Wyre Forest Trail Half Marathon report by Al Graham

Brutal and relentless are both words that could describe the 2018 Wyre Forest Trail Half-Marathon. Beautiful and fun are two more words that could describe it.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous when I got to the start: the temperature was already 24C (it peaked at 28C) and the field looked small and incredibly strong. This was very obviously going to be a ‘runners race’. What I hadn’t factored in was the fact that the elevation was going to continually change (don’t they know that I run in the Thames valley where a hill is a rare occurrence), and that the final 200m were going to be up the steep downhill that we started with.

The first mile was a bit of a dust storm as all the runners pounded the forest trail, but once the field started to stretch out then things got easier in terms of breathing and dust in your eyes. The first drinks station at 3 miles was a welcome sight though. The course went through open forest tracks, covered single-file paths, beside (low flowing) rivers, through bracken filled glades: it really was a visual treat. There were few spectators, especially away from the start but the marshals were superbly encouraging, as were the odd mountain biker and horse rider that we chanced upon. My best section was probably after the mile 7 drinks station – a mile and a half of gentle downhill to really open up the legs, half a mile of vicious uphill (but with a great marshal yelling at me to ‘dig in, son’), and half a mile of flat ex-railway track (before yet more uphill in the sun!). The mood amongst the runners was also good: I saw someone fall, and everyone near him stopped to check he was OK; someone almost went up the wrong footpath in a dense part of the wood and we all called them back; brief chats at the drinks station were friendly. We were in it together, not really competing hard.

The first two runners home were separated by one second, both representing Wreake & Soar Valley, in incredible times of 01:24:24 (Paul Miles) and 01:24:25 (Danny Hallam). The first woman home was 5th overall with a brilliant time of 01:28:04 (Nicola Sykes for Bournville Harriers).

I was 53rd overall out of 158 finishers with a time of 01:56:13 (so I hit the target that I was aiming for in making sure it was sub-2 hrs). More excitingly for me (as a mid-table runner) I was in the top ten in my category, MV40 (9). And just because I hardly ever get to say it, I was the first ERR home (out of a field of one!).

This was a superb race and one I would do again, although I think it might be even harder when you know what hills are coming!