The Waterbeach Running Festival – My Review

A couple of weeks ago, a mere 6 days after the behemoth (well, for me anyway) run that was the Wings for Life World Run, I found myself heading to the old army barracks at Waterbeach to take part in the 10km race that was being held as part of the inaugural Waterbeach Running Festival. The festival was being held in aid of the Waterbeach Toddler Playgroup, and when my friends Pete and Rach told me that they had signed up, I thought I may as well give it a bash myself.

After the scorching heat of the previous weekend, it was a bit of a shock to the system when we arrived at the barracks to a leaden sky and temperatures that were seriously struggling to reach double figures, as well as a less than helpful wind. The barracks themselves are also a little spooky – a great setting for a horror film for any keen amateur film-makers out there. Despite this, the atmosphere was buzzy and everyone seemed genuinely excited to be the first to take part in a new addition to the Cambridgeshire running calendar.

The festival itself was made up of four events – a 100m toddle for under 5s, a 2km fun run for ages 4+, a 5km run for ages 11+ and then the 10km for ages 15+. I have to say that when I found myself having a major internal battle regarding whether I should run in capris or shorts I did ask the others why we hadn’t signed up for the 5km. Sadly none of us had a sensible answer for that.

After we had grabbed our race numbers (a flawless process), we then ventured outside to do a highly necessary warm up. I did feel a bit sorry for the vendors who had pitched up for the fair, including the awesome Sweet Ally Scoops, because the freezing cold weather meant that ice cream wasn’t high up on people’s snack agenda. I imagine that if the weather had been nicer the whole festival would have had an awesome party vibe.

Once we’d warmed up we headed to the race start, which was about a 2 minute jog from the sports hall where we’d registered (not “miles away” as some worried looking folk were telling us as the start time edged ever nearer)! The race itself was a 2-lap course, set to start 15 minutes after the 5km runners had started. This meant that some of the faster 10km runners would find themselves catching up the 5km tail runners, but the path was so wide that this wouldn’t be an issue. There were around 100 runners taking part in the 10km, and after we had the usual housekeeping chat from the organisers, we were off.

To be honest, if you’re looking for a picturesque race, then this isn’t the one for you. It’s pretty barren, and the layout of the course means you can often see the runners who are way ahead of you, which has the potential to mess with your mojo. Plus I know runners have mixed feeling about 2-lap courses. Personally I don’t mind them (10km is 10km however you look at it), but I get that it can be mentally tough to finish 5km only to think “bloody hell I have to do that again?!” But the positive thing about this race is that it is flat. There is the occasional pothole and the surface is ever so slightly gravelly, but the upshot is that this is a course with serious PB potential.

When I started the race, I got ahead of the other handful of women at the start within about 100m. However, I regretted this pretty quickly as I started panicking that I had gone off too ¬†quickly and I had no idea just how close to me these women were. Were they just drafting behind me, waiting for the perfect moment to strike and zoom past me? At about 7km in, my left leg started to grumble a bit. After the 11 miles in high temperatures from the previous weekend, my legs didn’t really know what had hit them. As someone who averages 10-15 miles a week, after this run I would be at 24 miles in 7 days. That’s a pretty serious increase, and I started to wonder if my leg would hold up. At 8km I had no choice but to walk for about 10 seconds, which annoyed me immensely as I hate it when I don’t manage to run an entire race. On the plus side however, I managed to look over my shoulder and see that there was no other woman in sight. This gave me the mental boost I needed, and I dug deep and completed the race as the first woman, something I’m still in shock about.

Waterbeach 10k Podium

I completed the race in 43:55, which is not a time I’m particularly proud of (my PB being 42:41) but which I suppose wasn’t bad on tired legs. In even more exciting news, both Pete and Rach managed PBs, which considering the windy conditions was blooming awesome. Hopefully these results will put as all in good stead for the season, and put Pete on his way to finally achieving his sub 1:30 half marathon.

Waterbeach 10k Medals

Unfortunately my leg has been grumpy ever since the race. Every time I run, I feel good during the session but the next day it completely seizes up. It’s my own silly fault for upping my mileage so much, but I don’t think it’s muscular as a physio appointment and some epic foam rolling and stretching hasn’t eased it much. I’m seeing my fab osteopath Melissa at Spritely Osteopathy at an ungodly hour on Tuesday morning, so fingers crossed she’ll be able to pinpoint the root cause of the problem. Wish me luck.

