Bovington Marathon ….the final!! 12:12

20161026193709.png (1140×175)

What a wonderful end to a fulfillingly, tiring year……

Well the last marathon was upon me and loads of emotions were running through my head in the days even the last couple of weeks leading up to this day.  All the attention that has been building over the last 12 months was escalating to this point and I was aware that it would all soon end.  It’s been a great platform to get out information about the charities, Lynch Syndrome Uk and Poole Hospital at school, on the races, through Facebook and this blog.  I wasn’t prepared for the enormous amount of generosity too, mind!!

Getting up on the last morning in question wasn’t too bad, I had tried to get to bed early but that never happens.  My brain is always pumped the night before, so I try and wind down reading a great inspirational book to instill some positivity and direction into my wandering thoughts.  Book in question at the moment is Vassos Alexanders’ Don’t stop me now.  Lent to me by a fellow running enthusiast at work and gratefully received, as its a very easy read that you can pick up and put down, whenever the need takes you. What I love about Vassos is his never ending enthusiasm to get outside and ‘explore’ every terrain and territory.  No matter where he goes, the trainers always come out!  That’s a habit I can totally relate to, the thirst for exploring and definitely covering terrain my feet haven’t trod before.

So back to the morning in question! Pumped, psyched and totally ready for running and exploration on land usually off limits.  Bovington Marathon is held over MOD tank training ground and organised by the quality running purveyors that are White Star.  Having already run their half marathon over this same ground last year, I was stoked to be running this full marathon as my last in the challenge.  Not only is this territory near home but apt for my final supporting the local hospital charity.  There was one picture that sealed the deal to have Bovington as my final and that was this picture of fellow running buddy from the IOW marathon, Jenny Walker Leach. IMG_2444 This picture showed an area not ran in the half  last year and I wanted to explore it!!  It only takes a picture, map or positive comment of a run to capture my interest initially and this pic won me over.

Gathering running necessities up and heading to the car, next stop Mr Weaver pick up!  This running nut has been a constant support on my challenge and you may remember him from my previous blogs of ‘Portaloo-gate’ at Larmer Marathon, ‘dropped like a hot potato’ at Giants Head marathon and IOW marathon and now my ‘saviour’ at the final hurdle.  Such a constant running force flying under the radar but is guaranteed to be the sick perverse animal that should be on a carabiner lead at any event 😉 ha ha  It’s these strong individuals like this guy and many others in my running club Lytchett Manor Striders,  that have kept me going the whole year!!

Arriving at Bovington Tank Museum, registration point and starting post we managed to meet our fellow striders, Scott Mordew (aka Victor Meldew….sorry couldn’t help myself Scott), Scott Parfitt, Dave Smith and Karl Whitfield.  Scott P, scantily dressed like all speedy machines was bearing the weather through gritted teeth, bless him!  However,    Karl (who’s knocked out plenty of marathons and ultras in the past) and Dave (Mr International runner) were eager too get this one done like we all were, decided they would also support me in my endeavors too, bless them ximg_1975.jpg

Race brief completed and on the starting line, we were soon off!  This is it…the last (for this year anyway 😉 )  Running out of the museum car park we were snapped by our ‘out of action’ running bud and supporter Steve Cole.

The first couple of miles led us through streams we tried to avoid at all costs this early in a race.  Reason being, it can play havoc with our feet over longer distances if wet too soon.  Leading quite a fast eager pace was not our plan either but I think we all felt good at the beginning and just a tad enthusiastic t’boot.  That soon depleted as the trails took on some inclines hampering our good strides.  Stopping and starting can be good and bad.  If you’re not looking for times (which most of us don’t on trail runs) it’s great for a breather.  However, it does cool the body down too quick which can make trying to start running in the later stages, more difficult, as your body muscles start to seize.

It’s at these points you look around, enjoy (term used loosely depending where you are in a race) catch up with your running mates and just talk crap or sing in Dave’s case!!!  This makes a good run for me.  It’s amazing how we inspire each other constantly….we’re a mad bunch but I wouldn’t change this way of life now.  A lot of us all say, we wish we had started earlier in life….so my only advice to any novice or someone not yet out there…..try it, get out! You’ll never regret trying, the only regret is hesitating or wasting time pondering.  Don’t think, DO!!!!

Arriving at aid stations are a necessity to keeping the positive moods and physical strength going.  It’s the welcomed reprieve our body needs but also the best catch up with the volunteers, also running goofballs. The empathetic hugs, genuine concern and constant laughter lifts your spirits for the next unknown, wearing miles.

No more weary than when you see front runners heading towards you shouting ‘has anyone else passed you along here?!!’ No way, Scott Parfitt, usually a lead runner and another were looking confused and exasperated.  ‘No’, we shouted feeling gutted for them as they about turned and retraced their steps, no doubt costing them valuable time and miles.  We were at 9/10 miles at that point which meant they were prob 15/16, I reckon.  Poor sods, it happens sometimes especially on a course that interweaves so many sections that all look similar.    I dread to think of the logistics setting up these events.  I, like many, put our faith in event organisers and take it for granted.  However, I get lost on my own runs a fair few times, so it’s great to know there are people around for support and safety.

Plodding on….. and it was plodding at this point!  The type of terrain certainly challenged us in many ways.  The going under foot changed constantly, shingle stones, rocks, mud, sand, hilly, dips, twists, turns, woodland reprieves of bouncy moss to boggy swampy swimming pools (not puddles I tell ya) (photos courtesy of Rab McAvoy)

How we kept going is not something we allow to go through our minds….. it’s always a ‘get it done’ attitude.  However, once our mind drifts through a negative barrier, this is when our fellow runners really stand the test of time!  Swearing is a common occurrence, growling, grunting or heavy breathing when you can’t be arsed to talk as too knackered, mentally and physically.  I have to say Tony Weaver (i’m sporting a foot injury but seem to be bouncing along quite merrily) holds the most patient attitude known to me….especially when I reach the ‘grinch phase’ of my enjoyment level. A friendly push or pull up a hill, even when i’m sure he’ll rather kick me into oblivion….what a trouper!  At points, being the slowest runner in this little group, all the guys showed absolute gentlemanly behaviour (ok maybe not Weaver here 😉 ) They all took their turns running next to me, not leaving me behind. Diamond geezers x

We even made the most of photo opportunities enjoying all the toys left on course for our amusement he he he

Although, when we got to the Monkey enclosures of Monkey World…..I started to wonder who the real animals were?!  Think the lads were now showing their manly attributes communicating with their counterparts.  I may have caught the chimps acknowledgement of disgust but I’m gutted I didn’t manage to catch the boys in full swing ha ha, It was hilarious 😉

In the last few, ok many more miles, we got through knowing we were on the return and obviously, familiar tracks now.  All in all, I would say this was no doubt by far, the most enjoyably testing marathon, just shy of 28 miles!!!  This time, homeward bound, we were galloping through the many streams we had avoided near the start.  Quite refreshing now, cooling our weary muscles and cleaning our mud-clad trail shoes. Just less than a mile to go, we spied another Lytchett Strider hobbling with a lady runner….. Scott M was sporting a bad limp.  Reassuring him, he was close to the finish and seeing he was well looked after, we dumped him like a hot potato and proceeded to the finish!

