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That OCR addiction…

In the summer I went through a really rough period and needed to do something for myself, in that insane moment I signed up for Judgement Day Team Event in December! Knowing I was doing that it made sense to look for some others. I did Fuddy Mud Sucker in October and LOVED getting caked in mud and hauling myself out of riverbeds and through bushes. I signed up to the Muddy Race Training day so I could learn how to tackle walls and this weekend took on Mens Health Survival of the Fittest. After all of these events I was on such a total high, like a complete and utter total buzz, the energy literally radiates off me and I get so excited telling everyone what the races involve and how much fun it was.

But one thing I’ve learnt is not everyone is going to support that decision I take to do these races. I’ve had mixed reactions from friends and family when I talk about these races!

My Dad has the attitude of ‘your seriously going to hurt yourself one day’ – and if I do then so be it, I’ll have done it doing something that makes me the happiest I’ve been in a long time.

Some friends see the bruises and just cringe, they can’t understand why I want to put my body through the pain. I don’t personally find the bruises that painful, unless you poke them, or the 3 year jumps on them and then of course they hurt a bit but its not a broken bone now is it!?

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Others comment on how cold you must get. Theres no denying that the water during winter races hasn’t exactly been on the warm side but its never been so cold I’ve not enjoyed it! I kinda have this thing where I don’t really feel it. I did a bit at the weekend after spending a good 20 minutes walking through a storm drain and my ankles had pretty much frozen but they soon warmed up when we got out! And once you finish you get changed into warm layers ASAP. Simples!

Maybe it is a bit crazy. Maybe its a bit insane. But it makes ME happy. People can judge my decision to do it all they like but its not going to stop me from doing it. I’ll never be an elite athlete at any of these events but I enjoy every single second of them. They are my way of enjoying fitness. Whats so wrong with that? Generally I am a positive person, especially about subjects I love. There is however nothing worse than the negativity of others bringing you down! Its zapping!

I cannot wait for 2015! I already have Dirty Dozen, Spartan Race, Nuts Challenge and Dirty Weekender booked and those wont be the only ones I do. Quite frankly I’m more excited about these than I am my 3 ‘normal’ marathons! They wont be my only OCRs next year and I can’t wait to add more to the calendar.

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Mens Health Survival of the Fittest : SURVIVED!

A few weeks ago my fellow blogger keep it simpElle had posted on Facebook she had a spare ticket for Mens Health Survival of the Fittest. I was volunteering for the day and it fitted perfectly in with the end of my shift so I asked if I could join her and she said yes! I have to admit in the lead up to the day I was incredibly nervous. I’d done the Muddy Race Training Day last weekend and found my upper body strength severely lacking! Knowing that MHSOF would involve walls and god knows what else I was very nervous. Especially when they said they were bringing the Rat Race Dirty Weekender obstacle which contains 3 separate walls that must be about 7-8ft in height to get up. The thing looked terrifying and when I arrived on site at 7am Saturday morning it didn’t look any less terrifying! I then found out my position for marshalling was going to be obstacle 1, haybales, positioned adjacent to said wall. All morning I was watching people navigating it and wondering how the hell I was going to do it myself! Marshalling was awesome and I got to see some of my instagram buddies running the course as well as the Muddy Race team go through. Then it was my turn!haybales

I met Danielle and we got ourselves dressed and ready to run. I knew from watching all morning that our wave would start on time and ours was significantly smaller than the rest of the days. We weren’t however the last wave which was good as when our wave had deserted us and got ahead we had the back waves catching us up and able to help when needed.

I could write SO much about how amazing the day was but I’ll try not to take too long! The course initially took in the area around the green car park of Wembley stadium before moving off onto the concourse, which involved something like 4 stair climbs before we were allowed to stay on the concourse. By that point we had already traversed some scaffolding, crawled through water and under a net. We eventually made our way around to the water slide where my friend Louise was marshalling, she kindly videoed my slide!

