I hadn’t planned on running any more races this year, other than a couple of Christmas fun-runs in December. This is somewhat due to the road racing season dying down over the winter, but mainly because every weekend in November and December are booked up with Christmas events.
However, at the last minute, my weekend plans changed and I suddenly had a free Sunday. One of my friends was running a 10 mile race that day and since I was a due to run my long run that day I thought I could do so while running what is one of the biggest local races.
Touted as the oldest 10 mile road race in the UK, the Brampton to Carlisle race has been run every year for the past 65 years. It follows open roads from the centre of Brampton, through a couple of small villages, and then ends outside a sports centre in the heart of Carlisle.
I had also heard it being called the ‘tightest 10 miler in the UK’ due to lack of a finisher’s goody bag, but more on that later.
Due to it being a last minute decision, I hadn’t pre-registered online so myself and a couple of friends decided to beat the crowds and arrive nice and early at the start line. The registration takes place inside a school and has ample seating, which on the day was a blessing as the temperatures were starting to dip below freezing.
I paid my £16 (with affiliation discount), was handed my race number and took a seat amongst the others who had started to arrive.
Over the next hour I watched as more and more people turned up, found the rest of their running club and started on their pre-race routines. The more adventurous ended up outside, running a few warm-up laps of the school, while others chose to keep warm indoors, shedding their over-clothes at the last possible minute.
10 minutes before race start, we all made our way to the starting line and awaited the signal to start.
It’s a fast course but it’s also a gun start with 700 people crowded onto a small village road. This means that unless you’re stood at the very front, your official time is going to be at least a few seconds out. This isn’t a problem if you’re just fun-running, like me, but a lot of people use this course to set new PB’s so start line positioning is something to consider.
Unfortunately the start of the race does not pass through the centre of Brampton. Instead it immediately steers you out of the town and onto the main A-road. This is a shame as Brampton is a very picturesque village and running through the town centre would have been far more eventful than the route it currently takes.
The first mile is on closed roads, but after this you end up running along the A689, one of the main roads into Carlisle. While not the most pleasant of roads, it is long, straight and predominantly downhill for two miles. This is great for gaining some early flex time as there’s a couple of long uphill stretches later on in the race.
At around the 3 mile mark you turn off the A-road and spend the next 4 miles on nice, quiet country lanes. This is a lot more picturesque than the previous road and the traffic is almost non-existent. You also get to run through a couple of small villages where a handful of residents were braving the cold to give runners some encouragement as they entered the last 3 miles of the race.
At mile 7 you are deposited back onto the main A-road for a mile until you end up on the footpaths for the last stretch into Carlisle. The end of the race is a long downhill that is great for some last minute overtaking if you conserved some energy from the previous hills. Just be careful of the 90 degree left turn onto the finish line. A guy behind me hit the deck pretty hard at this point and had to be helped over the line.
All in all I have mixed feelings about this race. On one hand, it’s a fairly dull route on busy open roads. The majority of people are vying for a PB so have their heads down for a large part of the run. This means the usually friendly banter is less prolific than other races.
On the other hand, it’s a great course for setting a fast time. Since the route isn’t an out and back, there’s a net elevation loss from start to finish and this is very prevalent at the start when you seem to be running downhill for the first few miles. It’s also devoid of many twists and turns which ups the overall speed of the run too. All of this becomes very apparent when you see the results. Nearly 10% of the field ran sub-60 minute times! It’s obvious the benefits I mentioned before attract a lot of strong competitors.
It’s also not a run to do for the goody bag. I’d heard of previous years that the most you got when crossing the finish line was a glass of water. Thankfully, this year wasn’t as bad as that but it still wasn’t great. All finishers were given a coaster with the race details on it. It’s a nice memento but considering the event fee, you would have thought you’d at least be walking away with a medal.
Even with the bad points, I’ll still probably end up doing it again next year as it’s a good benchmark for seeing how quick you can run a 10 miler. It’s also only down the road from where I live. However, I don’t think I could recommend it to friends unless they were very serious about getting a PB.