This is the second year of the Eastridge Trail Half, which is run by Shrewsbury athletics club and the race itself starts off from Snailbeach Village Hall. Race HQ was in the village hall car park and it was great to see the full TORQ stand with Matt and Anthony dishing out products and advice to the competitors.
The sun was really beating down and there were a lot of competitors. Due to the conditions, some even ran topless and attached their numbers to thier shorts (this was the Men at least)! There were a lot of familiar faces on the start line, with local club Mercia Fell Runners being in particularly high numbers.
Despite this being a local race for me, I missed last year’s event, but my team mates that had done it described it as “hilly.” I know the extensive mountain bike trails in the woods well (which also act as the local training ground for the TORQ MTB team), so I was hoping I’d possibly recognise some parts of the route.
On the “GO,” a group of about 6 of us headed off strongly, as we made our way up the winding forest tracks. I was a few metres behind this group and people soon became strung out. We’d had quite a lot of rain overnight, so the track was a little greasy where the trees didn’t provide cover. The course meandered around the lower part of the woods for a few km, before we headed towards what I knew was going to be a steeper climb. This climb being locally known as “the cliff.” We then ascended part of an old Mountain bike race track, which is often used in fell races. Sure enough, as the trail veered up a steep bank, I could see runners ahead who were starting to walk. I decided to conserve my energy too and walked the 100m or so up the worst of it. There was even a rope supplied on the worst gradient, but not many used it.
At the top of “the cliff,” it was back to running and the first drink station (these were every few km), I gained a couple of places here, as the two runners in front of me stopped for water. Due to the heat, I ran with a small bottle of TORQ energy. The course then headed down for about 2 km of woodland fire road. I had my bearings now and knew we were about to start a long drag out of the woods and onto the top of the Stiperstones – to the rocky outcrop called the “Devils Chair.” I’d lost one further place on the descent, but guessed I was in a top 10 position.
The climb onto the Stiperstones was into the wind, so although more effort was required, it did have a nice cooling effect. It’s a long drag for about 4km and 800ft of height gain. There were great views of the Shropshire hills on my left and away to Wales on my right. The trail’s surface was a bit hazardous, with grass being full of hidden holes and rocks. Halfway up here, the leaders (that had reached the turning point), were now heading back down past me. Two of the Mercia guys were out in front and running together – and fast too! They had a good 5 minutes on me already, counting back as people came past, I was positioned just in the top 10. I reached the turnaround, dropped off my wristband in the bucket and rounded the cairn, then started back down the drag.
I shouted greetings to a few of my mates as I passed them on their way up, they all looked as hot as I was feeling. My quads were not enjoying the 4km descent either. I ran past some of the TORQ staff (who were enjoying the sunshine), they too cheered me on as the descent came to an abrupt end and then kicked straight up another fire road for another 2km, as it skirted the woods again. This climb was again all runnable, but my legs were feeling it now, so I pushed on and had a second gel, which I washed down with water from the cheery people at the feed station. I guessed we had one more climb to go and then about 2km of pretty flat ground until home.
There was one runner visible in front (who had passed me on the long descent), but no one in view behind. The last few km were run at good pace, as I knew the finish was coming up. We finally came out of the woods and into the finish. I’d managed 10th place.
All in all a great course, which took in woodland trails, open moorland and rocky tracks. You definitely get your money’s worth of climbing too! The organisation was great, with plenty of cheering at the multiple drink stations. A highly recommendable race.
Distance 20.4 km – Height gain 686m – Time 135:45 mins
The TORQ Running Team is sponsored by the following and without them we would not be able to do what we do, thank you: