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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

High Weald Smugglers Marathon - Race report

For the 2nd time in as many weeks I bumped into George Fairbrother at the start, again with Michael. George had run Ranscombe the day before so I was mighty impressed at his BIG weekend. A small field had turned out for what is well known as a technical and often tough marathon. True to form, in the first mile, after the lead 3 had gone off the front like a bunch of Nagasaki Greyhounds, the next group of runners, including George's Orpington Roadrunners mate Dave.

I like to be on the directions as soon as I can on these self-navigate LDWA events. Readers will know that I have succumbed to others' mistakes at these events and ended up in a pickle. So, henceforth Dave and I, joined by a chap from Folkstone were on the money with the directions, with me calling the shots....absolutely the way I like it. 

Anyone who knows the Weald will know that it is not flat. It is deceptively hilly. Not big like the 850 footers of the SDW or the 750 footers of the NDW, but the perpetual undulations that resulted in nearly 3000ft did mount up. The countryside was awesome, the weather warm. I opted to travel light with just a bottle and no belt or bag. Dave (of 260+ marathons) got a good clip on, forgetting about the runners in front and had a good chit-chat and bimbled along. There was only one point where we had to back track, check, double check and make sure we were going the right way. Other than that, we hardly put a foot wrong in the gorgeous Kent countryside. 

Everything was going well until 24 miles in. Checkpoints that were well stocked and very friendly came and went.....then down the hill blasted Robert Cameron-Wood. Robert was in 2nd place and then got lost. We must have overtaken him in that time. We had a little chit chat and then continued to run. Dave et al had been tiring over the last 4-5 miles and so I decided I would aim to keep up with Robert. We blasted the last 3.8 miles together, knowing that we were in 2nd place. I found it very hard to keep up but just managed to hang on on the steep uphills, catching up on the flat. We crossed the prizes for the time.....5 hrs 38, but a nice cuppa at the finish line and the usual LDWA certificate. A podium is a podium!!!! Yesssssssss!

South Downs Marathon Race report

Coming off the back of the biggest mileage I've done since being married, the marathons that come up are tired ones on the back of 50+ mile weeks and I'm quite sanguine about the times to be honest. I've been fitting in some fairly slow buggy miles with little Audrey too, which although is good aerobic exercise up Crystal Palace hill, is not great for posture or technique. Today was about hills, getting the miles in and enjoying the run.

So I set off for the run early. It is always a difficult one, getting to QE2 park, then a bus for an hour, then sitting around for 90 mins+ for the race to start. The I bumped in to none other than George Fairbrother!!!! George was with Mike Bennett, who I had also not seen in ages. George and I first met in December 2008 at the Doyen of the Downs...incidentally our first ultra which was also the first ultras of Dave 'Immune' Hegarty, Jerry 'Jezza' Smallwood and my good buddy and other Irish friend Sue Byrne. George I do believe I have known you longer than my wife!!!

Anyway we had a good catch up and a great thing too. Now, onto the race itself. I bumped into none other than 1st place podium (robbing Ewan Dunlop and myself top prize) at the NC50, Johnny Melbourne himself. He was going for it. He eventually came in 11th place. Awesome work. I went off feeling good. Usually (this was my 5th time of running) I start off crap and improve as the race goes on. I felt OK and even on the long slog up from Slindon to the Downs, was comfortable. At the top by the masts and CP1, I felt good and blasted the next 10 or so miles to mile 17, feeling positive and great. I'd brought 2 gels, not remembering that there is just water and a few gels available at CP3 and 4.....although I couldn't stomach them. Tired, I dug deep and on tired legs, began the cruise home. I'd run much of the marathon alone, something I am not a fan of, as I love a chit chat whilst running. Harting Downs to the finish was just about that.....finishing. The last 3-4 miles are usually a blast, with a couple of 400 footers and then a long descent to the finish. My long descent was long......11min+ miles.....just hanging in there on the empty, a little light headed. I got passed lots in the final 2-3 miles which is pretty unusual and sums up perhaps a 15+ min loss of time over the the last 5-6 miles or so.

That said.....Marathon completed and a happy boy at the end of it. George STORMED in only 90 seconds behind me. Excellent work fella!