Just one week after the Jaw Dropper, I was due to do the Heartbreaker Marathon. I was really looking forward to it, there was no time to waste – I had two whole months off and felt like I was falling behind my non-existent schedule.
I was getting a lift to the race with Ercole and I was looking forward to our catch up. Unfortunately late on the Saturday prior to the race I found out that Ercole could only give me a lift there, because something came up and he had to rush back straight after the race. Having done quite a few marathons, I rarely get stressed before a race. I have this nervous excited feeling but chances are that I’m going to finish a race, so I don’t suffer from a real stage fright 😉
However, with the prospect of being in the middle of the New Forest without a car, after having just run a marathon wasn’t necessarily appealing, and to be honest the last thing I wanted at 18:30 the night before. I posted a message on the event page on Facebook and had no luck. The Internet told me that the ideal train station for me was Salisbury… but I still had to get there…
I tried to calm myself down and think along the lines of Doris Day: ‘Que Sera, Sera’, but it wasn’t the best night’s sleep ever, to say the least.
Ercole and Alexis picked me up at 6:45 sharp, it was going to be a long day. The drive was picturesque and I was getting quite excited about running.
We got to the Sandy Balls Holiday Village, registered and left our bags in the bag drop. The race briefing was in one of the main village buildings. Yet again, a few familiar faces: Caroline, Neil and Tina. We were paying attention, promise!
Whilst listening to the briefing I looked around and realised that everyone had an additional long-sleeve layer on… Then I remembered Mark saying that there are bits of this race that are quite exposed. I then also remembered that it was still February and how cold it can get. Hmmm… I had left my spare layer in my bag. The one good thing about being slightly late for the briefing was that I was standing right by the door so the minute the briefing was done, I ran towards the bad drop to get an additional layer.
I joined Ercole at the start point, we wished each other good luck and shortly after, the race started.
The first bit of the route was around the Holiday Village. It was a bit muddy with small hills. I spotted Phillipa and it was a good opportunity to catch up.
Phillipa and I met via Facebook when she contacted me saying that she read my blog and asked for a recommendation on races in January. Funny how things can start simply via social media. Phillipa’s challenge this year is to complete 12 marathons in 12 months, very impressive and fantastic challenge. Here’s a link to her blog 🙂
We split shortly after a brief catch up as I was walking up the smallest hills and she went ahead looking strong 🙂
The route went through the Village again where people were cheering us on and then onto the road. It was good to see so many people around walking, cycling and horse riding even on such a grey day!
I then spotted this gentleman wearing sandals, I had just finished listening to the Born to Run audio-book and smiled to myself seeing the Tarahumara footwear… maybe one day I’ll try minimalist footwear 😉
After a stretch of road, we joined the trail at one of the car parks. This was the first water station. Whoop!
Having my bag with a bladder and Tailwind inside, I didn’t have to stop. I carried on down a steep-ish hill that wasn’t long enough (I really like down-hills!) and was climbing back up again shortly. The area was beautiful, despite it still being winter and quite a ‘meh’ day. I tried to find a running buddy, but unfortunately I failed, it seemed like it was going to be a long, lonely run…
When we got to the top, the area became a bit more sheltered and there were ponies! I love horses! Just look at his pretty face 🙂
There were a couple of hills and a ‘river crossing’ but soon we were done with the straight section of the ‘T’ shaped route and were by another aid station.
From there we were going left at the top of the ‘T’, back past the aid station, then to the right of the T and back to the aid station. Does this make sense? Maybe a picture will help:
This is the North way up, if you look at it upside down, you will get the T 🙂
And here’s the heart-breaking part: we were supposed to do it 3 times! OK, there’s no point in delaying the inevitable! The route ‘to the left’ was beautiful and as per usual I took a few pictures.
Many people were coming back already and it was really nice to see the fast runners. The route snaked through the woods and eventually after a small hill, I got to the turn-around point.
On my way back I managed to catch up with Phillipa and from then on we were running together. I had my running buddy!
We saw Caroline and Tina, looking very happy:
It was really quite nice as we seemed to have settled into the same pace, at which we could run and chat. Now it was time to do the ‘right side of the T’. We were fairly distracted by the lovely marshals and spectators, but we didn’t miss the fact that this bit was really exposed. It was windy and drizzly and you could see far ahead and it was a long way to go. Not great, I always prefer not to see so far into the distance, then I can fool myself thinking the aid station or the turn-around point is just around the corner. Not this time, we could see the colourful dots of runners far, far away.
Fortunately we had each other and our catch up and before we knew it we were there! The turn-around point! We got our first wrist band to mark the completion of the first lap. All we had to do is to do it again, twice.
We kept going and smiling and chatting, which didn’t escape marshals’ attention. They commented on our running ‘party for two’ quite a few times.
Every time we passed the ‘in the middle’ station we spent some time chatting to them.
The stations had Tailwind for runners, that was really good, thank you 🙂
The laps went relatively quickly, we were just chatting a little bit less and we ached a little bit more. Phillipa said that if I don’t find a lift to Salisbury, she’d be happy to take me. I was so grateful. It’s not like Salisbury was a little bit out of her way, it was in the completely opposite direction! A massive weight lifted off my shoulders knowing that I had a plan B, despite loving horses I wouldn’t want to be trapped in the New Forest forever!
We had our second band and we were going on our last T lap. Not far now. This will be the last time we will see the ‘left side of the T’. By now we had to walk all the small hills but as long as we were moving towards the finish line we were fine!
Here’s us with Neil. Neil is a really strong ultra runner, him and his wife always do some crazy, inspiring races:
We reached the turn-around point and were now on our way back. Soon we reached the aid station at the middle point and I encouraged Phillipa to have some Tailwind, I still had some in my bag 😉
Doing the last out and back to the right wasn’t easy. The weather was getting worse and the wind was turning the drizzle into a really cold and sharp droplets. Here’s my face being hit by a sideways rain:
We said goodbye to the marshals at the turn-around point and thanked them for being there for us.
With every step we were closer to the middle part and then we had the long bit of T left and the road.
The marshals at the mid-point were quite surprised by our request for a picture but agreed to join us in it:
It really wasn’t far from there, just a couple of hills and that ‘river’ crossing…
Oh wait! We suddenly remembered the bit around the camp site that we had to do before the T, this bit (in yellow):
Noooooo! We weren’t sure whether we would have to do it again or not. We both wished that we wouldn’t, we were pretty much ‘done’ now…
When we got to the car park, where the 1st aid station was, we spotted a finisher and asked him whether we had to go around the camp site again. To our great joy, he said ‘no’ and all we had to do was the stretch of road back to the Holiday Village. Hooray!
We had just about a kilometre left and we were so pleased. We were running like women on a mission, with one aim in mind: finish. We even managed to overtake some runners.
We saw someone walking and I casually said: ‘Come with us’ and when he started running again I was determined not to lose him before the finish line. Looking at the name on the result page, his name could have been Gary, I don’t know for sure but let’s call him Gary for now.
Less than 500m from the finish, I saw Ercole and Alexis driving back to London and it reminded me that I still had to figure out how I’d get to Salisbury, I didn’t want to trouble Phillipa and make her drive in the opposite direction to her home.
Phillipa, Gary and I turned from the road into the last stretch into the Holiday Centre where Gary met a friend. Unfortunately this made him struggle again and he started to walk. No, no, no! We were there, we could see the medals! Phillipa and I grabbed Gary’s hands and we started running again. We crossed the finish line together where Gary’s friends and family were waiting for him. Confident that he was in good hands we got our medals, grabbed some water and started looking for food 😛 Priorities!
We knew that the Event Organisers provided hot soup for the finishers and this was exactly what we needed.
Conscious about the train times we went to get our bags. I thought I’d push my luck some more and ask the marshal who was looking after the personal properties if she knew of anyone going in the general direction of Salisbury. A lady who was one of the participants, Charlotte, said that she was, as she lives in Salisbury and that she could give me a lift there. This was more than lucky!
Phillipa, Charlotte and I changed and headed our separate ways. Thank you both for all your help that day, you are both stars!
Charlotte took me to the station and I had just enough time to get a sandwich, I was starving! My incredible luck continued as I managed to get an earlier train from Woking too, mind you, I had to do some more running to manage that, but it meant that I was home an hour earlier!
Phillipa and I completed the marathon in 04:48:29, which we were both incredibly pleased with. It wasn’t an easy one but having good company and chatting all the way through made that day so much easier. Massive thank you to the organisers and marshals for a great event!