"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

The Cleevewold Race - Postlip, Cotswolds - March 2023

This was the race I booked up after the Tour of Torpantau was cancelled - I was casting around for a hill race and found this one on a free weekend. It started high up on the highest part of the Cotswold Hills near Cheltenham, with registration in a nearby, ancient Tithe Barn which was right up there with the most historic Race HQs I have known (along with Warwick Castle and the Skirrid Inn).

It was not the usual hill crowd that I see at the Fell Races, even Chepstow Harriers didn't seem to be in evidence - but there were good turnouts from CLC Striders, Cheltenham Harriers and the wonderfully named Almost Athletes. There were 78 in total and as we lined up high on the common for the start I edged quite close to the pack of fast-looking runners, hoping I wasn't being too optimistic.

From the start we belted across the high common, on broad and flat paths beaten hard by the feet of hikers and dog walkers, with pale almost chalky soil showing through the sheep-cropped grass. Spring had not yet sprung in any real sense, so the hills were in their winter mode, bleak and in muted colours under a steely sky. The route took us up and over the high common land, with views down over the Vale of Gloucester, then we skirted around the base of the hill looklng for a sign to show us the way. The route was fully marked but this was the first "gap" where I was not the only one wondering which way to turn. Some confident runners who knew the route led us up over the hill again, a proper fellrunner's ascent with hands on knees. There were a couple of different lines to choose from, I went with the majority through a winding gulley on the left and when we emerged there was the encouraging sight of posts and hazard tape to show us we had stayed on course. We all came together over the golf course, passing frequent (and reassuring) course markers, past the water station, then on a succession of paths and droves on endless Cotswold ups and downs.

There was another occasion when we ran out of signage, but I took a punt on a pathway up a slight slope and was again rewarded with tape to show I was on track - I called back to the runner behind me to reassure her as well. Over the next few twists and turns we had long drags over sloping fields, muddy droves and forest paths, then a section over fields with tape marking the styles and posts showing us a line down to the final section, which included a fast downgrade on a narrow lane. Here I remembered my tendonitis woes of years gone by, triggered by racing hard downhill on roads, so I found a line on the muddy fringe of the lane and held back a little with shortened strides. Glancing at my watch I was still at 170 bpm so over race pace anyway - holding back there was probably no bad thing.

I gave it all up on this one, slowing as the finish approached as I had nothing left in the tank, but I finished very happy with 24th out of 78 runners, 3rd Vet 50. As well as feeling very satisfied with the result I was more than satisfied with the beautiful views and landscapes I'd been able to immerse myself in. The race was well organised, with its unique start/finish at the old Manor and Barn of Postlip adding to the atmosphere. It was a very friendly crowd of runners too. The nearest equivalent I remember running would be the Mendip Muddle, or maybe the Sarn Helen - a trail race that thinks it's a fell race here and there....


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