This marathon began with a 4:45am alarm call in a field in Dorset. I got up, got dressed into clean running kit and road trainers and made myself a coffee from hot water I'd boiled yesterday and put into a flask last night. Then I disassembled my tent by torch light and hurled it in the back of my car. I'd allowed an hour to do all this but in the end it only took 45 minutes before I started the engine as quietly as possible and drove out of the safe, lovely festival atmosphere of White Star Running and out into the world. Dorset's back roads are pretty quiet at that time of day on a Sunday morning.
I drove along the A31, past some familiar places. It was stunning. The stars; the dawn; the views. I had to pull over to take this photo, in real life it was just breathtaking:
I collected it without incident, got another coffee, used the loos and then tramped back to my car. Picked up all my stuff, attached my number and drank my coffee. I crossed the field again to the race start and found a nice lady who helped me tape up where my bra straps had chafed against my back yesterday - a perennial problem that isn't very fixable single-handed. We then waited for the warm-up to start (I hate warm ups!) and I noticed loads of people wearing the green race t-shirt. This is never a good idea as you can't possibly know if it's going to chafe like a bastard. Good luck running 26 miles if it does!
They then announced the different pens for race start - the nice lady (I think she was called Lisa) went off to the sub 4:30 pen and I lurked in the slow and steady pen. I was busy taking selfies when I was interrupted by a woman wanting to know where I'd got my race vest:Crafty Fox yesterday! We had a nice little chat and started the run together along with a bunch of his friends which was lovely. Again we lasted a few miles before getting separated. He asked me what time I was hoping for - I think I said five to five-and-a-half hours as I wanted to be faster than yesterday as it was much flatter.
The first half of the race was mostly within the forest and was very pretty indeed:
The New Forest, as you probably know, is famous for its ponies. I have met them many times before and they can be a bit of a pain in the bum. I overhead another runner saying they had to stop the race a few years ago because the ponies were chasing runners and it was dangerous (!!) However this year I only saw ponies close up once and it was here. They ran straight across the road with little regard for the runners. The man next to me said, "I wanted to see ponies but I didn't wanna see them THAT close!"
Shortly afterwards I saw this cow, when I first saw it it was on the path which was only a narrow footpath but it had lurched into the ferns by the time I got my camera out:
2. I've seen this sign or others along the same lines at marathons before, I find it less offensive when it's hand-written. This was an official sign printed by the organisers - definitely Not Okay #metoo
3. There were 337 women in the marathon and 647 men. Even if 10% of the male field were gay (statistically probable), the total number of people who this sign might be applicable to remains less than half the field.
4. If you change it to "Run like there's a hot girl in front of you and a creepy girl behind" it somehow loses all its power. I doubt men would be motivated by that, nor fearful for that matter. So much for gender equality, eh?
5. There were many other, non-offensive signs scattered around the course. I was pretty humourless about all of them (this was the 40th time I'd run the marathon distance - "smile if you're not wearing any underwear" ceases to be funny after the 10th time). Nevertheless all of the others weren't actively offensive so it was surprising that this one got through.
I emailed the organisers after the race about it, as I was still huffing and puffing days later (mostly due to 1. above) and to their credit, they not only replied but said:
"Sorry you found the sign in question offensive and if its offensive to one runner then its one too many so we will remove for 2020. None of the funny signs are supposed to be taken seriously or literally, purely there for runners to read and help take their mind off the pain."
Fair play to them - at least they listened.
Anyway that little rant kept my brain busy for a few more kilometres. Meanwhile, the race dragged on. Road, road, more road. So glad I wore my road shoes. I was still making good time so with 5km to go I decided it was time to get a move on. I started overtaking people. I find my endurance is better than most marathon runners (it's a side effect of running ultras) and it's quite satisfying to overtake people who have been ahead of me all race.Windermere back in May). God knows why I thought this would be a good idea when I was already grumpy and it was my second marathon in 2 days and it wasn't even flat! Nevertheless, I gritted my teeth and cracked on. The last 3km were my fastest of the whole race:
I spent the last few kilometres distracting myself from the pain by thinking of all the things I was going to tell Garmin when I finished (they were sponsoring the marathon and had a stand on site). I have a long and bitter history with all my Garmins that have gone wrong/had useless features/the fact that their customer service is literally the worst ever.
Here's a finish photo (that I wasn't prepared to pay money for) that shows exactly how much fun I was having:
Even after getting offsite, the traffic was almost at a standstill trying to leave the New Forest. It took me 90 minutes to get a couple of miles.