I signed up for the Stowe Pacesetter 10k race for two reasons. Firstly, the course is though the famous Stowe landscape gardens and, secondly, it was not just a trail run but a canicross event as well.
I’d read a few articles on canicross and wondered if it was something I could do with my dog. He has liked running with me the few times I have done so and I hoped this event would give me an idea of what was involved before I tried it.
The day of the race was a typical November morning: misty, grey and damp. The long drive from the entrance to Stowe to the magnificent Corinthian arch was eerie as I seemed to be driving to nowhere. However, once the arch was in sight I began to see people with their dogs waiting for the start of the canicross race. There was quite a mixture of dogs of all sizes and breeds. I struck up a conversation with a women in the registration queue who was running with a gorgeous staffy. It turned out she ran regularly with Ashridge Canicrossers, one of the areas I run with my running club, and she said they welcome complete beginners to their weekly runs. So I may be venturing to Ashridge one weekend!
I waited to see the canicross race start and then did a bit of a warm up. Although the trail runners were due to start at 9.10, there was a bit of a delay as we waited for the first dogs to cross the finish line. However, the organisers kept us well informed of the delay and, after a brief talk on the course, we were asked to gather on the start line and we were off!
The route was beautiful and made even more so by the mist that hung low throughout the morning. The landscape gardens are stunning, littered with follies, grand columns and lakes. The route was mainly on park trails of sand and gravel with a 1k stretch on a road which leads to Stowe public school.
I was worried that there would be heavy mud as it has rained quite a bit during the week but thankfully that was not the case. The course is well marked throughout with only a handful of marshals, one of whom guided you through a gate and warned against the electric sheep fence on the left hand side. The 10k race does two loops of the course and I really enjoyed the second loop as I got to see the gardens another time.
I completed the course in 57:56, which is two minutes faster than my previous best 10k time so I was rather pleased with that.
I would really recommend this race, particularly for anyone who has not done a trail race before. The course was gently undulating, but no major hills. The trail was firm and not too muddy and nothing too tricky like lose rocks or tree roots to negotiate. There was only 41 people running the race which meant it was small and friendly. As a National Trust property there was also clean and dry toilets where you could change after the race. It’s certainly a race I’d think about running again next year.
Now I just need to get myself to Ashridge and see how my dog likes running in a pack!