Purbeck Marathon #tough #scenic

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The Purbeck marathon has it all … narrow technical trails with mud and stones to negotiate, coastal hills (with amazing views) and inland hills (with amazing views). The 26.7 miles were a tad longer than a standard marathon but that’s trail running for you ūüôā

My running buddy Paul¬†and I travelled down to Dorset to find a sleepy Swanage.¬†Our first sight was¬†the¬†sea lapping up against the beach and the second was the promise of the rolling hills that we’d¬†driven past being our challenge for the day.¬†Registration was at the foot of our first hill and as we made our way up to the start the scenic views had¬†begun before the race had !!

DSC00639Today we were joined by fellow Fareham Crusaders Dave, Kate, Nikki and Thom as well as Dean from Pompey Joggers and Ben from Gosport Runners.

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The sun was shining on a perfect¬†early Autumn morning and after our race briefing I couldn’t resist a photo with the official starter.¬†My pre race anticipation was slightly tempered with knowing I haven’t done the volume of miles recently but when determination is¬†required, I’ve got buckets of it¬†ūüôā

DSC00643Our first sight of the coast and the endless sea that really did look like it stretched out for ever was at about 1 & 1/2 miles. The lighthouse was an impressive sight but very quickly we had to concentrate on the trail ahead of us. The track was only two feet wide in places, there were numerous stones that jutted out from the soil and the cliff edge was quite often uncomfortably close !! It was certainly noticeable that the banter and chat between all the runners around use quickly changed to focusing on the job at hand.

Once through the worst of the technical section the path widened out and I joined Kate and Dave queuing for one of the frequent gates and styles that are a feature of this area which combined National Trust land and military firing ranges.

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With better running conditions underfoot we could start to appreciate the stunning landscape more. The deep blue sea contrasted with the light blue sky and both were offset with the lush green cliff top.

Our first significant hill took us inland at about five miles. As trail runners you are often presented with big hills, the accepted practise is to try and combine some running and some walking because you can be sure there will be lots more ahead !! The sheep and cows that we passed would also be a common feature for the rest of the race.

A section of narrow country lanes then brought us out again onto the coast by about the eight mile mark and from then on we steadily climbed up and away from the coast. The views here were once again stunning.

DSC00648coastAnother feature of this part of the area are these yellow poles that you need to stay between as they mark the route through the firing ranges !!! Thanks to Dave Fuller for this photo.

Dropping down to Tyneham (a village that was taken over by the army for training purposes) we were past half way and approaching a very steep climb that lasted well over a mile. I considered taking a photo but to be honest I decided getting to the top was my priority !! Luckily Paul and Ben took a photo so thanks to them for this one.

15At around 16 miles my spirits were lifted by running along the¬†top of the¬†downs and Nikkie Yeo catching me up. By 18 miles Nikki and I had combined with 100 marathons Nigel, Julie from Billericay and her running partner (it’s good to talk to strangers !!)

Running as a group, offering encouragement and collectively feeling the pain of¬†our challenge meant that the miles passed quicker and in no time were approaching¬†Corfe Castle. I have to say Julie’s constant talking was a delight,¬†… one of Essex’s finest ūüôā and just the sort of personality that inspires you to press on.

DSC00651Running through Corfe village itself I lost Nikkie for a while (she stopped at a shop to buy a bottle of coke),¬†the rest of us laughed that this was where Julie was staying for the night but she couldn’t drop out as the accommodation key was in the car at the¬†finish.¬†Next we crossed a railway line. Yes, that’s right, a railway line !! There’s an old steam train which runs down to the coast.

“All that remained now” were miles 21 to 24 that had three¬†long gradual hills¬†and then we’d drop down to the seafront. The three miles of hills took their toll on me and even though I made some ground up on the downhill I joined the seafront with a likely five and a half hours finish time.

In true running club tradition Paul, Kate and Nikki were waiting at the finish line and ran with me in the last couple of hundred metres shouting encouragements.¬†I was impressed with the medal, t shirt and¬†even a bottle of cider that came in the¬†race goody¬†bag. We celebrated with a burger and coffee, I thanked the runners who’d I ran with in the latter stages and on reflection our times ranged from 4.29 to my 5.33 so I wasn’t too far off the¬†pace on a tough course.

Great running by all of our local runners that headed down to Dorset. The other positive to take from today was that five and a half hours of effort will be a great springboard for future weeks.

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Many thanks to the organisers for “so many” marshals, a fantastic course¬†(ever hill is a challenge that makes you stronger) and¬†the stunning scenery.

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For those of you that are on Strava here’s the link to the 26.7 miles Strava Download¬†

This is the Purbeck marathon¬†course profile¬†. Trail running can be tough but it’s a pleasure and a privilege to experience our Great British countryside with like minded souls. If this post has inspired you to try trail running then my job is done. Join us, but beware, once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked like us ūüôā

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19 miles, Tailwind, hills, & drizzle : Loved it !!

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It’s only two weeks now to the Purbeck marathon so today needed to be a descent test of my form. I managed just over 19 miles with 2,170 feet elevation in quite Autumnal conditions. Also my Tailwind¬†trial moved into its second week which you can read about further down.

Todays added bonuses were bumping into Ray Gunner from Stubbington Green who I haven’t seen for ages and Rosie from my club Fareham Crusaders who again I haven’t seen for quite a while. On my way home at about 18.5 miles with two lanes of heavy traffic to my left I also spotted the bright red Absolute Running¬†van¬†with owners¬†Nick and Kim in it, so that was a great “pick me up” with waves and shouts of encouragement.

Well, September is with us, the football posts were up next to the cricket boundary, the leaves have started falling onto the path and todays drizzle was (although refreshing to begin with) fairly constant from mile 6.

However, none of the above dampened my spirits because today was the furthest I’ve run since June and being on the move for¬†over three hours gives you “belief”.

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As the initial miles ticked by¬†I contemplated on my liquids and nutrition strategy. I’d filled three 500ml soft flaks and only packed one gel and one¬†energy bar. Ordinarily for a 3 hour + run I’d have taken three or four gels as well as a couple of SIS energy bars so¬†it was going to be “sink or swim” time. Granted I was running conservatively but¬†when I say the first time I thought I may need something extra was at 15 miles then that’s a big thumbs up to Tailwind. You read the recommendations but it’s¬†always¬†best to try it for yourself. I’ll come back to this later.

The first 6 or so miles were¬†really an introduction before I reached Portchester Lane. This Lane is a favourite of mine due to 3/4 of a mile giving you 270 feet elevation. I set myself 4 reps and I wasn’t alone as a number of cyclists passed me too. As I mentioned earlier Ray Gunner passed me going up one of¬†them. Ray¬†has always been quick and he¬†was on good form as he easily caught me up.

I really believe hill reps are an essential part of any runners training regardless of their race distances. The strength work really pays off physically and mentally.

DSC00619The route¬†may be tarmac which isn’t idea and it is open to traffic but generally¬†on an early Sunday morning its quiet. As you can see it’s a hill that just keeps giving as it snakes¬†up to the horizon.

The fields to the right had wheat growing three weeks ago but that’s all been harvested so¬†this was another reminder that Summer is disappearing.

I generally use a “bump bag” these days that I swivel around when I want something. My preferred choice of liquid containers¬†are soft flasks because once empty they take up no room at all, they can be rolled up like an empty toothpaste tube.

Once heading down Portsdown Hill there’s a section with no pavement and it was starting to get busier as the morning progressed. I always like to run towards the traffic on these sections as I’d rather see them and move out of their way. Naturally I avoid doing this wherever possible.

Once heading for the creek at about 15.5 miles I’d taken a gel just for good measure and¬†it was all flat from now on. Passing my friend Rosie was a surprise and then waving to Nick & Kim was a great motivator.¬†At 17.5 miles I had the energy bar just to be on the safe side but to be fair I was still feeling good on the back of the Tailwind. Is¬†Tailwind the answer to all our running needs ?? I will let you know over the coming weeks, however, the signs are promising.

Finally,¬†I thought this sign from our local council was well thought out by aiming it at the kids ūüôā Although to be fair most people are pretty good.

DSC00615So, great miles, plenty of hills, more Tailwind feedback and a few surprise friends¬†along the way. “Good Times”

 

Why I chose the Trails

Day to day life has its structure, its demands and its expectations but¬†running sets you free. Even saying “running sets you free” makes me smile, its makes me feel alive and sharing it with other¬†like minded souls,¬†while running through nature, completes the experience.

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The reason I started writing a running blog was to try and pass¬†on the enjoyment I feel while I’m¬†running through the great outdoors with friends. I called my blog “irunoffroad”¬†to simply try and capture¬†why running isn’t my hobby, its my passion.

https://irunoffroad.wordpress.com/

When runr asked for contributions to their website it was an easy decision to offer some words because I’ve always been keen to share my love of running and try to encourage others to leave the pavements, now and then,¬†to try something different.

I spent some 20 years training for and racing largely 10K’s with occasional 10 milers and halves. I dipped my toe with a road marathon in the¬†early nineties¬†and a mixed terrain New Forest marathon in 2007 but it¬†was only when I decided to give myself a bigger challenge in 2013 by entering the North Devon marathon¬†that my perspective on running changed. The area of outstanding natural beauty tag, that is associated with this¬†marathon, equated to 3,000+ feet of elevation (hills) and¬†both amazing coastal and countryside views.

Driving home after completing this marathon I realised that pace, pb’s and speed weren’t the only benchmarks of a good run, rising to the challenge of a tough course was just as rewarding. The countryside¬†has its own¬†natural pace setters, hills (both up and down), tree¬†roots and overhanging branches,¬†mud and puddles.¬†Concentrating on and navigating these natural obstacles might seem daunting but once you have your feet to eye coordination lined up then its quite exhilarating to overcome whatever the¬†trail is throwing at you. Naturally this comes with experience and taking risks certainly isn’t¬†part of the approach. If¬†it’s safer to¬†walk, I walk.

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Your will power and mentality change¬†when swopping trails for the road. Keeping to your planned pace on the road requires practice and discipline, off road its all about going with the¬†trail and adapting to your location. Some people ask me do I use music on a 15 or 20 mile run, the answer is I’m too busy tuning into what’s around me, whether its the glorious views or the¬†best line to run on a muddy¬†section. Consequently I now find trail running so much more rewarding due to both the challenges and sights.

At this point I’d¬†say out it’s safer and more enjoyable to run with others in the countryside just in case you get lost or have an “issue”, take your mobile phone too ūüôā

I agree its too simplistic to say that the road is the road but out in the country so much changes every 3 or 4 months as the seasons pass. The¬†landscape changes from Summers lush green into the array of Autumnal colours, then Winters barren and cold months are followed by the shoots of recovery that Spring brings. Don’t get me wrong¬†I realise not everyone wants to take a full change of kit and shoes for when their Winter mud run has finished but again its adapting to the conditions that’s really rewarding.

Trail running also gives you infinite variety with the huge number of footpaths and officially recognised paths e.g. The South Downs Way. One minute you could be running next to a river, the next scaling a hill on the way up to the trig point.¬†Armed with your lightweight rucksack you set off on an adventures every time. Are the crops ready for harvesting, will there be ice in the puddles, take in the scent of the flowers and¬†aren’t sheep inquisitive ūüôā

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All of these factors add up to¬†why I love to trail run and the people I run with. Naturally when you are out on a long steady run you do get to chat, take¬†an occasional photo and discuss strategies for what lies ahead of you. A particular recent run comes to mind here when we I ran 20 miles with Paul that I run with regularly, Rod who I haven’t run with for ages and James who we ran with for the first time and wasn’t as aware of the route as we were. Everyone brought their¬†knowledge¬†and experiences to the¬†morning and¬†after a well earned cuppa we all left agreeing to do it again.

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Due to trail marathons being less about the time and more about the challenge I also think the off road community is slightly more inclusive, especially once you go beyond marathons and into the world of ultras where survival becomes another feature.

