It’s hard to think of two races more different than the Lincoln and Grantham 10K’s. Their only similarity is they took place on the same Sunday morning on 2nd April.
Whereas Lincoln regularly attracts over 5000 runners – and has a steep entry price – the Grantham race is a bargain at just £12, but is limited to 300 people.
The settings are couldn’t be more different either; the cobbled streets and estates of Lincoln have practically nothing in common with the rolling estate of Belton House, one of the UK’s oldest and grandest country houses.
As if it needed to be more unique, 56 of the runners had elected to take the ‘Canicross’ option and compete with their dogs. Getting a huge host of dogs – from massive Newfoundlands to smaller Jack Terriers – lined up at the start wasn’t easy or quiet.
Despite the scenery, the course definitely wasn’t a walk in the park. The website advertised at least two steep hills and drops; however, it was difficult to know which these were as the route constantly undulated through fields and woods.
The race began in the shadow of Belton House and the International Horse Trials, which were taking place on the same day, and started climbing through some of the park’s 1300 acres. The House has a herd of 300 deer but they were either absent or shy on the day, keeping out of the runners’ way.
Fortunately, the ground stayed dry, with just perfect spring sunshine. Otherwise runners could have found themselves sliding up or down the treacherous hills.
There was plenty of camaraderie as runners navigated the off-road paths. There were regular water stations for both humans and canines, which gave people a chance to catch their breath and share encouragement.
After several exhausting climbs, the runners found themselves at the top of a hill where Bellmount Tower is situated, giving them a great view over the estate. It was designed as a watchtower but is now more used as landmark for walkers exploring the grounds.
The last three km were mainly downhill over rough terrain. The wild, rugged hills made an interesting contrast to the perfectly manicured golf course just over the fence.
The race’s unique quirks didn’t stop at the finish line. Each runner was presented with a bottle of Trail Ale – specially created by a microbrewery in nearby Barkston Heath for the race. The label describes the brewing process as ‘slow, hard work’, which many runners can certainly sympathise with after slogging up those hills.
The Grantham Cup 10K may sound unappealing to the masses who competed in Lincoln, but for those few who completed it, the race was something unexpected and different, rewarding and gruelling in equal measure. Plenty of those runners – and their dogs – are sure to be back next year.
For more information on the event, visit Grantham Running Club’s website.