After that we faced a stair carry holding onto a traffic cone, then onto more scaffolding and monkey bars before we made our way out and onto the industrial estate around Wembley, one turn which involved a blind corner, no marshall and a tiny arrow wasn’t all that great but we got past it with a mad sprint across the road praying a car wasn’t coming! We were then in Brent park and could see people wading through the river but were told we were still running on up the park. The park seemed to go on for miles and miles of boring running before we eventually came to the inflatables, guttingly the marshall told us people had burst what appeared to be 6 of the inflatable obstacles and we only had one we could go over! I’d been looking forward to that so was a bit upset! I think after that came the sandbag carry. I grabbed the smallest I could find! We had to climb up a hill under some metal fencing, along the top and back down the other side, I decided to slide down on my bum which produced rather muddy trousers but felt safer! We then made our way to our first river crossing. It started out ok and then it got to waist deep, one guy told Danielle she could hop on his back which she promptly did whilst I tried to feel my way along the riverbank and up the side! Before long we were back in the river.

I think we were in the water on 4 separate occasions with a few walls, cargo nets and pallet obstacles in between times! The final time we went into the water it turned out it went on for what must have been about a km before eventually we were signposted out! It was draining on the legs but fun, once your wet you don’t really mind anymore!
Once out of the storm drain it was a quick run into Wembley with one quick dip into a warehouse for a smoke and strobe light show, I was glad that didn’t last long as I’m not a fan of strobe lighting and it never makes me feel too great! Then we were back into the green car park and dozens of walls ahead of us. Thankfully there were plenty of men around who helped get us up and when there weren’t we took turns helping each other. The cargo net was exhausting and slow. I conquered a climbing wall with the help from a couple of brilliant marshalls who helped me feel safe enough by supporting me whilst Danielle helped haul me up.
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There was more water to crawl through under wires. More scaffolding to climb through. Walls to climb up and get back down again. A inverted wall which is not fun! Tyres to crawl through. Beer barrels to carry. And then it was onto the BIG one. Thankfully some men were milling around and I was not at all shameless in asking for assistance! I just wanted to get to the top. Between 2 and 3 two very helpful marshalls assisted me up, the one at the bottom giving me a leg up and then telling me to stand on his shoulder and the one at the top pulling me up. We made it, had a quick pic and then it was time to get down again. I knew from watching that most people had taken one section facing the steps and slow and steady which was the method I took. Then there were 2 walls to slide off, I took the stomach and facing in technique both times. They were too high for me to go forwards, I knew I’d land on my face! Then we ran around to the final 2 obstacles! A leg up from my friend from marshalling earlier in the day and we were on the platforms. I slid myself in first and then Danielle followed and hauled ourselves out the other side. Finally there was the last wall. It doesn’t look that high but once your up there the drop feels really high. I’d watched dozens fo people jumping down and slipping so I took the slide on your belly and have people to catch you technique! And then we sprinted across the finish deliriously happy!
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We both agreed it had been an awesome race! I’d loved every single second of it. Our chip time was 2hrs 15 mins and 48s. I’d told myself I would be happy to come in under 2hrs 30 so was very happy with that!
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The medal is also a bottle opener too which is pretty neat and the goodie bag contained goodies from Durex as well as aftershave and mens moisturiser and some food sample products. The goodie bag may be very male orientated but this isn’t a race just for the men! Women can and do do it too! Don’t be put off by the name!
Overall the race was really well organised. Waves started on time. Majority of marshalls were brilliant. Only a select few were less enthusiastic and came out with ‘we cant help you’ lines, which was a load of rubbish as 95% of marshalls were helping! I was gutted most of the inflatables weren’t available and also a water slide in the park wasn’t open when we got there, it looked so fun! These were only minor downpoints and I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up again as overall it was the best race I’ve ever done! Next weeks Kingston 10k is going to be mega boring in comparison!

Thank you Rat Race for the courtsey place!

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Race Report : Brighton Brooks 10km

So on Sunday after  doing the Muddy race training day I wasn’t entirely sure I was even going to run this today. But I had paid to run it and I’m not one to chicken out just for a few aches and bruises! So I hauled myself out of bed at 6.30 this morning and made my aching body move! I covered my bruises (of which there are many) in arnica and pulled on my RMR vest. Originally both the boys were due to come down with Grandma but one of them was poorly so my Dad stepped in and brought my eldest down as he likes watching me run. We arrived in plenty of time and parked at the marina as its free parking there! Whoop whoop!

