I did the 50 mile version of this race last year as part of the Centurion Running 50 Mile Grand Slam. When I saw the Wendover Woods Night 50K version pop up on the calendar just 3 weeks before the North Downs Way 100 I thought it would make an ideal final long training run.
As you’d expect, from the name, the race is held in Wendover Woods, in Buckinghamshire. The woods are actually pretty small, only about 1 mile by 2 miles, but there are plenty of tracks. Centurion have done a great job of eeking out a 10 mile circuit from the limited space available. The woods are also on a ridge bank, so there are plenty of short steep hills. However there are lots of runnable easier descents. The ascent was a pretty brutal 1900ft per loop.
The Wendover Woods Night 50K starts at 11pm on a Friday. I’d spent the day at work, headed out for some food then driven the 90 minutes to the start. It was a warm, humid July night. The evening was bright, but most of the event was in the woods which made things pretty dark.
Kit check, registration etc all went smoothly, and I spotted a few friends so chatted to them for a bit. The Wendover Woods 100 race was also being run at the same time. I think there were a dozen or so entrants, so everyone was giving them lots of encouragement.
Come 11pm we set off for a loop to start with to make up the ~1 mile, before starting three 10 mile loops.
There were whole sections of the course that I’d forgotten all about, and some of the hills I had completely blocked from my memory (to save my sanity).
The first loop went well, even though my headtorch was fairly dim. I pushed myself a good bit, but was feeling strong. After the first loop I changed headtorch but the spare was also a bit dim. My spare batteries were at the start/finish point so I’d have to wait till the next loop.
The second loop was also good, kept pushing, running everywhere I could. It was really humid and I was sweating a lot, so I made sure I kept drinking.
After 2 loops I changed the batteries in my headtorch and things brightened up (pun intended). I headed out on the final loop, still feeling really good. It was around 4am by now. This final loop was hard but I kept the pace up as best I could.
I was yo-yoing with a guy. He would overtake me on the hills, I’d overtake him on the more runable sections. I managed to keep ahead of him for the back half of the lap. I was pushing hard now to stay in front of him. The guy passed me on the final hill but I managed to get in front again. I then held on to the lead for the final section. It wasn’t that I was racing him as such, I was simply using him to push myself.
I knew that the hills on this race would make good training for the North Downs Way 100 in three weeks.
I was pretty happy with a 7:18 finish at the Wendover Wood Night 50k. This was about 25 minutes than the same distance on this course last year. Now onwards to the next race – North Downs Way 100.