Saturday, 21 February 2015

Wendover in the snow - A Trailscape Marathon

Driving up the A41 on a cold Saturday morning, I was greeted with a carpet of snow on the fields and mist covering the trees on the hilltops.  I was looking forward to running on The Ridgeway as it had been far too long since I last ran in this part of the country.

Trailscape appears to be new to race organisation, this being the last in a four race series.  With a small marathon field of 53, plus a half marathon and a 10k starting later on the same course, everything seemed well planned at the start.  The marshals at registration were friendly and encouraging, always a good sign.  Most of the runners appeared very serious and I thought I'd be running near the back of this one.

We set off in the cold, but with the sun already out.  It was going to be a good day.  After a warning of a stile at the far corner of the starting field, I didn't want to get stuck in a queue, so set off quickly.  The queue never materialised but I was enjoying the quick pace and was in sixth, then dropping a few places as we climbed out of Wendover.  This race didn't mess about, with a two mile climb to warm us up, and a nice steady single track up through the woods.  This was fun!  Then we hit some steep ups and downs through Wendover Woods, on an exceptionally well planned trail.

There was no chance of getting lost, always being in sight of red and white tape tied to the trees.  A while later, out of the woods and into the sunshine I was feeling good and picked off a couple of runners, having lost a few places earlier.  I settled into about 14th, where I would remain for most of the race.  One more climb with so much mud it was funny - slopping sideways and wearing down my legs.  Then a flying 100 metre descent back to Wendover for a quick bottle refill before the slog up the other side of the valley.

This was the least fun section for me.  The hill just knocked the wind out of me a little and a couple of runners passed me.  But I recovered at the top, picked up the pace and gradually settled back into a rhythm.  I was not largely running on my own, catching sight of other runners every now and then, and passing a few of the half marathoners who had set off later.  Encouraged by the marshals and another water station, I pushed on over several more steep ups and downs.

Past Chequers and then Coombe Hill was tough, but I knew the end was near and I didn't want to let anyone catch me now.  Last water station, more support from the marshals and other runners and then I was on familiar ground, past the monument and a lovely descent on grass.  The organisers had put in a sneaky uphill through the woods, rather than completing the descent into Wendover, and then finally onto a tarmac downhill section to the finish line.  My calves were cramping now and I had no choice but to stop and stretch a few times.

Trailscape Wendover Marathon - medal
I crossed the line in 9th place out of an eventual 51 finisher, collected my medal then back to the cricket pavilion for the goodybag, t-shirt and refuelling.  This was an epic marathon - perfect organisation, with friendly and supportive marshals and other runners.  I plan to sign up for the next series in the Autumn.

Here is the route of my 74th marathon, completed in 4:22:15.  Not my fastest, but one of my all time favourites.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

New Year Frolic marathon

A truly niche marathon.  Twenty one of us started from the Generals Arms in Black Notley on a cold and windy Sunday morning.  We were issued with a route card with four grid references and after a brief introduction of "expect the unexpected" we were off.

This was an entirely new area to me and as a group we quickly found the first checkpoint - a clipper on the back of an information board.  I didn't hang about, already having chosen by route to the second clipper.  The third one was in a car park at Danbury common, reached by a pleasant wooded trail.  Here my route card was taken away and I was told NOT to visit the last grid reference.  Instead I was given a new route card for the next stage.  It took me a minute to determine which direction to set off in, and I was soon heading along an icy road.

This was the largest loop of the day, heading across bitterly cold fields, slopping through mud, but strangely enjoying it all.  I forgot to refill my water bottle at the first pub checkpoint and was thirsty on returning to the Generals Arms at about 12 miles.  Here I received another route card, covering an easy to navigate 8 miles back to Danbury common.  I added a slight detour to avoid a field of horses but otherwise kept a steady pace, enjoying this section and running entirely on my own.  I thought I was in second place at this point.  At Danbury, on reading my next route card I was disappointed to see it was a reverse of the previous eight miles!  I passed one oncoming runner after maybe fifteen minutes, but saw no other runners until a mile from the end of this section - surprising as these two were almost two hours behind me at the point I passed them.

Back at the pub I picked up my final route card for the last section, only five miles but with some steep hills which wore me down.  I was glad to finish this one and get out of the cold and into the pub for a meal.

Of the 21 starters, only 10 finished and I was in second place in 4:57:51, a long way behind the leader in 4:19 (he also won last week's Braintree Boggle).

Here is the route for marathon #73: