Orwell Running Event
26 June 2016 - By James Blackshaw
On Sunday I took part in the Orwell Walk/Run/Cycle event, centred around the River Orwell in Suffolk and organised by the Ipswich Rotary Club. Although in its 40th year as a walking event, this was the first year there has been an official entry for runners, and 80 of us kicked off at the highly unsociable hour of 7:00am. The whole course was pretty damp due the previous week’s almost continuous downpours, but even this could not detract from the spectacular views and scenery the course had to offer. The first half of the run is entirely on the coastline of the River Orwell, mainly on grassy footpath, but in places has you directly on the beach, which was pretty soft underfoot, to say the least. At around the halfway point the course winds in to some stunning countryside, with much of the run along woodland trails. Between miles 15 and 18 you are tracking back from whence you came, and going against the tide of some of the 900 walkers that are out on the course, but they were all very friendly, cheering the runners along and moving off the path to let the runners through (I’m also pretty sure I saw another WRC member amongst them). The event is definitely more of a ‘run’ than a ‘race’, as there is no chip timing, no measured distances for the course, and no finish tunnel (a couple of the marshals just sort of clap you into the sports hall at the end), but in my opinion this is to the event’s benefit rather than its detriment. You are tracked around the course by way of a card which is signed by a marshal at each of the ten checkpoints. The checkpoints themselves are great, with a plentiful and free supply of water, squash, biscuits and cake, and a few of them even had an ice-cream van and coffee bar. There are three distances on offer, and though these are advertised as 13, 19, and 25 miles, these seem to be pretty loose estimations, as my watch clocked 23.5 miles at the end. This didn’t seem to be much a problem to any of the runners I spoke to afterwards, as many were using the run as training for something else, though a few did go back out to make their run up to marathon distance. So, in summary, although it wasn’t a running event in traditional sense that I was used to, I actually really enjoyed the laid back nature of the timing and tracking, and everything else about it was extremely well organised and very friendly. Definitely one to think about next year if you fancy a very decent trail run around an immensely pretty part of the country.