We had time to stroll down Madeira drive to the start line. I joined the queue at the playground to use the nice toilets rather than going and using the portaloos! It meant my eldest could play for a few minutes too. Then we made our way down to the start line. Madeira drive isn’t exactly wide and I didnt feel it worked all that well as a start line! Similar to the london to brighton bike ride it just gets too crowded! I got myself sorted out and handed my bag to my Dad as trying to get to baggage was too much hassle for my liking, it was the other side of the drive across the start and through crowds of runners. I also figured it would make it easier as once I finished I could put my hoodie straight on … well that was the theory! I lined up and my Dad and son headed off to Costa!

I’d met up with a couple of RMR girls and it was nice to have someone to chat with on the start line. I found the GPS on my garmin and was pleased when we started on time! It took 3 minutes for us to get across the start line, and probably about 20 minutes before my legs started to agree to running! The route took you straight down towards the marina before a 180 at black rock to turn back and run past the start line and down towards hove, you then do another 180 and head back to the start/finish line. I love brighton, its my happy place, I know the route inside and out so it was nothing new for me. Its mainly flat with just a few slopes, one which is downhill just before the finish was very nice!

I was keeping an eye on my pace with the hope to not go too far over 11 minute miles where possible but I was trying to be realistic and let go of time hopes. I was hurting there was no denying that, I could feel the tightness in my quads from yesterday in every single step I took and the whole run was a mental battle not to give up and walk. It was only my usual mantra of ‘this is easier than edinburgh marathon’ that spurred me on. It was after all ‘only’ 10k! Trouble is when your whole body hurts only 10k feels flamin tough! I realised that actually it felt exactly like the final 6 miles of a marathon, when you’ve past that point of 20 miles and your longest training run and you know each step is another closer to the finish and a rest for your aching body!

The route is out and back in both directions so after turning back from black rock we passed the start line, continued up onto the road, straight over the roundabout and down past the usual sights, West Pier, the Grand hotel and carried on down to Hove. In Hove at the turnaround point it looked as though there should have been a water station, I’m not entirely sure if it was official or not. Either way it had run out of water, I wasn’t very impressed. I was gagging for water at that stage! Once we turned around and were headed back to the start I knew I was getting nearer to finishing which always spurs me on. We were soon back at west pier, the road started to slope downwards and I was managing to overtake numerous women. Before I knew it I was back on maderia drive. I spotted my Dad and son before they saw me and screamed their names numerous times before they heard me, by that time I had passed them! I sprinted as hard as I could, which wasn’t my usual speed into the finish. We walked through and were handed a medal by the scouts and offered bananas, I was only concerned with water which I enquired about and was told it was over by a lorry, why couldn’t they just be handing it out! As it was unmanned I grabbed two bottles as I knew I was going to down the first in one go!

In my exhausted pain stricken daze I forgot where I’d said I would meet my Dad, I’d stupidly left my phone with him! So I spent 15 minutes searching up and down for him! That wasn’t a bad thing as it meant I bumped into my friend. It was lovely to see her briefly! Eventually I found my Dad and we headed back towards the Peter Pan playground as I wanted to get dressed in the warm! Then we strolled back to the marina feeling smug at not paying for parking ;-)

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Overall I wasn’t massively impressed by the race. The start/finish area was so crowded you couldn’t see where anything was. No water station. Medal isn’t the best. Would I do it again? Probably not. I am glad I’ve done it though. My first of many races in Brighton I hope :)

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Sometimes you HAVE to run!

I’ve got a stinking cold, its on my chest too, the sensible option this week in the lead up to Mens Health survival of the fittest would have been to have skipped running. But sometimes you need to run. Running for me is an anti-depressant. It enabled me to come off tablets and it keeps me in check. I wish I could say which part of it has such a positive effect on me but it does.