In many ways my recent Race to the King run sums up why I love to run off road. A distance challenge that was far beyond my previous mileage, great company, my favourite South Downs Way and an almost out of the body feeling to be on the move for 12 hours over a double marathon. Have a read via this link to my blog,

https://irunoffroad.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/race-to-the-king-53-5-miles-12-hours-1-big-smile/

Finally I’d like to say thanks to all the “givers” who I now call friends through running. There are far to many to mention but surfice to say some are running shop owners, some are race directors but most are my running buddies.

Where can you run, this UK listing is in alphabetical county order.

http://www.gps-routes.co.uk/routes/home.nsf/contentnew/walking-in-england

Thanks for reading my rambles and maybe see you on the trails ūüôā

Rog

 

 

 

 

 

In at the deep end, the road to “race fitness”

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Well, it’s 3 weeks until the Purbeck marathon so it “really” is time to get¬†those distance legs working again.¬†My analogy of “the road to fitness” and more specifically marathon fitness was tested to the full with this churned up trail coupled with the gradual elevation. To be fair this logging access trail only lasted for about 350 metres but it was a great addition to our run.

With the Purbeck marathon having a similar 1,000 meters of elevation to Second Wind Runnings QE Spring marathon (25th March 2018) then 14.5 miles in todays heat was a great tester on the back of 10 miles from Tuesday and 6 from Thursday. The QE Spring marathon has two 13 mile loops so we largely followed one laps worth.

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Starting at 8am due to the anticipated heat our first 2 miles included a number of twisting and turning ascents that we well remembered from the race in March, especially with us running up this twice for that marathon. The most noticeable change from March to August (apart from the heat) was how green and “lush” everywhere was. The woods branches had filled out¬†and this certainly worked in our favour with greater shade.

I haven’t seen Paul since RTTK so we had lots to catch up on as we steadily ran the trails. When I say we had lots to catch up on this actually meant going the wrong way ūüôā !!¬†However, we both agreed the extra miles would come in handy as additional training.

After about a third of our run we passed what has to be the busiest junction in the QECP¬† woods. With this signpost pointing to the South Downs Way, Hangers Way,¬†the Shipwrights Way and Staunton Way (which we’d pick up later) it¬†was an obvious photo opportunity.

DSC00596Paul has¬†carried on his relentless quest to race virtually every week so today’s run must have been quite relaxing for him and it was just the push, distance wise, that I needed so as to hit 30 miles this week. Today was also especially beneficial for me as¬†the earlier runs this week have¬†been flat ones so it certainly was a case of “in at the¬†deep end”. Not long after this signpost we came across¬†four Pompey Jogger ultra runners and after a short chat they carried on their way onto yet another trail.

Now, I’m always keen to try different products, both drinks and food wise so today was¬†the start of my Tailwind trial. I mixed 2-3 scoops in 24 oz of water twice,¬†which made up enough to fill my two 500ml soft flasks and a smaller 250ml. Todays hot weather and hills would be a good test and they passed with flying colours. I will update this in future blogs as it would be unfair to just base¬†my thoughts on one run. That said I’m excited to be using a product which so many people recommend.

I suffered with some stomach issues at the end of RTTK so I’m keen to try Tailwind ūüôā

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After negotiating the short mud fest¬†which was just as entertaining as it was unexpected we pressed on down New Barn¬†Lane. To our surprise we were met by a number of cyclists on this narrow and quiet¬†country road.¬†The surprise wasn’t the number but the age !!¬†Paul and I often joke we are the Saga branch of Fareham Crusaders running club but a number of the ladies and gentlemen that were cycling uphill towards us were considerably older. Huge respect to them.

We joined the Staunton Way at about ten miles and made tracks for home. This photo gives you another example of why we run in the countryside as well as how hot it was getting !!

DSC00608I look like I’ve got makeup on but that was simply a combination of suntan lotion and sweat, however, it was the rolling fields¬†and freshly cut crops that I was trying to capture ūüôā

By the time we got back to QECP the temperature was up to 23 degrees and a well earned drink was in order. Pace wise lets just say it was “steady”, however, I was chuffed to get back to¬†a testing run and it’s a large thank you to my running buddy Paul for his company.