What was about to happen, unbeknownst to me, was a 12 month challenge climax I will always hold dear and feel immensely proud of. Lytchett Striders are the best, they gave me a welcome home like no other and it was hard not to cry.  Many were there to see me in and make my ending so memorable.  I can’t thank them enough especially as they had been waiting ages in the freezing cold brrrrr xx

Movie ending 🙂 click here

Its not too late to support the amazing causes that I have run for this year:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/phillipa-rolle1

https://make-a-donation.org/fundraisers/phillipa-rolle

To date you all have been that generous the total for both charities combined stands at:       £6,013.48        Thank you x

 

ATHENS 11:12 The Authentic Marathon!!

img_1804.jpg

What a whistle stop weekend…. Scary start, running with the club, their milestones, being the tourist and supportive family…. It had it all, in one weekend.

Travelling up to Heathrow with several members of my running club, was a build up to an exciting weekend ahead.  To say I was excited was an understatement and the same could be said of my fellow travelers Sarah, Dan, Matt and David all from Lytchett Manor Striders.  Traffic was on our side and we made good time on the motorway to the pod parking at Heathrow.  This made us giggle so much, little pods that look like butter dishes or bubbles on a monorail. Driverless cars that just about managed to house us all. Doesn’t take much to keep us happy.

 

All checked in and heading for the bar in the departures lounge, we drank to the weekend ahead… 2 pints later (oh I haven’t drunk for months by the way eeek) we were on the hunt for filling food. Since two of us were veggie/vegans plus me a newly pescatarian, it would be interesting what places here had to offer.  I had to say, Wagamamas pleasantly surprised me, mmm yum! Spicy veggie curry & rice for me 🙂 Sat opposite us was more Striders, Kirsty, Michael, Karl, Nick, Judith, John & Dave our international organiser.  There were more Striders running this weekend but had left earlier and staying longer than us too.

Fed, watered and herded onto our plane in separate seats, the 4hr flight started so well… That was soon to change for myself!!!  Half way through the flight my legs started to ache real bad, the poor guy next to me had to put up with my fidgetting and huffing.  The pain started to throb more and I actually had visions of clots forming and my mind started to over react.  My head started pounding and I started to sweat.  It was when my head started going fuzzy and nausea swept over me, I knew things weren’t good.  Nudging the guys out of my way, I must have looked terrible as they didn’t make a fuss and eagerly moved.  Thankfully, I was only a few rows from the stewards area by the food stores.  They ushered me to sit in their section immediately, sensing I was about to faint.  Lots of water and cold head compresses later, plus sat in front of their open fridge, I started to feel a tad better.  Oh how unnerving and embarrassing. Lets put it down to dehydration and alcohol at high altitude. …. NUMPTY!

Face colour restored and arriving in the dead of night Greece time, we were quickly scooped up to the transfer minibus.  It was so lovely to stretch our legs after a cramped plane ride, one hour later we were being dropped at our respective hotels.  The first was a five star plush establishment…. our jaws dropped when we saw into the reception area with marble floors, grand columns, sparkling chandeliers and chaise longues dotted around for residents to drape themselves over after a weary journey! Definitely not my abode for the weekend.  Mine and Sarahs was to be the more modest and reasonably priced destination and thankfully the next stop.  Signed in, then cramped into a hole no bigger than a broom cupboard to elevate us to our floor…..actually a broom cupboard would have been less restrictive…. is this how the weekend was going to pan out? We couldn’t stop laughing at the elevator, ridiculous!!  But, laugh it off we did, when the rest of the hotel was actually quite lovely.  Unpacked, settled and ready for hitting the hay for if only, a few hours, until tomorrows full day ahead of us.

Buffet breakfast, lush!!  Eat all you like and any excuse to be a pig to last us through the day till the evening.  Totally satisfied and eager to hit the Expo, where we were to pick up our race numbers, so we opted for the lazy option downtown.  Time to buy our tram tickets and head to the coast of Athens City, where the Olympic Taekwondo stadium awaited bustling with hundreds of early risers.  It was just by chance another couple travelling to the same destination happened to guess we were Striders….what the…….  We must talk loudly ha ha… anyway Richard Swindlehurst  a runner from Poole AC and his wife Cathy introduced themselves, probably sensing we were like rabbits in the headlights in amongst the crowds.  The excitement was building once more as things started to feel real, seeing all the other runners cramming in the doors, heading in the same direction.  Thank goodness we got there early as the crowds were escalating.  Picking up our numbers was the easy part…. the first thing you do in the massive hall littered with sporting stalls of every running apparel you could think of.

 

Now for the task of collecting my official Athens tshirt…. OMG the organisers were clever making the most of getting all the stalls ample viewing with possible sales in the process.  We were led down what seemed like a yellow brick road, weaving backwards and forwards, with barriers stopping us from short cutting the hall…. arggghhhh Speed march I did and ditching Sarah at a nutrician stop, I blitzed past the ditherers that seemed to be there to test my tolerance level.  As far as I was concerned this was a warm up to dodging the crowds in tomorrows race 😉 Clearing the bottom level I made haste up the stairs viewing the whole balcony, guessing the goal would be at the very end.  Half way round I spied pink hair….SARAH??? how the bloody hell did you get here before me?  She took a ruddy short cut and limbo’d the barriers…. clever mare 🙂  The final destination…Tshirt and the lady just spoke to me in Greek…what? huh??  The guy next to her obviously realised but I think he was enjoying seeing me struggle before chipping in.  Thanks!!!  Exit, I’ve had enough and need fresh air.  Next stop friends and family.

Sharing the metro, Sarah then rendezvoued with a Greek native friend and given a quick peek to some gorgeous underground ancient drainage ruins,  I was then on my way to meet my daughter and her fiance Callum. Getting out by the Athens museum I encountered a lovely street lined with restaurants and my daughter waving frantically to catch my attention.  Frappucinnoed up and raring for a day of sightseeing, we headed to the Acropolis.  Wow, just wow… the walk around these ancient ruins, is just breath taking.  Most of the Striders had the same idea too, and we all crossed paths with our jaws in awe at the surrounding beauty.

img_1635.jpg

After an exhaustingly productive day what could possibly follow but the well deserved running ritual of carb loading and the mass onslaught of Striders (and token Poole AC) on the poor Greek Restaurant community.  Well one particular restaurant who had to rearrange their table settings to accommodate the masses.  Thank goodness for Clare Parfitt, is all I could say, she whipped the maitre d’s into action and sorted the placing conundrum in no time. What a lovely end to an eventful day, it just built the impending excitement for the historical marathon no end.

Buzzing absolutely buzzing I was and I guess Sarah too, cos we spent the next couple of hours nattering into the night and not getting the early sleep we really needed after the previous night, that lacked hours of rest.  But up we got at a god awful hour and knowing the breakfast room was opening early especially to accommodate all the runners, was a lovely gesture by the hoteliers.  Fuelled, race prepped and cases packed up ready to be wheeled to the ‘posh’ hotel.  Not leaving anything to chance as most were leaving pretty soon after the marathon completion.  Everyone convened at the 5star hotel and walked the 5 mins trek to the coaches laid on for all race participants.  Thousands herded quickly through multiple lined queues onto constantly arriving and departing coaches, we were off. This journey seemed to last forever, blimey, that meant we would be running forever as it was an A to B run…If the coach journey was long our run would feel even more drawn out!  Plus we seemed to be travelling a lot downhill, obviously, that meant an uphill LONG struggle was looming.  Excitement was vast turning to apprehension.

I don’t know what I was expecting to see in the town of Marathon but there didn’t appear to be much at all.  In fact the stadium or athletics track popped up in the middle of nowhere….there was nothing certainly historical surrounding it, although as people alighted the coaches, the men seem to to go back to prehistoric times and wee where they stood.  Panic stricken no doubt, that there might not be enough lavatories laid on for the masses.   If they had just held on for a few minutes walk they would have found portaloos in abundance encasing the running track. As we all ventured closer ourselves, multiple commercial delivery vans took up our baggage and so we disrobed from our outta layers to reveal our racing attire.  Still fairly cool in a overtly warm country, polythene bags were handed out for us to wear and keep warm until the race start.

