Reports on Races & Other Adventures


 
Reports

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Below are a selection of reports on races and other adventures Marlborough Runners have taken part in. If you've run a race recently which people should know about, please send a report to webfella@marlboroughrunningclub.co.uk.

Everest Trip - March 2016

By Neil Wheeler

On the 10th March I set off to Heathrow to catch a plane to Kathmandu with 8 other complete strangers to trek to Everest Base Camp. The flight was roughly 11 hours with a change over at Delhi airport. 
When we arrived at Kathmandu we had 2 days in the city to do a bit of sightseeing, we went to the Boudhanath Stupa the biggest Budda Shrine in the world. Then the rest of the time was free time. That night we went to bed early as we had to be up by 5 to be at the airport to fly out to Lukla airport, an airport within the mountains with such a small runway, one mistake from the pilot and its game over. 
After arriving there we met our Sherpas and started off on our trek to Phakding which is roughly 2,650m.  It took about 4 hours to get to the lodge where we were staying that night; the weather was hot. We had to trek over a suspension bridge which was scary for me as I have a fear of heights well falling from a height.
 The next day we were trekking to the Sherpa capital a place called Namche Bazaar, this would take 7 hours.  The first few hours were relatively easy as it was flat or down hill but after lunch it became steeper and slow going having to avoid not only the other trekkers coming down but mules and Yaks who deliver supplies up the mountain. 
We reached Nachme Bazaar by 4pm at a height of 3400m the doctor took our oxygen levels and blood pressure - we were fine. The next day we would be staying there for an acclimatisation day with a small trek to the national park where we saw our final destination Mount Everest just teasing us by saying ‘I am here - what you waiting for’ but we knew it wouldn’t be that easy. This town even had an Irish pub in it so guess where we spent our free time.
The next day we were trekking to Khumjung again another 6 hour trek which would take us to the height of 3,795m it was now starting to get colder and few people started to develop headaches due to the altitude and lack of oxygen but the doctor kept an eye on us all. 
The next day we were only to trek for 4 hours to a place called Tyangbouche at 3,867m where after lunch we would walk around the village to a temple, a hospital and a school.  We were only out for an hour but how quickly the weather changed from being warm to cold and barely visible to see where you were going.  So we made a quick retreat back to our lodge even that was cold. The next day we woke to snow and were trekking to Dingbouche at a height of 4,350m this would take about 6 to 7 hours but the views were stunning and I wasn’t feeling great a few headaches were starting to come my way but a couple of pills made it bearable. 
The next day we were heading to Loubje which is at a height of 4928m one of our party had to go in the oxygen chamber as she was suffering from the altitude at Dingbouche and we had hoped we could get her to base camp but unfortunately when we reached Loubje she was in a bad way that they had to give her oxygen and were thinking about calling an air ambulance to get her down but it was too foggy for the ambulance it was agreed that the oxygen was doing its job so she would be closely monitored over night and she would walk down to the next camp the next day. 


The atmosphere in the camp went from laughter to anger, that one of our team mates wouldn’t achieve her goal and how quickly it can go from being ok to deadly before you know it if it wasn’t for the doctor we wouldn’t have realised and she wouldn’t be with us. This made me realise the challenge and the stakes I was really facing. 
The next day was our day where we would be going for base camp, so it was even harder to say goodbye to our team mate even if it was for 24 hrs.  We all wanted her with us but knew it was too dangerous. The trek today would be 9 hours long if we were lucky and the hardest day.  We managed to get to base camp but it took its toll on everybody.  My head was banging others were feeling sick and by time we got to camp no one really had any energy to celebrate our achievement.
There was an optional trek to a point called Kala Patthar which stands at 5,545m but only 2 people were going and they had to be up at 4am the next day.  The rest of us were done, we still had to trek back down in 3 days.  The first day we trekked for about 8 hours but it seemed like more it was windy and dusty and our camp was about 3800 so we had came from 5230m to 3800m in a day.  The next day was shorter by a few hours as we got back to Namchee Bazaar at 3400m where we went back to our favourite Irish bar; we were feeling better until we hit the bar!
On the last walking day we trekked to Lukla where we stayed overnight; again we found an Irish bar and had a few drinks. We flew out from Lukla at 10am it was supposed to be 7am flight but at Lukla you never get an actual flight time due to the short run way and the weather conditions being a major factor on whether the pilot can see where the mountain face is.
The next day we had time to go round Kathmandu so we went to the part where tourists probably don’t go and saw the devastation of the earthquake first hand this really hit home seeing people living on the street or in tents. 
Up until now we had been where the government had done their best to rebuild as quickly as possible but now we were in the bit where no one really cared how long it took. The next day it was time to fly home or supposed to be but I am not going to go in to how it took 3 days to get home as you probably have heard the story or read about it in the paper by now.

 

The Great Barrow Triple Marathon

Report by Neil Wheeler

This event was held up in Barrow which is near Bury on the 28th December to the 31st December - a great way to burn of those extra calories I put on over the Christmas break and a way of getting out of those Christmas arguments we seem to have with the family members. I travelled up on the 27th and stayed at the location in the sports hall which provided a camp bed and meals for the 3 days.
 
They have different routes; the first was a very hilly route but the views made up for it and we were lucky to have a nice warm day for winter, the ground in parts was muddy and slippery but I got running with a few people I knew so we had a good laugh and the miles flew by. We were going at a slow pace as we still had another 2 days to go. I completed the race in 5hr 57 minutes which I was pleased about as the route was most off roads and slippery. I got back showered and changed and sat and had a laugh with my fellow competitors.
 
Day 2 - this was the hardest route. Even though it was 80 per cent road the other 20 per cent was extremely muddy. For the first 3 miles the mud was ankle deep and at mile 4 they had a shoe change-over point which I made the most of and I’m glad I did. The first 4 miles was the hardest for me, not condition-wise just didn’t feel like it and was thinking of quitting but knew I would hate myself if I did, so kept going and don’t ask me what happened but mile 4, change of shoes, and I felt like a new person. The pain in the side the sickness just disappeared and I started running again and picked up a fellow runner for the next 20 miles. Mile 18 really took it out of us. The mud again was ankle deep but like wet concrete sticking to you but we kept on going, cursing everything. The last 8 miles were road and with just one mile of trail where we saw some deer grazing in a deer park. As I got to the last few meters the marshal truck pulled up to cheer me on. This is where I become utterly stupid (Really?! Ed) and say I will race you to the finish (note it is on facebook anyone wanting to see a sprint finish).What I was thinking I can’t tell you - me versus a truck, I will never win especially after running 25.6 miles or so but I gave it a good go. The people who saw it thought it was wonderful. I just wanted to find a quiet place to die. That night it was a bloke's birthday so we celebrated it. I only had 3 pints! We also did a sweepstake of how many marathon in total we had run if we add them up - the total with 14 of us there was 2066 with one bloke having ran over 1000 just by himself!
 
Day 3, the last day. Again felt rubbish but had gained a minute head start over everyone else just by being the 1st person to enter their next race. Off I went with a minute head start, got a few strides in when my shoe lace was undone so I had to stop and redo but was still ahead for a bit until a great runner called Adam Holland flew by me. He has never been beaten on any of these courses and does them under 3hrs. I got caught by a few people and I ran with my friend from the day before. We decided to push each other on, and by mile 15 we could see people in the distance and I knew we had some very steep hills coming up but he kept saying to me "see them we can overtake them", to which my response... well I can’t even write what I said to him out of ear shot of children and ladies! However we did overtake some people and coming into the last  5 miles we were looking at a time of under 6hrs if we really pushed on hard. The weather was dry but gale force winds which we were now running into and again more people in front of us by a fair bit of distance. Again I hear him say we can take them, and again I politely told him where to go, but we decided we would give it a shot seeing it was the last day. So we pushed on hard and got past them. As we were running the last mile in wet sloppy mud I nearly fell over which he thought was funny until he nearly did the same. We crossed the finish line with a few minutes to spare of the 6hrs and it was my quickest marathon out of the 3 days and it was just over 27 miles so I was pleased. Just enough time for a quick shower a hot meal before jumping in the car for a 3 hr drive home. Good race and a great atmosphere which is why I will be going back to do the 10 marathons in 10 days in June but unlike last summer where I failed I will smash them to pieces! 

 

The Full Montycute


We have here a report from John Meredith on the December 2015 "Full Montycute".  Those of a nervous disposition may want to look away now!

Last Sunday saw three brave runners from MRC take on the mighty Full Montycute near Yeovil, 10.5 miles of very hilly very windy and very soggy conditions. Sheltering in the lee of a bush before the start Ted ( the Pewsey Pouncer) Townsend tried desperately to get Alison (can't I swim and cycle first) Meredith and Simon (where's the Pernod and snails) Liebling, to cuddle up for warmth.

"Do you know, that's the third sheep I've seen blown off the hill" remarked the Pernod chap. "Really" replied Mrs swim bike run. "Look out!" yelled the Pewsey Pouncer as yet another sheep flew past three feet in the air. "Well if a cuddle is out of the question all this baby oil and naked torso are wasted" moaned the Pouncer. "Put your shirt on" said Mr Pernod as he spat out the shell of a garlic sautéed snail. "I'm off to the start" said Mrs Swim Bike Run, as she was blown 10 feet sideways by a sudden gust.

Adjusting his smoking jacket and lighting a menthol cigarette, Mr Pernod joined Mrs Swim Bike Run and together they fought their way to the start. The Pewsey Pouncer adjusted his chest wig, straightened his medallion and proceeded to join them. After the Pouncer had been reprimanded for goosing several of the other runners, some of which where female the Pewsey Pouncer, Mr Pernod and Mrs Swim Bike Run, along with around a hundred or more other victims, started the race.

Simon (Pernod Escargot) arrived first in a very respectable time of 1.35.45, followed by Alison (Swim Bike Run) in 1.52.20, and third of the MRC lot Ted (The Pewsey Pouncer)  in 1.56.21.

The organisation was very good and when Ali accidentally dropped her finisher's engraved glass and smashed it they immediately ran over and replaced it. Definitely a race to recommend, and a pub only 50 metres from the finish.
 

Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series


Report by Stuart Gregory - December 2015

Endurancelife is an outfit which exclusively runs its events from coastal locations, all of them stunning. There are 10 races in the CTS (coastal trail series) and Dorset is the last on the calendar. Endurancelife classify their race locations as follows; moderate, strenuous, severe and extreme, the Dorset version on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site is classified ‘extreme’. There are also trendy after parties at all of their events!!!

So it was that on Saturday that around 400 racers including yours truly toed the line in Lulworth Cove for the ‘half marathon’ and its 10,771 feet of ascent. There were five races this year 10k (a spot on 6.1 miles), half marathon (16.3 miles), marathon (27.3) ultra (33.4) and a new addition, the ultra plus (45.4). Over 1,000 runners were ‘on site’ for the various distances so there was a great atmosphere. I met a couple of friends from Calne RC, Matt and Jo. I’ve met Matt several times in races and Jo ran the CW100 this year. Mat was doing the marathon and trying to rediscover his running mojo after a very long and hard Thames Ring 250 (miles) and a couple of Pennine Way DNFs. Jo was doing the half. This was my third time at the cove having done this race last year (a very fit Maisie did the 10k) and the Ultra the year before. All but the 10k had already started by the time we would be off at 10.30am. Conditions were ‘windy’ - around 60mph on the tops - so a clothing dilemma occupied me for an hour or so! I eventually went for the trusty T shirt and arm sleeves, remembering how the year before, I was sweltering at the top of the first hill in my long sleeved top.