Goodwood 5 miler #glorious

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How many races have a tree lined avenue leading to the finish, registration in the grounds of a hotel and glorious parkland to run through …. Goodwood 5 miler had this just for starters !! I think we’ll all be familiar with the motor racing and horse racing that Goodwood offers but up and till a few weeks ago I didn’t realise you could experience the glorious parkland¬†that the estate offers.

As if all of the above wasn’t enough there’s a hill involved in the 5 miles too !! We all¬†know I love a good hill so when I read that the iconic motor racing hill climb features as 1.2 miles of the course then¬†my ¬£14 entry fee for a Monday evening race was assured.

The Goodwood Health Club were organising this third¬†annual event and the race was also supporting Winston’s Wish

The¬†perfectly cut¬†lawns behind the hotel presented the evenings first surprise, an amazing marque that’s presumably used for either social gatherings or weddings.

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The Salomon sponsorship was immediately noticeable¬†with the flags and very cool deckchairs.¬†After registering¬†it was also noticeable that there would be entertainment and food afterwards if you’d chosen that entry fee option (¬£27). The¬†circular marque bar was another feature¬†I¬†wouldn’t normally experience on¬†one of my¬†typical off road races.

So, “was any running happening” … I hear you say ?? ….. ¬†Yes ūüôā

I warmed up along the tree lined avenue that extended for probably the best part of half a mile and¬†it was noticeable that I hardly recognised any local club runners from the Southampton / Portsmouth area.¬†The majority of the 230 clubs runners were from Sussex and for this reason alone that’s why I’m writing this blog to encourage others¬†to run next year. The largest club participation seemed to be the Tuff Fitty Triathlon club.

The first out and back mile or so was on smooth tarmac with parkland and golf course that stretched out for miles.¬†The nature of this “out and back” also meant lots of encouragement in both directions from all the running abilities. At about 1.5 miles in¬†we passed Goodwood House and then started the hill climb. This photo was after the race as I just had to have a snap of the “Big House” !!

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The old flint walls near¬†the big house followed the road up quite a reasonable incline. With the road twisting it also meant you weren’t aware just where the top of the hill was so this added to the psychological as well as physical challenge. The tree lined section opened up to present us with a view of the horse racing pavilion in the distance. Once at the top of the hill a short section of grass was then followed by re-joining the road downhill from where we’d come.

Knowing you have about a mile and three quarters left that’s downhill or flat really makes you work your lungs to the maximum and as we hit the home straight it was a case of counting down the ancient trees to the finish line.

I was pleased with 85th out of 226 on a humid evening. One final “Goodwood” touch was the golf kart at the finish which I also couldn’t resist a photo of.

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Tonight was an unusual location with a completely different atmosphere to almost any other race I’ve done and I’ll certainly return next year, hopefully with others from Hampshire and my Fareham Crusaders¬†club.

Thank you Goodwood for great run.

Trails & trees, yes please, #motivation

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After an unusually long break I’m back running. It’s been five weeks since RTTK and today was just what I needed to get me back “out there”. I decided to returned to my roots !! Some 25 years ago I was running through these woods when I joined Stubbington Green runners and I find myself drawn back here when I need to reconnect with running. This Forestry Commission land¬†is only 15 minutes down the motorway and offers that special feeling that only the woods can¬†give you.

The compacted gravel path on the way to the woods¬†has the added bonus of a short hill before you reach the more natural trails with their mud and puddles from the last couple of days rain. There’s always a stack of logged trees at the top of the hill and it gives you a great focal point to aim for when pushing some hill speed work !!

DSC00496The weather for todays run was changeable but generally sunny and it certainly brought out the dragonflies and butterflies.¬†I noticed a small sign at the top of the hill which took me by surprise but I pressed on regardless ūüôā There weren’t any gun shot noises thankfully, in fact with so little noise all you could hear were the trees swishing in the breeze.