Heading into the stadium center,  16 of us were ready to run for multiple reasons from gaining a PB, running their first ‘International’ marathon, running the original marathon to start marathon running off and more notably, for Kirsty her first marathon and Scott, his 50th milestone marathon.  It’s just astounding how our running club and community support one another with such challenges.  Mine of course, was the penultimate and number 11 for my chosen charities.

IMG_1750IMG_1758

Time flew past waiting for the official start, soon they called us to line up in our allotted time corrals.  These were based on either previous marathon times or predicted times.  Kirsty had opted for a more generous start, given her usual running speed, so as not to put added pressure on herself I guess!  Even though this was to be her first marathon, Kirsty is by no means a novice runner.  Having run for our club and clocking up some great times in other races, for a fair few years, a marathon never really grabbed her.  So this was quite out of the blue when mentioning a few months ago she wanted to attempt it.  Staying low key not wanting to raise attention, as first ones inevitably do, the cat was soon out of the bag when we all started signing up for this particular race.  Yet, with real determination and sticking with a great training plan, it was inevitable Kirsty was going to kill her first big attempt.  So as we all headed out to our respective numbered areas, myself and Kirsty would start together.  However, I knew it wouldn’t be long before she would edge away and break the distance between us.  She’s naturally a more stronger and faster runner than myself.  However, it was lovely to have a friendly companion to chat to, amongst so many strangers before the gun went off.  It really calms the nerves before a big race….. and yes I still get a tad nervous before a race but it dissipates completely when you start running.

It still took 20 odd minutes before our particular block started running, after the initial gun going off. We were in block 8 and there were 11 blocks of thousands of people to run Athens marathon.  So as we edged closer and closer to the start ,excitement, nerves  and the realisation i’d be running for the next 4-5 hrs is always daunting, so I was hopeful it would be a good one to remember!  At the off, we wished each other well and set our steady pace in motion.  The heat I have to say is one challenge let alone the mileage, or the uphill climbs, however, the first 10k/6 and a bit miles was actually ok.  Normally it takes me this long to warm up and feel settle into a long run.  I think it helped having someone I knew near me that paces themselves well and I was able to keep Kirsty near and in sight for this part and it felt real good.  Then the real hard work started to begin……

This was by far one of the harder marathons I have run.  We were running on a dual carriage way with very little scenery, which surprised me.  I think I was expecting to be wowed by historical monuments or beautiful Greek buildings old and new.  But, reality of it was actually quite disappointing.  It was the the most lack luster marathon that I had built up in my mind plus the road went on and on and on and on……. Any change at this point would have been welcomed.  I was resorted to looking at other runners which distracts my focus from one of positivity….  I mean they just kept passing me 😦  Then the uphill slog began, my feet became weary early on plus not being sure if it was the heat but the soaring pain was too much, I had to stop arrrggghhhhh.  Getting out my vaseline,  I had to remove my shoes and socks, wasting time and coat every toe and the arches.  However, I also utilised the opportunity to stretch my legs.  Setting off again I tried to see this as a fresh start and plough some renewed vigour into my legs…. the crux of the outcome probably looked less than pretty….lets just call it plodding.

Zoom on  at least 10 miles of negative thoughts of a slouching old gal, trying to look like I knew what I was doing.  I think everyone was starting to fixate on a low ebb just like me.  This was not normal, where were the familiar faces i’m used to seeing at our home runs, the ones that give you a nod, a poke, words of encouragement, a smile even.  Well that’s not quite fair, there was some people speckled along the road near service stations, or a very small inhabited areas, whereby they shouted ‘Bravo’.  Then probably taking pity, a few out of the blue comments started to lift my spirits.  ‘Wow what numbers this?’ a young girl pipped up!  Its number 11 for my charities, I replied.  Suddenly, I was lifted by a native nutter who was also on her umpteenth marathon for charity, and a bond was sealed and my determination renewed.  Remember the charities, the causes, the people you’re running for….not your stupid toes, the aches and pains, the heat.  Remember their pains that will remain or have been lost for good.  Selfish woman…me that is.  This lady starting chatting about the children in our country without homes and how meeting some made her feel determined she could do this for them.  Wishing each other well on our challenges, she was gone but not forgotten… That was a kick I needed phew.  Next another girl nudged me and gave me a thumbs up!  Of course, my TShirt had my challenge of 12 in 12 on the back and people started to take note who were running alongside.  Miles started to be ticked off and my low ebb was being squashed the further I was running.  It was the others running that started to make this particular journey pull me through.  Another girl starting chipping in and chuckling that she had ditched her husband a few miles back as payback!!  Why? Well they were supposed to be spending a week on one of the gorgeous Greek Islands but had surprised her by entering them both in this race.  She was happy of course to do such a historical race, but not by how this one felt…. I could sooooooo relate.  So in her moment of glory she ditched him in an attempt to play into some healthy, marital competition.  She was hard but fair….then off she giggled on what appeared to be a ‘downhill’ stretch…where did that come from.  Oh yes! I realised we were in the last 6 miles of the marathon and it started to get built up as we entered the outskirts of the city.  My mood was lifting more, people where growing in abundance along the streets and the vibe changed.

If somebody asked me what Athens was like…… I would say its like being pregnant and enjoying the thought of being a parent before the impending moment.  Athens was certainly a beautiful city of ruins and history, the race was the pain of childbirth….stretching you to the limits of any pain you’ve ever felt…..Then, running into the last few streets lined with masses upon masses of cheering crowds was the drug I needed to numb all the previous pain.  Rounding the corner to the Stadium was the crowning of the head and then that view, the climax, the birth, the glory….I WAS DONE!!!!! YES!!!!! oh thank the Greek Gods, its over 😉 Plus what a finish….gorgeous and suddenly the pain was gone, the elation grabbed me and I saw my daughter! HEAVEN xxx

 

WELL DONE to the following Striders & Richard of Poole AC (and 1st Brit over the line):

Isle of Wight Marathon No.10 : 12

Message to my homeland………. ‘Its been emotional!’

Marathon route video!

 

 

Excitement and absolute pride doesn’t even cover how I was feeling to be running on home turf!  The Isle of Wight is my place of origin, full of my childhood memories, my early adulthood years until work and family life took me to Poole.  With close family members still residing on this wonderful Island, I thankfully, get to go back a few times a year.  However, this would be the first time I’ve ran a marathon here.  The Isle of Wight holds one of the longest running marathons in the country and now in its 61st year, it was inevitably going to become one of my 12 marathon choices.

This marathon was to be hosted by Ryde Harriers running club and what an amazingly, well organised event, this was.  The only niggle for me was the late start of 11:30am.  Most long races start early for many reasons.  Traffic avoidance being one of the main concerns especially with road races.  The Isle of Wight maybe a small(ish) place but the roads, even in the countryside, can get busy!  Nethertheless, I understood why the lateness was incurred, it was part of the Hampshire League races and clubs from the mainland, Portsmouth, Southampton and Gosport, would travel over to join in.  It takes an hour on the car ferry and then a further 20mins to drive on the other side.  Now coming from Poole myself with friends we still needed to leave at 7:30am to get to the start on time.  So the last thing I needed was my car to malfunction!!!!!  Cue Mr Tony Weaver to the rescue and the adventure was able to begin 🙂  Picking up another fellow Strider Jenny would make this adventure home from home and as we approached Southampton our group was complete with the Godalming ladies Kasia & Gemma.

