Over the course of the weekend I drove around 600 miles over about 15 hours, which is something like twenty times my average weekly mileage. It varied from "OK" to "Horrific". My mum said I should get a medal for long distance driving, nevermind the running, and at times it did feel a bit like that!
Again I broke the trip up by driving down to Milton Keynes after work (absolutely horrific journey, with the M6 closed twice - bloody gin lorry) then drove down to Dorset (which was long but OK as it was in the middle of the day).
I arrived at the site around 5pm, after stopping in a pub to write the previous week's race report (!) It had rained on and off all afternoon but was lovely from the moment I arrived. I got my tent set up straight away and then wandered over to the 'race village'.
I picked up my race number from the very friendly folks in the tent, laughed at how I'd mistakenly thought this race was by the seaside and brought my swimming costume (I was mixing it up with another of their races, Run Jurassic) and scouted out the scene. There were a variety of hot food stands, a bar, hot showers, a water point and plenty of clean toilets. Excellent.I went back to the car, sorted out all my race stuff ready for the next day and then went and got some food and a beer. I joined a girl with pink hair sitting at one of the tables and we ended up chatting for a couple of hours. Her name was Lucy, she'd run lots of White Star races before including the half marathon version of this race last year and enjoyed it so much she was doing the full this time. By the time I left the tent it was getting dark, but sleeping on site meant I didn't need to get up until 8am which is a 2 hour lie in for me!
Shortly after setting off, the course very quickly went up a couple of savage hills with overgrown grass and hidden potholes to add to the potential-ankle-breaking fun.This hill was called 'Pointless Hill' because it could easily be avoided by running along the road. However up we went, and down the other side. I loved the downhill which was steep and technical and I overtook a dozen people on the way down. One day I'm inevitably going to face plant due to excess bravado, but I get such a kick out of downhills, it's often the most fun bit of the entire race, and this race had loads of them.
It was also around this time I bumped into this chap, Andy, who was from Southampton. He'd driven almost the entire way to Dorset (~2 hours) this morning before realising he'd left his running shoes at home. So what did he do...? Ran it anyway of course! Apparently the road sections were quite painful and he didn't think he'd ever forget his trainers again ... but seriously what a good sport he was. Not sure I'd've been so brave! I did check what size he was as I'd brought 3 pairs but to no avail.
Shortly after this came the Love Station™(sadly not pictured) which was a special aid station which had all sorts of extra treats. There was a chap in a fox costume, cake, crisps, coke, sweets etc plus lots of people clapping and milling around. It was around this point that I caught up with Lucy and we ran a couple of miles together, conveniently on her favourite point in the whole course. Just after the aid station you come out on this road, there's some truly stunning views in the distance and then you turn left and run across the most beautiful hills:
™ the second time round, I heard one of the volunteers offering beer and schnapps to a runner, who declined. I asked if she was joking, she said, "Would we joke about something like that? Do you want one?" I took her up on a schnapps. It was AMAZING! It reminded me of schnapps when skiing to give yourself a kick up the arse and it totally worked. Whilst I was drinking it, I overheard a guy saying he was running New Forest marathon tomorrow. Aha! I told him I was doing it too, he asked me why and we had a quick chat about my counties challenge. He left the aid station before me so I chased him down and demanded to know why he was running two marathons in two days also. (The short answer whenever you ask that question is, we're all running obsessed crazies. But there's always a long answer too).
His name was Ian and he's decided to try and bag 100 marathons before he's 40. Impressively, he decided this when he'd only done 2 or 3, which meant he was able to start a blog about it, the fricken awesomely-titled Running Selfie Wanker. We talked about our blogs, what huge narcissists we are, what a pain in the arse it is trying to take loads of photos for your blog whilst running, the messy politics of running clubs, about how (un)prepared we were for tomorrow and on and on. A few miles passed easily. Here we are:
I lost him in the last mile or so as I decided to try and get under 5 hours 30 so had some fun with the last few downhills but didn't quite make it... still 05:32:12 isn't bad! I'd already heard that you get an amazing pint glass as well as a lovely medal for finishing this race - first race I've ever done that had such a funky 'prize' and I absolutely LOVE it!
White Star Running races as the whole thing was brilliant from beginning to end. Thank you !
One final pic taken by the official photographer (obviously photos were free - this race literally couldn't be better if it tried).