Today? It’s probably quite quiet. You can probably lose yourself among the solitude of the pines. But if you went down to the woods last Saturday… well, you would be in for a big surprise. Unless, that is, you had entered the Runner’s World Trailblazer 10k, in which case it was probably just about as you had expected: lots of people stretching, jogging, chatting and eating bananas. And drinking beer. No, hang on, that was a little unexpected. Unless you fancied a beer at nine o’clock in the morning, you were probably at Bedgebury Forest in Kent for the first Runner’s World Trailblazer event of 2015. This is Big Running in all its glory: well-organised marshals directing you to a parking spot in a field, massage tents, changing room tents, loads of loos, Rat Race merchandise stalls, a beer tent and a stall selling sausage casserole and burgers. And lots of runners. Mrs RB and I had arrived in plenty of time, allowing ourselves an opportunity to enjoy this “festival of trail”. If I’m honest, the “festival” aspect of the day felt like a little bit of a let down. I’m not totally sure what I was expecting – certainly it could have been a lot muddier and there were not enough people in ponchos – but I think that they have possibly overdone the hyperbole in that one regard. Shortly before my start time (they take you off in waves, based on your predicted finishing time), I joined a communal warm up session. If anyone can explain to me what a jumping lunge actually is, then I shall be eternally grateful. My only consolation was that I was not alone in looking bemused at that point in proceedings. Mrs RB was sidelined by injury, so she took up a position by the finishing funnel to cheer on the earlier waves, and I headed off towards the start line. They leave it until the last minute to let you know that the first kilometre is all uphill. To be fair, by Devon standards, it wasn’t that much of a hill; but it was a sustained climb for the first 1200m or so, and I was pleased to get back onto the flat to stretch my legs out a bit. The run follows forestry trails through the pinetum, before branching out into the wider Bedgebury Forest, so it is mainly run on wide, fairly robust trails. A few spongier, muddier sections took a bit of pressure off of the knees and there were some nice gentle downhills that gave me a chance to open up and put in a few overtaking maneuvers. Two drink stations were positioned out on the course: one somewhere near 3km and the other around the 7km mark. I grabbed a quick gulp of water at the first, but was presented with a bit of a puzzler. What do you do when they fill the cup to the brim with water? There was no way I could drink all of that without taking a sustained sojourn at the side of the track, and that wasn’t going to help my prospects much. But it felt like a waste to just dump a nearly-full cup of water. My solution? I threw it over my head and down my back. And possibly all over the person behind me as well. I’m not saying it was the best option available to me, but I did feel marginally cooler as I started up another slight hill away from the drinks station. (I didn’t bother with the one at 7km; those 4 kilometres had not furnished me with a better plan for what to do with the excess H2O). The route leaves a little sting in its tail, with a last, lung-bursting uphill section to the finisher’s field. A quick lap around the field (while trying to look as though you haven’t just run up a hill in front of all of the spectators) and then through the finishing funnel to have your chip beeped and your time recorded. And then it was done. Time to pick up a medal and a (well-stocked) carrier bag of stuff: drinks, snacks, a curly wurly and a copy of Runner’s World. Maybe it was the relative lack of hills (there were certainly no Hell Steps) – because it was certainly not a result of a well-executed training regime – but this was also a 10k PB for me, coming in at under 50 minutes for the first time in my brief racing career. Not the quickest on the course by a long shot, but I was pleased with that time and I had enjoyed the race. Sunshine and trees: what’s not to like?