Earlier today, I ran the New Forest 10 – a lovely, well-organized and relatively small race held about two hours south of London. It was a very long day (the ride home was nearly four hours, with traffic) but definitely worth it!

I have been wanting to go to the New Forest ever since I heard about its large network of beautiful trails and meadows with wild horses (among other wildlife) roaming free. Sounded like a pretty idyllic place to go for a hike, run or whatever else! I figured a 10 mile race would be not only be a perfect opportunity to explore the forest, but also a nice way to finally race this distance.

The great thing about racing a distance for the first time is that you know you will get a PB – and in my case, I know I will also get a PB the next time I do a 10 miler too, since I treated today’s race as a structured training run. The plan was to do a progressive long run, with each mile slightly faster than the last, roughly following these pace ranges: 1M easy (9ish), 3M steady (8:15-8:45), 3M MP (8-8:15), and 3M between MP and threshold pace (7:18 – 8:00) with a sprint finish.

I’m pleased to report that I followed these pace guidelines nearly perfectly! According to my garmin, I finished 10.04M in 1:22:07 at an 8:10 min/mile average pace. Officially, my chip time was 1:22:08 for 10M, giving me an average pace of 8:12. Either way, I’m very happy, since 8:12 or just below is my “perfect world” marathon pace that would give me a sub-3:35 finish and thus a spot in the Boston Marathon under its new time guidelines. In terms of placement, I came in at 310 out of 904 finishers. Pretty good for not having fully raced it!

As you can see in my garmin details, there were two miles – 4 and 8 – that didn’t quite follow the gradually faster split pattern…

Remember all the wild horses? Well, on the way to the race, I had wondered where these supposed horses would be in relation to the course and how they would react to nearly 1,000 runners invading their home. I figured the race organizers knew what they were doing and didn’t think much of it. As we gathered at the start line, the race commentator made the obvious joke about no riding ponies to better our times, and then we were off!

The first few miles included peaceful forest trails that eventually opened out into huge grassy meadows, with tons of gorgeous horses and foals grazing in the distance along with some interesting looking long-haired cows. Just how I had imagined this race to be! At one point, a few horses galloped alongside us and then crossed our narrow path to get to the other meadow, but it wasn’t a big deal. As one runner noted, it was almost as if they wanted to remind us that they were faster! 🙂

Cut to halfway through mile four: we’re all running along another forest trail when out of nowhere, I hear people behind me yelling and turn around to see at least ten massive horses galloping on the trail towards us and runners practically diving off to either side. It was quite a shock – I really thought I was joking when I signed up for the race and thought to myself, hopefully we won’t be trampled by a stampede of wild horses!

My friend and I quickly got out of the way and stood still until they had passed. As you would expect, we were all shouting at the runners ahead to watch out. However, one woman was listening to music and didn’t hear the warning – a horse approached her at full speed and was about a foot away as she turned and saw him (her expression – OMG), before the horse veered off to the side and back into the forest. This is, presumably, why listening to music is forbidden in this race! Man, I wish I could’ve captured the scene on camera. It was pretty crazy.

My heart was pounding and it took me awhile to catch my breath after the horses disappeared. So, that is why that mile ended up being nine seconds slower! Apparently it happened again after I increased my pace and said goodbye to my friend, but the rest of my race was rather uneventful as far as wild animal encounters go.

And what about mile 8? Sorry, no exciting story to tell there – that was just the hilly section!

Like most of these local country runs, the very last leg of the course was on thick grass – not my favorite way to end a race but I still managed a good sprint for the crowds. There’s simply no way I can see a finish line and not want sprint across it!

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera at home, but I did take a photo of my AMAZING horse medal for you guys:

I didn’t buy the leather strap (I think to hang off a saddle, perhaps?) to go with the medal, so I’ll just grab some ribbon to hang it on the wall with my others.

After some stretching and lying in the sunshine on the grass (required post-race activity, obviously), my friends and I headed to a local pub for lunch. I of course had my usual UK race recovery meal – a big burger. Yum.

As for my hip…several days of rest definitely helped and I felt great during the run, although it’s feeling sore again after today’s effort followed by the long car ride home. I’m VERY keen to get back on schedule (my mileage this past week was under 20 for the first time in ages), but equally, I know that I need to get this sorted so that it doesn’t become any worse. I’ll just take it day by day and see how things go! Perhaps a nice, easy recovery run tomorrow will do the trick!