So, … what’s next then ?

Extra, Extra ….. Hold the front page …..Read all about it, December 8th Andy Vernon will be attending Fareham Crusaders Training as well as a Q&A session after. Really looking forward to hearing his thoughts. We all know Andy as a GB athlete but he was also a local Stubbington Green runner in his early days.

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After 4 marathons in 6 months it’s December and time to start thinking about what’s next. I’m looking at doing something different for a few weeks so the Victory 5 mile race, December 6th, may be 5 tarmac miles but it gives me a chance to run with 40 or 50 of my Fareham Crusader club mates.

Next, in a change to my normal routine I’m going to run with the 5.45 club on Wednesday. This run is a free community based event for anyone, once a week, organised by Nick from Absolute Running, a sports shop in Gosport. After hearing great reports from runners who belong to other clubs I’m keen to join them for a week. The offer is open to runners of all abilities in the local #community. I look forward to Blogging about it too.

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What about 2016, well here a sample of the type of runs I’m considering, along will links to the sites for more information.

The Steyning Stinger : March 6th

A cross-country hilly marathon run through the South Downs between Worthing and Shoreham-by-Sea, with 4 stings (hills) Steyning Stinger website

New Forest Festival of Running 75K : March 20th

Rural tracks with some undulations and possibly ponies. I did the 50K ultra in 2014 New Forest 75K website

Three Forts Challenge : May 1st

Devil’s Dyke – Chanctonbury Ring – Cissbury Ring : 27 miles of mixed terrain and climbs of 3,450 feet 3 Forts Challenge website

Giants Head Marathon : June 25th

A challenging and beautiful course running through the Sydling and Cerne Dorest valleys Giants Head website

Updates on races entered and other possible runs will follow. 

The Meon Valley Marathon, 11 Crusaders 1 Great day

Front left to right, Chris, Gary, Paul, Pete, Howard, Paul, me, Lucy, Rod, Dave and Ed were the 11 Fareham Crusaders that took on the challenge.

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Endurance is said to be, the ability to endure an unpleasant or difficult process, without giving up. As a marathon runner I can relate to this, however, as an off road marathon runner I can’t see what’s unpleasant about running through our “Great” British countryside on a cold and crisp day with it’s sights and sounds. OK there’s the mud and the hills (800m elevation) and the water logged sections but they are simply challenges to boost your sense of achievement when crossing the finish line.

Second Wind Running (SWR) were the hosts of the race and I can’t compliment them enough for the organisation and effort that went into a great day. “Hats off” to Phil and Teresa. SWR even organised the weather !! Saturday’s biting wind had gone and so had the rain from earlier in the week all we had to contend with was the 2 rising to 5 degrees.

Now that you’ve got an idea of my approach to this run, lets set the scene. Lucy drove Paul, Pete and me to the marathon “parking field” and it was only a short walk to the Meon Hall race HQ, Meonstock. These East Hampshire Downs and the wider South Downs National Park would be todays setting. Our 133 other competitors were made up of local clubs as well as runners from further afield and Twitter runners @ChiltonDiva, Ben Jarvis and Phil Hall. A special mention also goes to Paul Coates who only had stiches out on Friday but was keen to run. The hall was filled with a mixture of banter and anticipation.

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After our thorough race briefing from Phil Hoy we were off down a country lane and onto the old railway line via a large puddle. In no time we were being guided onto the South Downs Way (SDW) by Teresa and the lower trail that weaves its way up towards Old Winchester Hill (OWH). I use a technique I call “slip and slide” along these muddy trails i.e. you just follow one stride with the next and hope to stay on my feet !! 4 wheel drive trainers would certainly have come in handy.

Paul, Rod, Howard and I scaled some 450 feet of elevation working our way up the hill and as with every good hill we were rewarded with a fabulous view of Beacon Hill across the valley and the Isle of Wight in the distance . It’s fair to say hang gliders and buzzards are equally at home in this area. Pressing on along the SDW we met a mixture of trail and country lanes as well as this concrete path which seemed curiously out of place in such a scenic area. Running in the countryside really is visually rewarding.

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Next we were heading North and up towards the ridge of the Downs. The approach to this exposed section of the route usually includes cattle but luckily not today. However, the cows trademarks were regularly dotted about in the clumpy grass. Dodging cow pats isn’t a skill you’d practice on running club night but it’s surprising how nimble you can be when the consequences are so shi**y !!

