The Ox was my first ever marathon, back in May 2015, I have very fond memories from this race so I can’t stay away and this year was my third go 😀
Driving to Wiltshire from Godalming on a Friday night is always fun, but to be fair it wasn’t too bad and we got there just after 8pm.
The best thing was that we still managed to put our tent up before the sunset. Result!
As per the tradition we went to the Race HQ where I registered and got my race number and then joined all the running folk in a massive beer tent for some great local brew.
We may have stayed up a little bit too late for my liking, but time flies when you’re having fun, and ‘Hey! It’s only a marathon’ 😉
It was the beginning of May but the night was really cold, to say that I’m not great in the cold would be a massive understatement… Despite having a great sleeping bag that can take on Scotland, I still got cold… well… in fact freezing. I was shivering and couldn’t sleep for ages, I didn’t know what to do, I had to be up and run a marathon in a few hours! This wasn’t ideal… I didn’t know what to do, I woke up Jamie looking for compassion and advice, I needed to warm up quickly and go back to sleep to be able to complete the race. Jamie is always helpful and having someone give you a cuddle when your situation feels like ‘the end of the world’ is always really good. What I had to do was get up around 2am put all my clothes on including jeans and my down jacket, got back in my sleeping bag and cried myself to sleep (turns out it actually is a thing!).
The morning came far too quickly and it was time to get ready and run. I got ready and had a Clif bar for breakfast. Time for a coffee.
Jamie, Tom and I headed towards the Race HQ (it’s not far, just in the next field) to find coffee and water for my run, I had just over half an hour to the race start. Then we heard the race start signal and saw all the runners going passed!
What?! Wait! Noooo! Did I get confused about the race start time? I didn’t really care about the coffee at that point but I didn’t have any water for the run… “Right! Calm down!” I thought to myself, “you are doing laps, there will be a water station soon. You will be fine. Everything is fine.”
So I left the boys and went ahead… in the wrong direction! Fortunately someone stopped me and directed me where I was actually supposed to go.
“Stop panicking, everything is fine. Focus!” I thought to myself. The problem was, I knew the area and remembered the route from other races and it was in fact the correct direction but for the next four laps, not the first one! For a marathon distance the first lap was 12km, so additional 2km-ish so that we didn’t come short on Strava or Endomondo or whatever you are using 😉 and then all other laps were 10km.
Once I started running, I was fine. A lot of familiar faces en route and a lot of people in wonderful outfits. The route went out onto the fields and I remembered that in previous years the Ox finish was from the opposite direction. We were very fortunate to be coming down that hill rather than going up it this time.
I saw Jenny (Lisa’s mum, do you remember Lisa? I did the last 10km of the GHM with her) and said hello, I really like the whole Boorman family, they are lovely.
The first 2km already had some hills in them and I knew it was just the beginning. This was a WSR race, they don’t really do flat.
Soon enough I was back near the Race HQ and starting the first 10km lap (the way I originally wanted to go). Like I said, I knew the route, well… not 100% but a lot of the places I’ve been to before or ran parts of it and now it was just a case of ‘stitching them together’.
It wasn’t as muddy as in previous years or even as it was at Larmer Tree (Bits of the Ox and Larmer are the same) and that was very lucky. This area can get really muddy and it’s that kind of mud that sucks all the energy out of you. So we were lucky.
Suddenly I heard ‘Czesc’ (Polish for Hello) and this is how I met Maciej.
He knew me from my blog which was really nice and we ran for a bit together. We were going passed the golf course and I was waiting for the downhill bit that was just around the corner. It’s technical with loose stones but it is so much fun (you know I like downhills). We got to an open bit of woodland chatting about races. Maciej was going to do a few more laps than me.
The woodland looked beautiful, it was still early spring and all the green was so juicy and beautiful. There were still bluebells in places, which I don’t remember from previous races and in other areas there was already wild garlic. Nom!
I knew that the ups and downs would be taking their toll soon, I was walking up all the hills and having fun on the downs.
I loved how the route wiggled between the trees and bushes, it always makes it very interesting for me, especially when I have to watch my step 😉
Eventually we turned left and I knew what was coming… it was this long stretch and an open bit of woodland with a track running between rows of trees. Do you know which bit I mean? It’s never-ending, it has the slightest of inclines throughout and it kills you (gently with its song) and it’s my nemesis… you may run it on the first lap but you will probably walk a little bit more each time you do it. I don’t quite know what it is about it, but it’s just… hard…
I have to say I was relieved when we turned off right (thanks for the sign Andy!) and we’re back in the beautiful woodland.
This was the cool and fun bit, I may have also been overexcited due to not being on the Nemesis Stretch of Doom 😀
But guess what was even better, just around the corner was the Love Station! Fantastic! I love seeing the familiar and friendly faces and you know that whatever happens, they will look after you. Oh yeah! And there’s cake! 😉
I carried on down the hill through the woodland and admired the wild garlic. The day was brightening up also which was fab. This section was absolutely gorgeous. I couldn’t help but take pictures!
And then I saw Chris who got an overexcited reaction from me in response to ‘Hello’:
(just be warned, if I’m left unattended I may do this to you too!)
