the shadows. As is typical of the Freedom races, Falmouth Road Runners once again had probably the largest turnout of any Cornish club, with runners coating the start line in a sea of red, keen to burn off the recent Christmas party excesses.
The race comprises two identical loops of the estate, through forests, thigh-deep bogs, across streams and beside lakes. Whilst only a short race, the terrain made it rather more energy sapping than one would expect.
After a short briefing we were off, sprinting downhill down the grass towards the main lake, before being directed to the right on a track slanting uphill towards some holiday homes. Following a brief section of tarmac, we were off into a boggy grassy field, climbing gradually uphill next to a golf course. A sharp right then left leads to a further climb on rough track, before a great fast downhill section on muddy path through the forest. Returning to tarmac, the start-finish line was in sight, but we weren't heading there as we had to yet see the southern part of the estate. Curving round on the grass on the eastern shore of the lake, a short steep climb took us back into forest and then the most exciting part of the race. A long downhill leads to a deep bog, the faster runners bouncing through with ease, letting momentum carry them through, other runners picking their way gingerly round the outside on firmer ground. Another brief climb then leads to another fine section of muddy forest trail, which starts to become a little rocky and technical before a couple of bridges and a thigh-deep river crossing. One of the highlights for sure.
Rounding the southern and western shore of the main lake, runners then commence the second loop. Somewhat more churned up than on the way out, an inquisitive swan also added extra interest just before the golf course. About halfway round the second lap, the faster runners caught the back of the pack. I was chasing down 6th place in the race, when the guy in front of me lost his shoe in the thigh-deep bog. I couldn't help but smile, thinking he probably wasn't the only runner to lose a shoe there that day.
Splashing through the river again and rounding the main lake, all that was left was a final uphill sprint up the grass to the finish line. I was rapidly closing down 5th place, but he saw me coming and found enough to increase his speed and hold me off. The first race of the Grand Prix, Storm Force 10, is next up in a couple of weeks...