Heart of England Forest Marathon (27.5 miles ish) – Race report by David Phillips.
Well it’s many years since I did something as hard as this event. The HQ was at Henley in Arden school just 3 miles from our house so no problems for the 0830 start. There was also a 17 mile event and both were for walkers and runners and for both events an 0830 or 0930 start time were options.
So I joined up with Daniel and Mary Connolly and off we went at 0830 hrs following instructions that for the next 8 hours would take us along the Arden, Heart of England and Millennium Ways plus many other paths, woods, tracks, trails and even some lanes and roads.
It wasn’t long before we realised that this was not going to be a “stroll in the park” as we trugged along bridle paths, fields, tracks, all uphill and down dale. It was inevitably slow as we had to follow written instructions where to go (ahead to gate, turn right at large oak tree, pass pond on right, through kissing gate, cross bridge, follow stream etc.). Plus these instruction were all abbreviated as in X cross, SLOT straight line of travel, TR turn right etc.( remember my Pork Pie and Cider route instructions???). This might seem OK but when you have gone off course the nightmare scenarios start as you have to get back to the correct place. Also the instructions were often confusing and do need sorting for next year. It wasn’t long before DANIEL and Mary went way off course as DANIEL was also using a Garmin that seemed unable to cope with the TRs and TLs and in one place we saw them heading back towards the group I was with after their detour.
So from Henley we headed towards Ullenhall, Redditch and Studley circumnavigating Studley Castle. Then on towards Alcester where we ran through the town for a while but soon off road again and on towards Haselor and Aston Cantlow.
What was superb were the 5 check points where food and drinks were available and even bacon rolls at checkpoint 2. I reckon most people spent about 10 mins at each of these resting, chatting, eating and sorting the route.
One of the other problems was the number of styles we had to cross and I reckon they got higher as the course progressed. Plus to slow us down (if we needed any reason) were the number of kissing gates we encountered and the very rough earth fields we had to cross.
So on we plodded in cool and on and off rainy weather and eventually at check point 5 at Morton Bagot I met Dan and Mary again who had sped off and left me in the forest some miles back. This was meant to be at 24 miles so we were nearly home but as it transpired it was over 3 miles in very difficult terrain to the finish but at least we made it.
Back at the school the canteen provided as much food as anyone could eat and all this plus what was on offer at the checkpoints was free. Also at the school were Massey men John Aylmer and Bob Rainsley who had done the 17 mile walk.
The other good news was that for each entrant 4 trees will be planted in the newly formed Heart of England Forest so I guess a day well spent-yes I mean a full day! Also the views, scenery and stunning scenery were just fabulous all day.
Then a rush home as we were off to Weatherspoons then to St Mary’s Church Warwick in the evening for a choral concert of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610. (listen on youtube). So what a stunning day.
Results on what was about 28 miles including the extra distances covered by going off course several times:
Danniel and Mary Connolly about 7hrs 55 mins.
David Phillips about 8hrs 1 min.
Joanne Stacey-???. Probably a good time as she sped past me in the middle of nowhere having started at 0930!
This was the 3rd Forest marathon and it was very well supported and organised in part by Kenilworth Runners and especially ex Massey man Dave Pettifer so come on you lot let’s make it a Red and White Forest Marathon in 2018. Even Sphinx and Northbrook vests were visible today.