This week my eldest son turns 8. This usually means my depression and PTSD symptons get triggered. Not all birth trauma mums get affected around their childrens birthdays but I am one that does. Every year the memories and flashbacks plague my dreams. Last night was no different. I woke up twice, once I was mid scream, which it seems woke up my youngest, the second time I woke up I had tears streaming down my face and a soaking pillow. Both dreams had contained the usual memories. The horrible painful memories. The fear. The hardest part is that although they are in my dreams I know those memories are real. They actually happened. That physical pain actually happened. Those words that are hard to hear were said.

So I did what any runner does, put my shoes on and ran. I ran hard for the first mile. Angry with myself that although its 8 years on those memories still have such a powerful affect on me. I know theres no time limit on birth trauma, I know that from talking with other birth trauma mums. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

This week feels especially tough as I need to say so much. I need to talk it through. And I don’t have anyone I feel I can talk it through with and thats difficult for me. But I do still have my running. And after a while of being angry I started counting my steps and zoned out for a while and that was peaceful. I managed to block out the difficult memories for a short time. That horrible feeling of anxiety and being on edge. And now I feel calmer for it.

It may not have been the best idea for my physical health. But for my mental health it was what I needed.

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Muddyrace.co.uk Beginners Training Day!

So today I set off for Cambridge with one of my running friends to take part in a obstacle course training day. I was really excited about today seeing as I have rather insanely agreed to doing Mens Health Survival of the Fittest next weekend! Walls were the one thing I was really worried about so was keen to get to practice how to get over them!

The drive up had been dry but foggy and I was relieved to arrive and find it wasn’t raining! Don’t get me wrong I was excited about getting caked in mud but rain before you’ve even started is never fun! We set off for a little jog around the course before a warm up which involved warming up with your partner, me and my friend had a right giggle trying to tap each others hips and then doing push ups and then slapping our hands which showered us in a spray of wet mud!

Once warmed up we were grouped off and then sent to our first obstacles, our first obstacle turned out to be the wall and then a cargo net and a-frame. The wall it turned out wasn’t too hard, with some help from my new chums! Its also given me some cute bruises! The cargo net was fun and not as bad I had thought, I loved sliding along the mud on my stomach! The a-frame wasn’t too bad the first time around but the more people used it the slipperier it got, it was pretty high and I have to admit not my favourite thing to do!

After we moved onto the monkey bars and then jumping over the wooden fence posts. Monkey bars I cannot do! I can hang if the bars aren’t too wet but I haven’t mastered swinging very well yet! Must work on my upper body strength! The jumping over was fun! I wasn’t sure I had the guts to release one hand in order to bring my other leg through but I managed it and didn’t fall flat on my face! Landing in huge puddles of mud made it even more fun!

Then came what can only be described as two flat panels of MDF leaning against one another with a rope to help you climb it. It turned out it wasn’t as easy to get up as first appeared. The wood had a ledge half way up but trying to reach that was tough! Pulling yourself up a wet slippery rope on a flat wet slippery surface where your feet are slipping isn’t easy! A good shove from my friend and I made it up, then had to try getting over and slowly lowering myself along the rope the otherside. First time I managed the slowly, one hand at a time lowering, after that I kept just plunging to the ground on my stomach! It was hard work and not my favourite!

Our next obstacle was the huge a-frame cargo net. Rob taught us how to get up it, not looking at our feet, something I didn’t find all that easy! And then swinging our legs over the top and ‘abseiling’ down the other side! It turned out trail shoes have a tendancy of getting stuck in that net! We then had to run around and do tyre run. I quite enjoyed the net. I felt pretty safe on it and enjoyed trying to get over quicker!

After the net was our final obstacle, the inverted wall. It was a mega inverted wall! None of our team managed to get over without assistance. We ended up giving each other a leg up and then managed to try slowly lowering ourselves to the ground! It was hilarious landing in the mud at the bottom!

Once we had all been educated on each of the obstacles we got a turn to run the whole of the obstacle course which included tyre carries, all the obstacles we had done during the training segments as well as some nice smelly pools of muddy water and some hills to climb. We made our way around with a lovely chap who we had befriended in our group and who was an invaluable resource at pulling us out of ditches and helping us over walls!!!

