This was meant to be my late summer race, but my indecision got the better of me over the summer, and couldn’t find anything that fit in between my last race and the two holidays I had booked, and I don’t think one could really call the 1st October summer.
I’d heard good things about the race from friends who’d run it previously, and it fitted with what I was looking for in a race. Hills, countryside, new area to run in? Tick, tick, tick, let’s go!
I can say the lead up to this race is typical for me in that I didn’t plan that well (hence the name of the blog!). Last long run was over a month prior, with a relaxing holiday in between. In addition I’d spent the night before feeling a little unwell – not exactly sure why, although we’d spent the evening in a local pub (The White Horse in Ampfield – I recommend!); only had one beer, and a good portioned, three course dinner. I was probably full up on rich food. Not good for my digestion… …but I got up on the morning feeling okay-ish, expecting rain and so dressed for the planned weather.
The race starts at Wyvern College in Laverstock village on the outskirts of Salisbury. From the starting field you can just about see the spire. The facilities at the start are very well laid out, and the team of volunteers very helpful. Tea and coffee van at the start, as well as a bank of portaloos, and a gymnasium to keep warm in and take team photos, it would seem.
The race is made up of three disciplines and start times. If you’re planning to take longer than 5 hours you start at 9:30, quicker than that then it’s 10:30, and you start with the relay racers (teams of four). For half marathoners, you start halfway along in the village of Broughton, a couple of hours later.
The race started after a few announcements, including the whole entrants and spectators singing Happy Birthday to one of the runners. Klaxon sounded and we were off at 10:30.
The first mile saw us through and out the village, past the Duck Inn, and off into the wilderness. At about one mile in, the race stalled as we reached the first pinch point – cart track down to single-file path. As we waited, I asked a runner next to me what the wait was.
“It’s a bottle-neck – the track goes to single-file here, but it widens a little later to get past people”, she replied. She looked at my rain-jacket and said, “you’re not going to need that today”.
The race then took on a familiar pattern – narrow paths through fields and woods, braking out every so often into cart tracks through the Clarendon estate.
Every so often a view would present itself.
Then we would be on our way, through the woods and along tracks to a new village.
The skies threatened, but that was about it. I got about 10 miles in when I thought my fellow runner was right – no rain today, at least not enough to require a rain jacket. I took it off and wrapped it round my waste.
The route is well signposted, and well marshalled. There are at least 12 aid stations, with water, juice, jelly babies at all (or so it seemed), with the stations after half-way offering bananas, home-made flapjacks (some with dates! Yum!) and fruit loaf (not malt loaf!). In between you would regularly find a marshal at a turn, or just in the middle of nowhere!?
Getting through halfway at Broughton, the scenery didn’t change that much. We went through woods, up hills, and over a lovely river or two. I lost count.
After this, we went down a steep hill into the lovely village of King’s Somborne, and beyond that a long drag up the hill towards Farley Mount. This was particularly slow due to the fact that it was a single-track path, which included some of the 09:30 starters complete with backpacks holding up the traffic. But, it gave me time to check the view (by which time it had started to mizzle).
By the time I’d reached the top, I was struggling. I basically ran-walked the rest of the way to the finish, mainly through what seemed like muddier and muddier woodland tracks. Eventually we turned a corner, and were told by a marshal it was just another 400 metres to the end.
The finish is at another school – King’s School on the western end of Winchester. I was given my medal by a scout, and ushered over to drink more water. In addition to water and medal, you get a nice green marathon t-shirt (which doesn’t mention ‘finisher’ on it at all).
So, the usual sorts of questions:
What did I learn from this race?
- I could have trained a bit more. A 3 hour pootle around the South downs 5 weeks before isn’t enough. But then, it is my 2nd fastest trail marathon to date. So, can’t really complain.
- I should have checked the weather a bit more. I probably wouldn’t have struggled if I wore the right gear.
- I should have brought some S Caps with me. Sweating in a rain-jacket for the first half wasn’t helpful. But then, if I was wearing the right gear, would I have needed them?
What did I like about the race?
- It was somewhere I’ve never run before.
- It was hilly
- It reminded me of other races I’d done – NDW50, Fittleworth, Beachy Head…
- Friendly if sometimes a little overwhelming marshalling
- The mile count-down. In some respects good (near the end), but in other respects not (at the beginning). 4 miles to go is easier to take than 25 miles to go, if you know what I mean. But it’s in my list of likes!
What didn’t I like about the race?
- Muddy! Probably added a few minutes to my time. Well, that’s my excuse !
- Not a dislike, really, but I would have preferred more hills (I love hills, me!), and a few more views.
Is it a PB course? Er, probably not.
Is it a Negative Split course? I’m not sure – possibly?
Would I do it again? Probably not
Why? I’ve done it now; time to do something else.
But would I recommend it? Yes, absolutely.
Is it worth the fee? Yes. The race itself is very well organised, and the marshalling top-notch with one or two exceptions. When you’re 20 odd miles in, you don’t want someone joking with you about taking a short cut; but there’s always someone at right-angles with the rest of the world (and that’s usually me!). I think some people would feel a little cheated about the size of the medal; if you’re a bling chaser I would think hard about doing this one, but for me, as they only live in a drawer in my house, I’m not that bothered.
Anyway, on to the next race. See you on the trails…