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.
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.
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.