Today’s marathon was one of those days were it was a pleasure to take part. Second Wind Running (SWR) always put on a great race (I’ll let Phil off with the 26.6 miles as everything else was spot on). The combination of a challenging course (1,000 metres elevation), lots of trail running friends and the March sunshine made it a day to remember.
With the marathon setting off at 9.30 and the half at 10.15 there was a lot of activity in the race HQ area. I bumped into Mark from the New Forest as well as Paul, Allie and Richard from Fareham and Ian from Chichester. Paul Jeffrey, a fellow runner & blogger was there as well as Ros, Dean & Kiernan who were out on the course marshalling. It was also great to get a shout out from Fareham’s Mel and Trevor who were just arriving as the marathon set off. Ironically within a mile I was chatting with Thom from Fareham Crusaders who I’d seen on the race entries but didn’t know. We chatted briefly and agreed to train in the future. This pre marathon photo of the two Pauls and Allie shows you what a scenic location we were in.
The first 2 miles are largely uphill so the initial banter soon went quiet as we all pondered that this would be the same for miles 13 to 15 with today being a two lap course. Regardless of the incline I could hear lots of people saying how beautiful the trail and trees were as we threaded our way through the forestry commission woods.
A group of about ten of us had joined up and as we passed marshal Dean the pace was in line with a 5 hour marathon due to the frequent hills. I chatted with Ian from twitter/Chichester and he mentioned he had a 100 miler in five weeks !! By the 4.5 mile mark we had our first aid station. The group largely stopped on mass so I couldn’t resist running straight through so as to get a head start on the steep incline back out of the park. Today I had two 250ml and one new Osprey 500ml soft flask in my waist belt, these take up less room and work well for me. With five feed stations I only needed to stop at three so it saves a certain amount of time but more importantly you keep on the move !!
By the top of the climb I seemed to have distanced myself but I figured it would only be a matter of time before they caught me up. With us still relatively early in the run I spotted Stuart March ahead taking the official photos. As he appeared to be taking a long shot and a close up I had time to ponder on what pose I’d go for, as it was, I think the smile on my face summed up the whole day. Trail running with friends …. “it’s simply the best” 🙂
I thanked Ros for marshalling when I passed her and this took us down a welcome decent for a while. The sun was becoming stronger now and I exchanged places with brothers Simon and Jonny from Pompey Joggers for a number of miles. The Staunton Way took us back into the park with a long drag across the fields as we headed for the forested area. While I took a gel I snapped this photo to give a sense of the long drag.
The second lap started with a slap in the face of realism, this was going to need some concentration. My legs were feeling good but I chose to progress steadily seeing as I haven’t run more than 17 miles this year 🙂 The Pompey brothers appeared again and we had some banter. It’s funny how we chose different sections of the hills to take short walks, so we kept on overtaking and reovertaking (made up word !!)
The Queen Elizabeth Country park was now full of visitors seeing as we’d moved into the afternoon. I’d kept my snood twisted around my wrist and this was very useful to wipe away the sweat from my eyes. After passing Ros & Kiernan marshalling at 19 miles the South Downs Way becomes a narrow tarmac (hilly) road that then gave way to a downhill section which meant my gps watch alarm went off for 20 miles (deep joy)
The drinks station at about 22 miles couldn’t come soon enough and I have to say I slowed down as we rejoined the Staunton Way for a second time. The final mile and a half through QECP was quite emotional because I knew I’d had a good run and shared the experience with lots of friends. The sound of a woodpecker echoed through the trees and the smile on my face was getting bigger each hundred metres.
My time was 5.07 which I was happy with considering the hills, heat and lack of 20 mile training runs. For a bargain £3 there was chilli con carnie & a roll on offer so I scoffed those down as I chatted with lots of the people I have mentioned. As you saw at the start of my blog the medal and T Shirt were eye catchers and I finished off the day with some photos of the people involved.
This is my trail running best buddy Paul, then below me, Ros & Richard.
And finally I owe a debt of thanks to Simon and Jonny who kept me on my toes for quite some time, thanks lads.
Last but no least thanks to Phil & Teresa from Second Wind Running for hosting a great race and a great day. Lots of complements, I recommend if you are in Hampshire, look them up 🙂 Yes trail running can be challenging but it is also very rewarding.