When we finished the route, suitable drenched and mud covered we then got to take part in some drills involving tyres, squats and running. My quad had completely seized up and squatting was absolute agony but we got there in the end.
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Then it was time for a quick group photo before getting out of our wet clothes and into something much warmer!! When your hands are freezing and your muscles are seizing up we discovered getting very wet tight clothing off is quite a workout in itself! Car heaters on full blast and we were off to talk about our adventure warming up over a huge bowl of hot chocolate!
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I absolutely loved the morning and although I am now bruised covered, which I LOVE, my mum thinks I’m a weirdo for how often I keep checking to see how much the bruises have come out! And I ache all over! It was awesome. I cannot wait to do mens health next weekend and feel way more prepared now! Its going to be awesome!

The day was organised by the brilliant website muddyrace.co.uk, check them out, they are also active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it was held at a brilliant training ground called Fortitude Fitness, a great assault course in Cambridge!

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Purple Patch Grand Union Canal Half Marathon – Race Report

Sometimes a race just goes badly. That was this one! I had roughly a month between Bournemouth Half and this one. My training was all planned. Then I was struck down with a stomach bug for over a week and then as I felt better from that I was struck down by a knee injury. My months training went out the window and I only managed snippets of it so I knew going into this race it was going to be tough. It just surprised me how tough it was!

The purple patch half starts at Cowely Recreation ground which is only about 30 mins from my house so we didn’t have to leave too early which was nice. We arrived and followed the signs to the car park on the nearby industrial estate got parked and walked back around to the start. It was a pick up on the day situation for race numbers so I grabbed mine before spotting some RMR friends. We got ourselves numbered up and gear on before it was time to remove my lovely warm hoodie! A horrible moment! For the first time I had done the bin bag trick! I’ve seen people do it and always swore I never would, I now realise how clever they are! The wind was kept off me and I stayed relatively warm! There were horribly long queues for the toilets, not enough toilets for a race of this size in my opinion. A few people were getting tetchy they were going to miss their start time and we let a lady skip a couple of places as her wave was about to start!

Our start had been scheduled for 1010 although my garmin shows we started at 1015, I hadn’t noted the delay when we were lining up. Once we got underway the first part of the course was a lap of the park, boring, I think their theory was it would space people out ready for the canal path, it didn’t! We then got onto the canal path and came to a stop as there was a bottleneck as the path narrowed dramatically. This was not going to be a pb race clearly! A bit further on there was a gate which again slowed everyone down as we waited to go through it with a few people daring to take the narrow strip of path next to the canal! Once we had cleared that gate there were no futher bottlenecks and delays.

I had been excited about the course, it was somewhere I had never run before and I hoped it would be interesting. It wasn’t! We crossed numerous bridges, went under various other bridges, steadily climbed as the whole route was going upstream of the canal so there were frequent sharp rises at locks which were tough. Thrillingly the photographers all seemed to be positioned at the top of these slopes, DREADING the race photos! After 4 miles or so it started to really space out and I felt like I was totally alone. There werent many marshalls other than some at occasional bridges and at water stations. A couple of marshalls offered no encouragement at all, a bit of a bug bear of mine!

My Dad and eldest son had come to cheer me on and managed to see me at mile 2, 4 and 7 which was lovely, it really kept me going as mentally I found it a really tough race. My legs felt tired, despite the fact I’ve not run much at all this week to try and ensure my knee injury was as settled as it could be! I felt drained in myself and I think that was partly due to this weeks lack of sleep thanks to a poorly little one. It became apparent early on this wasn’t going to be my race. I knew my slowest time for a half marathon was going to be beaten! I felt like I could be near the back but wasnt fussed if I was, I’ve been last in races before and it doesn’t phase me, in fact I was kind of wishing I was to have the company of the sweeper bike!! The route was mind numbingly dull. Once you’ve seen one canal boat you’ve seen them all along that stretch! That and the trees were all the same! At one lock we saw a field of horses, that was a pleasant change, and I spotted one run down building that looked really cool, but other than that it bored the heck out of me!! At mile 12 the marshall said the finish wasn’t far we were just through the park and that was it! A mile of thinking ‘we must be nearly there’ was awful and it was a steady incline through the park, 2 ladies in front of me stopped and walked it and I decided to just keep on running. I’d put my spotify on half a mile before and it was playing out loud as I had no headphones, one of my favourite songs came on and I told myself to push. I could see the finish but not the turn back to it, eventually I reached it and after 400m over wet soggy leaves and uneven ground the home stretch was in sight. I spotted my son right next to the finish line and felt quite emotional to finally cross the line! Mentally it had been a really tough race.
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You win some you lose some and I know not every race will be good which is why I’m not getting hung up on this one. I think had my training gone well then I’d be annoyed if I’d run it like this but I didn’t train how I wanted to and that showed in the run!