DSC00497Once into Botley Wood you soon become conscious of how the previous wide open spaces are now enclosed by the ferns and undergrowth at grown level and the trees above. The rain from last night was also evident whenever the wind blew because I was experiencing random showers of rain water from the leaves above !! There was a certain amount of mud but the one overriding sensation was just how lush everywhere looked.

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I met a mountain biker travelling in the opposite direction but that was it as far as contact with civilisation. Stopping to take these photos really makes you appreciate that there’s a whole world away from the office and home life that just exists day by day without hardly any involvement with the outside world. Nature just carries on as it always has and running through it is such a pleasure.

What also struck me was the contrast between old and new, the fallen tree with its circles to count for the time it had stood and then the newly planted trees that were finding their way in the forest.

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Today may have only been 55 minutes worth of running/photos but it has reignited my motivation and I’m looking for my next challenge. Coincidentally I saw on Strava that other Fareham Crusaders (my current club) are putting in long runs ahead of the Purbeck Marathon¬†on September 17th. Photos from this challenging coastal run looked great last year so that will be my new found target.

With seven weeks to play with I’m now fired up with a new challenge. Returning to these woods always reminds me of my first club runs and the people that I ran with but most of all it reminds me that running through nature is both a pleasure and a privilege. There’s plenty of room in the woods for the trees, animals and us too, just give it the respect it deserves.

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Even the mud looked good !!

Happy running ūüôā

Goodwood Hill Climb 5 mile run

With Race to the Kings double marathon well and truly out of my legs now I’ve been looking around for some interesting¬†Summer evening races.

The 53 second video above shows the iconic hill climb at the Goodwood motor racing circuit.¬†I’ve now found out that there’s a 5 mile run that includes the hill on Monday August 7th at 7pm. This fits in perfectly, lets face it, I was sold as soon as they mentioned “hill” !! Naturally there may not be tens of thousands of fans cheering us on but it will be¬† a great night. The run isn’t on the race track but the grounds and the hill will be well worth the visit.

Organised by the Goodwood health club this annual event takes you through the glorious parkland of the estate and up the 1.2 mile hill with its 95 metre elevation. Winstons Wish (a charity for bereaved children)¬†will benefit from the night and there’s¬†also a food option if you wish to soak up the atmosphere even more.

¬£14 for a run¬†along¬†this historic route seems¬†quite reasonable to me. We may not cover the 1.2 mile hill in 40 odd¬†seconds but I’m looking forward to an evenings¬†run with a difference.¬†Come and join me¬†?? Click and¬†Enter Here

Race to the King : 53.5 miles, 12 Hours & 1 Big smile

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Race to the King (RTTK) is a trail running challenge¬†from Slindon to Winchester. The route¬†was 53.5 miles along predominantly the South Downs Way (SDW), which also meant 5,200 feet of elevation.¬†I think it’s fair to say that the longest day might have been last week but Saturday was certainly mine and everyone else’s.¬†There are¬†so many people and places that I’d like to mention so bear¬†with me,¬†get comfortable, and I’ll be begin.

My journey up to this point has involved a lot of preparation and planning but most of all the sheer enjoyment of trail running.¬†It seems fitting that my trail running buddy Paul Coates and I are in the first photo because we’ve put a lot of time and effort into getting to the start line. At this point I’d like to thank Paul for all his help, everyone who has sponsored me for the Walking with the Wounded charity, ¬£375, and¬†all the good luck messages.

After a 4.45am alarm call myself, Paul, Dave, Lucy and Kate (all Fareham Crusaders) set off at 6am for Slindon. On arrival we had¬†the first of our many positive impressions from the RTTK organisation. A huge marquee, lots of toilets and friendly staff welcoming us. This photo shows all of the above mentioned as well as Paul Southon but not Thom Dillon who was another Crusader I’d come across later.

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Also running today were our friends Phil and Teresa from Second Wind Running, a great local running outfit, I borrowed this next photo from them, so thanks for that. Phil was 30th overall (9.20) and first in his age category, Teresa was 4th in her category (10.40) fantastic times for two real “givers” to our local running community.

