There are some runs you do where you feel on top of the world, and you wish that you could just keep running like that forever. My first Maverick run this past Saturday in Oxfordshire was one of those times: I spent the whole 21km with a massive grin on my face, and the first thing I said after crossing the finish line was “can I go do that again?”!
Maverick organises trail-running events all around the UK. Every friend of mine who has participated in one of the events has raved about the experience, but this was my first time at one of their trail-runs. Unfortunately they are rarely accessible via public transport, which makes it difficult for me to attend. However, the Oxfordshire event was only an hour outside of London and I was lucky enough to get a lift with a friend which made it a lot easier!
The Oxfordshire Maverick race starts and finishes at Stonor Park, which is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. If that doesn’t tell you what the scenery was like, I certainly can’t do much more to help other than say it was truly incredible. There were three routes on offer, short (8km), medium (15km) and long (21km). I was a little worried that I’d signed up for the longest route only a week after Amsterdam Marathon but I’m so happy I did, because the extra section we did was my favourite part of the race. We were running through a forest and the ground was covered in leaves. It was so stunning that I had to stop and take a photo.
The girl in that picture spent most of the race going back-and-forth with each other. I would overtake her going up the hills, but then she would bomb past me on the downhills. I’m far too timid going down – there was one long last downhill to finish and I was overtaken by 10 people at least! Good to know for next time 😉
Other than the woods section that only the long-course runners took in, there were so many other gorgeous sections of the course. We ran through fields, past cows and sheep, clambered over many gates and snaked our way through the forest. There was quite a bit of mud on the ground, but I quickly got over my hatred for the stuff and realised that I would just have to deal with getting dirty.
I think the thing that I loved about this race was that I didn’t have to think about splits and timings at all. Not just because this was a ‘fun’ run, but also because it’s impossible to try and keep at a set pace when the terrain varies so much. You had no choice but to stop and queue up to climb over a stile, and you certainly couldn’t keep up a fast running pace up the hills (let alone run at all up the ones at 15km and 18km…). When I felt good I ran fast, and when I felt I couldn’t run fast I just slowed down and enjoyed the surroundings. It was complete bliss, and I can absolutely understand why so many people switch from road-running to trail-running.
There were two aid stations along the course at 7.6km and 17km which had water, electrolyte drink, fruit, gummies and some very friendly volunteers! Rather than rushing through, runners were taking their time to stop and eat something which was nice for a change. The second station took a long time to come, so I appropriately ate a bit more at that one 😛
My final time for the 21km was 2:08:50, but that’s not important. What matters is the ginormous smile that was on my face when I crossed the line, and that some of my friends were there to give me a hug as I finished. Everyone is given a bottle of Maverick beer when they finish, and the medal doubles as a bottle opener so that was just icing on the cake!
Hands down, one of my favourite events of the year. It was the last Maverick Original series for 2017, but they will be back in 2018 so I suggest you add it to your race calendar as many times as possible! In the meantime, you can also sign up for their Maverick Silva Dark series of night runs if you don’t want to wait (and don’t mind running in the dark!).