 

 

Arriving at the community club in Cowes, parking was made easy by ye old ‘Caulkheads’ (name given to several generations of Island born people who were originally named after the main Island trade, caulking the boats) The old guys just pointed to a section and said over there…it wasn’t really that busy and marshals probably not really required.  But they were clearly enjoying being part of the day and it gave the others in the car a giggle at my expense, to what Islanders were like.  I mean, we hear it all the time, backward, inbred, dopey farmers….yeh yeh whatever, I just wave them off in a dismissive motion with my webbed hands  😉 ha ha

On registering our attendance and picking up our numbers, we headed straight to the toilets….its a given before any big race…nuff said….. well not quite they were right smelly, worse than portaloos urgggh.  Needless to say we were outta there in a flash!

Within moments I spotted old school friends and my emotions were in a positive whirl, nerves were being replaced with excitement and feeling that I was going back in time.  It

IMG_1211feels like you’ve never left this place and all is, as it was, years ago!!!  Spotting one friend Tarnia who runs for Isle of Wight Road Runners, is always lovely as she’s be an encouraging force for me! After my first ever marathon 3 years ago, she persuaded me to join a club giving me her views and the benefits of running in a club.  It was the best ever decision she helped me to make, regarding running, so was lovely to be able to participate in this event with her.  Just coming back from an injury and feeling nervous herself, Tarnia’s mental and positive strength pulled her through on this day.  Making this marathon number 20 for Tarnia, what a rockstar!!!

Megaphone at the ready, Race Director makes a last minute plea for anyone’s knowledge to whereabouts of the adjudicator…. ha ha Probably stunned by the aroma of the club lavatories no doubt…. only on the Island!  Guessing he was found as we were ushered through the finish funnel to the start.  Amazingly no one was too eager to run up front, but encouraged we were, whilst the RD gave us very specific instructions in this race briefing.  Strict rules on how to run Island roads were not to be scoffed at, especially with the prospect of being pulled and disqualified from the race.  Myself and Jenny looked at each other and gulped, no messing about on this race then. Not that we do, we are serious runners, really 😉

With the countdown starting 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, we were off………. ahhh to run on roads i’ve only ever driven on and not in ages either. The first mile was downhill and hard to not get caught up with going out fast…..like Tony!  Yep dropped us he did, like a hot potato!! That’s cool, he always helps everyone run their race, its about time he did one for himself.  Onward we ran through a holiday village called Gurnard.  I haven’t been in this area for years.  In fact I don’t think anyone ventures out there, only visitors on holiday.  This became one of the longest, never ending roads but it had plenty of downhill drags and a few little climbs but nothing too strenuous, sweet!  The whole time I’m thinking, those lovely downhills will be treacherous uphills on the return journey….hmmmmm

Ploughing on, we remarked on how cool and perfect the weather was for this late in the day.  Jen was pacing us really well too.  This was a blessing for me, as I can safely say, I’m crap at pacing myself and tend to go with what feels right.  Several times Jen had to reign me in and thank goodness she did.  We were nearing my half marathon PB and if I had kept on trying to speed up I would burn out quicker later.  At least I knew I could knock my half PB out of the water, if I had pushed on any more.  Venturing on through a cooling wooded reprieve, we were amazed at how many cyclists were out to support the event.  A few acknowledgements from familiar runners was so encouraging, thanks George and Kevin, also IW Road Runners but now cycle support today.  This made us feel really safe on surprisingly, busy, Sunday roads.  We were doubly shocked at the amount of sponge stations too.  I think this was Jenny’s favorite part of the support on offer.

IMG_1218Passing the edge of Newtown Creek, a definite place to visit if anyone gets the chance, we neared the equally gorgeous village of Shalfleet.  This was the place I knew my good friends Tree, Jon and their youngest Molly, would be cheering.  Or in Jon’s case heckling and throwing abuse 😉  They didn’t disappoint either.  Molly had created her own banners…..ohhhhhh tears started to well up.  I really wanted to stop as I hadn’t seen them in such a long time.  Sensing my dip Jenny ushered me on and then had to deal with my elevated heart rate and erratic breathing.  But calmed me down she did thank goodness. Back to the task at hand…running

 

Even though this was a road race, I was relieved when we were ushered off and onto a cycle track along the causeway. Not only was this stunning, but a route I had never taken in all my years living there. It truly was beautiful with the River Yar running alongside.  This was halfway nearing Yarmouth old train station and all I could hear was giggling and chatting behind! It could only be Kasia… honestly where does this girls energy come from?  Strong as ever and not a bead of sweat between her and Gemma, they rock up next to us…..’selfie?’ ha ha

IMG_1194

Further on down the track we started to realise this was quite a popular amble for people to take on a Sunday and its started to get busy with walkers, however, I didn’t expect to see the next couple!!  Only Helen and Jeffery from the Lytchett Striders… on the Island!!  Wow, what a lovely surprise and to come all this way from Poole to support us.  That just stunned me but just reinforces everything about our club.  Thank you, you two xx Obviously they were also celebrating their anniversary and spending a couple of days on this glorious Island but wanted to be there for us also 🙂  Ok, now to calm me down again…my heart was racing with this lovely surprise but needed to focus….

IMG_1221

Right lets get this show back out on the road!!!! We did as well, at the start of Freshwater, however, we weren’t heading in, this was the turning point, out onto the ‘Middle Road’ as Islanders call it.  This one can be treacherous with no pavement, so thank goodness it was a shortest portion. Turning off and into Thorley, brought in similarities with the North Dorset village marathon.  A long road but so beautiful through this stretched out village.  The locals did their thing too, making me so proud to be from this great Island. Again the cycle support rode up and down hollering positive comments along the way.  Myself and Jenny kept leapfrogging a few small groups of local runners.  Then the adjudicator came sauntering past in stealth mode….. shhhh bahave Jen, I’m not getting pulled from this one. Keeping hard left, we were good as gold…. phew he’s gone….happy soul, not!!!

Just a couple of turns and we started venturing back to Shalfleet.  Thought I might see Jon, Tree and Molly again as we past the Green we had played with our children many good times.  Even the picturesque church, I nearly busted my nose jumping out on them at Halloween. But they were gone ;-(   Arr well they were amazing support for me.

 

FullSizeRender (11)A small climb out of this gorgeous village and we were back on the endless return jaunt, only this time it would be uphill!!!!  I did not realise how many hills we would face, but all I can say, my butt screamed the whole blooming way arrggghhhh. Just when you need some really good stored reserves, I think mine and Jenny’s were near completion. Just 7 more miles to go, two Parkruns and a magic mile!  Could this get worse?  The sun was coming out in force, the sweat pouring and we started scrapping the barrel for positivity.  Jenny was doing amazing and now my well respected guru of running.  I just hope my quietness didn’t put her off too much?!

Then we hit the big looooooooong climb. Can I say, I hate this road?  Give me a pretty hill and a viewpoint at the top and it’ll be worth it.  Yet this was unnecessary, well actually it wasn’t it was the only way back, so suck it up we had to….and walk the buga!!!! uggh. On reaching the crest, Jen shouts ‘come on lets do this magic mile’… hell yeah walking had given me cramp so as soon as I had finished stretching, we pulled it out and went all out.  Well it felt like it but I’m sure I still looked like an ‘old bird plodding’ ha ha.

