Written by Chris Bradley
Saturday May 11th 2019, 5am. It was at this moment we drove up to the gate of the Chiltern Ridge event field, the finish line and marquees concealed by the low fog and not another person in view. It’s quite a strange moment of calm, knowing that an hour later the participants would start flowing in with nerves, excitement and expectation ready for a day of tough trail running.
By the afternoon the scene is quite the opposite. Hundreds of happy runners milling around with medals hanging from their necks, a beer or piece of cake in hand. The fog is long gone and the sun’s shining on the remaining runners as they complete the last 400 metres, the atmosphere is buzzing.
That’s one of the memorable images I’ll take away from inaugural Chiltern Ridge Ultra Trail and we hope to add many more over the years.
For 2019 the Chiltern Ridge consisted of two distances; a 50k Ultra and Half Marathon both situated in the Chiltern Hills around 30 miles North West of London. The event base itself is just outside Wendover Woods – It’s a brilliant location for running with (relatively speaking) some tough hills for the South, easy access by train and some great trails, including The Ridgeway, Ashridge Estate & Chiltern Way.
The event was an idea that evolved through the group runs I organise with Runaway (https://runawayuk.com). Runaway started in 2017 offering day trips to the trails for Londoners who want to discover more than the local parks and urban paths on their doorstep. Meeting people on these adventures it was clear there was an appetite for ultra running, especially for those looking to dip their toes in something longer than the marathon for the first time. With Tring and Wendover being regular haunts this seemed like the perfect location.
To give you an idea of the route, from the start line the runners immediately enter Wendover Woods and the first 5km is an excellent section of undulating trail, until it merges with The Ridgeway and out onto some open fields and smaller woodlands. The ultra route takes you all the way to the Ridgeway’s end at the summit of Ivinghoe Beacon, the hilliest part of the route that offers some spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. Runners then pass through the beautiful Ashridge Estate (National Trust) which is carpeted in Bluebells at this time of year and both races weave through fields, woodland and idilic country paths along the Chiltern Way. At the climax, just as you start thinking of the medal and cold beer you’re about to enjoy the route re-enters Wendover Woods for a tough finish which has a couple of excellent climbs to test your will power to the limits.
A huge thank you to Forestry England for their help with the event and allowing access to the beautiful trails and forests within Wendover and the surrounding woodlands.
With the event complete and stress levels back to normal we’ve begun planning for next year where we will extend the field slightly and add in a 10k distance. We also have a couple of new races in the planning, so keep an eye out for the details.
Away from the racing scene we continue to organise our guided day trips in the countryside, if you live in or near London come along, we run somewhere different every two weeks and all routes finish at a pub.
Join us for next year’s race on Saturday May 9th 2020.