Lulworth Cove sits at the bottom of and between two very steep hills or cliff sides which take you up onto the South West Coast Path. The start calls for an immediate ascent of the first ‘hill’ which heads West. After a gruelling climb (and lactic acid rush) followed by a gruelling descent - pause to allow camera man to snap you as you run past the famous Durdle Door - followed by three more ascents and descents, you turn inland to the first checkpoint to dib your dibber. This first three miles takes the fastest runners around half an hour. The running is then fast back towards LC via the caravan park?? As you plunge down the super steep descent (adjacent to the first climb out) into the village, carnage can ensue if you meet the 10k runners as they head off the start line, which I did having taken just under an hour to whip round the first 10k.

Through the village and heading East the wind was with us - well sort of, it was at our r/h side coming from the sea. Along the beach of the cove, tip toeing over pebble to boulder sized stones and a quick climb sees you on the SWCP military firing range - closed at certain times of year - with its tanks and other army type things eerily in permanent situ used for target practice.

A few more crazy ascents and descents take you to the water station at 10.6 miles where the half turns inland again (left this time) and the marathon and ultra continue. Slightly held up by some ramblers who didn’t hear my warning of approach and were six abreast across the wide path, I felt strong as I chased three men ahead of me and tried to keep ahead of the second lady behind me! We whizzed through the famous, ancient, rebuilt, restored Tyneham Village. Another ascent and CP2 (I was actually a couple of minutes ahead of last year’s time here) saw us head back West toward the finish and into the wind! One more brutal ascent with quads on fire, I forced a smile as second lady passed me and said hello (sounded more like ‘hah, got you at last’!). A mile and a half later, during which a small battle developed between me and third lady, we tackled the final (or so we thought) long gradual climb against the hurricane force gale on tired legs.

Well inside the ‘1 mile to go’ sign a group of us were hurtling downwards - I had overtaken Second lady here, she’d climb faster than me but I descended faster than her - when we began to run around a loop and begin a climb back East along a narrow path.

I slowed and said to second lady ’this doesn’t feel right’. ‘We’re going back on ourselves’ she replied. We turned right and headed downhill, where we could see the finish very far down below. Unfortunately the path we had chosen turned into nothing (well the edge of a cliff with its sheer drop) shortly after a stone sign that read coast path closed. It was the hardest thing to climb back up the very steep overgrown cliffside. Second lady had followed and one other runner and we cursed ourselves for missing a turn or direction arrow and the fact that we’d lose around ten minutes and many places. Topping out we were delighted to see a group of around ten runners heading down towards us. ‘Is it that way?’ they shouted. After allowing a few seconds to get some speed up in the right direction to eliminate the chance of them catching us I shouted ’no follow us’.

We then re joined the three men who’d been ahead of me who’d also got lost - fantastic :-) We all ran as fast as we could down the remaining steep (correct) section after seeing an organiser emerging with a direction sign which had blown away! A sprint finish saw just one young fast member of our group of four beat me to the line. Handshakes all round afterwards and lots of discussion about direction and wind etc. My time was three minutes slower than in 2014 so what with the weather conditions - they were perfect in 2014 - and getting a bit lost, I was very pleased to have maintained my fitness despite being another year older!

There are ten of these races next year beginning with the ‘moderate’ Dover edition on 16th January http://www.endurancelife.com/event-new.asp?series=87

RACE STATS
DISTANCE 16.24 mile
SPEED (max 12.3 ) 5.8 mph
CALORIES 1657 kcal
ASCENT 10771 ft
DESCENT 10820 ft
ASCENT TIME 1:41'55
DESCENT TIME 1:06'22
FLAT TIME 0:00'17.7
HIGHEST POINT 673 ft
LOWEST POINT -13 ft
TEMPERATURE 56.7 °F 
 

Clarendon Marathon 2015


Report by Neil Wheeler

This race starts at Laverstock and ends up in Winchester with buses to get you to the start of the race or back from the race depending on where you have left your car. The event can be done as a walk, relay, half or the full marathon. I entered the full marathon - I rang up a few days before as they had different start times and as a slow runner I was worried that I would struggle to meet the cut off points so wanted to start at half nine. It was lucky I did as they had me down as a walker, but they said the 9.30 start was for those who were only going to jog little bits of the route and I would be better going for the 10.30 start. I tried to get them to let me start at 9.30 with no avail. I explained I had done loads of running the previous months and my feet had blisters and I was a slow runner at the best of times, but they said they thought I would have plenty of time and if I arrived before 2.30 it would mess their timing systems up. I wasn't happy but thought well I would just have to do my best and make sure I hit the cut off points. I arrived at the start at 9.30; they had a few stalls selling things from shoes to gels. I went in and registered and went shopping for some gels and earphones - nothing to get you to run faster than a bit of music I feel. The race started prompt at 10.30 and we were on our way. The route was a mixture of terrain but mainly off road, and the views were stunning and the sun was out. This race was never going to be a PB as it was hilly but the views as I said before made it worthwhile and the marshals were lovely - every 2/3 miles they had a drink station and arrows everywhere and marshals out in force to let you know you were on course and to cheer you on. Every mile there was a board to let you know how far you had covered. I got to the home straight when a gentleman decided to overtake me - well, even thou I was tired I couldn't let him have my place without having to work for it so I ran as fast as I could! My time was better than I thought it was going to be so I was happy and enjoyed a good day out with views I probably wouldn't hadn't seen if I hadn't entered this race.

Cotswold Way Century 102 miles

By Stuart Gregory - September 2015

Below the hilly looking course profile the CWC website said;
‘No, really, it is this hilly. Look at the finish line pictures - see all those tired faces? It's hard. And hilly. In case nobody mentioned it - it's a bit hilly.’

I had last run 100 miles in 2013 when I completed the South Downs Way 100 in a fairly respectable 18:24:00. My attempt at The Valleys 100 ended in pain at mile seventy one after nineteen hours of rain. I’ve run many national trails all over England but once I began to research the Cotswold Way it became clear that this trail was different. Much had been written about CW and the cruelty of the person who conceived it. I’d had a busy year of racing so rather than enter The Ridgeway Challenge for the fourth time I decided to spend August reconnoitring the CW as by all accounts it was navigationally challenging. My friend Nathan Montague had won the 2014 race setting a new course record but according to another runner’s race report had spent the night gaining the lead only to get lost time after time.

My first recce confirmed the difficulty of the course both in terms of navigation, terrain and profile and it took me around eight hours to cover 36 miles. After my tenth training run on CW, having run different sections several times I felt confident of not getting lost. I decided to travel to the start at Chipping Campden the day before the race. The organisers lay on a free coach to the start from Bath but this would still have meant a very early start followed by a long journey all before the race had even started. My pub accommodation turned out to be one of the liveliest places in Chipping Campden and despite hardly hearing the live band thanks to my earplugs, I could feel the vibrations. They must have had a soothing effect as I slept very well.

Registration was very well run, kit check - OK.  Big boxes to put the drop bags and finish bags in. Merchandise for sale, tea, coffee etc etc. Vests and T shirts were given out at this point and although it saves times at the end when many runners just want to collapse, I prefer to actually finish the race first. My resolve to complete the race was strengthened by the fact that amongst the sea of res CW Century vests, I spotted a black T shirt - my favourite running colour - with tasteful gold writing, I asked if I could have it and the kind lady gave it to me. I couldn’t wear it until I reached Bath Abbey, so I just had to finish.

3….2…..1 off! Midday and the sun was beating down as we set off at 8 min/miles down the High Street. I felt sorry for the mean and women who had chosen to wear leggings, but maybe their legs didn’t get hot? I had wisely (it turns out) popped my T shirt in the first drop bag ready to put on if and when it got cooler which we were assured it would as the evening came.

Most of us walked up the first hill half a mile later. I had vowed to walk as part of my conservation of energy strategy. I had experienced acute hamstring pain in my last two DNFs and had been working hard to build my glutes which I hoped would ease the burden on my calves and hamstrings. I met Ian who told me that he had run the Ox ultra with me down in Blandford Forum earlier in the year. He’d finished a few places behind me and I apologised for not recognising him. I left him saying ‘see you later I expect’.
The first chocolate box village was Broadway around 5 miles in. This is the most photographed village in England apparently and with good reason. Leaving Broadway Tom a nice bloke from Newbury joined me. I’d been chatting to him and his wife and children at registration. We ran together until we reached the first checkpoint/drinks station at 13.5 miles. At this first CP all the runners were rushing, I was no exception, feeling as though I had to get on with it quickly! Crazy really with such a long way to go.

Onwards the to the next CP at mile 27. Tom and I met up again and passed more pleasant miles together talking about running shoes, races etc etc. Around mile 19 we got onto the subject of speed and distance, I noted from my Suunto that we had been running at around 10 minute miles. Tom checked his Garmin and said that he’d got around 14 minute miles for 15 miles. I said that it didn’t feel like 14 minute miles to me, much quicker and more like the 10 my Suunto was showing and that we’d passed the 13.5 mile CP long ago. A runner was behind us and I asked him what distance and pace he had. He replied that he wasn’t wearing a watch but guessed 17 or 18 miles. Tom was convinced and he began to drop back a bit as he fiddled with his Garmin trying to determine what had gone wrong. He soon caught up and we continued to run together, a helpful spectator told us we were in 9th and 10th positions. Matt the non watch wearer had moved on.

It was around this time that my hamstrings began to hurt and I began to curse my inability to ‘start off slow’ which I had promised myself I would do. I told Tom that I was going to walk for a while to slow my average pace down to 12 minute miles, a pace that I’d consistently recc’d the course at. 

I decided long ago to avoid sugary snacks, gels and sweet drinks on long runs deciding they were of no benefit and by regularly snacking on protein I didn’t experience pain in my legs so I chugged down a lump of Parmesan and had a couple of oat cakes. During this re pacing exercise Ian passed me and asked if I was ok. I said thank you, yes. Soon after as I had passed the beautiful Postlip Hall - once a 15th century, now home to eight families living as a co housing community - James Donald caught me up and we began chatting. It transpired that James had come 2nd in our very own Marlborough Downs Challenge 33 mile trail race. He was narrowly beaten by the incredible Nathan Montague. I was now convinced I had gone off too fast if James had only just caught me at around mile 22. However, an hour and a couple of Nurofens later I was back on form and rejoined James who by now wasn’t feeling too great. I asked if he’d got food and drink and whether he wanted to start jogging together but he said he would be ok shortly. I didn’t see him again and he wasn’t in the list of finishers unfortunately. 102 miles being a very different ‘kettle of fish’ to a 33miler!

Moving on I soon had the pleasure of Ian’s company once again who had taken the wrong route out of the lovely Anglo Saxon town of Winchcombe. Along with Matt and Jake we negotiated the tricky Cleeve Hill section and happily ran into Aggs Hill CP 2 at 27 miles. I felt very glad and lucky to have not ruined my race with my over keen start. My first drop bag was here and I popped my head torch into my race vest along with my T shirt. Gulped down half a litre of milk and had a peanut butter and jam sandwich at the CP.

I ran on my own for some time. I passed by Colgate Farm where I had stayed during a rec., the owner had rented me his son’s bedroom for £50 for the night. It had been hard for me not to eat his Eater eggs that were piled up near his bed! I caught up with another runner and although I didn’t run alongside him we ran together for a while. Dropping down the steep descent through Dowdeswell Wood and over the A40 at mile 29 I reminisced as I had stayed a mile from here in Charlton Kings during a training run. I noted that it had taken me around five and a half hours to get here which was about the same pace as my train run. On through Seven Springs - another starting point for a training run - and up a very long, steep climb towards Crickley Hill Country Park, the other runner an I passed each other often. During a rare exchange he mentioned that he’d completed CW the year before in 26 hours or so and was hoping for a sub 24 hour this time. His short term target was to reach Painswick Rugby Club the only indoor CP and bag drop number 2 by 9PM. Eventually I moved on and wasn’t passed by him again.

Birdlip was the next CP at mile 38.5 just past the Air Baloon roundabout and not far away now. Just before this I caught up with Ian and Matt who had been joined by 45 year old Jake. He was quite posh and we decided Jake wasn’t his real name as it was more suited to a villain!

The time was 7.15pm and by now it was getting dark and The moon had been full the previous night so although it was quite light in the open the section from Birdlip CP to Painswick RC is largely forest, woodland or plantation so it was head torches on. My vest was swapped for T shirt and arm warmers and head warmer (which also makes wearing my Nao more comfortable). 

Spirits were high as we all chatted amongst ourselves and made our way at a good pace, swapping lead running spontaneously. I continued to chomp on Parmesan cheese and oatcakes.

As we neared Painswick RC we came across Tom. It was apparent that he was experiencing a lull and I encouraged him to hop on the back of our human train and let us take him to the CP. We were greeted at Painswick at around 9.10pm by lots of people and noise as the huge TV in the bar was showing the England rugby match. In the adjoining hall the wonderful volunteers rushed around looking after us. retrieving our drop bags and bringing soup and tea to the table. 

Another drop bag point where I re loaded y race vest pockets with Parmesan and oat cakes even though I was sick of them by now I was certain that the non sugary carbs and protein were useful. Half a litre of milk and I was full. I didn’t see the runner who had hoped to make Painswick by 9pm.

Matt had been looking forward to greasing his chaffed thighs (I think it was thighs anyway) with Vaseline for some time and hurried off to the toilet to get it on. After soup, milk, more cheese, emptying shoes and socks of grit and dirt, and putting on a long sleeve top it was time to move on. Matt, Ian and I left. Tom had decided to stay on for a while and Jake was to catch up shortly. 

Hitting the cold air outside we were all very very cold and wished we had more clothing, it was dark and misty. We were soon warm after fifteen minutes of running. We were on our way to Coaley Peak, CP5 at 58.5 miles. We had been warned by Kurt the lovely RD that it would be very cold up there. 

As we approached Stonehouse, I had a sense of familiarity. I had run this section many times as Stonehouse station is easy to reach from Swindon. My longest non stop training run had been from here to Bath Abbey. It had been the day before my birthday and had taken 11 hours. It had rained pretty much the whole way. Other times I had run from Stonehouse to Old Sodbury and stayed there at the brilliantly named Hammerdown farm guest house near James Dyson’s estate or The Dog Inn which is on the CW. 

It began to dawn on me that I’d taken the wrong line through the corn field just outside Stonehouse. I’d run the right line about 6 times and had assured my ‘team’ that I knew the next 50ish miles ‘like the back of my hand’. Darkness really does affect your judgement and sense of direction. Jake using his pre loaded map on his Garmin and I decided we should be ‘over to the left’ and it was as we were climbing out of the ever shrinking, nettle infested path that we saw another runner coming towards us. His name was Rory and he was lost. Now there were five of us as we quickly re established the right way.
By now we had begun to advise each other if we needed to stop for a wee. This way we’d all stick together during the long cold night and tricky woods. We continued to take the lead in no specific pattern, the only exception to this being Jake always ran at the rear and Rory continually tried to overtake others. Matt seemed to spend most of the time at the front, and we were running everything even many inclines. He’d stop and there would be a little domino effect as we all stopped sometimes bumping into each other as the stop could be hard to anticipate. 

We had picked up and dropped a runner shortly before CP6 at Coaley Peak so I was keen to move on quickly as we filled our water bottles and browsed the food. we enquired as to our positions and were told around 18 had passed through before us. The time was 12.10am and Ian and I moved off together drinking our soup as we walked along what is a beautiful picnic area and viewpoint where on a clear day you can see The Sugar Loaf mountain in Wales 80 miles away.
Turning my Harveys map over signalled that there were just two sections of the map to cover which was a good feeling. The section in hand would take us just part the mile 80 CP at Horton to Little Sodbury, two short miles from the Dog Inn. From there it was 18 lovely miles to Bath. The last time I had run it it took 3 hours and I had flown along after 30 miles the day before.

Emerging from a wood just after Hetty Pegler’s Tump I remembered that over to the right the frightening looking climb up to Cam Long Down would’ve been visible in daylight. This was to be the start of one of the steepest series of climbs. Once on the top of Cam Long Down there’s a decent section down into Dursley. I had been anticipating running into some pub goers in this town and we weren’t disappointed. We kept together and kept an eye on Jake who seemed to still lag behind here despite some heckling, moving quickly on we began more climbing out of Dursley on the aptly named Hill Road.

Every time I had recc’d the CW I had always crossed the golf course at the top of the hill. I had assumed it was the correct way. Having read the race instructions I realised that it was actually not correct and that the right way was an extra 2 miles around Stinchcombe Hill golf course. RD Kurt had made it clear that anyone found going the short way would face disqualification. Always opting do run the ‘moral miles’ our little group of five ran around the course. I was glad of the company as it was a tricky and very long two miles! Just before the turn into Park Wood there was an impromptu CP, hope everyone did the moral miles!

Yet more climbing out of North Nibley to the Tyndale Monument then a drop down to Wootton Under Edge and 70 miles. It must’ve been around 2.30am and the poor volunteers at the CP must’ve been freezing it was so cold. A runner named Stuart was sitting in a chair but left before we did. Leaving here was the beginning of a low point for me. For some reason I left just after the group - I think it was because the volunteers had to go indoors to fill water bottles - and although I was wearing all the clothing I had I was extremely cold and didn’t feel like running which would’ve warmed me up.

I managed to catch up to the group and was guided by Jake’s flashing red light at the rear of his head torch. Climbing the hill past Warren Farm I took a couple of Pro Plus tablets and soon began to feel much better. Still taking turns leading and taking group loo breaks we were all in high spirits. We teased Matt about his relentless pace setting tho which he replied ‘I just wanna go home!’ Another popular Matt comment was ‘my stomach’s being a dick!’.

Jake’s stomach was still playing up and we chatted at the back about how I’d found protein worked for me and sweet stuff - the flapjacks he was constantly eating’ were possibly the cause of his stomach problems.

Through the familiar Alderley, up to the Somerset Monument then the outskirts of Hawkesbury Upton we were soon dropping down past the Horton Tower built to encourage the Barn Owl to nest. Further on we passed two runners who seemed surprised to see not one runner pass them but five. How disappointing for them. Into Horton for an early morning cuppa and some ice cold water melon. It was 5.45am and only 4 runners had passed through before us.

I felt like I was on home territory now as we entered Little Sudbury shortly after and seeing the familiar sign saying Old Sudbury (The Dog Inn, Hammerdown Farm) 2 miles. Ian had stayed in the Dog Inn and we both quite excitedly told each other how the 18 miles from here was a doddle. On a good day with fresh legs 3 hours, this morning more like 4.

Ian and I pointed out James Dyson’s house as we ran through Doddington Park, his estate. Stripping off layers and hats and gloves as we ran felt great as we all warmed up. Each asking the runner behind to stuff the discarded items into our packs.

Shortly after we crossed the M4 at J18 and ran the long way via the field edges to the parking area and the mile 87CP - 15 miles to go! Stuart, the runner we had seen at the mile 70CP was sitting down again - he didn’t look to keen to get up. The sun was shining on the gazebo and it was 7.30am and we were all in 4th position. I whispered to Matt and Ian that I was going to get straight off. There was the penultimate CP in just 5 miles and I wanted to leave before Stuart. So off we all went, running well past Dyrham Park, through Pennsylvania the origins of which are unclear although there is a Bath in Pennsylvania USA.

At the mile 92 CP just past Cold Ashton I spotted an unopened jar of gherkins, which combined with Doritos were amazing! A bit further on I had some Parmesan and oak cake. I commented that I probably had achieved the record for taking the longest time to eat an oat cake, it just kept churning round and was so hard to swallow. None of the 3 runners ahead of us had fancied them obviously. We were now down to four having dropped Jake who had expected to not continue to the end with us and had encouraged us to go on.

The five of us had been discussing the finish at various times and had all agreed that we would run in together if we were still together at the end, thus all sharing 4th (if we weren’t overtaken) place. We were now 4 and Rory too was slowing and told us not to hang around for him. As we approached Weston, the entry point into the city Ian and I were bombing along - he said ‘look at us doing 10 min/miles!’. He was determined to finish in under 24 hours and although only an accident would now prevent that we weren’t taking any chances. I had begun to look for a sub 23 hour time. Matt was 50 metres or so behind us but as we arrived at the left turn which took us down the steep hill to the 99.5 mile Weston, and final, CP, he was with us. This was quite a feat considering the distance travelled and the pace Ian and I were running at.
As we ran past the CP (no stopping now) except to grab the first sweets of the journey, a handful of fruit pastilles. Tom’s wife was there with their children and shouted ‘hello Stuart, Tom’s not far behind’. This was great news as back at Painswick I wasn’t sure he’d leave there, let alone be not far behind us. Matt said ‘downhill all the way now then?’ ‘No there are still two pretty steep climbs’, we replied. 

The time was 22:50 as were ran down through Victoria Park and I thought we could make sub 23 hours, Ian said ‘come on let’s go for it’! I realised that in the time it had taken to have that exchange three minutes had passed and it was unlikely that we would get to the end in under seven. So we relaxed and jogged along getting stared at by the shoppers and tourists.

As we ran down Milsom Street a girl joined us running along beside us - it was Matt’s wife. As we turned left we held hands and crossed the ‘line’ at Bath Abbey. Joint 4th place in 23:02:00

A great way to burn 10,000 plus calories. Maybe I’ll laugh the ‘100 mile diet - guaranteed to work!’.

I felt elated, relieved and so happy - a strong reminder of why we runners do what we do - we all hugged. Matt’s mum went and bought us all a cup tea from Starbucks and we sat on the floor basking in the sun, it was just after 11am.

We clapped Rory in 15 minutes later. Tom wasn’t far behind.

Equinox Challenge 24hr Race

From Neil Wheeler - September 2015

 I did the Equinox Challenge, a race which can be done as a solo or in a team. It is held at Belvoir Castle and is a 10k route. The winner is the person who does the most laps in the 24 hours. The only rule if you are in a team each person must do 1 lap of the course. The race started on the Saturday at Midday and ran all the way through until Sunday at Midday. I turned up on the Friday and set up my tent and then grabbed some food; the atmosphere was already starting to build as they had a beer race on, live music and the rugby.

At 11.30 on the Saturday we all gathered for the briefing and were told from 7pm until 7am a head torch was to be worn and the route was not a 10k route just over it. Then at Midday the race was on. The views were lovely especially as the sun set with a red sky going down on the castle. There were loads of people watching, cheering us all on and every runner would keep you motivated - I was running with people I didn't know having a conversation. The route had two hills; one was a gradual incline but the other was a short half mile hill that not many people ran up. At Midnight I had done 7 laps of the 10k route so I decided to grab a bit of sleep for health reasons. After about 4 hours sleep I got up ready to try and do another 5 laps, but with it still dark and the terrain a mixture of grass and road and 2 hills it was taking me longer than I had hoped and my feet were in agony with blisters. I managed to do a lap every 2hrs and each lap was getting harder and harder, but the support was getting louder and louder. After another 6 and a half hours I had done another 3 laps and decided seeing it was half an hour before the end even if I started the next lap before midday it would count - I would hand in my chip and give it up for this year.  I went back to my tent packed up had a shower and my mate drove me back home.

This race is so good. I have signed up already for next year, the cost is £80 including camping for 2 nights, the 24hr race and a t-shirt and a medal,massage, showers and toilets along the route.

(Neil did 62 miles in the 24 hours.  Sounds totally mad to me, but well done Neil).
 

Ridgeway Revenge - 20 June 2015


The Ridgeway Revenge offered a choice of a half marathon or a 10k, both primarily off-road around the countryside south of the Ridgeway near Bishopstone. This was the first running of these events, and I went along to do the 10k wondering whether they would "get it right"

They did.

The organisers should be delighted; all the things we look for - good marshalling, a well thought-out and marked course, slick results, water in the right places - were spot on. The course is tough, plenty of climb and some rough underfoot in places, but all the better for that.  Add in the fact that the car was parked about 100 yards from the start / finish, some of the best flapjack I've even tasted and bacon rolls from the farm down the lane - and you have a pretty good time.
There's another event by these folks at Halloween.  Again a 10k and a half, and I urge MRC members to go along - good value, well organised, friendly, local - can't be bad!

Phil, 23 June 2015

Boddington Marathon - 1st July 2012


Event: Boddington Marathon, 50k and 10k races.

No, it isn’t near Manchester. Boddington is near Cheltenham and hence quite an accessible race for Marlborough RC. The 10k goes off at 10am and the Marathon and 50k both started at 11.15. Each race has a different start location and they share the finish line.

Why do Boddington? Simply to secure a PB. And it was a pretty quick field with many runners doing exactly that. The marathon and 50k course is a 2.2 mile loop on flat-as-a-pancake terrain in nice flat countryside. The marathon loops 12 times and the 50k 14 times plus a half mile to the finish in the grounds of Boddington House. (The 10k loops around a lake and then one lap of the 2.2 miles.) When I first considered 12 laps I was repulsed but actually it makes a lot of sense and psychologically makes sense because you break down the race into laps and tackle each one. And there are no surprises like an unexpected hill. It offers perfect opportunity for someone to support you, handing out water and energy from the same spot on the course. There is also benefit lapping some people and being lapped by others – you have little idea who you are racing and everyone you catch is good for morale, especially 2 or 3 times! Anyone who whizzes past is obviously much speedier and hence not demotivating.

The marathon field was 120, on virtually traffic-free back roads. The organisation was good and marshals friendly. Chips and mats helped ensure the marshals know how many times around everyone has been (because you lose count) and told you 1 lap to go and then direct you to the finish. It wasn’t cheap at £30. Expect a t-shirt and medal for that, but not a shower. If you want a PB, there are few more suitable places.

Dave Wardell
July 2012

Miya Run - 22nd April 2012


"Run through Utsunomiya-city, and enjoy the sights and sweets!!"

Click here to read Keith's account of the 'The Sweet Run' aka the Kekii marathon.

Keith Firkin
April 2012

Ichinoseki Half Marathon, Iwate Prefecture - October 2011


Boy am I mad! Mad, mad, bloody mad!

Mad at me, mad at the young guys who just, well they just and boy am I mad at myself.

1:30:28. The clock never lies.

During the race it was only a case of by how much I beat 1:30.

The story goes something like this... My weight was down, that’s official. In fact lighter than when I was at my best in the mid 90's. No real podge to speak of even if my proportions are still open to question. Training had been more consistent than recent memory could remember. My pace seemed reasonable and stamina was of no concern. On the start line I was chatting to a guy named Craig who is in the same age group as myself and was predicting a 1:22 based on recent results. I predicted sub-1:30 for myself. Therefore as the course had a couple of out and back sections this allowed me to track my progress against Craig.

The weather was fine. A little hotter than I would call perfect but really I'm splitting hairs.

I figured I'd employ my usual race strategy of picking off runners after the first mile but this didn’t happen and here's why.

The course was flat.

The last 10 years has seen me generally avoid road racing and take off-road trail races. Mostly because it just made sense to enjoy the ride but also a small part of me knew the aging process was taking its toll. Why try to compete against your youth?

Back to the race... I can’t recall being in a race and finding a rhythm that allowed to me run in "that" place for such a long time! Having found myself running magically to a rhythm that was pure me I wasn’t going to disrupt the sheer enjoyment. It just felt great to be there. The pace was perfect, plenty of effort, speed was good and only the odd runner passed me by.

I ran like this up to about the 13km point. At some point the race had to get real and about this time tiredness was beginning to well. If BTW you think I'm going to say from here on in my race fell apart you'd be wrong. I ran strongly to the finish, probably because I know how to or how to for me. It wasn't really a concern just something that happens so I trudged the memory banks and remembered what to do - ATTACK! No point giving in if you want something. Now I was passing people for fun. At the 16km turnaround point I figured Craig was 2 minutes ahead which was good but as I was attacking I was keen to see what happened at the next turn around. 19km and it was down to a minute. Okay it was going to be impossible to catch Craig will little over a mile to run but there was another Westerner maybe 30 secs to the good who looked in a bit of trouble so I had my goal. 20km & I passed him by but Craig still looked out of reach. The finish line was visible from 20km so mentally I wasn’t going to catch him. To my surprise with 0.5km to go I knew I'd got him! I even apologized as I went past with little over a 100m left to run. As I crossed the line I looked to the clock to confirm it was indeed a Glory day.

Bugger!!

It doesn't matter how old we get I believe we / I / all of us still dream and want to give performances from a bygone age. Time takes many things but doesn’t take this feeling. What was I saying about not wanting to compete with youth? You better believe it, when it comes down to the B in bang I still have the desire but maybe that's all I have.

Winning time: TBC

15th over 50

157th overall

Approx 1200 runners

2 hours and 2 beers later I can only recall that today I had one of the best running experiences of my life for 90mins and 27 secs.

And I still have the desire! :-)

Keith Firkin
October 2011

Sugadaira Skyline - September 2011


Event: Sugadaira Skyline Trail Run. 20km with approximately 1,000m of ascent and descent.

Location: Sugadaira is a town located in central Japan. During the winter it serves as a ski resort and sports camp in the summer. Its main sport is in fact ruggabli ... say no more.

Category: V50 for the first time ... surely thats not the right age group?!?

Bottle: None, for two reasons. Firstly, the 20km run was the "half". There was a full 42km version with in excess of 2,500m of climb and fall. (Question - for your first race in seven months which one would you have chosen?) Secondly, the descents are very technical as another member of the Honda-ites will testify. Words like "difficult" and "dangerous" come to mind and I just don't have the speed and co-ordination to place my feet quickly enough and I never did.

Drugs: Taking drugs has never entered my mind in terms of running. However, having spent the past five months running in +30 degrees and with humidity in the 90s (akin to running inside an oven) having cool oxygen was literally a breath of fresh air. As unbelieveable as it sounds the effect of oxygen en masse meant I could run those hills.

Gear: On a mild sunny day, my competitors mostly wore trail shoes, socks, gators, skins for calves, skins for hammies, shorts, skins on top, a top, gloves, camelback, sunglasses, hat. Oh, and skins on their forearms. The fast boys had a vest, shorts, trainers and a scowl. I believe the 2nd V50 was lean in attire :-)

The Race (from my perspective): On the start line things were pretty well as one would expect - i.e. nerves and banter. We set off up a 1,000ft climb this was where I found my legs and lungs could actually participate in harmony. Things were looking good, I was passing people for fun. Once I got to approx 2km I applied my normal race strategy of ignoring time and focusing on catching the next person in front, then the next and so on. I was up to 5 after a couple more clicks so my usual target circa 20 seemed possible. That's when we got to the downhill bits...

A lot of the natural vegetation in Japan is quite dense forest so, even though the ridge forms large parts of the course, the path is hardly noticeable in places and would soon revert to nature were it not for a few trekkers making their way every now and then. This really meant that the focus was the next foot fall and not trying to peer through dense vegetation. Once in a while a gap opened to see not only the stunning views but also that no one else was in sight ahead of me. (Don't get thinking about getting lost now!)

The Finish: This was possibly the strangest occurrence because, while there were friends, family and supporters milling around the finish line, only the guy on the mike was cheering and applauding the competitors across the line.

Apres Run: Note to self - be sure to translate the website information properly. Thinking there were three prizes per V40/50/60 category, I hung around for four hours only to be sadly disappointed by my own translation. Oh well - I did have a lovely snooze in the sun ... like most 50 year olds would really.

I'll let you work out the results. (Hint: Keith was runner number 474 - Ed.)

Keith Firkin
September 2011

Phil and Dave's Ridgeway Run - July 2011


Supporters: Jenny; Nic & Tim; Ian & Angela; Tina; Kirsty & Alan; Rene & Martin; Jay & Nella; Chris & Anne; Ginette; Nick; Simon B; Pete; Keith Mac; Andy R; Tim G; John & Ali; Ted. I hope I've remembered everyone, and THANKS to all!!

It was all my fault. I've been wittering on about this for ages, and it was clearly time to do it or shut up. So I said I'd do it. I picked a day when there was no Jazz Festival, which was dodgy because the JF always has good weather, and when there might be a moon to help – there wasn't.

Then an email from Dave. "I'm starting to have silly thoughts about joining you on the Ridgeway." Well, that changes things a bit, as having Wardell the Younger along will greatly increase the silliness quota. Very good news.

Preparation for these things is important. It probably should involve hundreds of miles, but one must not overlook shopping and spreadsheets. We got those right, oh yes. The car that left Chiseldon to head for the start at 10.00 pm on Friday contained more maps, jelly babies and flapjack than you could reasonably shake a stick at. And sausages, crisps, coke, water, plasters, more maps, chocolate, tea, raisins, did I mention maps… The 2011 Winner of the "How Much Can You Get In A Family Car Award" is the Ford Mondeo.

The cast of characters at this stage was Nic & Tim, supporters, and me and Dave, loonies. We were joined at Wendover by Ian & Angela, all the way from Derby, soon to become supporters / running buddies / honorary loonies.

You know, the top of Ivinghoe Beacon at midnight is rather pleasant, especially on a starry, calm night. It's probably even better if you pitch a tent, have a fry up, and then settle down for the night, which of course we didn't.

Midnight. Press 'start' on the watch and let's go. The early stages can be navigationally awkward, but the trail is so well marked now that we had few problems. It was pitch black in the woods near Wendover, and I decided to practice my parachute roll; I'm becoming renowned for falling (see 2 Moors Way, Saturday runs etc). This is not a good idea as it leaves one with blooded knees, so unsightly on the publicity photos.

Then, in the deep dark woods, through the deep dark silence – the sound of whistling. Dave's in front of me; he's not whistling. Ig's behind me. "Are you whistling?". "No." Gulp – so who, what…? Chris Wardell appears from behind a tree, all smiles and "I walked up from Wendover".

By the way, ask Dave about his perfect Limerick that involves Wendover. A true masterpiece.

Much of the rest of the day is a happy blur. We had amazingly kind weather, and I've looked out on pouring rain on several Saturdays since and realised how lucky we were. The supporters were fab, as always. There's an art to supporting these long-distance events, and MRC supporters are masters of that art. I have to single out Nic and Tim who drove us to the start and then stayed with us for the whole event – through to 11.30 pm on Saturday! That's astonishing and – well, thanks!!

The going got tough after Streatley. This end of the Ridgeway has broad open tracks, great scenery, and plenty of climb. After 13 hours or so on the trail we were beginning to see some crack emerge in our fine athletic forms. Dave managed to create some blisters, not a good plan. I think he also had problems with eating. This may have been caused by the industrial quantities of flapjack he had been seen scoffing at earlier checkpoints; whatever, he wasn't too well, and wisely decided to drop out at around 60 miles.

I should mention other supporters at this stage. Early on Kirsty and Alan appeared and navigated us through to South Stoke. That stretch included Grim's Ditch; if Grim had removed the tree roots when he dug his bloody trench, I might have been spared a second (and rather painful) fall. Martin and Rene dragged us up onto the downs and on to West Illsley; I recall actually running – as in not plodding – for quite a stretch with Rene.

At West Illsley Jay and Nella appeared, and Jay stayed with me through to the bitter end. That's a long way, and I'm a bit lost for words of gratitude here…maybe "thanks Jay!!" will do? Pete came all the way from Scotland to be on the Ridgeway (well, he may have been down here for other reasons too); Simon B ran along from Sparsholt Firs; Nick J appeared to lift my sagging spirits; John and Ali were at the Shepherd's Rest (or whatever it's called now) and I was accompanied by Keith Mac on bike from Foxhill to Ogbourne; Andy was there at the Aldbourne road where, unfortunately, it really finally started to go wrong…

What I should have done:

1. Probably spent less time at the support stops along the way, but it's sooo easy to linger longer when you're offered a second cup of tea.

2. Eaten more in the later stages; but it's not easy. What to eat? Sweet things are too sweet, and you think you need to replace salts but there's nothing you fancy. Jay reckons that with hindsight he would have hit the strong coffee or Red Bull in the later stages. Maybe I should have listened to him.

3. I should have realised at Foxhill that I was getting cold. There was early evening sunshine, but the temperature dropped on the top towards Ogbourne, and by the Aldbourne road crossing I was decidedly chilly.

4. Trained harder!

Anyway, I didn't do any of those things, and when I left the Aldbourne road support point I couldn't run. Not a step. Not even on the nice smooth road downhill to Ogbourne St George. This was a grim experience, and I walked into Ogbourne St George not really knowing or caring what was happening. I'm told that Nicola said "If he doesn't stop at Barbury Castle, I'll throw him off the course!".

You probably know Smeathe's Ridge. It goes on a bit. It's remarkably peaceful at 11.00 pm, and it's a touch scary when a figure appears from the dark, clad in strange clothing and all smiles. Tim Gravina! Tim had been waiting for me for hours, and I was so late that he had eaten all the food and put on all the warm clothes he thoughtfully had with him in case I needed them.

So with Jenny, Jay and Tim I made it to Barbury Castle, which I have now re-named as the formal western end of the Ridgeway.

Six miles short. Ah well, it was a good try. If you want to do it talk to Dave – he's thinking about having a go in 2012. I'll be there to support him, but I probably won't try to run the whole Ridgeway with him!

Phil
July 2011

Wokingham Half Marathon - February 2011: Victoria Sponge and breaking 1:50!


After 5 years of membership of this great club, running many miles through the fantastic Wiltshire countryside and enjoying many high-calorie breakfasts, I decided enough was enough! It was time for me to try to break through the 1:50 barrier for a half marathon.

I know this might not sound ambitious to many of you but, for me, it was. My reason for joining MRC has always been to stay fit, meet new friends and to have fun. MRC has been great in achieving all these objectives. But at the end of 2010 I entered three half marathons with the objective to finally break the barrier. After running halves across Europe, I decided this time to stay closer to home. Martin told me that he was running the Wokingham Half so I decided to join him.

A good choice, this is a well organized race with about 2,000 runners and the course is very flat (the only bumps of any significance are the bridges over the A329 and M4) so it made me think of my home country - I always struggle with the mountains in Wiltshire!

One advantage of a local race is that the preparation is much more relaxed. As the start was relatively early 10:00, we set off at 8:15. Wokingham is an easy town with lots of parking; in fact our car was parked 100m from the start - ideal! Great conditions, typical English weather, rain and wind.

The start was very orderly and relaxed and I decided to try to run at a pace of 8.30 minutes a mile. To my surprise this went very well. The route has long stretches of country road with enough space for everyone. After 5 miles, I joined an attractive group of runners from Liverpool running at a very nice pace - the topic of discussion was cakes and ironing! I joined the conversation, highly enjoyable - we discussed several different styles of English cakes, including Victoria Sponge and carrot cake and, before I knew it, we'd reached the 11 mile point still running at the 8.30 pace. All of a sudden I realised that it was going well and that this meant I would break the barrier! I said goodbye to the people from Liverpool and started to increase speed. However, I bumped into an ex-colleague and had a short chat before going flat out in the last mile.

The result? 1:48:55 - I was so happy!

What did I learn? Obviously Wokingham is a great run, people from Liverpool are nice, Victoria Sponge is a cake and good prep/having a relaxing day before your race helps. I am now wondering if I need to run the next two races (Fleet and the White Horse)? Well as I have registered I should, so I will keep you all posted.

Oh before I forget, 1:48 was good, but Martin finished in 1:37. A truly amazing time taking into account that Martin has just recovered from knee surgery. I can only dream about that kind of time. Martin, congratulations, and thanks for the lift.

René
February 2011

(With less chat, René, you'll break 1:45 in Fleet and be heading for 1:40 in the White Horse Half! :-) Ed.)

Watford Half Marathon - February 2011


So what is Watford famous for? Be careful how you answer as it’s my home town. There were actually some famous people born in Watford, including Geri Halliwell, Mo Mowlam, Michael Bentine and Vinnie Jones (and me of course!). Some memorable moments in Watford's history were: when Henry VI stayed in Watford the night before marching onto St Albans during the War of the Roses in 1455; and, a bit later on in 1724, when Daniel Defoe described the town as “very long, having but one street”.

Best of all though is the Watford Half Marathon, always run on the first Sunday in February, usually the coldest day of the year but always full to the 2,500 limit.

The route is quite scenic, starting in the town’s park then winding through the posh part of the town (yes there is a posh part) into the countryside then up and down some serious hills. The amount of climbing is 1,711ft and 1,820ft coming down (that’s more than Swindon Half, which has 1,209ft up and 1,174ft down). We cross the M25 (over bridges) a couple of times and then back into the park where the locals were cheering us on, which is quite nice.

This year was the one in ten when it actually wasn’t too cold. Although it was rather blustery that did not hold me back from clocking 1 hour 37 minutes (bit away from my Watford PB of 1:32, but that was 10 years ago).

There was an OK goody bag (a T shirt and the usual junk literature) but with a Runners' World overall score of 79% and 94% happy to pay £16 to do it again, it’s something Watford can be proud of.

Simon Boast
February 2011

French Riviera Marathon - November 2010


If you fancy a late autumn (nearly winter) marathon where the temperature is in the mid teens and you can go for a swim in the Med afterwards then look no further than the French Riviera Marathon, also called the Marathon des Alpes–Maritimes which makes it sound a bit more hard core. The truth is, it is pretty much flat as a pancake, just a couple of inclines in the second half to tweak the old calf muscles.

It was a bit of an early start at 08:00 on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, although normal French timing was in play (it won’t be early, and will probably be late) so we eventually went off at 08:20.

The starting point is in Nice and the course follows the coast road to Cannes, passing through five towns, which had all made a great effort to welcome the 10,000-odd runners with enthusiasm.

So eventually after 3 hours 30 minutes - and a rather annoying 56 seconds - I finished on the Boulevard de la Croisette in Cannes, and then it was onto the beach for a quick dip in the sea to cool off before getting a free train ride back to Nice and some well deserved beer and vin rouge.

So if you fancy a weekend in the south of France with a rather nice marathon on the Sunday morning the fourth running will be on the 13th November 2011.

Simon Boast
November 2010

Robin Hood Marathon - September 2010


Having trained through the peak of the British summer in torrential rain and long runs on the Ridgeway in my North Face jacket I was prepared for anything that a Sunday in September could throw at me except, of course, 20 degree heat and sunshine.

John my support team (driver / bag holder / cheerleader) and I drove up to Nottingham on the morning of the race. Once we found the car park we decided to conserve energy and take the free shuttle bus to the runners village and race start. I would recommend that anyone thinking of doing this event walk from the car park to the start as our bus somehow got lost in the road closures, took us on a tour of some industrial estates and arrived at the race village with just minutes to spare before the start.

Apart from the unusually warm weather conditions and the bus driver's sense of direction, everything about the event seemed very well organised. There was a well planned start, plenty of water and energy drink/gel stations and there seemed to be sufficient numbers of the all important portaloos both at the start and around the course.

The marathon course itself is best described in two distinct halves. The first half was fairly scenic, through the town and the university campus, with not much time to think about how things were going due to several interesting corners, some hilly sections and plenty of other runners. I hadn't quite registered just how hilly this was going to be and John, who spent four years at university in Nottingham, had kept quiet on the subject. Despite the hills, the toughest moment was at the half way mark where all the half marathon runners were filed off to the left and allowed to pass through the finish whilst the crazies were kept to the right for another 13.1 miles of fun. It was so tempting to miss the right turn and have an early lunch but I kept my nerve and carried on.

The second half by contrast was much less interesting, no hills, twists and turns but instead long flat straight sections which were almost devoid of runners so much so that in places it felt like I was on my own (I'd like to claim that this was because of my speed but unfortunately that isn't the case!). In fact, in 2010 just under two thousand four hundred runners entered the full marathon compared to almost seven and a half thousand who entered the half.

Overall it was an enjoyable, well organised event and I achieved my goal of a sub four hour time finishing in 3hrs 53mins and feeling quite comfortable. My tips for anyone thinking of entering would be to do some long runs incorporating lots of hills in the first half, to walk from the car park to the start and to have a large breakfast so that you are not tempted by the burger vans in the runners village before the race!

Ann Wyatt
September 2010

New Forest Bike Ride - September 2010


I just want to share some information with you about our wonderful day mountain-biking in the New Forest, which was organized by our fantastic Social Secretary, Alison. (Alison a BIG thank you for getting this all going.) It was a day full of adventure, some of the highlights are described below:

- First of all John's great skill as driver and bike transporter. I do not want to mention the fact that we had a bike hanging off the side of John’s truck on the way back, but a big thank you to John for driving us all and the bike transportation.

- Again John, prize for the first and only flat tyre; a little bit disappointing repair skills for such an experienced cyclist. Alison, I suggest a new pump for John for Christmas.

- Andy, well what can we say, great cycling shorts (everyone interested ask one of the attendees, but Andy pulled all the stops and came in some great gear).

- John and Alison, racing each other and setting the pace.

- Martin, the secret cyclist, beating us all, also on the bike very strong uphill.

- Myself, well being Dutch and grown up with cycling, I decided to take it easy, let others go in front to not disappoint them (on one of the last hills I lost control and speeded up, but I was not clever I warned John and Martin, as they heard me shouting they speeded up and I decided to reduce speed not to hurt their feelings).

It was just a great day out - great cycling country, great weather, we visited some great pubs and we had a lovely cream tea on our way home. (Now the others understand the magic of the Dutch trick; it always works, in coffee shops, restaurants, bars and with women ... just try it out!)

If you like the sound of this all, than join us next year! I will be there.

A few photos of the day are available via this link.

Rene, on behalf of the MRC cyclists: John, Alison, Martin, Andy and Rene
September 2010

Teb's Troops 5k - July 2009


Having regularly travelled to the States in the last few years and never raced on the continent seemed to be a gap I needed to fill on my running CV. A couple on weeks back I decided come what may I'd race this time around. My last weekend was set to be in Vegas which sort of wrote itself off & as my middle weekend was in the backwaters the only viable option seemed to be my port of entry - Chicago. From the exhaustive list of events available in Illinois on 26th July I selected a high quality 5K along Lake Michigan's shoreline. As normal in order to ensure my preparation was completed in the only way known I kicked off the evening prior to the race with fish & chips, washed down with some fine Irish stout. From this point the rest of the nights activities are slightly elusive - however I do remember drinking Martini's - What was that all about?

Come race day I could barely contain my excitement & thought about leaping from my bed & heading down to Soldier Field for the start. In reality I somehow dragged my physically challenged body thru the downtown streets in the vain hope that a 3 mile warm up would focus my resolve. Way to Go - At 8.55am & slightly ahead of the advertised start time the hooter sounded & I was good to go. The race route itself worked it's way north from the home of The Chicago Bears heading towards Navy Pier then returning along the same pathways. On a sunny Sunday morning this proved ideal & it's fair to say the course was made for anyone as the total elevation gain amounted to 3 &1/2 inches. What a waste all that hill trained turned out to be. As for the race itself, from the start I realised that whatever plan I had formulated was not going to happen & all I could muster was plenty of spirit as the more I tired, the less I gained.

Award Ceremony - Somehow or another I gained a podium finish & was presented with my prize by a local celebrity - Ashley Bond. The prize itself being a free 30 minute session with a chiropractor, all I needed now was to get injured. This I managed only a few days later on the prairies of Montana but that's as much as I'm admitting too. My bro called me later on race day and asked what I'd been up to, I sheepishly replied that I'd scraped a 2nd, so he asked me what I got - I replied with a rather smug grin on my face "I got to meet Miss Illinois" .....http://www.missillinoisusa.com/illinois.html.

Keith Firkin
July 2009

Himalayan 100 - November 2008


So it's over, I surely could not have run any quicker & definitely, in places not been slower. Even now the memory of the first day's running adventure is starting to fade along with the emotions, but before a step was taken you have to get to the start line .............. 

Arriving at Terminal 5 & still with my luggage was a simple enough task but as I walked through the revolving doors my mind decided to test my mental nerve. "Are you sure about this?" Now having given the mental preparation as little thought as possible, to avoid such a moment was neigh on impossible - still I did what any self respecting runner does and just kept taking another step forward.

Arriving at the hotel in Delhi in the early hours of the morning I discovered I was sharing a room with a fellow competitor who had been safely tucked up until my gentle tapping awoke him. How can you get to know someone in 30secs whilst undressing for bed 3 feet from them? You cant! I spent the little that remained of the night more awake than alive. The adventure had begun.

The following day was spent travelling onward to our base camp in the Himalayan foothills. During this time some 30 oddballs spent many an hour asking questions about locations, running habits & pretty polite stuff - This was the one & only time.

So with just 1 day to go & the whole group assembled, we spent the time trying to understand the chaotic but effective baggage arrangements which turned out to be a fine piece of logistics, but no one knows how.

Day 1 - 24 miles with 8,000ft of ascent
After all the team bonding of the previous day the eventual winner turned up on the start line wearing long socks & speedo's - Enough said!
It's fair to say everyone ran the first 400m & it's fair to say that @ 405m we all understood the what effect running @ altitude would have, you walk. No matter how much you want to run it will not happen. Imagine a plastic bag over your head with 2 pinholes for oxygen intake. My time for day 1 was 5hrs 32 mins it took the Land Rover with lord only knows which bags 5 hours to cover the same ground.
Interesting facts
1/. 95% of participants who became delirious because of the altitude & gradient.
2/. The other 5% became delirious because of the heat.
3/. 1 faller @ the first - Well done Antonio for getting back in the saddle & completing the whole 5 days with her left hand heavily bandaged.
4/. 3 nano seconds - The total amount of time spent by all competitors looking up - Unfortunately 2 of those caused Antonio's fall.
5/. 100% of stunned looks on everyone's face @ the finish.
6/. 75% - The number of people who couldn't be arsed to run the last 30m to the finish line just for a good photo!

Day 2 - 20 miles with only 1,000ft of ascent
Once again we awoke to an early breakfast & by this time the toilet humour was in full flow. When you share a hut with 30 other inmates the barriers are soon broken, unless you wear speedo's. Day 2 was an out & back course so you understood the return journey. Once again walking uphill was completely the norm. Myself well I was fortunate enough to catch a big wave at the turning point & fairly ripped through the field on the return until I hit a 1:1000 hill which stopped me dead. Having climbed the previous day thru jungle the stunning & varied scenery was akin to The Hobbit, I swear was asked for directions by a Hobgoblin. After the run it was all into the dining hall for curry.
Interesting facts
1/. 50% of people who were already on Diamox to hold altitude sickness @ bay.
2/. 80% of people who took anything prescribed or otherwise to help survive.
3/. 100% of people having a ball!
4/. 15% the number of people affected by the curry.
5/. 10% the number of people affected by altitude but who carried on regardless.

Day 3 - 26.2 miles The Everest Challenge marathon with 6,000ft of descent
Starting at the same location as day 2 and with Mt Everest & his buddies firmly hidden in the clouds we all started at a somewhat lethargic pace. But no matter it was still a race and by now you had a good idea of your overall standing & would do anything to protect that position - And I mean anything! So pretty soon race mode kicked in & the field strung out. I was grateful for the big descent @ 16miles having paid for yesterday's folly. As pleasant as the downhill section became for scenery & minimal effort you knew that the quads would be irritrevably scarred by the end. Being told I had 10 miles to run when my finely tuned mind knew there was only 6 was not what I needed, as it happened the overall distance was long but believe me when I say i covered several sections of the downhill on my derriere by default such was the gradient.
Interesting facts
1/. 0% the number of people wanting Mama.
2/. 30% the number of runners completely shagged @ the end of day 3 but who still managed day's 4 & 5.
3/. 12hrs - The time for 1 competitor took to finish - That took some doing.
4/. 50% the number of runners fooled into thinking the hard work was done!
5/. 100% the number of runners who couldn't give a stuff about the bag logistics.

Day 4 - 13 miles with only 2,000ft of descent & 2,000ft of ascent
What better way to start a race on sore quads than to go downhill for 4 miles. From some where we all started to find our running legs going uphill, well nearly all of us, to the end. This was the first day where everyone stayed at the finish line to applaud, cheer & support all of the adventurers.
Interesting facts
1/. 1hr 27mins the winners time.
2/. 3 hrs the time for sun bathing in the afternoon.
3/. 0.02% the total time spent talking about running ever again.
4/. 100% the number of children living in poverty but smiling all the same.
5/. 100% the number of embarassed Westerns asked to perform at the cultural evening.

Day 5 - 17 miles
Having wrecked our calves in the final 4 miles of day 4 it was only right to start with 10km uphill. Still at least when we got to the top there would be respite. No chance! No one cared about positions, no one cared for isotonic refreshments but every last one of us prayed to finish, how cruel it would have been to cramp up, ping a muscle, loose control of yourself a few hundred metres short of the finish line. The gods were with us - we all finished, we all congratulated each other for the moment was to be lived.
Interesting facts
1/. 100% the number of adventurers.

Try an ultra for size - It's what your childhood is all about. 

Keith Firkin
November 2008

Maidenhead Easter 10M - March 2008


This year was the 55th running of the event and the first year with chip timing. The race was based around the Maidenhead “Office Park” and there was some grumbling on the Runners World forum because the first three miles comprise one small loop then two big loops of the Office Park and the long approach road from the A4. The route then turned west along a tarmac path and into the teeth of a bracing north westerly wind that weather nerds would class as a ‘”strong breeze”, strong enough, though, to blow us sideways at times. Happily, the route turned round at 5 miles and the next mile or so was a delight along a vehicle free country lane with the wind at our backs and the sun in our faces. The route then followed the pavement of a busy road before turning up a back lane, along two more gravel tracks then back into the business park for the final mile.

This is a generally fast road race with real PB potential with good weather. Even in less than perfect conditions, the winning time was 51.52 and the first woman finished inside 60 minutes. 1445 entered and 1139 finished. I was 199th, with a chip time of 69.55. Sadly, the race was marred by the death of one of the competitors, a Vale of Aylesbury runner who as a V45 the previous year had run sub 60 minutes for the 10 mile course. This time he collapsed near the finish. Paramedics arrived within 6 minutes and an air ambulance sped him to Wexham Park hospital but, tragically, he died eight days later.

Martin Truran
March 2008

Paris Half Marathon - March 2008


Well, it was always going to be an excuse for eating, drinking and shopping – the Paris Half marathon that is. And indeed it was a truly international weekend. James, Hilary and Molly the dog trained it in from Zurich; Ted and Jane took the quaint, like-flying-used-to-be flight from Southampton and Jo and Kirsty flew in, executive style, for less than 48 hours.

Jane and Hilary managed to shop until they almost dropped (the boys already had) with regular energy stops in the form of brandy and cake. Needless to say we prepared for the race with large quantities of protein and beer.