As far as the races goes, I can’t recommend the Waterbeach Running Festival enough. It was smoothly run, the organisers and marshals were friendly, encouraging and professional, and the course is ideal for anyone hoping to smash their 5km or 10km PB. Every runner gets a medal, and my trophy is so gorgeous. Fingers crossed this becomes an annual event, and that next year we get ice cream weather.

Waterbeach 10k Trophy




Dear Cambridge Parkrun – it’s been a while…

I feel that now we’re getting to know each other a bit better, I should share with you the fact that I am NOT a morning person, let alone a morning exerciser. So while I think the nationwide Parkrun organisation is utterly brilliant, it’s a bit of battle for me to get up before 8am on a Saturday to drive 25 minutes to Milton and make my legs work properly for a start time of 9am. In fact the last time I did this was terrifyingly more than three years ago, where I got a time of 24:20. But inspired by my friend Pete (more about him in a minute) I got up, fed the cat, threw on some (bright, obvs) running gear and grabbed a banana and a pack of oat biscuits. When Pete arrived to pick me up I apologised for looking like a character from Fraggle Rock (I hadn’t even combed my hair) and to the dulcet tones of Taylor Swift we head off.


Two slightly demented runners.

Now, the thing about Pete is that he’s like me – he also started running around the age-30 mark. In fact, when I did that first Parkrun in January 2012, Pete came with me and got a time of around 27 minutes. Fast forward to April 25th 2015, and he was psyching himself up to aim for a sub 20 minute 5km. Now to me, this is utterly immense. Pete’s natural talent for running is awesome, and he’s got some amazing expertise in the shape of his friends Nick and Claire Jellema (both elite runners) to call on for advice. This combined with his training efforts has clearly worked wonders, and he’s now a bit of a speed demon.

Another way Pete is like me, is with his pre-run jitters. Any time there’s any kind of race element (i.e. there are other people around and you’ll get an official time out of it) we both get stupidly nervous. For example, this morning I ummed and ahhed about whether or not to run with water (I sweat a lot (lovely) and dehydrate easily) and at about 8:56 am Pete patiently trotted back to the car with me so that I could take my water after all. It doesn’t matter that we’ve both run the distance dozens of times before – we both always want to perform well, and that pressure can make you nervous.

Park Run

Photo courtesy of the Cambridge Parkrun Facebook page

So I left Pete at the front of the group and settled myself in amongst the 23 minute hopefuls. Having only recently recovered from a strained tendon in my foot I thought that might have been a tad optimistic, but I figured I might as well try and push myself. I also happened to bump into Neil Costello, the Chair of Cambridge & Coleridge Athletic Club. I know Neil as he’s a member of the Sports Centre where I work, and we chatted a bit about my running future, with him telling me that he reckoned I had another 10 years in me before my speed would start to plateau and decline. He got a 17 minute-odd 5km in his early 40s, so that was really encouraging to hear. As we set off, he shouted “go on Lauren, get up in front!” as I scuttled my way past some people to find my comfortable pace.

The course itself is relatively twisty, and involves a loop off to the right of the park, followed by two loops to the left. Luckily it’s relatively flat with just a few small inclines to tackle, and the wet weather from the night before hadn’t churned up the course too much. I felt pretty good all the way around and even managed something of a sprint finish. I then met up with Pete at the finish line, and his watch showed he had comfortably beaten his PB by more than 20 seconds (ridiculous!), coming in at around 19:50. I thought I was around the 22:40 mark, so we both took our chips to be scanned alongside our printed personal barcodes (which you’re assigned when you sign up to the Parkrun online), and went for a swift post-run celebratory coffee.

As we enjoyed our drinks, we both pondered what might have been if we had both discovered long distance running a bit earlier in life. I’m not sure how receptive I would have been to being pushed into cross country at school when I was younger, but I don’t remember opportunities for long-distance running being that readily available either. I get the impression that Pete was always pretty sporty, but for whatever reason running just didn’t appeal to him either. But we’re both giving it a hell of a go now, and it feels awesome. Plus the good news – Pete got his PB of 19:51 confirmed, and was the 35th male (37th overall). I finished in 22:40 and was the 12th female (112th overall). Naturally I now want top 10 female and top 100 finisher next time.


Two thumbs up for a sub 20 minute 5k!

The thing I love about the Parkrun, is that it’s completely free for anyone who wants to give it a go. It doesn’t matter how fit you think you are, anyone can give it a bash, and we saw runners of all levels today. It’s run by volunteers who willingly give up their Saturday lie-ins to cheer on people they don’t know, and it’s run so efficiently. I’m definitely going to add my name to the volunteer roster, and even though I can’t make the next two Saturdays, I’m going to make an effort to do a lot more of these. Now, who’s with me?