I then left Chris and went ahead turning right into a plantation of trees and then turned left to throw myself into another lovely downhill, the only thing was… I knew too well what was coming up next. The hill started very gradually and became steeper and steeper. It wasn’t actually too bad, I just never run hills, there’s no point in wasting my energy, and I’d rather save it for the following 3 laps!
Once the hill flattened out I was getting closer and closer to the fields… could that mean that the start/finish point was coming up? Well… almost, just one more small hill to go, maybe after that 😉
I could finally see the tents in the distance! Yes! Just through the field, over the finish line. I hang around, looking for Jamie for a while but couldn’t see him anywhere so I carried on.
One more lap and I will be over half way. I was trying to take it steady to make sure that I had enough strength to continue 😉
The good thing about laps is that on each one you meet different people. It’s a nice mixture of friends and new faces (aka friends to be). I’d have never thought that I would learn to appreciate laps so much. Oh! And don’t forget that I was stopping after a marathon, but this was a 12h challenge and a lot of people were doing ultras and crazy people were carrying on for as long as the time limit allowed. I reckon that this is the best way to try to complete an ultra, you are never too far from home and you can stop anytime (ish 😉 )
At the end of the lap (running through the field towards the start/finish) I met Matt. Matt said “I recognise that tattoo!” From one word to another we figured out that we both did the Fox but when Matt said that it was a great race and so close to home, I asked him where was he from. Guess what? We live in the same town! It seems that sometimes you need to go to Wiltshire to meet someone from Godalming!
Somehow Jamie and I managed to miss each other at the finish of second lap despite texting. I was quite miffed, as I was getting tired and out of all the familiar faces, I only really wanted to see one at that point. Anyway… I had to carry on.
2 laps to go and with every step I was closer to ‘home’! I was getting tired obviously but I felt generally OK and I definitely warmed up after the night 😉
When I got to the Love Station I had some squash, despite them having the bar open already 😉
And Rob was there taking pictures, so I took a selfie with him :*
This time Jamie and I managed not to miss each other and Tom and Der Ya were there too. I had a bit of revitalising cider and stopped for pictures and hugs (sorry for all the sweat and leaving your lip balm really salty Der Ya!). We also decided to aim to meet at the Love Station. I knew there was a shortcut somewhere through the woods!
Last lap. Whoop! Last lap is usually ‘easy’ for me. Yes, I am physically very tired but my mind is very happy I am running to finish. It’s not far. 10km to go! The Final Countdown. I always break it down in some way. For this race it was getting to the Love Station and then getting to the finish. And once I got to the Love Station I was practically home.
That’s when I met Andrew. He was struggling a bit, he was meant to be doing 50 miles but wasn’t feeling well and decided to settle for a marathon (as you do). This was probably the only reason why I got a chance to run with him. Usually there’s just some dust and he’s gone 😉
I really enjoyed running with Andrew. It was so lovely after doing most of this race on my own to have someone to talk to and take my mind off running (and pain).
We met lovely Helen who looked stunning in her outfit. I really admire people who can run in fancy dress over long distances… Hats off!
Andrew and I finally met Jamie, Der Ya and Tom about 2.5km-ish from the finish. It turned out that they walked the route in reverse rather than taking a shortcut. That was a shame as they were walking back, I would have been finished. Not a big deal, it would have given me enough time to settle after running for a bit.
Andrew and I carried on walking the last two hills and running whenever we could. It was lovely to cross the finish line together. Unfortunately Andrew had to do additional 2km loop to get to a marathon distance as he didn’t do that at the start.
I got my medal from Julie, thank you :*
Felt sorry for Duncan, who was putting himself through misery for charity
And then got my goodie bag from Jenny, it was pretty much all edible (not the bag, the contents), so guess what I did? I ate EVERYTHING!
And more food:
Quick catch up with the Race Director…
… and before I knew it Jamie, Der Ya and Tom were back and we had some food and cider. Looooooved the cider, it’s local, really nice! And now WSR do a cider frolic as well 😀
Lisa came over to catch up and say that all this running is my fault 😉 She got a season ticket for WSR races for Christmas and then her dad entered too and then her mum, ‘because missing out on stuff is far worse than running itself’. I love that! You rock Boormans!
Then I saw Danny The Legend, this was his six-hundred-and-sixty-something marathon!
In the fumes of Cider I managed to convince Jamie and Der Ya to do the Light Ox (10km-ish) the next day. Result!
We had so much fun that evening watching runners coming through the start/finish. When the 12h challenge finished, the Dark Ox Started and it looked amazing. I love the Dark Ox and I would have done it but I was just worried that I’d get really cold afterwards and have another sleepless night.
In the morning Der Ya, Jamie and I aligned at the start line of the Light Ox. Jamie went ahead and I decided to run the whole race with Der Ya to keep her company. You see what I didn’t know about was that this was supposed to be her first ever 10K. Ever-ever! I felt a bit bad about the cider fume persuasion and a little bit worried! I didn’t want to break a friend!
In the end we got around just fine and below the 1:30 target that Der Ya set herself! Awesome. I was so happy for her. We obviously finished together and I was so proud of her achievement.
Here we all are with Andy and our medals:
Thinking about it, I only found the Ox in 2015 by coincidence. I liked it because it had an animal in the name and the medal looked cool… I thought it would be a good first marathon before challenging Snowdon… I gained so much more than just a medal, now I have a whole WSR Family.
Love you all to bits!