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Now, 53.5 miles and 9 hours 20 minutes I hear you cry, what did the winner run it in ?? Profeet‘s Jack Blackburn ran an amazing 7.13 !! (OMG) It was also great to have a chat with Perfect Pickles from twitter, sorry I can’t¬†remember your first name as my brain isn’t working 100% yet !!

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Conditions were perfect for us with an overcast but humid day that would offer refreshing drizzle at times and thankfully no real sunshine to worry about. Hydration was clearly going to be a major part of the strategy so it was a huge relief that the weather was kind to us. I used two 500ml soft flasks and refilled them both at every aid station with electrolyte tablets.

I’m not that familiar with the first 8 miles or so but as we headed North for 3 miles and then looped around towards Gratton Beacon¬†for another 5 miles all we seemed to be doing was going up !!¬†Paul and I were running conservatively and¬†when there was any doubt we walked, so as to save energy for later. The first feed station was at 7.9 miles and we were treated to portaloos, numerous snack options, plenty of water and a rousing welcome. Buoyed by the prospect of this being the case for the remaining aid stations we headed off¬†with an extra spring in our stride.

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By 10 miles we’d crossed the A285 and my recollections from the South Downs marathon of 2 years ago meant I knew where we were and this also meant 43 miles of course knowledge to come (yes we’d done our homework !!)¬†This also meant a long gradual hill through the crops that came flooding back to me !! Our pace was “steady” as we ran along the top of the Downs making sure to keep an eye on the chalk and loose gravel that characterises this area.¬†I didn’t take many photos because I was concentrating on the matter at¬†hand and ultimately there’s lots in my training blogs.

We chatted to¬†out fellow runners¬†on our way and as we started the descent towards the A285, and Cocking, we knew the second¬†aid station and the long tarmac road that climbs back up to the Downs was approaching.¬†What we didn’t expect¬†was our friend Cat Underwood,¬†she greeted us with her usual enthusiasm¬†!! Hugs were exchanged and off we set. Thanks Cat ….. you’re a star ūüôā

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The route out of the feed station meant a long gradual walk, after all we still had 38 miles to go. Our “steady start” strategy¬†was working well but I did get the sense Paul was holding back. By the time we reached the Monkton estate and tree cover we’d had more drizzle but again it was refreshing so no jackets were needed.¬†The 20 mile alarm on my garmin was a pleasant surprise because I’d hardly looked at it and that was after¬†nearly four hours ūüôā I remember thinking “my god” four hours, a third of the way potentially.

Around this point we unexpectedly ran up Beacon Hill (the first one to avoid confusion) we’ve never run up this because it’s quite technical coming down the other side. As feedback for next year I think this was a mistake because with 20 miles in your legs¬†they can run away with you and sure enough I fell over. Luckily it was my pride and¬†a graze on my elbow but I don’t imagine I was the only one who fell. By now Paul¬†was disappearing into the distance¬†but I figured the 3rd aid station wasn’t far away at 23.4 miles. Harting Down was next and then we headed South towards base camp and half way.

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Once again we were greeted with help and cheer, I¬†decided to eat a plate of pasta, bread and rice which took about ten minutes, I’d briefly seen Paul but he was keen to crack on and I wished him well. So, every now and then as runners we have a¬†“moment”, it dawned on me that there were still 29 miles to go but in a funny way running on my own meant I was more in control, I smiled with¬†that thought in mind and said to myself “this is where the run really begins”.

The next 6 or so miles took us through narrow lanes skirting around¬†Butser and then as I ran through QECP there it was, the highest point on the SDW. I marched up Butser trying not to let it beat me and then I had an inspired moment, why not text a few people seeing as I was walking. This worked really well because¬†it took my mind off the gradient and also updated my loved ones that I’d managed 30 miles.

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As the top of Butser Hill¬†I had another hug from Cat and she said Paul was at least ten minutes ahead. Feed station 4 was a significant one because along with the oranges, melon, water and snacks was the thought that the miles between them would now get shorter ūüôā Previously it had been roughly every 8 miles, it was now 6 to Old Winchester Hill (OWH).

