Photo copyright the East Anglian Daily Times.

On the 28th November we headed to The Kings Forest, just North-West of Bury St Edmunds, for the Festive Forest Challenge, a series of trail races organised by Positive Steps PT in support of St Nicholas Hospice.

Myself, Pip Cresdee and Carl Thompson all opted for the 20 mile race, however there were also options of 10k and half marathon distance events, all three were open to walkers and runners alike.

Turning up on a bright, but cold, November morning, the car park at West Stow Country Park was teaming with enthusiastic people ready to head out into the forest and take on their respective distance challenges. Festive fancy dress was encouraged and was certainly embraced with lots of santa hats, Christmas jumpers and elf costumes on show.

After a run briefing, everyone headed across the road for the start of the challenge. There was a real mix of people taking part, from members of local running clubs to Nordic walkers and fun runners. There really is something for everyone and the relaxed atmosphere means that it’s not too serious or competitive. The race was a lapped course, with everyone doing a lap of the 10k course to begin with and then the half marathon and 20 mile routes doing a slightly different lap (x1 for the half and x2 for the 20).

The course heads off on tracks and trails through the forest and is pretty much all off road. There are two marshalled road crossings and one section of paved path just after the end of the lap one. It’s a picturesque part of Suffolk, with the trails heading through pine trees and running past rivers and lakes. The course is well signed, although there were a few people who took wrong turns, unlike some of my previous off-road races, we managed to stay on-course. Runners who are doing the half and 20 miler have coloured bands attached to their number, after each lap you handed in one of these and logged your number, allowing the organisers to keep track of who was still out on the course.

I was running with one of my training partners Carl and we decided to try and keep the pace steady throughout the race. We had a bit of a quick start (which often seems to be the case when it comes to racing!) but managed to reign it in slightly to deliver some pretty consistent splits. We were both flagging a little towards the end, probably due to some lack of distance training since running the Yorkshire Marathon during the previous month, but having company out on the course certainly helped us both to keep going.

There was a very well stocked aid station which was accessible at the end of each lap, providing water, soft drinks, cake, sweets, sandwiches, crisps, soup – you name it, it was probably there and very welcome at the end of the race!

Reading a report of race in the East Anglian Daily Times, there was over £4000 raised for St Nicholas Hospice – it’s always great to be able to help raise money by doing something that you enjoy.

Positive Steps organise a range of races throughout the year, including the 48 mile Peddars Way and also a 50k edition of the Kings Forest race. Check out their website for information. I’ll definitely be back later this year for more.