Marshbrook CRC MTB Marathon – Race Report

Hopefully you’ve already read my post about our camping weekend in Shropshire. We were there so that I could do the Marshbrook round of the CRC MTB Marathon series along with my brothers Jay and Brad. I also met another friend, Darren there who was riding it too.

Darren, Jay and myself had signed up for half marathon which was supposed to be a 50km ride through the Shropshire hills whilst Brad had plumped for the mini-marathon which consisted of a 25km route. Start time was 10am on Sunday but we had to be on the line and ready to go at 9.30am. We were of course all there early but that still meant that we started quite a way down the field. In fact we couldn’t see the start line from where we lined up, we could hear the announcements over the PA system though and heard the start of the race, but it was a few minutes before we started rolling.

Lining up for the start

Lining up for the start

Marshbrook MTB Start Line

Marshbrook MTB Start Line

Marshbrook Mass Start

Marshbrook Mass Start




The mass start was behind a lead car (that we never saw) and wound its way along the road for a bit before heading onto a long but not too steep climb along a double track. The bit on the road was fine and I headed off on my own with Jay, Brad and Darren somewhere behind me, but as soon as we hit the double track there was a bottle neck and a bit of waiting around now and then as the track clogged up with riders.

Once we got going I gradually passed people but was still held up most of the way up the climb and then again through the woods at the top once we hit some single track. I can’t quite remember the exact order of things but at the 4.8 mile mark the trail passed along one side a fence which later in the ride we would ride along the other side of in the opposite direction. It had taken me 36 minutes to get to this point first time round and the loop before we got to the other side was a full 5 miles long with a monster climb in it that took me a further 38 minutes to complete. Despite this, some people were already heading past this point in the opposite direction to me when I first got there. How did they do that? They’d managed to do what would take me 1 hour 14 in less than half that time. Oh well.. there was no chance of challenging for the lead then!

The first steep descent was met with the smell of burnt brake pads, this was followed by some nice undulating sections across grass moorland trails before there was a little dip a steep climb and then another steep climb that had everyone around me off and pushing. I stayed on, dropped into the granny ring and despite hitting a heart rate of 171 bpm with my lungs bursting and my legs on fire, powered up over this section to crest the top, only to be greeted with a less steep, but very long climb in front of me with riders strung out as far as the eye could see. Maybe I shouldn’t have pushed quite so hard on that first bit as I could feel the lactate in my legs but now had a long climb in front of me. I stuck with it and was soon at the top and then flying back down the other side.

It was then onto a tarmac section where I could see some guy in a bright orange top a few hundreds yards in front of me, I stuck with him but just never seemed to get any closer. I stopped at the feed station, topped up and continued on my way. The orange clad rider was now out of sight.

There were a few more off road sections then a long climb up to the top of Long Mynd via the the Ratlinghope climb where in the distance ahead of me I suddenly glimpsed the orange clad rider. I decided it was time to catch him, put the power down and was soon inching towards him. I passed him halfway up the climb had a sudden surge of energy and pushed on up over the moorland where I found myself alone and flying along the nice off-road trails past walkers, glider pilots and amateur radio buffs. All this became a blur though as I started hurtling down a lovely winding single track descent along a small river valley. The trail weaved this way and that with loads of line choices, the odd root and some little rocky sections before hitting the valley floor and emerging onto a road. That had made all the climbing worthwhile.

I was still on my own and following the well marked orange arrows when I crested a brow of a hill and saw the temporary huddle of tents filling a field. That was our campsite, was I back so soon? A quick look at the GPS and I’d only done about 22 miles so I was sure there would be another climb and descent to come. That wasn’t the case though as the arrows directed me back through the campsite and down the final little descent to the finish line where a handshake and a T-shirt awaited.

Brad was already back having completed the shorter course about 10 minute faster than I had done the longer course. The actual course distance turned out to be 40km not 50km and I had one it in a time of 2:33. There are no official positions so I can’t see where I came properly but the results are here. Those riders with numbers starting with 2 were supposed to be doing the same distance as me, although quite a few of the early finishers did default to the 25km route on the day. Similarly a few may have changed to the longer one but they would have finished behind me. Out of the 300 people who were supposed to do the same course as me I was 19th, not bad really, especially seeing as some of those who ‘beat’ me would have actually done the shorter course.

Darren rolled over the line in a time of 3:06 (somewhere around 70th), Jay came in with a time of 3:47 in the mid field.

The weather was great, the organisation was top notch, the route was nice with some brutal climbing and some fun trails, the route marking was clear (I only went the wrong way once), I felt good all the way around and everyone had fun – What more could you ask for?

Here’s the event profile and my heart rate etc.

Marshbrook MTB Marathon Profile

Marshbrook Topo

And here’s the route:

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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