Both my legs and feet were bearing up well at this point and¬†my concentration was aimed at trying to keep my average pace under 13 minute miles. The scenery is amazing along the South Downs and it all seemed quite¬†unreal when I looked at my watch and saw¬†8 hours on it. The furthest I’ve run is 36 miles so it was new and exciting territory.

After leaving the OWH feed station I caught up Thom Dillion from our club, we had a chat, wished each other well and I pressed on down the hill which has lots of tree roots so care was needed. Joining the old railway line briefly I was starting to feel a couple of my toes were sore after the downhill section and my left thigh was tightening. I rubbed deep heat on my thigh¬†and even though this meant stopping it did mean I had 3 other runners to tackle Beacon Hill for company¬†(the second one ūüôā ) We walked a good proportion of it but chatting really helped, not that my spirits were low but just for some variety.

Reaching the trig point at 42 miles was a massive relief because that was the last big hill and I knew the remaining trail well.

I got quite emotional when my watch said 43 miles because that meant¬†I was down to single figures. We’d worked¬†out¬†before hand that 13.5 minute miles were needed for a 12 hour finish.¬†I was at about 10 hours now and still surprisingly bobbling along even if slowly.¬†As long as I was running it kept my goal in sight.

The last aid station was at 46 miles and Cheesefoot Head was approaching. This was significant because it was a gradual climb but at 50 miles you see Winchester for the first time.

When my 50 mile alarm went off I have to admit a tear came to my eye, it was all downhill or flat now and even with some stomach issues and some walking due to that, I knew I could savour the moment because I was going too finish. The bridge over the motorway said 1 mile to go, the streets of Winchester were fantastic to see after hours of quite trails. I knew the road around Winchester Cathedral and as I ran my last100 metres to the finish, there it was, the Cathedral and the finish line.

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Those 3 steps were taken with care and it was all done. What does 53.5 miles feel like ???

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This photo from pic2go sums it up !! Thanks for the photos ūüôā

It’s only when you stop that you¬†realise what you have achieved.

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219th out of 581 (some would have been walkers) I decided to let myself off the¬†6 minutes and 18 seconds that I was over my target ūüôā I felt fantastic, proud and shattered.

DSC00485The great medal was then followed by the realisation I had to walk about a mile to the train station !! I missed the 8.19 so had to wait for the 9.19 but to be honest sitting down for 50 odd minutes was lovely. The train took me to Fareham and another 10 minute walk but this probably did my legs a favour. I was becoming aware of toe pains but three small blisters were an acceptable price to pay.

We are very lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world and having The South Downs Way only 12 miles away means we can enjoy running parts of todays 53 miles again in the future.

Well done to Paul (10.59), a great time, as well as all the other Fareham Crusader runners and everyone that was brave enough to enter. Thanks to¬†all my twitter and¬†ukrunchat friends for their messages¬†and support too. If you haven’t discovered trail running yet, give it a go, it’s beautiful.

Thanks to “Race to the King” and everyone that has supported me in my quest to achieve a double marathon. What’s next ?? 100K … who knows !!

In short, you can achieve so much, if you just “believe”.

November 2017 Update

Thanks to RTTK for sharing my blog. I hope you enjoy the race as much as I did, it has been the highlight of my year. If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog maybe you’d consider voting for it in the Running Awards Best Blog.

The link is attached so, vote here

Follow it to the Publications & Online category, Blog and then scroll down to irunoffroad. You do have to register but it doesn’t take long and you won’t get 100’s of follow up emails ūüôā Many thanks …. Roger

 

Running for “Walking with the Wounded” (WWTW) at RTTK, please donate, thanks

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In less than¬†a week and a half I’ll be running the furthest I’ve ever run.¬†I don’t often¬†run for a charity but on June 24th I am running for WWTW who support the retraining and re-education of our wounded servicemen and women,¬†so that they can return to the work place.

This independence and future employability is the least we can help with, after the mental and physical injuries they have had to cope with.

Please donate, thanks very much ūüôā

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RogerThomasson