We were here yes! rounding the corner I was met with the best sight…. Some of my family were there to shout me in….. mum, sister, nephew and his girlfriend. Oh gosh, I could feel myself slowing and welling up.  Oi come on, let get this done and then you can see them Jen shouted.  Yes, Yes, she’s so right… that poor girl had pulled me through this whole race and I wasn’t going to mess up now. Onward to the smallest finish gantry ever!  We grabbed (or tried to) each others hand and cheered ourselves in. YES!!!!! Drink at the ready Tony greeted us with Kasia & Gemma, Helen & Jeffery, only to announce he had got a PB…blooming eck lad on that hard course, amazing!  Turning around I was faced by my family at which point the heavens opened….. well my eyes did anyway, cried endlessly.  My mum gave me a massive hug plus it meant so much seeing my sister and my nephew.  They were the reason I ever started running, over 10 years ago.  Running every ‘Race for Life’ since Russ, my sisters husband got bowel cancer and past to this retched disease, leaving Joseph, my nephew, without a dad.  What an amazing man he was too.  He made everyone feel so special that came into contact with him, so loosing him just wrenched our families worlds apart.  Sharing this moment with them has been the best part of this years journey, so far! This marathon is for them and RUSS xxxxxx Love you all xxx

 

 

IMG_1200

Tony (Mr PB) and the lovely Jenny

IMG_1202

Proud moment with my mum and sister looking on x

 

Russ & my sister Nikki xxx

Missed but never forgotten RUSS xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Cow Marathon no.9:12

IMG_1072Now this is more like it!! Laps again but lovely course 🙂

Wow what a difference the weather makes for me 🙂 This cooler air with a few minor showers is quite refreshing.  Plus, White Star Running were kind to us this weekend, they gave us a pretty flat course…. ok well after lap 2 you do feel the inclines but this was workable and without stopping.  Well maybe I stopped twice or three times ish but only momentarily when I realised I could do better and kicked my own ass.

I gotta say that the Bad Cow lived up to its name too….. the cows on the course were really bad, eating the signage!  They were doing this on the Frolic race Saturday but surprised to see them today as well but more surprised the sign survived!!

img_1070.png(pic curtesy of Lucie Turner)

Friendly fellows though, really weren’t at all bothered by us.

So the laps were a little over 4 miles and we needed to complete 6 to make the marathon.  I was so happy to complete my first lap in under 43 minutes which inevitably got slower as I can’t seem to maintain a steady rhythm like some seasoned runners with advanced experience. But, the last thing I should be worried about is time…..well that’s not true.  You see I have Abingdon Marathon coming up soon which was donated by the lovely Mel Carroll of Poole Runners.  Now this one is a road race and you have to complete it in under 5hrs.  Now my trail marathons have been coming up slow, which is to be expected.  They are harder, hillier and the terrain can be a real challenge. So knowing this one was predominantly flatter, meant I was going to put in some more effort.

IMG_1064Now this new course was situated by the Purbecks at the Burnbake campsite. Here, the ground was pleasantly soft under foot in places, wooded area and even sand, but not without the odd minor tarmac area.  Definitely,  one to come back to and I suspect for many others….seems like some missed out on the beach weather this year mind!!! The odd sandcastle popped up to…..thought we were supposed to be running?  😉

Well after a couple of laps the sand was certainly starting to zap my strength. But little things keep you going and focused. For me seeing gorgeous wildlife and noticing we are so lucky to live in such glorious countryside. I even saw a tiny dormouse run in front of me! cute!!!!

IMG_1133

Scott Parfitt lap no….?

However, knowing fellow Lytchett Striders were also on the course was a huge support and incentive to push me along.  Two of our top runners were kicking up these tracks….. Nigel Helm, a local head teacher and I believe, understated runner, who rocks up to many marathons and quietly leaves on completion.  Then also, the ever present, Scott Parfitt and regular podium achiever.  This guy’s on fire with his ‘quest for the vest’, to complete 100 marathons and is already at 47.  Number 50 will be the original Marathon, ‘Athens’ and my penultimate for 12 this year. Mine hardly compares to this guys grit and determination…. I mean he knocks out sub 3:30 marathons on a ‘regular’ basis!!!! But his fastest ever, being 2:47:40 in Manchester. Mind blowing!!!!  So whilst trudging along myself compared to these whippets, I’m trying to push myself not to get lapped too early on by these speedsters.  At East farm, I was lapped twice, admittedly, there were more laps, by 1 or 2 extra in Scott case.  So as these laps at Bad Cow were slightly longer, I had a better chance of trying not to be overtaken repeatedly again and a tad soul destroying.  Although, it’s great to get a holla of support whilst being another incentive to kick my butt to work harder.

So what I’ve learnt from running laps, you get to bite off chunks of mileage, plus, you can prepare yourself mentally on other difficult parts. In particular, certain sections to save energy for, like an incline or looking forward to the pretty scenery. Sometimes you surprise yourself achieving a hill without stopping.  One such section was stoney and had a massive crater through it.  When there’s loads of you running it at the same time, its difficult to navigate without bumping into someone or running through the tough part just to get past slower runners.  For me it was holding back a tad so as to run on the more unpleasant part to avoid an ankle injury….after two or three laps it grates on you though.  So my motivation was to not stop here and get past it quick….easier said than done but I managed it on five of the six laps. One laps I saw several others stopping just at the worst part and it was all too easy to follow suit….dam my weak mind.  There are always some not so great sections too, like in any race. One such area was the straight path after the lovestation, you could just see the whole length and when is started drizzling, the wind whipped it up in your face harder as there was no protection from the elements there.  But reaching the top of it I knew my favorite part was just about to begin!  Rounding the next two corners led into the most pleasant section of the course.  Approximately, a mile to the start/finish of the laps and through a lovely wooded part. It had a muddy section to navigate and I managed to avoid the thick of it on many laps but by the last two, I thought sod it! I am going through it and I don’t care how muddy I get.  Okay, I saw two other runners kicking the mud at each other and having such fun I fancied joining in.  Well okay maybe not,  just wanted to pay them back for accidently getting me too 😉 arrrgggh 😉  Further on some of the ground was bouncy under foot and underneath the trees it felt like a motocross course with twists, turns and silly bumps in the path and across a bridge to lead up an embankment onto the opening of the event village. Loved it!!

Finishing this marathon was a real treat, it gave me a renewed, positive vibe and experience, now that I find i’m tiring in these latter few months of my challenge.  I also finished under 5hrs, which is what I really wanted to achieve for a trail marathon.  So extra special it was, whoop!

 

A big shout out needs to go out to both Lee Pullen who also not only knocked out a marathon at the Bad Cow frolic the day before but also a half marathon on this same day as me. Then Jono Watts who also completed the half but finished his season ticket for the year, completing 6 half marathons with White Star and earning himself a rosette for his efforts.  Then our lovely Gemma Taylor, new Strider and no.1 supporter and photographer at the Bad Cow.  All of which remained to see us all in with the weather changing for the worse.  Gotta love the Striders commitment to each other.  Thank you all x

 

Next up will be: The Isle of Wight Marathon on 8th October (my birthplace) can’t wait 🙂

 

 

East Farm Marathon No. 8:12

IMG_1027Hottest ‘groundhog’ day I’ve experienced!!! Yep it’s Laps!!!!

So back at East Farm again for the next in the White Star marathons, only this time its laps! 8 of them, well 7 actually but we’ll get onto that later…….