The race day was a leisurely affair. We managed to deposit James with dog and luggage in a local café while the rest of us ran the 21.1 km – well we had said we would! Nursing injuries and with limited training under our belt, most of us were keen to get round in a semi respectable time but no great aspirations. The course was grim to start with but became more scenic. Clearly the big sights are reserved for the marathon proper.

Well we all managed something within our expectations. Thankfully the results don’t appear to be published. Ted and Hilary seem to have matching injuries but slightly different attitudes to dealing with them. Hilary has moved into triathlons (little ones) and Ted is carrying on regardless. What does that say?

Hilary Kennedy
13 March 08

Club Skiing Trip - January 2008


Five a.m. never feels like a good time to be awake but it felt even stranger when we arrived at Debbie's to find her...ready to go?! After an uneventful journey we arrived in Geneva and boarded our mini bus headed for La Rosiere in France. We paid a visit to a traditional French cafe en route - McDonalds - and several members of our party showed what committed athletes they really are by 'going large'.

Having arrived at La Rosiere we quickly settled into our Chalet and spent the evening celebrating Ross's birthday. Disaster struck within hours of arrival when it was alleged that an unknown individual had blocked the basement toilet (it must have been the McDonalds); our hosts managed to secure the services of 'the only plumber in the village' but alas the 'phantom basement bog blocker' struck again and we were without a fully functional toilet in the basement for the rest of the holiday! As if matters couldn't get any worse for the 'basement crew', a member of our party was struck down with travellers trots and managed to get in a bit of speed work making endless trips to the upstairs toilet!

Between toilet jokes, entertainment from Chris and Ann's glove puppet (should we be worried about them?) and talk of Ross sleepwalking with a light sabre (!), we did manage to get in some excellent skiing. In our chalet, the beginners went from level 1 (defined as 'a hazard to ourselves and others'), to skiing all the way over to Italy with a little help from the more experienced skiers in our party. Chris did try to end his holiday on day 1 by following Paul down a green run which turned out to be a blue run (a good advertisement for learning some basic French), but thanks to Debbie's healing hands he was back skiing the next morning. John's attempt to learn to snowboard was over on day 3 when he cracked a rib falling off a button lift, but he gets 10 out of 10 for his efforts to justify the need for another trip to the slopes later this year to make up for missing out this time - will Alison buy it?! Paul presided over another misadventure later in the week that ended with him and Pete missing the last ski lift home and having to get a taxi back to La Rosiere! Lesson...don't follow Paul...

We enjoyed the après ski and became firm friends with 'Red Erik', the local ale. No one was really sure what % alcohol it contained but it tasted good and definitely provided a bit of extra warmth on the walk home to the chalet. Our hosts were excellent and made sure we were all well fed with wonderful 3 course meals every night, a few of us will be feeling the extra pounds on our runs in February.

Thanks to Ted, Jay and Nella for organising such a superb holiday, we'll definitely be up for next years ski trip and would recommend it any other 'Ski Virgins' in the running club who want to give it a go - Ski Sunday here we come!

Editor’s note: you may be interested to know that our Alpine members who drove from Switzerland didn't realise there are several other, less well known, La Rosieres. Unfortunately their GPS had them all, and kindly took them there. Let's just say the journey took rather a long time!

Jungfrau Marathon Race Report - September 2007


A popular marathon – also known as The World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge Held annually in the heart of the Swiss Alps this marathon is famous for NOT being flat. In fact there is 1839 metres of ascent. The start is at Interlaken and it seems just like any other marathon start, except for the surrounding mountains, looking very large and very steep!

Ted, Simon L and Pete H set out in perfect weather to accept the challenge. Good roads and trails for the first 10K and not much ascent, not bad so far. Stunning scenery all around and gentle uphill progress towards Lauterbrunnen passing half way with plenty of water stations and lots of support along the route. Higher mountains looming ahead, from here it gets serious.

A long steep ascent in the forest, zigzags ever upwards towards Wengen and suddenly it becomes more of a walking event. Still great support and a friendly international atmosphere, bands playing and cow bells ringing, all diversions from the increasing pain and bursting lungs.

12Km left to go – the air is getting thin – is the “death zone”? The real hard work is ahead, steep trails and paths up, up and up some more, above the tree line and into a more barren mountain landscape. Perfect clear skies gives close up views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau all covered in snow and ice Towards the highest point of the race at 2205 metres is the open exposed ridge path to the edge of the glacier. At last! The route turns downhill for a short glorious descent to the finish line at Kline Sheidegg, with all the relief and elation that follows.

A really great challenge and a very well organised event that may become a running club favourite. Thanks to Hillary and James for coming over from Zurich to support and encourage. Also a special thanks to Jackie L for organising and supporting.

16th Jungfrau Marathon
Saturday 6th September 2008
www.jungfrau-marathon.ch

A Coast to Coast (C2C) Adventure - July 2004


Available for download is the story of the Coast to Coast Run, an adventure involving members of Marlborough Running Club, written by Phil Griffiths.

Click here to download "A Coast to Coast Adventure". (10.6 MB).

No broadband ? Then click here for a more download friendly "Coast to Coast Adventure" (no photos). (107 KB).

Medoc Marathon - September 2004 - A Marathon with a difference


8000 runners "racing" through the worlds top vineyards - Lafite Rothschild, Lynch Bages, Mouton Rothschild , Latour ... If you want a PB don't do it - but if you want a two day festival of wine with a 26 mile run thrown in - then this is the one to go for .

Starting & finishing at the sea front town of Paulliac, the course winds its way through the vineyards of the Medoc past - :

21 wine tasting stops
speciality food tasting - oysters, cheese etc
face painting - so that once you have run 40km you can " look your best" at the finish
music & dancing

You may just have to wear fancy dress; it is almost compulsory with over 90% of the non elite runners in an array of fantastic costumes

This is an event that several members of the club have done over the past few years and is highly recommended as an excellent weekend away in France

2004 saw Ted, Colin (Medoc virgins) Alan and myself set off in high spirits to do honour to the club (it should be noted that in this context honour is not doing a PB but coming in just inside the cut off time, having tasted and danced our way around) - we should have been joined by Tim G - a long time aficionado of this event but unfortunately he was laid low with food poisoning (acquired before setting of) and had to return home early - sorely missed by all

This year was hot and humid and our hats and shirts kept in too much heat - lesson for next year NO hats and a thinner costume - Not sure that the French fully understood Morris Dancers but that didn't matter we looked the part! (Past years have seen Marlborough as Convicts, Tarzan & Jane, Knights of St John - any good ideas welcome for future years!)

The start is an amazing carnival of costumes, colour, music with over 40 different nationalities and languages plus a large dose of entente cordiale. Each year the organisers put on something different to entertain us - this year drummers who having marched through the crowd were lifted high above the start line by a massive crane - too hard to describe but just go look at the photos! - What an atmosphere - And we're off ... slowly.

Our usual pact is no tasting until we had reached the 20km mark - however such good intentions were quickly put to one side when at only 4km we ran through one of The Top Chateaux - Pichon Longville who this year offered an excellent white wine - really good. Now with 8000 runners you would expect plastic cups but most wine tasting stations serve their wine proudly in glasses! I can report that Alan, Ted and Colin stopped at 18 out of the 21 wine tasting stations and rumours were that Colin had 3 oysters (at about 38km). All around the course there are more water and food stations, (with fruit & cake), than any other race I know and without exception the marshals and helpers were wonderful - they really want to give you the best day possible- with your name boldly printed on your number encouraging shouts are never far away

The pace was slow - no, very slow as I was just simply not fit enough to run 26 miles - by 30km I was walking - albeit faster than some around me could run and we finished in a glorious 5hrs 58mins - to put this in context more than 2500 runners were behind us ( we were 5546th out of 7908 finishers) - The guys were great and never abandoned me despite my snail like progress - heat, wine and running in fancy dress took its toil on all of us in different ways but - we had a great time.

But the finish is only the beginning :- a runners tent offering free food, beer and wine Plus dancing - if you have any energy left - and most people seem to find that last reserve - plus lots of different eateries and entertainment all along the sea front and - to top it all off at 11.30pm there is a splendid firework display

The entry fee isn't cheap - 80 Euros but for that you get not only a fantastic marathon - the runners tent at the end , fireworks but a fantastic goodie bag - a bottle of wine and this year is was a rucksack, fleece & t shirt! , you can park nearby, spectators have a good time.

Sunday provides another opportunity to show how fit we are when for a small additional payment (30 Euros for walk and lunch ) there is a " recuperation walk" for runners and supporters of approx 10km though yet more vineyards with some wine tasting en route - followed by an optional lunch - with virtually limitless wine in a large marquee with yet more dancing!

This really is a weekend festival of wine with a run and walk thrown in for good measure -

Flights to Bordeaux can be fairly cheap - depends on when you book, if you want to get accommodation relatively close to Paulliac you need to book early although hotels near Bordeaux Airport can be found much later on.

Date for next year September 10th 2005

This was my third Medoc and totally recommended.

Yately Yomp Adventure Race - October 2004 by Clare Padfield


Earlier this year my so called friend Rachael suggested I join her a team for an adventure race - the amusingly entitled "Yately Yomp" on 2nd October 2004. Advertised as an event for adventure race novices, it turned out to be some what different in reality. After totally failing to undertake the necessary training over the Summer for the event, I was woefully unprepared for the fun (!) that is adventure racing. The venue was Gibralter Barracks in Surrey and to get in we had to go through security checks. Had I known what the day would bring, I would have told the nearest squaddie that I was Osama Bin Ladin's long lost sister and spent the day blissfully curled up in a centrally heated cell. But there was to be no escape. There were 110 teams, each comprising of three idiots, at the start, and the day enfolded as follows.

It started with a 3km run to collect life jackets. A short stretch of a ski challenge followed and we then dumped our life jackets in the "transition " zone i.e. the car park, and jumped on our mountain bikes - I first considered consider quitting at this point when I realised that no one else had stabilisers on their bike! We then had to cycle 24km - 2 laps - up steep hills, down hills, up even steeper hills, down more hills,through mud, through very deep puddles, past bleeding semi conscious fellow competitors, over logs, between trees, in my case, in the trees, round bushes, in bushes etc. After almost 2 hours of this my leg muscles were burning, my bum went beyond numb, my knuckles were lily white and I must admit I was, for most of this time, absolutely terrified. But to look on the bright side, I suspect that after two hours of relentless pounding I may possibly have shifted some cellulite. (N.B. Chaps- if you don't know what this is, ask the nearest girlie!)

Once the cycle ride mercifully ended we returned to the transition zone, where I once again seriously considered quitting, while stuffing a banana in my mouth. We then started a 10km run wearing the life jacket. The run took us through woods, past signs saying do not stray off paths - explosives!, over hills, through long grass, over a small man made beach used by the army for amphibious landing, where I was worried I might be mistaken for a small, very slow moving tank. We followed the red markers until they ran out at the waters edge. Where now, we asked the marshall. He pointed at the lake. We had to wade across. This would have been ok if the race was held in July instead of October and if I was 6ft 1 instead of 5ft 1. I got out the otherside a colder, wetter & even more miserable woman.

We then had to run to a small bay where we expected to find some kayaks ready to go for a 1 mile row . Instead, incredibly, we found that we were expected to swim 25m across the lake, and then make numerous pathetic attempts to climb into our inflatable kayaks while standing in the water. I suppose that we should be grateful that they had already blown them up for us. We then attempted to row the kayaks for 1 mile across the lake. However it was rather a windy day and so I think that we rowed closer to 2 miles but mostly round in circles. I gave up after a while but luckily one person from our team managed to complete the row. We could then get back in the water and try to swim 25m back across lake. But by this stage I had to resort to swimming on my back, doing drowning doggy paddle, as my leg muscles refused to work in any recognisable forward swimming stroke.

On reaching the shore I was pulled out of the water by sympathetic observers. We then had to run the 5km back to the finish. Approaching the end, physically and mentally, we had to go under a cargo net and over a steep slippery wall to complete the course. We managed to complete the course in 4hrs 15minutes - the winners did it in 2hrs 20 min. I confess - we were last - but in our defence, at least we finished and survived mostly intact- not all the other competitors did . The only damage I sustained was a couple of truly spectacular bruises from climbing over the wall, mud in my bra & severe long term damage to my ego. I can honestly say that I will never ever ever ever enter an adventure race again - two legs good, two wheels down steep hills baaaddd - but if you feel that adventure racing is for you , then you can get more info at www.trailplus.com. Just don't say I didn't warn you...

Dartmoor Long 'O' - 10 October 2004 - Jane Grout


Whilst there is no doubt Dartmoor is not on our doorstep, this is an excellent and well organised event across beautiful wild open moorland. There are three classes 23k, 15k and 6k which you can enter as a team or solo. Nicola, Alan and I formed an unofficial team of three as a late injury forcing withdrawal by Tim A had left Alan without partner. Tim G would also be making an appearance - but more of that later.

As mere mortals we opted for the medium distance - 15.6 k and a total of 18 controls - you can choose your start time (9-12) but the course is divided into 2 parts, (medium course 10.9k and then 4.5k), and to get the controls for the second half you need to make the 14.00 cut of time - so a sensible start time is needed.

The controls were well hidden in pits / behind boulders - all the usual Orienteering tricks, but given the terrain on Dartmoor, a mix of rough tussocky ground combined with bog and streams, good route choice makes a big difference to speed. We made one or two errors of choice in the early stages so having battled with trees, gorse and missing the obvious route on 1 or 2 occasions we resolved to do better. (We actually ran 15.6k to cover the 10.9k section but only 5.5k for the 4.5k section)

We made the cut off control with just 2 minutes to spare (better than some 15 other teams in our class) - no choice then but to continue with the second half. The rain made an unwelcome reappearance and set in for the rest of the day. The joys of moorland running can be summed up in one delightful moment as leaping across a particularly boggy spot I land vanishing up to mid thigh in a mix of grassy bog and water - discover that I can't pull my foot out of this. Alan gallantly tries to come to the rescue and finds he too is now immersed in water - Nicola is just standing on more solid ground smug and laughing - her own revenge for our mirth when she had entertained us with a splendid but elegant fall combined with rolling somersault earlier in the day.

Adventures over we finished nearly last but, as Nicola reminds us, the last finisher beats the first retiree ( and there were 15 on our course). Back at the car changing, when a marshal appears - " Do you know Tim Gravina?" now how should one answer this question - tentatively we say " Yes..-????" "Well he hasn't been seen since the mid point" comes the reply. Ten minutes later a wet, white haired figure appears the other side of a five foot stone wall - Tim in excellent spirits having done the long 23k course.

This is a brilliant day out with excellent navigational practice, a one day version of Saunders without the steep hills. It is a long day but it is already in the dairy for next year.

Offa's Orror - 3 October 2004 - Ted Townsend


A well named race, but we were warned:-

First, on the entry form .... "climb to the Devil's Pulpit ... descend Lemming's Leap ... there is 1,600ft of steady climbing in the middle of the course ... and one quite spectacular descent".Then in the entry confirmation .... "there are two long climbs (said only one on the entry form!) ... and two steep descents ... we do strongly recommend studded multi-terrain shoes ... the Mountain Rescue Service will be at the 4 mile point!"Finally, in the pre-race Safety Note .... "the Dangerous Descent notice is there for a purpose ... halfway down there are two more fallen trees". 
(But it wasn't as 'orrid as it sounds - they had thoughtfully rigged climbing ropes down the dangerous decent.)

Overall, an excellent event:


tough but well organised
goody bag at the start
free drink in the Anchor Inn for all finishers
lots of individual and team prizes (not relevant to me!)
attractive location, starting and finishing by Tintern Abbey and the River Wye

Finally, reminders for next year:-


Studded shoes essential if it's wet (I saw several runners in road shoes who went down the dangerous descent like ski champions).
After the hills it's a very, very long finishing sprint. I misread the instructions and thought the final stretch along the river bank was 2.5 miles; it was 4.5 - big difference, big mistake!
Don't do the Saturday run the day before. (I did - another big mistake!)

Salisbury 54321, 8 August 2004 - Tim Gravina


Event: Salisbury 54321, so called because it covers 5 rivers, 4 major hills, 3 Country Estates, 2 Castles & 1 cathedral. It is a circular route round Salisbury (except for short courses!). Most of the route is on country paths, including a bit of the Clarendon Way, with many excellent views.

Choice of 10K, 20K, 30K, 40K, 42K. These routes are not measured, and general opinion from other runners and measuring on the map afterwards is that the 42K route is in fact 46K; a fact I am glad I did not know beforehand.

Although intended as a walk, they welcome runners (no prizes) and I met runners from many clubs such as Bearbrook, Reading, Bournemouth, Hastings, Minehead, Finch Coasters etc.

There were about 15 checkpoints with cold drinks, but no sweets, biscuits, cake etc. Also some checkpoints were crowded/undermarshalled so that often you had to wait up to 5 minutes to check in!

The route marking and written description were OK. However I did set off from the start on the wrong side of the river for a mile or so; but managed to get back on the correct route by wading across!

My time for 42K (actually 46K) was 6hr 14m for what it's worth; (not worth a lot). But it was a hot humid day, and the last mile past the cathedral and through the town was congested with tourists! That is my excuse anyway.

Beachy Head Marathon, 25th October 2003 - Simon Hewitt


This is a tough cross country marathon starting and ending in Eastbourne, East Sussex. It used to be known as the Seven Sisters marathon, it nearly died in 2002 but was taken over by Eastbourne Tourist board and renamed - No idea why, Seven Sisters is a much better name, but the event continues to be very popular (always oversubscribed) and very well organised. It has the unusual entry restriction of 500 runners, those who believe they can complete the course in under 5 hours, 500 joggers in under 7 hours and 500 walkers, aiming for under 9 hours. I last ran it in 2001 and ran 4:20, so I was certainly aiming to beat that.

The race starts at 9:00, and parking is OK if you arrive fairly early, with plenty of parking along the sea front and side streets, but the later you are the longer you will have to walk to the start. The start is at the east end of the town and seafront, right at the foot of the downs. And when the gun goes, yes you guessed it, the race goes straight up the hill. Too steep for all but the mountain goats to run, but not that high, certainly not that scary for you Saunders veterans. At the top of the steep bit it turns inland and climbs steadily for about 2 ½ miles along the edge of Eastbourne Downs golf club. (If ever you run it say hello to my dad Jim, his ashes are scattered near the 3rd green). The course reaches a peak (just over the hill from the Long Man of Wilmington, a huge chalk figure, worth a walk next day to loosen up), then plunges down again to the valley floor. This pretty much sets the pattern for the next 5 miles, up, down and up again. The first water stop is 8 ½ miles out, and there are only 5 water stations in all, so I like to carry a water bottle and fill up at each stop. There are snacks, mars-bars, biscuits, hot cross buns available, so there's no need to carry food. I carried energy drink powder to make up fresh energy drink at some stops.

Just after the first water stop we run through the pretty village of Alfriston, where Ros & the kids were waiting to shout me on. From there it climbs again to the half way point at the summit of that down, and then there is some relief of several miles of gently undulating track or path along the ridge, where you can put some speed on. The it drops again, over a river, then up & down to the Cuckmere river approaching the sea. The Cuckmere has a most perfect example of an oxbow lake, but you don't see it for long as the race immediately climbs up and away from the river. Then, blow me, you cross the top and back down to the river! Then UP again, on the cliffs proper, the cliffs that give it both it's old and new names, as the seven sisters are the seven chalk cliffs, leading to the highest of all, Beachy Head.

You passed the actual halfway point about 4 miles back, but the start of this ascent is the spiritual half-way point, because tough as it was so far, it gets tougher from here by far. As you crest the first hill, about 500 feet, in the distance on the horizon and looking incredibly far away, you can see a lighthouse, and between you and that lighthouse is an endless series of drops and climbs along the cliff edge. I have bad news for you on two fronts, yes you run every climb, but that lighthouse is still 5 miles from the end, and the biggest cliffs are after that. For the first 4 or so miles, the uphills are nowhere near runnable and the downhills aren't either, this is a tough run. After that the organisers take some pity and take the route inland along a slanting track - Or perhaps not, this is on the edge of runnable, so you feel compelled to try but have to stop and walk every now and again.

You pass the lighthouse inland, and all you can see is more downs. There is a water stop at the top here, but be warned, this is not the official checkpoint number 4, this is the coastguard being nice. Nice it is too, to have fresh water, but you still have about 5 ½ to go, not the 4 miles from the last checkpoint. The official last checkpoint is at Berling Gap, the lowest point on these cliffs and another good spectator point. Now you have 4 ½ miles to go, but possibly the highest climb, from about 50' to 650' at Beachy Head. It is not so steep, but just up forever, again midway between runnable and not. By now I am VERY tired, but eventually we reach the huge, ugly Beach head pub. From here the true summit is an easier ½ mile up a more gentle slope, then less than a mile steeply down to the finish. The last 400 Yds are very steep, but I have a little energy left and bound down, then sprint the 200M of downhill roadway and pip an unfortunate South African runner by 2 or 3 seconds at the line.

There is water, free food and even a swimming pool (but no mud or skinny dipping, what's the point?), and a rather poxy medal. I finished 43rd (662 people finished in under 6 hours, including several walkers), at 3:45, and am pretty pleased. The winner was 3:07.

SO this run is slightly over 26.2 miles, 3500' of ascent (and the same of descent of course), all on rough chalk and flint tracks or woodland paths. It is well marshalled, with few but well equipped drink and food stops. It is tough underfoot, it is physically tough and I think it is mentally tough as well. The last third seems an unending undulation with no sweet running at all, just all grind. You can see the downs stretching out forever, but cannot see your destination until the last mile. Different to the Grizzly, it's all pure running, no obstacles except hills, but as tough or worse. It's not as beautiful as the Beast, but on a good day not far off it. If the weather is bad I think finishing at all would be very hard, but on a sunny day like this year the sea and the cliffs are magnificent. It's a great course for spectators, as there are four or five easily accessible points with good parking to see the runners pass, and a great stretch up towards Beachy Head where you can drive alongside and shout encouragement.

Will I do it aging? Absolutely! Will you? It is a long way to go (2 ½ - 3 hours drive), but in my view one of the classics that should be in our calendar. If you do want to run it, enter early, it fills up fast.