On Sunday 7 May I ran the Blenheim 7k fun run with my mum and dad. The race takes place in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, near Oxford, a stately home and world heritage site. As well as the 7k run there is also a 1 mile children’s race and a 4 miles on wheels race (the wheels being either a wheelchair or running with a buggy/pushchair).
Running the Blenheim 7k meant we were all running a new distance in a race for the first time. I’m not sure how many other 7k races there are, probably rarer than even 5 mile and 10 mile events, but I liked running this distance.
The route of the Blenheim 7k follows the lakes and pathways of a landscape which was designed in the 18th Century by Capability Brown so there is plenty to look at for those looking for a scenic race. The hills or “undulations” of the course mean this a race that is challenging for a more experienced runner, but won’t stop those who are starting to increase their distance.
We all decided to take the race as it came, enjoy the views and not worry about a time. Although me and my mum had signed up for the race a few months ago my dad only signed up a couple of days beforehand. As a landscape designer I think he will only run in races that take place in Capability Brown landscapes, the last race he ran with us was in Stowe!
The day starts with the children’s 1 mile race, followed by both the 7k race and the 4 mile on wheels race which start at the same time, with those on wheels at the front of the pack. There weren’t any pacers so you just had to work out where to position yourself in the crowd by eyeing up the other runners. Sometimes this can cause jams around the start line but the path was wide enough that anyone who had misjudged their position could pass easily.
The first 1-2k is on a tarmac path that skirts around the Palace itself. The path than divides so the 4 milers keep to the tarmac and the 7k runners turn to run on the footpaths by the lake.
The lakeside running was beautiful and rather undulating. Lots of little ups and downs, at some points the path narrows but never enough to stop you passing people if needed. It was a really sunny day and this part of the race was in the shade, which was nice. The paths were uneven but not muddy. I wore road shoes as it had been dry for the few days before the race but even if it’s been raining I don’t think you’d need trail shoes as most of it is on the tarmac path.
The last part of the race crosses a lake and the path becomes steeper. Just before we got to this part another runner was telling people “there’s just the big hill to go”, which caused mild panic near us. Hills are always relative to what you have been training on. I didn’t think it was that bad but if you aren’t used to hills I can see it would be a bit disheartening to have such a long one at the end.
As we approached the finish line there was a nice crowd cheering everyone on with lots of children wanting hi-fives and runners who had finished staying to cheer people on.
One great bonus to the Blenheim 7k is that your entry to the race gives you a day pass to the gardens, something we took full advantage of by having a picnic by one of the lakes. Afterwards we had a nice walk around the gardens and lake and up to The Column of Victory monument.
Unfortunately, this is when the only down side to the race became apparent. Whilst running we had noticed a lot of small black flies, particularly on one side of the lake. They weren’t really bothersome apart from when they got in your eyes and throat. It wasn’t until we walked to the monument that they became a bit more of a nuisance.
As we stood admiring the view I looked down at my legs and they were covered in the flies. As I brushed them off I noticed specks of blood and realised they had been biting me! We decided to swiftly leave the field but the flies just kept landing on me. When we got on the tarmac and away from them I counted a dozen bite marks which were quickly swelling.
All in all I had about 20 bite marks that turned a horrible purple colour and itched for over a week. The day after the race I found out they were Blandford Flies, a fly with a particularly vicious bite and is most active during May and June.
Overall it was a really nice route with a lovely atmosphere. Having entry to the grounds all day was a great addition. I would definitely do this race again, only next time I’m wearing insect repellent!