4 Miles on Wheels
Review by Nicola Wright.
I was asked to do this run at short notice as the original runner was injured. I had heard of the Blenheim 7k but not the 4 miles on wheels which is part of the event. I’d had a couple of wines so I agreed. My son is nearly 5 and I didn’t have a running buggy but I thought I’d give it a go!
The registration transfer was simple and all done by email. I was pleasantly surprised to see that changes could be made up to 2 days before the run and thought this was really good.
My race pack arrived on the Monday before the run which included my number with time chip attached so no queuing up on the day.
I’d spoken to a couple of people who had done the standard 7k run before to ask what it was like and their reply was ‘‘Its beautiful but I hope you like hills!” I do plenty of hill training with my running group Parklands Jog and Run but never while pushing a 3.5 stone child in a buggy!
As I arrived on race day the drive into the grounds gave an amazing view of the palace and a beautiful bridge and there were marshals to instruct us where to park.
There were 3 races going on. An under 15’s 1 mile, which set off at 10:15am, the main 7k which started at 11:00am followed by the buggy and wheelchair run shortly afterwards. There was a fire engine and firefighters to keep the kiddies entertained which my son absolutely loved and I literally had to drag him away.
At around 10:45am the warm up started which I missed as I was queuing for the toilet. Before the 7k started the run director checked the toilets to make sure no one missed the race though.
Once the 7k has set off they asked the runners with wheels to line up. There were 39 of us in total with more buggies than wheelchairs. My nerves had really kicked in now and I wondered why on earth I’d agreed to do this.
Before I knew it the race had started. My son Jaxon vwas loving it shouting “faster faster.” As usual I set off fast but before long my legs were jelly (serves me right for missing the warm up) and my back was aching from leaning over slightly and pushing. I found running with one hand on the buggy the easiest strategy and when my arm ached I swapped to the other one.
Looking around at the other competitors there was various makes and models of buggy’s. Some were super fancy running buggies with inflatable tires and some basic strollers which must of been hard work.
The first mile took me past the palace it’s self so I took the opportunity to take a few photos and next came the beautiful bridge I saw on the way in. I stopped for a picture there and another runner offered to take it (I think we were both grateful of the few seconds rest). I then decided I needed to crack on and get moving.
The early running was quite tough but soon my legs felt better and the switching of arms meant I’d got a good rhythm going. By this point we’d caught up to the back markers from the 7k race and the praise they gave me was amazing! I soon reached the split off point where the 7k runners went off road for about 1k. This was clearly marked and I pushed on straight ahead and up the first small hill. It wasn’t long until we met back up with these runners where they came back onto the road. I was really enjoying it now as I really felt part of the race with lots of runners all around me.
When I reached the 2 mile mark I thought ‘wow this isn’t as bad as I thought’ but then I rounded a corner and faced a hill and OMG what a hill it was! It went on for around 1k slowly winding it’s way up into the woods. I carried on running for as long as I could but eventually the hill beat me and many others even without buggies and I had to walk.
So many people commented on how well I was doing, lots of people were chatting and giving high fives to my son and others asking for a cheeky lift in the buggy.
Walking gave me time to take in the surroundings as the path took us right through the middle of the woods which were full of bluebells and eventually I reached the top and what goes up must come down.
The down was fab. I let the buggy do the work and I just held on and ran as my pace really picked up. Jaxon really enjoyed this part as we were overtaking people and he was kicking the wheel trying to make us go even faster. Just like the uphill this part wound back down through the woods. We were now at the 3 mile mark and looking at my watch I was surprised at how fast I’d completed it.
We went past a lovely lake and over another bridge where a marshal pointed out that we were nearly finished. Just one last dreaded hill to go! That really spurred me on and as this hill was nothing like the last I managed to run it all. As we rounded the last corner I could see the crowds cheering us on and hear the rock choir in the distance singing.
I felt such a massive achievement as I completed the last few hundred metres and I then spotted my mum and one of my other sons in the crowd supporting me which made me sprint to the line. I received a bottle of water and a medal for both me and Jaxon which he was really pleased with.
I spoke to the run director afterwards and she explained that the race was introduced 4 years ago after a regular competitor of the 7k had an accident and ended up in a wheelchair but still wanted to compete so they adapted the course cutting out the cross country section reducing it from 7k to 4 miles and due to its success decided keep it going.
After the run we explored the grounds and had a picnic, got a return train ride to the palace, enjoyed the playground, maze, bouncy castle and butterfly tunnel and on presenting my race number for an extra £8 we could gain access to the palace itself.
On our way back to the car we could hear lots of cheering and into view came a girl in a wheelchair named Phoebe who 2 was completing her 4 miles which she had done with no help whatsoever. Jaxon helped hold up the finish line for her to cross and everyone around cheered her on. This completely touched me emotionally as it was what this event was all about. The whole course was designed for wheelchairs and pushchairs and although the roads were hilly they were completely smooth and wheel friendly.
Overall this was an amazing experience and day out. It was something for the whole family to be involved in and which gave people in wheelchairs the opportunity to take part. I’d definitely come back next year but maybe not with the pushchair!