Nene Valley 20, June 2021 – David Hayden

So I signed up to the Nene Valley 20 miler about Jan/Feb 2020 – well before you know what happened and a certain collision with another runner. It was originally scheduled for June 2020 – but we all know why it got pushed back to this year. As it happened was a good job as I couldn’t run 20 meters let alone 20 miles!!!

This run was one of the most stunning I have ever done. Set in the villages around the Nene Valley south west of Peterborough and nearly all off road it provided a gently undulating route. Old railway paths, riverside paths, paths through wheat fields, paths alongside linseed fields, a couple of locks and water mills and idyllic villages.

There were two options – a ten mile and a 20 mile. My mate who lives on the route persuaded me to do the 20miler – which actually turned out to be 21.4 miles – those last two miles were a killer, and then to add a real sting in the end of the run – having to run past the finish line for about 200meters and double back- just cruel!

The organisation was top notch. For an inaugural event it was faultless (well apart from that pesky 1.4miles at the end… but will forgive them that with the passing of time!). The marshals were brilliant – really, really brilliant and lots of them. The route was well signposted and a couple of drink stations – bananas and flapjacks to accompany the water. Every runner was told to bring their own containers – a brilliant example of reducing plastic and it was seamless at both stations (and a Donny local on the second one… didn’t catch her name I was starting to feel it by then!).

The start was in waves – I opted for the slow wave 9.20 set off. There were about 20 or so of us in the wave. Lots of “what time are you aiming for?” type conversations – most saying 4 -5 hours. In my head I was aiming for 3hours 30, but realising the weather may have other plans for me! We were called to the start line and the guy setting us off noticed the Harrier vest and said “Ah Danum – you’ve come a fair way!” And he pronounced it correctly. Told him so too! The start was in Fotheringhay right by the ruins of the castle where Mary Queen of Scots spent her final days before her execution after being moved from Sheffield Castle.

I was really pleased I had opted for the slow wave… I was able to keep a pace of just under 10 min mileing for the first 14 miles – a few times especially downhill went a bit too fast but reigned myself back in, I was determined to enjoy and take it steady. Plus, I really didn’t want to do any damage and go back to not being able to run at all! Whilst I was able to pass some other runners, I was mainly on my own, which I had not problem with. However, when I caught up and passed someone there was a brilliant sense of comradery. It was almost like we had this run for just us, a chosen few (I think about 120 people did the 20 miler).

The ground was really firm and dry (apart from one little boggy bit). I can imagine if it had been in May it would have been a different challenge underfoot! I started walking for about a minute or so every half mile from about mile 15 when the heat turned up and making sure I was taking in water. It got tough from mile 18, the walks were more frequent and longer. At 19miles I psyched myself up and got into a good rhythm and it was fairly shady. Just after 19 and half it started to dawn on me that it was a fair bit more than 20miles… one of the marshals said, “over the bridge and then you will see the church – the finish is just before it.” The church was there in the distance… across at least two fields that I could see… that was the worse bit, the lowest feeling.

Just as I hit 21 miles I could start to see the signs that I was near the end. The route had a narrow path that ran alongside the field where we started and finished, but the fence took us past the finish line, we had to go another 100meters before the chance to loop back. That was the second worse moment.

The finish was bliss, my calves were really tight – so lucky there was a chance of a sports massage at the end well worth the £5!

The facebook page for the run post event was full of so much praise, love and admiration for the organisers, three women from I think Spalding Harriers and lots of “when is next years dates!”

There was free camping options for both the Friday and the Saturday nights too!

My ‘official’ time hasn’t been released yet – it wasn’t a chipped run, but Strava told me 3 hours 51m 42s. I feel ok with that time, the walking at 20miles racked up a good extra ten mins – so I would not have been far off my 3h 30m which all things considering very thankful for.

Will I do it again – I sure will! Also, a good distance for anyone who has done a half and wonders if they can do a full marathon.