Seeing as my recent cough hadn’t 100% cleared up I decided that 13.1 miles done properly would be a safer bet than the marathon, as it turned out 1,800 feet of elevation was more than enough for me at this stage so, yes, being sensible does pay off !!
I arrived early enough to see the marathon start as I wanted to catch up with a few Twitter friends who were running. It’s not often you get to chat with a GB Ultra runner but that’s how down to earth Jo Meek is. I had met Jo once before at a Q&A talk that she was giving and I think it was fair to say she was one of todays favourites. Secondly, Terry Arnott from Gosport RR is someone that I chat to on twitter but hadn’t met until today, great to meet your Terry, unfortunately he too had moved down to the half due to similar germs as mine. I talked with Trevor Kettle from Fareham Crusaders, wished him good luck for the marathon and they were off !! Unfortunately I didn’t get to see Phil Hall who was sweeping the marathon, next time !!
Above : Phil Hoy giving the marathon race briefing & Jo Meek already in her stride !!
The beauty of our running community is that these kind of events bring out runners and support crews alike. Jason Kinge and his assistant from Body Fusion were attending for “pre and post” race massage. I’ve known Jason for a few years now and would recommend his services for both injuries and sports massages. His skills and banter make him a perfect choice. Naturally the running community also needs organisers so it was great to see Phil & Teressa from Second Wind running (SWR), todays hosts. As the Half was approaching I also saw Ros Clarke who’s recently joined Gosport RR and was running with some other ladies from their club.
The Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP) weather was ideal for running and the route was a twisting & turning helter skelter of hills and trails, in short, all the good stuff.
Phil Hoy once again talked us through our race brief and as the hooter started us off we went straight uphill and this set the tempo for the rest of the run. The going underfoot was “mucky” rather than boggy and we were lucky that it had been dry recently as this area of the South Downs can be slippy on the exposed chalky trails when the rain has washed away the surface mud. So all in all it was good to run on. The first two miles were largely uphill which both spread out the field and made me realise that I would have to pace myself today as my breathing was quite shallow.
Ironically my last race was a 33 miler were I made a point of running slower, today was in effect a half marathon at not much more than ultra pace. That said this didn’t make it any less enjoyable. The reward for more “up’s than down” was a long downhill to the first feed station at 4.5 miles but this was followed almost immediately by a steep section that just had to be walked. Walking “with purpose” can be quite effective and I would employ this tactic again 🙂
The 200 strong field was quite spread out now and running through the woods with the sun glinting through the trees and the birds chirping away just reminded me why I love to run in the countryside. After a section of the South Downs Way we were descending towards another event that Phil had mentioned. A mountain bike race was also being held in QECP and the route crossed directly in front of us. A simple but effective whistle blow meant I was off again after a short stop.
The trails varied in width, camber and state as we progressed onto the 9 mile water station. I didn’t recognise the next mile or two but we were never in any doubt where to run what with orange dissolvable spray paint, orange ticker tape and direction arrows. Praise must go to SWR as this must have taken a lot of time and effort. Talking of effort once I saw a familiar style that enters the park from the Staunton Way I knew where I was again and started to try and push what I had left in the last mile and a half or so.
Approaching the finish I could hear Jason shouting out my name and I crossed the line knowing that I had spread out my energy and couldn’t have done a lot more. I was pleased to find out I placed 101st out of 198. A very welcome chilli con carne awaited us and as I eat it Simone Newton waved as she ran past. “Sorry” Simone I didn’t see you, us men can’t do two things at once 🙂 I thanked Phil for a great race and picked up a SWR T Shirt. I spotted Terry and congratulated him on his 17th place then 15 or so minutes later I watched Jo Meek sprint through the finish line in a time of 3.22 for the marathon and 1st place !!
After a post race massage I had to get going so apologies to Ros and Trevor who I missed finishing, while I was having it, and thanks to everyone in our local running community that made today such an enjoyable event. We run, we smile, it’s as simple as that 🙂