‘It was difficult not to think about the distance I’ve covered or that I’ve never run farther than 37K.’
The race I spent the entire summer preparing for took place in Sherwood Pines — a 15-minute taxi ride from the nearest town of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, a 2.5-hour train ride from London. We arrived on a Saturday and stayed overnight at a spacious Airbnb, where I prepared my snacks, ordered water for the race, and rested before the event. There is no Uber in Nottinghamshire, so I had to download the local taxi app and pre-book the race for 8:00 a.m. sharp. The next day, I was surprised when it came on time and cost merely 13.5 GBP to get to the forest.
The ‘forest’ is a large national reserve in the Midlands — which itself sounds as if it came straight out of Lord of the Rings — a national park with good infrastructure, a cafe, bike hire, and even a hotel with hot tubs outside (which, if I knew about, I would have pre-booked), where families and retired couples tend to spend humid UK summer weekends.
The race HQ was located in a hut alongside two white gazebos and had a black-and-yellow sign that said: RACE HQ, where we were registered, asked to fill out emergency information (always unnerving), then briefed and handed out special packs, giving the whole procession a James Bond vibe, as if at any time you might spot the top white of Judi Dench.
I bought myself a branded Sherwood Pines T-shirt as a souvenir: sure, it cost 32 GBP, which is more than the race registration fee plus the vegan goodie bag, but I decided if this race was the season's highlight, I might as well splash out.
There must have been about 100 racers inside and near the hut, all busy clipping their race numbers on themselves. Most racers were in their 40s and 50s. A few were with kids, some with friends.
You could easily spot the newbies — they are the ones who used two pins (instead of four) and clipped a race number on their shirts. The pros, the veterans, and the seasoned racers used all four pins – one for each corner — and clipped the race number on their shorts, to account for changing a T-shirt mid-race. I watched a middle-aged man with funky glasses do it and decided to do the same.