Onto the next one! Brighton 10km next Sunday!

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Big races vs Little races!

I was reading womens running the other day where they had an article discussing what people preferred in terms of size of races and it got me thinking about what I like… This year I’ve run 3 ‘larger’ races and the rest have mainly been small races. So in the past year I’ve done

Kingston 10k – Small
Bushy Park 10k – Small
Valentines 10k – Small
Silverstone Half Marathon, – Large
Electric Run UK – Large
Edinburgh Marathon – Large
Turks Head 10k – Small
Polesdon Lacey 10km – Small
Staines 10km – Small
Kempton Race for Life 2014 – Largeish
Elmbridge 10k – Small
Womens Running 10k Finsbury Park Inbetween!

Bournemouth Half Marathon - Large
Fuddy mudder Southampton Small

So theres been quite a mix!

Support

Edinburgh blew me away with how big it was, I remember looking down the slope at the start at the 4 other pens that were in front of us and it was wall to wall with people, and it had two start lines! Ultimately running that although it was large it wasn’t as well supported as many large races are so I’d say it let the large race side down there! But thats mainly the routes fault, if it was based more around the city I’m sure it would have been better supported.

Electric run was big but didnt require large support, however the crowds there were nuts! It was dark and at times claustraphobic whilst lining up!

Silverstone was large and well organised, again like Edinburgh I stood on the start going, oh my god this is mental! It felt huge! Poorly supported again due to the route.

Most people usually say they like large races as they have more support, I think this only applies if the route allows there to be support. Support isn’t such an issue for me for 5k, 10k distances. For half marathons its nice to have a bit of support but spaced out is fine, Bournemouth was beautifully supported, regular gaps where you could just get in yourself but plenty of times when there were loads of people cheering you on. For me marathons are important to be supported well. Next year I’ve signed up for 3 marathons, insane I know, all of which I hope will be well supported. Brighton I know will be as I was there this year to support and the crowds rocked. Liverpool I’m told is well supported so I know that should be ok and I’m excited to run past my teams home ground. Bournemouth I know from experience will be patchy.

Goody bags and bling! 

I think people tend to assume the bling is best at larger races. Certainly I can’t deny some of my favourite bling this year has been from big races. Silverstones medal rocks, its lovely. Edinburgh I like because its big and chunky and just makes me feel proud of myself! That being said Polesdon lacey had an awesome chunky medal that I really like, its bling tastic! The medals from some small races can be generic ones, I think the only ones that applied to was Bushy, Kingston and Valentines 10ks.

Some races hand out tshirts and I do tend to favour the ones that hand out tech tshirts as I can wear those on runs if I’ve run out of clean kit, who wears cotton shirts to run in anymore?! Cotton ones are handy as bedtime tshirts though. My bug bear is the lack of female fit shirts and also the races that don’t let you choose sizes!

In terms of goodie bags I think my best ones were Womens 10k and Bournemouth, both had some fantastic freebies in such as Spatone and small boxes of cereals, those are handy! Oh and heat relief patches! I HATE ‘goodie bags’ that are simply filled with leaflets, they all go straight in the bin!!!!

Overall I think theres no right or wrong answer, every race is different. Just as some have hills, some are flat, some are PB chasing courses whilst others aren’t. Every race is unique. There are certain things I look for when booking races, namely a medal, bag storage, car parking etc but aside from that we all experience races differently. The person at the front will have a different race to one at the back. They are all unique!