Today, Second Wind Running, organisers of the November 22nd Meon Valley marathon, also organised a recce of the half marathon, so this was both a good opportunity to run the last 5 miles of the marathon route as well as get some great trail running miles in too.
Meon Hall in Meonstoke is both the HQ for the marathon and todays recce, so once again, all valuable knowledge ahead of the race. We were guaranteed an enjoyable morning with not only fellow Fareham Crusaders Paul Coates and Rod Nairn but also Phil Hoy the race organiser and his partner Teresa. Completing the eight of us that went out were Paul, Michael and Simone who we hadn’t met before and all played their part in a great mornings run.
The 13.1 mile route had 400m of elevation and a combination of old railway line, footpaths, byways, lanes and grassy trails with a good measure of hills thrown in and some stunning views. All in all a fantastic way to spend your Saturday morning. I’d say the route was roughly half/half between road and grass with some chalky sections but surprisingly little mud !!
The first mile and a half was a gentle introduction along the old Wickham railway line which is just starting to accumulate a carpet of multi coloured autumn leaves. We turned off left on a gradual incline up towards Winchester Hill and as the chatter died down we all knew the main climb was almost upon us. This climb is only about 300m, but at a steep gradient, so it was all smiles once we’d reached the top and taken a “scenic selfie”. The reward for our hill climb was naturally the view of the valley and in the distance Southampton landmarks. You also know you’ve run up a good hill when there are par gliders above your head !!
When we left Winchester Hill the wind had picked up slightly and as we ran along a stretch of trees we were treated to the Autumn leaves dropping on us, almost as if to mark our visit. We pressed on downhill and along the farm lanes that then take you to Meon Spings, a lovely riverside café, but there was no need to queue for water as with Phil’s local knowledge he took us to a nearby tap. This random drinks stop was much to Paul’s delight as we have run this way before and I had no idea it was there, one up to Phil !!
We were now on the second half of the run and into unknown territory for me. Not knowing what’s around the next bend or across the next field meant I really enjoyed this section, a mystery and a challenge rolled into one. There was lots of chatter between everyone and the sun had now replaced the early mist. We ran on the outskirts of Droxford and through Chidden with its quiet lanes and occasional cyclists. Phil’s love of countryside running was clear to see and would motivate anyone he met to try it. Phil and Teresa, his partner, are clearly good runners but also very down to earth and knowledgeable, great strengths to have as race organisers.
Paul, Rod and I always have some banter as we run and it was good to see everyone else getting into the swing of it too. A straight tree lined “Roman road” was a photo opportunity not to be missed then it was one last rising field that stretched on for some time and we were over the worst of it. Phil has cleverly put in some downhill stretches at the end of the route so both the half and full marathon runners will benefit from this on the day.
Roughly 2 hours and 5 minutes of enjoyable off road running later we had both met some great people, who also have a passion for running, as well as gaining some great course knowledge. Looking forward to the 7th of November for a 14 mile recce of the rest of the marathon route.