IMG_1022

Lytchett lovelies oh and me in the middle 😉

Arriving at a sensible time today 8:15am as the race starts at 9am, not so bad at all except apprehensive about doing laps on what looks to be a scorcher of a day! I spied two Lytchett Striders straight away, Steve Cole and Lee Pullen.  I’m guessing Steve was running the marathon and I was right, it seems to be his forte of late and nothings holding him back…except for the odd moan about aching limbs…. he he….but to be fair i’ve been doing my share of that also of late.  Think these trails are catching up on me and i am feeling the burn for sure.  Lee was down for the half today plus the 10k tonight and the Chaos race tomorrow, so a fair mileage himself this weekend.  Yep I can safely say, our clubs full of running nutters.  After a quick catch up off we went to collect our numbers and then get our stuff ready.  When I say stuff this is our lifelines and pre race prep.  For me its, hydration bottles and because of laps it meant i could leave spares at the ‘Love station’ with the lovely Clare Julyan, a Poole AC runner who I had pleasure of helping at the same station last year.  Then vaseline over my legs and back where ever I have chaffed before!  Not a nice thing to experience when you hit the shower after a run…..it stings like hell!!! 😉  All the other guys started to sort themselves out too as it wasn’t long till the start.  The theme appeared to be Cowboys and Indians today and there was some great costumes….not so sure about the Race Director Andy though hmmmmm

IMG_1020

Well it was piping hot already this morning and I wasn’t feeling it.  Probably because I’m starting to tire and pick up leg niggles. So when the race started I wasn’t surprised we were heading uphill from the off and that this would be the same every lap.  So, pre-warning Steve I would be on a whinge fest for at least the first two laps, so by half way of the first lap I wasn’t shocked to see Steve leaving a good distance between us.  Steve is getting quite nimble of trails and is definitely stepping up a gear of late.  Whereas I am tending to slog more and more.  So in and out of the woods and around a very dried, dusty, arid corn field we hit the haybales over the barbed wire to the next field.  Just a necessary obstacle to keep us on or off our toes.img_1023.png  By the third field Steve kept looking back and I knew I was holding him up.  As lovely as it would be to run with him, I was no use at the moment.  My legs were not warmed up and I was still aching, so I motioned for him to leave me as I did not want to hold him back.  See us Striders even when we want to run together we know when to let others go too.  My good deed for the day was to tell him to buga off he he.  However, I blooming wouldn’t have, if I had know he was going to dob me in to the race director… Yep thanks mate… 😉 On completing the first lap, I was accosted by Andy…. ‘You alright mate?’ ‘One of your LMS members said you were flagging and not looking good’!!!!!!!!!!!  Jeeze, Steve, I’m going to kill him!  There was no way, I was going to get pulled off only after 3.8 miles.  ‘No I’m alright Andy thanks, I always look this way for the first 5 miles….it’s normal’.  I think he was happy with my answer and he let me carry on.  Actually, I was screaming inside thinking shall I quit after 4 laps/half way??  I mean, I have a marathon spare that I have completed and could use that. NO NO NO……  I’ve got to stop these negative thoughts whilst running.  But, its so hard when the day is hot and your leg, ankles and bum hurts.  But plough on, I did as my sense always prevails.

img_1026.png

Steve…the traitor!!! he he he 😉

Now some may say that’s bad sense or silly sense.  I just call it stubborn sense.  By the time I get to 4 laps, I’m warm and seeing the positive side too. It’s the right side of a marathon and I have less to run than I have already achieved.  But having chatted to another runner on the course, I was reminded why I was running.  Thanks Martin Baker, you gave me the boost that a kick up the backside might not have reached!  Martin quizzed me on my Tshirt and congratulated me on trying to achieve the 12 marathons.  See wearing TShirts with your name or charity on can really inspire or help others and clearly helped myself today, too.  It got the charity I am running for noticed.  Martin asked about Lynch and why I was running and what got me into running.  Having shared my story about the Lynch Cancer Gene, Martin shared his personal story too. IMG_1018 Now Martin was running for fun and life and that’s a blessing.  You only had to look at his costume and you knew he was living life to the full and grabbing and enjoying every moment.  He was infectious!!  It was game changer for me…. determined more than ever to complete this marathon now, we zoomed on and soon reached the delights of the ‘Love Station’.

img_1017.png

With a more positive mood in tow I spied Andy Issac volunteering at the Love Station…evil grin and sponges at the ready!!! 😉 😉 I was not getting away from this rest stop without a drenching of a ‘wet hug’.  Thanks Andy, it was actually badly needed but so funny also.  Freezing blooming cold water squeezed out from the sponges and all down my back arrrrggghhhhhhhh brrrrrrrr hooooooo ooooo shockingly cold but also extremely welcoming at this point.  Now raring to go and do some damage to the last few laps. The lovestation  became an oasis of much needed sanity/insanity (with these nutter its a fine line 😉 ) or restbite every blooming lap!!

Now setting off yet again, we got some welcoming news the laps were being cut short. kerching!!!!!  No longer would we have to complete 8 laps, only 7 laps would suffice.  It would be spot on a marathon with 7 but with 8 taken us well over.  Now we usually expect extra for our poundage from White Star Running and its a standing joke that they usually do go over, but I think they had a change of heart today, due to the high temperature conditions…… Oh yes, get in!!!  Unfortunately for the speedy lot, they had suffered 8 blistering hot laps eeeek!

A couple of laps to go and I started to feel epic….I could finish this one after such a dodgy start, I started to really put some extra effort in (although that did not show on my strava app).  As for these pics I actually started to put effort in to looking happy, although when not realising a pic was being taken, you can see the true pain of getting this marathon finished!!

 

I can’t begin to share my relief on completing this marathon…. I just hope the next will be more kind……

FullSizeRender (8)

 

 

Dorset Invader Marathon No. 7:12

It’s the summer holidays but what’s going on with the weather??

Having completed this marathon last year in full roman fancy dress, I was a tad relieved to be running in my charity vest this year.  Not only was it a blinder of a heatwave last time the fancy dress added to the discomfort, however, I loved it nonetheless.  I couldn’t wait for this years event as I had trained two years previous with a good friend and house mate Steph around the area.  We did this, to get used to trail running and knowing we had a half marathon coming up in the same spot.  The only difference on race day was it was our same route but in reverse.  Since then I have always gone back to this same spot to train, it feels comfortable and I love how you can’t get bored there, as the terrain changes as frequent as the weather.  So being fully comfortable with the half route, the second part of the marathon last year was a complete new area to me and I loved it even more!  Beautiful fields, gorgeous wooded areas and even a folly part way round, which I was determined to get a pic of this year.  However, it wasn’t to be!!!  Last minute route changes meant the second half of the marathon was proving difficult to include.  Safety issues surrounding main roads/crossings and also local residents discontent, put a complete halt to this going ahead.  I was slightly disappointed admittedly, not to retrace the areas that excited me so much about this particular trail. Moreover, the new route would mean running a double loop of the half marathon, which I had done repeatedly with our running club improvers group, this year.  Oh well, its always a fun event with White Star Running so I knew the atmosphere would never disappoint and it truly didn’t.

The day in question was threatening rain by midday and was overcast and mild to start.  PERFECT!  I always struggle more in the heat so a damp atmosphere was a positive start and the rain would be refreshing in the later stages of running. Or so I thought, as I hadn’t banked of other possible difficulties.

Turning up at East farm having rained bad during the night, it was obvious the ground was going to be a tad soft 😉 Seeing familiar faces and already sensing a positive vibe from the crowd i put the negatives to the back of my mind.  Fellow Strider, Steve Cole was already pumped and raring to go.  Having been my main wing man supporting with the improvers group on the trails, he was more than comfortable with todays expectations.  Over near the finish line and tents, I spotted another friendly face, Briony Wood from Wimborne AC, but more notibly to me as a distance runner with a few ultras under her belt.  I have to say i really admire her grit and ambition.  We got chatting readily on her next goal whilst waiting for the race to start.  Fire and Ice event in Iceland,  which is a 6 day ultra through some of the most challenging environments and considered one of the toughest ultras to experience.  It just amazes and fuels my own excitements of future goals from such inspirational people.