The sharp climb up onto the ridge was made more challenging with the clumpy grass but at least there was a clear trail to follow. More styles and gates were negotiated and after over an hour we actually went downhill. The better going underfoot was short lived and it was back into “slip & slide mode”. As we approached the back of Butser Hill (the highest point of the South Downs) I knew we had the most technical section of the route ahead. The 200 metres sharp climb is up a narrow trail that years of water has cut out a V shape in the soil down to the chalk. So at times I was planting a foot at an angle on both sides of the gully. The photo below was from a training recce. Most of us walked this, Howard flew up !!

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After the lung busting ravine climb a welcome gradual descent took us down to a waterlogged section with “refreshingly cold” water !! It was through this messy section that Pete and Ed passed me, with Pete shouting “just keep smiling Roger”. Harvesting Lane was next on the agenda at 13 miles. This lane is famous as a cycling Strava segment with 300 feet of elevation and gives your legs a different kind of work out after the grassy slopes. Paul and Rod were waiting for me at the top but I insisted they carried on as I knew I was holding them back. I re-joined the SDW and headed across to the Sustainability Centre and the huge houses opposite.

Heading down Chalk Lane (photo below) a good measure of restraint was needed what with it being very slippy and uneven. You’d think running downhill would be a welcome relief but were your legs have already been pounded the jarring is actually quite uncomfortable. Unscathed by the bottom of the lane it was a relief to get back onto country lanes. Having recced the whole route I knew the worst of the grass and mud was behind me but there was still one steep lane and a gradual climb across a field to come.

 

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Emotions were high as I saw the 20 miles come up on my garmin especially as I knew the last 2 miles drop down to the finish. I was starting to get cold now after being out for some time but the thought of post race food and drink drove me on. Hydration drinks and gels do their job but they aren’t the same as a hot soup. I mainly walked the steep lane with flurries of running. Another of the excellent marshals spurred me on as I crossed over the road and onto a track across the fields.

The next downhill section again caused me pain but that’s when the thoughts in your head need to be strong, after all you can’t walk downhill !! I managed a slow but purposeful crossing of the gradual uphill field and this brought me to about 23 miles and the prospect of finishing. The sun was getting lower in the sky and the wind had started to pick up so it was time to press on and finish what I’d started.

At about 25 miles I was aware four of our Crusaders were closing in on me !! I couldn’t fend off Dave Fuller but was pleased to retain my 75th position out of the 130 finishers. On arriving we were greeted by most of our quicker Crusaders who were waiting to cheer us in. I stopped my garmin at 5.10 and grabbed the first chair I could see. Rod came over and offered me the second half of his soup, I really appreciated that Rod, thank you. I picked up my excellent medal and we all congratulated each other on a hard but hugely satisfying run. We knew Gary was still to finish but he would also be welcomed in a little while later. A great effort by Gary who only entered on Saturday. I asked Chris if this trail marathon meant he’d be doing more but I think he’ll be sticking to triathlons.

I have to say I was shattered but also on an extreme high of achievement. This is my 10th and probably hardest marathon what with the cold added in and even though this may read as hard work, it was enjoyable hard work. Paul had a “First wounded” award that Phil had made especially for him (the stiches were from a SWR recce run 2 weeks earlier) which was a great thought. I’m sure we will all be back next year.

Huge thanks to Phil & Teresa’s Second Wind Running organisation and marshals, also to my fellow Crusaders for making today a memorable one.

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Preparation for the Meon Valley Marathon : My 5 “W’s”

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  • 1. Where you are running !! 

This map could fill you with dread or excitement depending on your state of mind !! The good news is that anyone looking at it has taken their first step in preparing for what lies ahead, i.e. they know what’s in store. After running the first half a few weeks ago in pleasant conditions and with fairly good terrain underfoot everything has changed with the onset of Autumn.

Running the second half of the route last week in the wind and rain with muddy trails and water logged sections has put a whole new spin on the route. This run also meant I could try out the combination of my long sleeve Helly under my 100% waterproof Ron Hill jacket if it’s required.

  • 2. Website Race advice

With over 800 metres of elevation gain run on country lanes, trails and grass, this is a challenging marathon, but rewards you with fabulous views over the beautiful Meon Valley, and across Hampshire to the Isle of Wight. Run mainly on footpaths, bridleways and byways, there will be route-marking with signs and repeater tape and multiple water/feed stations along the way.  Simplified maps of the course will also be available on the day.

The route has technical challenges with slippery descents on chalky tracks, and is likely to be muddy in places too, but the entire route should be runnable. In the interests of reducing waste and avoiding litter, the drinks stations are primarily there to refill your container, not to hand out bottles or cups.  If you do use one of our cups, you will not be permitted to take it past the bin at the checkpoint.

Checkpoints will be positioned approximately every 4.5 miles, and will have water and soft drinks to refill your containers, plus some sweets and savouries that you are welcome to take with you. Your number will be recorded at each of these checkpoints.

