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Compton Downland Challenge – 20 miles with John Tovell

In my quest to do more trail events this year, I ran the Compton Downland 20 mile Challenge on Saturday. Compton is a large village set in the Chilterns in the triangle bounded by the M4, the A34 and the A329. Compton Harriers, who organise the event, are a small club (their website says that they have 25 members!) but they have managed to mobilise their community to produce a great event for the 150 runners taking part.  The route is a more or less circular loop which you follow anticlockwise, starting-off going south from Compton. The first 12 miles were just delightful as we ran through a succession of hills and valleys with lots of woodland and the constant accompaniment of birdsong, finally arriving at Lardon Chase, an expanse of chalk grassland which overlooks Streatley.  Unfortunately, I managed to miss a turn on this stretch, due to chatting to another runner instead of paying attention, so ended-up running a bonus ¾ mile.  Not a big deal at the time but I was to feel it later on.

John Tovell - Compton 1

The way back from Streatley took us along the Ridgeway.  There was a surprising number of people out for a stroll along this section, and a few “well dones”.  While the views and the open sky were still lovely, there was much less tree cover and I started to wilt under the heat and the wall-to-wall sunshine that we were blessed with.  Most of this section was rock hard under foot and it was a struggle to run in tractor furrows which were wide enough for one foot only, as you ended up with one foot landing higher than the other.  I was thankful to reach the finish across school playing fields with no need to sprint, either to catch a runner in front or to avoid being caught by one behind.

John Tovell - Compton finish

The event is allowed to use the facilities of the Compton School, so it was marvellous to be able to relax in a shower afterwards.  Even better, they feed you a school dinner in the canteen!  I had sausages, chips and beans while for those really enjoying the nostalgia trip there was rice pudding with peach segments as well.  Then came the prize giving.  In a field of 150 runners, I dared to hope that perhaps no other Vet 60s had turned up.  No such luck – I think this sort of event must appeal to my demographic.  I was 4th out of 5 MV60s in a time of 3:44:28.

In summary, a great low-key event that is well worth adding to your calendar if you are looking for a change from road races.

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