The Belvoir Challenge is unlike any race I have participated in. If you are looking to try and get a new PB, this is probably not the race for you but if you are looking for a well organised, fun and friendly race, which offers a challenging an picturesque route and lot's of yummy home-made cake, the Belvoir Challenge is well worth a look.
The Belvoir Challenge starts and finishes in the village of Harby, in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire. It offers two routes of 15 and 26 miles, both of which are mainly off-road and involve a fair bit of elevation. Hence why it's not really a PB course.
On arrival to the village hall in Harby, I knew this was going to be a special race. They had a full BBQ on the go and this was at 8am! Everyone was very friendly and sign in was easy as they had plenty of volunteers and separate queues for different groups of surnames. There was no chip timing or race number to pin on, just a small laminated tag (which I tied on to my gel belt) and a map of the route. There were the inevitable queues for the loo but I can't really see how they could have crammed more portaloos in to the start area.
The race got off on time but (having queued for the loo) I don't think I have been so cold before the start of a race. The start of the race was slow but this was down to the tight nature of the village streets and, to be fair, we were toward the back with those walking the course. The first 4 miles were uphill and we settled into a good group, having fun negotiating the styles (well, apart from Mike and Kieron who decided to leap over one of the iron fences into a load of mud!). I had been promised that this race would deliver plenty of mud, plenty of hills and plenty of cake and it did not disappoint!
At about 5 miles we came across a sheep that was lying on it's side and appeared to be heavily pregnant. Despite one member of our group suggesting he could go "all creatures great and small", we decided that alerting a marshall was probably the best course of action.
At about 6.5 miles we came into the pretty village of Eaton, and our first checkpoint. They had set up the village hall and there were loads of volunteers on-hand to serve hot tea and coffee, as well as fruit cordials, Mars bars and all manner of home-made cake! We spent about 10 mins at the rest stop and allowed some of the other member of our group to catch up. Well it was an excuse to eat a bit more cake!
Getting going and leaving the relative warmth of the village hall was quite tough but once we were moving again it was fine. The section between 8 and 10 miles involved another ascent to the highest point on the course (about 560ft) but thankfully there was another checkpoint on about 10 miles. Although this one was outside, it offered even more cake than the one before! If I had a rucksack with me, I think the temptation to stuff it full of cake and chocolate might have been too much!
The final section involved a really enjoyable descent and took in some more pretty villages, including Stathern. Although, in my view, taking the route so close to the Red Lion was a mistake. I was extremely tempted to pop in and have a quick half by the fire!
By this stage, I was in a small group with Ains and James and we were able to pick up our pace in the final few miles. James was having to dig deep and given he is not yet 16, did really well to keep the pace. Ains seemed to have got stronger following our rapid descent (maybe it was the pigeon feet?!) . We were passing a lot of other runners at this point and only really had to slow down to negotiate a huge muddy puddle in a farmers field. Well, when I say negotiate, we actually just ran straight through the middle of it! In fact, given all the mud we encountered, it was a miracle I got to about 13 miles before my feet got wet.
We were all feeling the miles by the end and we had helped to get each other through to this point but hey, this was still a race. We all managed to find some extra energy and had a good sprint for the line. I think on another day, James would have definitely taken me down.
Now, that's just showing off!
At the end of the race you get to retire to the warmth of the village hall, where there are more volunteers on hand to serve you hot food and, yes you guessed it, even more cake! There was also a rather nice personalised certificate.
So, if you want a fun, friendly and well organised off road race, I can whole-heartedly recommend the Belvoir challenge. Oh, did I mention they had cake?