  • 3. Who is running

The entrants list is always something I look at to see if there’s anyone I know or twitter runners that have commented on the race. Fellow Crusaders Rod Nairn, Lucy Peazold, Brian Wright, Paul Stephens, Dave Fuller and Howard Stinton will be part of the 130 or so runners, so a great showing from our club in this “local” race.

  • 4. What to expect

After the 10.30am start Old Winchester Hill will be a great introduction with its muddy lower track and the steep climb as you progress up. There’s no doubt you will go through some water that’s above your everyday sock level and the roller coaster of hills will just keep on coming. The changing terrain will give you spongy grass one minute and then country lanes the next. Harvesting Lane will be a particularly memorable elevation treat but the good news is that the last 3 miles are largely downhill. The sense of achievement at the finish line will be huge. The Meon Hall is a great venue and I’m sure it will be a hive of activity after the race.

  • 5. The last Week

Naturally we all have our own pre race rituals, I keep my hydration up through the last week and I’ve found two or even three nights before the race carbo loading helps me. I do like to stretch as much as possible so that come the day you feel loose and ready. Easy runs on Sunday and Tuesday will be followed by some walking at the end of the week. Weather wise I will leave my kit choice until I’ve got more of an idea if it’s going to rain !! Otherwise it’s my two 500ml bottles that I can re fill at half way and SIS gels.

Finally, I have no time expectations for what could be the hardest of my ten marathons so far. Pushing yourself through the challenge is all that anyone can do, as well as enjoying the experience. Our club slogan is #Unstoppable and preparation can only help. Good Luck to everyone running the half and the full marathon, it’s going to be “epic” 🙂

“Your body achieves what your mind believes”

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14 mile Meon Valley run in the wind and rain, followed by a visit to the hospital !!

This 2 minute video hopefully sums up the “buzz” we all got from a morning in the countryside.

I wish a speedy recovery to Paul Coates who needed stitches to a gash in his knee. This kind of injury doesn’t happen very often and thankfully it was in the last half mile of our fourteen, so we could get going to QA hospital and “wait” for him to be seen to. Paul was, in true form, escorting the last lady back to the finish when he slipped and cut his knee, both palms and both elbows. A speedy response by Teresa with her medical supplies stemmed the blood and a quick thinking dash to his car from Phil meant we drove the last few hundred meters. Paul remained calm and in control which is to his credit, as I’m sure it hurt.

Having said that we had a great run up and down grassy fields and narrow lanes. We ran to the top of ridges with strong winds blowing and the rain coming down. Some narrow tracks and paths had changed into streams, what with the recent rain, but this was quite useful to wash off the mud we had also collected. In short we had a variety of terrain to negotiate while running through ever changing weather. The one constant throughout the morning was that we all loved it.

Ten of us set off at 9.30am from the Sustainability Centre, 3 Crusaders, me Paul and Howard Stinton, then we had our two recce organisers, Phil and Teresa, Catherine and Katie from Liss Runners, two runners from Eastleigh and two ladies from further afield i.e. Bournemouth and Salisbury. I’d have a stab at names but I’m terrible at remembering them so rather than getting them wrong lets just say we had great company. I would have written everyone’s names down at the end but we needed to get into dry clothes then I could drive Paul to A&E in his car !! …… “funny old game”.

Today was a day for waterproof jackets and a sense of humour. Runs like these really do help to familiarise you with the course, the conditions and what your strategy will be on race day, and for that a big thank you must go to Phil and Teresa. Our fellow runners spanned a mixture of abilities so looping back was a feature of the day as it’s important everyone feels they are part of the group and no one should feel they need to apologise. Running in these conditions requires many skills, stability, quick thinking, good reactions and the decision making of where to plant your next stride, while considering the following two or three at the same time 🙂 I’m sure my fellow runners would agree, off road running is both quite technical and hugely rewarding.

Route wise I don’t have too many references to sight as the fields, tracks, lanes and hills do tend to roll into one long colourful countryside adventure. Some notable moments were the strength of the wind on the high ground, the chalky ravine at the back of Butser hill ( a MVP favourite), the 300 metres of flooded lane that was above our ankles and the long/hard drag up Harvesting Lane (108m elevation, google maps link) which was a real leg burner. Huge thanks to Paul for bringing his waterproof camera, I hope my edit of his videos and photos puts across how much we enjoyed the morning.

I’ve no idea what time we did the 14 miles in and to be honest it didn’t matter, what we did was rise to all the challenges that the terrain and nature could throw at us and by in large we were the victors 🙂 I can safely say that todays run and my bowl of soup both gave me a warm feeling of satisfaction. Well done one and all 🙂

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