Unfortunately I left it till the very last minute – aka the entries were closed! I emailed Phil and as if by magic someone dropped out and he had one space (just for me :D). I couldn’t believe how lucky I was!
My plan was to go to the event with John, who kindly agreed to give me a lift. We were planning to set out at the break of dawn, however the day before I did the standard mistake of ruining myself in the garden:
So I didn’t have to get up so early, Jamie gave me a lift to the event slightly later – this especially helped because the clocks were changing the night before and I was about to get 1 less hour of sleep.
It turned out to be a good shout, as the morning was very cold and when I got to the race Head Quarters by the QECP (Queen Elisabeth Country Park) Visitor Centre, everyone seemed to look quite cold. There were so many familiar faces and I managed to catch up with John who got to the event significantly earlier (very organised!).
Carolyn was there and we hadn’t really talked much before, but I really like her. This time we had a lovely chat mainly about how I remembered this race less hilly than it actually was! Carolyn was there with her dog who had run over 60 marathons! That’s over twice the amount I’ve done. Very impressive!
We gathered for the race briefing and Phil expressed how important it was not to litter and mentioned that littering was the reason why he wouldn’t be able to organise the Meon Valley Race this year. Heart breaking. I really don’t understand. We are so privileged to run in the countryside and yet some of us don’t respect nature. It’s beyond me. If someone has an explanation to this, please tell me, I’m all ears!
Bryan was there too – check out the difference in our outfits, I think he got there slightly earlier than I did as well!
The race started at 9:30 and we went past the Visitor Centre and started the first climb. I remembered this one. It’s not often when races start with a big incline and when they do, it sticks in your mind.
Then I saw Gemma, we met before the Meon Valley marathon in the queue to the ladies – these friendships last forever 😀
It was so nice to see her, I’ve never run with her before and I knew she completed the Meon Valley faster than I did. Fortunately she wasn’t worried about her time and decided to stick with me this time. I was however in a slightly different mind-set, I needed to complete the race as quickly as possible as Jamie and his parents were picking me up at 15:00 and we were going for a Mother’s Day meal.
It was really good that Gemma joined me as I always look for a running buddy.
We managed to complete the zig-zag up the first hill and turned left at the top to go down a technically challenging slope. The down-hill was quite considerably shorter than the climb and there was another steep uphill waiting for us just around the corner. This one was going on and on forever, so we walked and chatted. Neither of us is a slow walker so it was a brisk pace up that hill.
The park looked quite bare at this time of year, but still beautiful in the morning sun.
The reward of reaching the top of the hill was a long downhill section (yes!) which felt really nice after the climb. The path was quite uneven and we had to watch our every step. It was a little bit tricky, but didn’t spoil the feeling of relief and fun.
The places seemed so familiar and I remembered a lot of the route from last year. We got to the first aid station and stopped for a bit to have some snacks.
I tend to have Tailwind in my hydration pack these days so I don’t have to rely on the aid stations unless I need an additional kick! Phil’s stations are always well supplied and at this race were every 4.5 miles (which is approximately 7.24205 km, if you are metric like me).
We could see the finish from there but had to carry on… up another hill. That’s my favourite bit, it’s really pretty.
Once we got to the top we had another down-hill waiting for us. The park looked beautiful and the downhills were fantastic, the only problem was that they passed more quickly than the uphills and before we knew it we had to climb again.
It was so nice to see the walkers and mountain bikers in the park, it’s a nice place to be and it was a gorgeous day.
This climb was a long one – I remembered it well from the previous year. There was one hill and then another straight after. Fun, fun, fun. I enjoyed the walking up the hills but I was so conscious about the time. Somehow I got confused and I thought I only had 5h. I really hoped that I could do it.
We caught up with someone from a Runfie group on Facebook – a group for people who take a lot of running selfies that I somehow missed! It seemed perfectly appropriate to take a picture with him 😀
This route wasn’t easy, and it was starting to take its toll on me, especially after a day of gardening. Why on earth did I think that digging up the whole front garden with something that resembled a cake fork more than a gardening tool was a good idea a day before a marathon?! If I ever tell you I’m going to do ‘some gardening’ before a race, please remind me not to. Remind me how I felt during Bovington or about this experience. It is not a good idea. Don’t do it Kasia, don’t do it!
I had to walk, I was hurting… a lot.
Finally we got to the next downhill and I could relax for a bit. It was beautiful, Gemma and I admired the views and chatted to keep ourselves entertained.
I remembered the area well and I knew that there would be an aid station soon. And there was! Whoop! I was very happy.
It was like a small party with cider and everything! Fabulous! 😀
We started running again after refreshments. On road, up a hill (surprise, surprise!) and then off road. Pretty!
Soon we got to a new part of the race which must have been the re-route. We went past some houses and towards a field, yes, this bit was definitely new.
It was now sunny and I was glad that I put some sun lotion on beforehand. Phil always warns us about the weather conditions, he doesn’t want us to underestimate the weather. Even a little bit of sun can burn you when you are running, it’s not worth a risk.
We got to the end of the field, went over a stile and carried on a narrow path by the field. The route seemed familiar again. The path became wider and after a right turn we were in an open bit of woodland. I knew that after another turn we would join a wide track that would take us down to the race HQ, or in this case the start of lap 2!
There was another aid station at that point and we could re-fuel. This was when I had my Torq (rhubarb and custard) gel from Caroline to keep me going. I always have Tailwind in my bag but I take other snacks with me, so that I can alternate and not get bored of the same taste.
We were half way there and tired but it was just 21-ish km to go!
On the second lap we pretty much repeated what we’d already done 😉 potentially slightly slower, much hotter and complaining a little bit more (mainly I did that). We were also picking up some rubbish that other runners have left. I really don’t understand it. Why would anyone litter in the first place, but also when we were specifically asked not to? We knew that this could jeopardise future events and still people littered. Crazy!
Gemma and I crossed the finish line together at 05:23:11, which was a 29min 7sec improvement from last year.
Just imagine what I could do if I didn’t ruin myself whilst gardening the day before! Certainly I would’ve complained less 😀
I had a chance to see Phil after the race and thank him for yet another fantastic event. The organisation was great, marshals very friendly and aid stations well supplied.
Thank you again, I had so much fun and it was great to see all of you!