In my humble opinion conditions where tougher than in last years race. The frosty, semi-solid ground was replaced my warm, sticky, clay based mud - and lots of it. I tried to stay with Helen on the first of the two main climbs, through the woods to the top of May Hill but by the time I came over the top and into the woods on the far side she was but a distant memory. I was still feeling good and pushed as hard as I dared on the downhill - not wanting to destroy my legs too soon as there was still a fair bit of climbing to be run in the second half.
From half way and the really muddy section I just tried to hold things together and for the first time - and this was my fourth attempt at the race - I didn't have to stop once as I ran the final hill - I say ran in the loosest sense. It was slippy as hell and I was not going fast but I was definitely running.
There was a big crowd at the top of that final climb cheering us all on which was most welcome. Then it was onto the road and downhill - praise be for down hill, hallelujah . A couple of runners came past but by then I didn't care. A glance at the watch indicated I was on to beat last years time as long as I didn't disintegrate. I didn't.
I finished in 1:04:42 which is about 2 minutes and 40 seconds faster than last year and only 59 seconds slower than my fastest time on the course. I was 29th up from last years 37th. Suffice to say I am very pleased. The improvement continues.
Helen won the women's race in a new course record time after a close battle with Laura Kent. Helen pulled away after May Hill on the descent but things closed back up by the finish where mere seconds separated them.