Why? Why? Why?
The reason was I wanted to do a marathon before I was 30 and when I spotted this one, saw it was on the South Downs and on a Saturday, I knew it was the one for me. I’ve always loved the beautiful scenery and landscape on the Downs having walked the whole route from Winchester to Eastbourne 5 years ago.
My training for this event started as soon as I signed up to do it back in February. I never looked at the advice given by the running magazines as I knew the pressures at school juggled with the unfinished hockey season would prevent me from keeping to them.
Thus it was that I was spotted by fellow teachers and athletes running around the streets of Sutton and Epsom at rather early hours on Saturday mornings. The more bizarre parts of my training included being asked to walk past horses and their riders in Langley Vale because the horses would be scared of me – am I that frightening at 8am??! I also had my first experience of hitting the wall at 16 miles with 7 left to go before arriving back home. I’m glad that didn’t happen in the race. Although I did all the training on my own, what kept me going in the end was knowing that Charlie would be on the course with me.
The big day arrived. It had been a wet and windy night and the rain was falling during breakfast. Would trainers be suitable on this course?
Although I would like to describe the stunning views that I passed during those 26 miles – yes I did see more than the heels of the person in front – it’s very difficult remembering each part. I remember some stretches of treeless plains and other stretches of grassland. Then there were the hills – what were they for? Still, walking up them seemed to be fairly normal so I joined in.
One particularly bad stretch for me, where the sheep trough comes into the story, was between 18 and 19 miles – I was hot, sticky, hungry and thirsty. The last drinks station had been at 17 miles and the next was at 20. My hydration pack was running low. I got halfway up the hill and found this trough full of water. There was only one solution – dip my arms into it and splash the liquid over the rest of me. I felt much better and I hadn’t been seen either as the next person was over half a mile away. To resolve the hunger problem I remembered that I had a Brunch bar in my pack so I nibbled on that for the rest of the walk up the hill. With renewed strength I was back to running again.
For me, the rain started about 4 miles from the end. It was pleasant and refreshing - like a monsoon. The feeling of joy as I turned the final corner of the park and then entered the A3 underpass. There was the finish line ahead, with Nathan (boyfriend) and a large proportion of my family including mum and dad (!!) to cheer me on to that line where it was announced I was the 5th female to cross the line. I couldn’t stop smiling, even when I was shivering so much because of the downpour. I had done it and I’d done it in an excellent time – 3hrs 48. I had also been the 1st lady under 35.
Charlie's version of events....
Okay, my experiences:
Having trained for the London Marathon in April under a fairly strict training programme, my approach to the South Downs Marathon was much more laid back. Training had to work around military commitments which, though demanding, were not ideal for marathon training.
The marathon itself was a refreshing experience: running in a beautiful part of the country with few but dedicated supporters was welcome from the hustle and bustle of running in central London. Though I'd entered the trailwalker (100Km race along the South Downs) four years in between had made the hills seem much smaller in my mind, it didn't take long to remind my legs how hilly it is.
The run however was very pleasant, I'm much happier in heavy rain than hot sticky sunshine- fortunate as it bucketed down for most of the race. There was a lot of support between the runners with the inevitable comments of 'are we nearly there yet? (in the voice of a 5 year old on a very long car journey!)' and, 'don't worry there's only a few more hills to go....'
I was most grateful to Rachel’s family turning up with enough food to feed just about every competitor in the race!