(pic courtesy of Elizabeth Roberts)

IMG_0425The Race Director ushered us all to the hill…..ha ha he was dressed in full Roman armory but scuffing his feet up the hill like a naughty school boy with his head down!  Probably the weight of the helmet.  However, whenever I see him, he always reminds me of the newspaper cartoon character, Andy Capp, with his flat cap except no fag hanging out the mouth! Anyway, follow we did until we reached the top to listen to the race brief.  At which point a Roman charger came up the hill on his horse with a mini Roman on their pony.  What a way to start a race hey?!    The soldier started the race and we all soared down the hill on our way. Now why all the Roman theme I hear you ask, well a lot of the course is over Roman old roads and the land is steeped in Roman history.  Plus why not, any excuse to be silly and quite frankly us runners will come flying out the woodwork 😉

The track out of this farm led to a couple of fields and across a busy road.  Marshals where paramount to our safety as its a notorious blindspot.  Once across, the gorgeous woodland and beautiful countryside began.  Having your wits about you in the woods with tree roots are essential but fun too.  I love the whole dodging and diving round corners and jumping over obstacles, before you know it, the miles have flown past.  I was quite surprised when we got to the extreme sports center as instead of taking the previous course they led us out a completely different way towards Spetisbury and the old railway line, now a trailway. This was a great length of the course you could pick up speed and really stretch your legs.  I didn’t realise until later how much I would appreciate this section, until the 2nd lap.

(1st pic courtesy of Rob Hannam)

Taking a quick photo op of the wooden model at Spetisbury old station and being forewarned of the steep wet steps off, I knew I was heading back onto the farm fields of enjoyment but not before going up!!!  Oh well it certainly wasn’t as bad as the hills on other White Star events, in fact this is practically flat compared to the Ox, Larmer or even Giants Head.  Again this was trails I hadn’t touched before, which was exciting and challenging all at once.  Lots of different fields that had either already been ploughed of their grains or the odd ones that had been cleared and had paths uneven due to the tractor treads.  Watching my footing was a given on this course and it started to prove challenging as the rain started coming in.  Now I don’t mind a bit of rain as long as there’s no wind to whip it up!. Running along farm tracks I started to regret that though but not as much as I would later!

Heading through a wooded area, I wondered when I might meet the old track I have become accustomed to with my training runs and runs with our clubs ‘improvers group’.  Sure enough, the woods turn onto familiar ground and I felt reasonably comfortable once again.  Picking up speed came at a good time as I was just coming past half way and I knew the lovestation would be around mile 14…. a well earned pit stop that would be a lifesaver on the 2nd lap also.  Stopping for a short time, enough to get a slug of their scrumptious cider and a few nibbles, I cruised on knowing the lay out of the last lap…or so I thought!

IMG_0128

(Pic: fellow Strider Sharon, at the infamous ‘Lovestation’. Nice wellies Sharon 😉 )

Reaching Gorcombe once again, this time instead of heading on the 1st lap route, we were pushed on through the sports centers track.  I hadn’t realised there was a path along side or that it went uphill, but uphill I pushed knowing it would cut off part of the trailway and some tarmac.  Out of breath at the top I looked down happy to pick up downward speed…phew.  Drizzling more now, I just felt refreshed and I didn’t get bored of the straight path of the old railway as shorted…..bonus all round….. However, after clearing the farm fields for the last time and heading onto the farm tracks was the worst awaking for me.  Now I had already experienced the mudfest of the Larmer marathon which was actually much harder but made lighter with a fellow Strider in tow.  This time running solo I only had myself to jolly along and I was starting to get fed up with myself for sure.  Slipping and sliding lots,  my running was reduced to a crawl and then a walk and then  just concentrating on staying upright!!  This wasn’t mud, it was slurry!!!!!  The faster runners and rain had churned the mud to a complete muddy river of unstability. Greeeeat!!!  Somebody slap me please, I was beginning to look like bambi on ice but ever so NOT graceful, yikes! Plus, i’m sure there wasn’t this much farm tracks on the 1st lap but I thinks that was due to my pace being non-existent now.

(Pics: our lovely Lytchett Manor Striders running the half marathon the following day, trying to cope with the muddy trails.  They did amazingly!!!)

Now I can’t remember when the terrain changed for the better, I was just thankful when it did and the woodland called to me again.  Heaven, just heaven…… known territory and the home straight as past mile 20.  I actually love these woods especially when the bluebells came out in the spring.

Now I was finding my mojo…yep that later on in a race. I seem to enjoy races the further on in a race.  I don’t know if that’s because i start to feel more comfortable with longer distances or whether its because my mind is telling me i’m nearly done!!  Either way, i was feeling good and even managed a smile and not my usual ‘stroke-like’ pic for Rob Hanman in his pic below.

IMG_0163

It’s gotta be said us runners at WSR events are extremely lucky to have the likes of Rob standing around for hours to get the best shots of our ugly mugs….at no cost to us whatsoever!!!!  Thanks Rob, your da bomb 😉

So, now nearing the end of this fabulous run, my brain goes to pieces, i mean the oxygen starts wearing thin as my resources are nearing zilch.  Coming out onto the notorious main road i was greeted by at least four marshals, all directing me loudly to the side of the road.  Which I did automatically, like a sheep being herded into its pen.  I definitely needed this as I could have easily tried crossing without little observation onto the oncoming traffic.  Thank heavens for these superstars…every race needs these volunteers, compete lifesavers!!!!

Well I made it, to the end, well of number 7 at least 😉 Oh what joy when you come in unscathed and feeling invincible like a roman conqueror! well the goodies helped immensely too mmmmm

IMG_9954

 

GIANTS HEAD Marathon no. 6:12

Running with friends for fun and family NOT for time!

IMG_9451

Voted the UK best marathon of the year by readers of Runner World!!!  This is the one event,  seasoned marathon runners want to run and it normally sells out fast.  Thankfully, I had bought a season ticket with White Star Running to get as many of these favorite races in and guarantee entry for this, as part of my 12 marathon challenge.  To say I was excited, yes excited to run this race, was an understatement.  I love trail running and our beautiful Dorset countryside.  Plus having run the Sydling Hill 10K last year around the start of the same course, i was definitely coming back for more.

Things you need to know about this famous race:

  1. Its HILLY
  2. Its a marathon, so 26.2 miles long….wrong, it could be more…WSR are notorious for adding on mileage …for FUN!!!!
  3. There’s hills ontop of the HILLS
  4. There could be bulls in the fields
  5. There’s more than 10 Hills over the course
  6. Its has stunning views….from the top of the hills
  7. Their aid/water stations are just as famous especially the ‘LOVESTATION’
  8. Its a run to enjoy and take your time
  9. Most walk the hills as they are ridiculously hard.
  10. There’s MOOSIVE ice creams at the end, they are HUGE just like them hills 😉

FullSizeRender (5)

Arriving at Sydling St Nicholas just past Dorchester, the morning in question, was a blessing as the weather had changed to bearable, after recent heatwaves we’d been having.  Overcast with mist of them hills, my fav!  It means no sooner do we start climbing and building up a sweat, the mist will keep us cool plus the breeze was doubly welcomed.

Having arrived sharing a lift with fellow Strider Tony Weaver, aka running partner at Larmer marathon and portaloo escapeé.  I was soon ditched at the beginning of the race by him….payback for slandering his true character i fear 😉 Fair cop though, he’s a better runner and i think he had beef with these hills from last year!  It’s fine, i got over it quick having ‘better’ oops, i mean equally lovely, fellow Striders, to run with.  Plus some equally nutty runners from Poole Runners to tag along with.  Welcomed into this new fold warmly and laughed we did, non stop for the next 6 hours!!!!  Yep……..that show’s how difficult the terrain was when you realise just how long others take running it.  Even some top runners take much much longer than their average marathon completion time. At least add an hour on.  There again, you also get the exceptions, the actual winner of this years Giants Head marathon ran it in 3hrs 21mins (YIKES!!!!) I dread to think what he cracks out on a flat road marathon.  Two of our top runners, Scott Parfitt and Judith Vlaarkamp from Lytchett Manor Striders, accomplished this run in 3hrs 50min and 4hrs 25mins respectively.  This is not their usual times but considered blooming quick on this course and highlights the level of difficulty that was faced.

 

So setting off with a lovely group of friends was just the ticket as we hit our first hill within a few minutes…. Concrete hill, calf buster, I could go on but we have a lot of hills to cover! By the time we got to the top we were already making jokes about each other and this set the tone for the day. It was going to be a laugh a minute.

 

IMG_9489So our nutty group consisted of ‘Team Ginger’, Kirsty and Paul from Poole Runners and their fairly new member Sean, who was actually running his first marathon this day.  Madness or clever?  Even though this is a difficult one, running a trail and with this event company takes the pressure off from competitive running I feel.  The majority of people running trail do it for their own pleasure, fitness and fun, yep FUN! Then we have our lovely Lytchett Ladies, Heather and Jenny.  These ladies run together every year on this marathon, since it started 5 years ago, to remember family who have past.  So running in a group and whiling away the time, you get to hear each others stories.  This was halted by everyone laughing at Paul’s whinging and on every run apparently…… now I didn’t believe this, but it was fun playing along.  It seemed like Paul plays the fall guy every time and it was really funny that he was taking the blows like a trouper.  So quite early on he took his first fall and it was epic! Now running forward most people trip forward and land forward….nope not Paul. Paul does a 180 spin and lands on his back.  Don’t worry he was absolutely fine as for the blood, I think it blended in with the dirt quite well 😉  Up he jumped like a jack in the box as if it never happened…KUDOS!!

FullSizeRender (7)So the next hill was steep but whilst climbing and going round corners it kept on climbing…. This was deceptive, a hill with hills on it. At this point walking the hard part of the hills became the norm.  If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have saved on energy for the best and easiest part……..Yep the downhills! Oh you gotta love em and Jenny did big style, so much so, Jenny’s aeroplane made regular appearances.  This just highlighted exactly our state of minds whilst running marathons.  We are like kids, out exploring the glorious countryside, having fun.  I mean the scenery around us was stunning, every field, hill, valley and woods.  Constantly changing around us, so how could we get bored, we couldn’t.

IMG_9486IMG_9498IMG_9494

Mile 16 mentally is always a good mile for me.  Its the right side of the marathon, where it feels like the home straight.  Usually, between 16-19 miles it really flies by.  Not this time…. Mile 16 was around the back of the ‘giant’ of Cerne Abbas.  Nothing prepares you for this L O N G incline.  Its hidden well through the woods and then when it does come out in the open, the ground underfoot changes to chalky shingle.  Challenging and zapping of all your strength.  But we did it and Sean was now well past his longest ever run, he was doing really well without complaint or moaning.  Or if he was, he kept it to himself…whereas Paul was extremely verbal ha ha.  Although Sean did start getting a leg niggle but like a hero he pushed on.  It was great having Jenny and Heather along, they are clearly veterans of this particular race, having run all 5 since it was created back in 2012. They knew most things that were coming up and when we would hit more hills.  So, they kept us going on the easier sections by pushing us on. Obviously, some of the route changes from year to year and this year a whole section changed, due to angry locals.  Step in, lovely private estate owners with private land happy for us to take a bimble through their glorious fields and woods.   Wow, always a bonus exploring areas untouched by the average Joe taking a walk.  However, we had all been warned of the bull in the fields……eeeek  At this point, Jenny was stepping up her game and Paul was winding her up…. not clever if you want to keep up!  Jen was now on fire and steaming ahead.  We got to one area and there were cows directly ahead of us blocking a path.  Heather, the dutiful friend guarded Jen within seconds.  Pretty much like the cows with their calves.  It was a stand-off!!!!!  Actually it wasn’t, our path at this point changed to the left through a gate in the fence phew….close one!  But as I got through the gate Jenny was already halfway down the next field, gone, gone, gone… ha ha.

Pushing on swiftly, covering multi terrains from woods to wheat fields to dirt tracks oh and hills we were leading to a point where Heather’s husband would be waiting, Mile 19.  Kirsty was leading us with ease.  I got the feeling Kirsty wasn’t even reaching her usual potential. She’s a great runner in her club and this, no doubt, was a walk in the park for her.  Closing in on the next hilly mile, we see Steve Heather’s hubby, in the near distance. Apart from Heather getting a fleeting reunion, food was her next priority and thankfully Steve came armed with Jelly babies.  After finishing a family bag between us, we knew we were nearing the ‘Lovestation’ also.  One more mile and we would be hitting the best pit stop.  Running on the shortest part of road, we hit a small hill to the most infamous aid station ever.  Food, drink and vodka shots plus cider…yep bliss!!!

IMG_9574

Spending far too long here, we remembered we had a race to finish. Push on we must and as lovely and nutty, as the aid station marshals are in this welcomed oasis, we really had to get to the finish!  I mean there’s mooosive ice creams waiting for us, no really they have HUGE ice creams that are renowned throughout the running world.  This is a mecca of delight for all those that run trail.  Reluctantly, we had to start running again on already cold, seizing legs.  It was going to take quite a while to warm our pins up again.  You see your body thinks you’ve ended the race if you stop for too long.  A false sense of security is not pleasant when you try and put any speed into a run……no chance, more inclines but manageable ones.  Which means, put some ruddy effort in, walking is not an option.  Thankfully, these trails are marked well and you rarely get lost. There’s always someone in front too, well for me there is 😉  So you can see across the field what direction you are heading.  However, some people just have to take the signage literally!!!!  Hey Paul??IMG_9501Well its not too much further,  and its mainly across the stoney paths on top the downs.  But when I say stoney, I mean single track with boulders (exaggerated) which adds to the trip potential.  In fact our second victim to do a classic fall was poor Heather!!  Paul swears blind I tripped her on purpose….. I swear I know nothing and am truly innocent. Paul however, is completely guilty of stirring and will go to hell straight after this run!

Crossing the last road on our final descent, yep i said it, DESCENT, Whoop Whoop.  We edge closer to the last aid station and local band playing music befitting a barn dance.  At this point none of us were fit enough to dance only stopping long enough to top up on cola and move straight out again.  The end was near and the ground we were covering I had done the previous year in the Sydling Hill 10k run…. so familiarity was very reassuring.  Speed up we did and gathering momentum down hill was a dangerous state to be in….nope we held it together like troupers……no more accidents!  The last chalky, uneven path to the finish slowed us down enough to keep us together, well except Sean!  We turn around and he was slipping back.  He probably had no idea that the finish was right round the corner and not to give up now.  ‘Come on Sean’ I shouted, ‘we’re right here!’.  Catching up and all linking hands, we cross the road to the village green, with sheer relief….. WE DID IT, WE SURVIVED!!!!! PhewIMG_9509