Larmer Tree Marathon. 11-03-18

This marathon has been on my wall planner and in my online diary for months!  In fact when I signed up for the WSR season ticket I sensibly – yes I am using that word about myself! – even informed Mary of the event.

At the time it was months away – so my relaxed attitude meant that only midweek did I worry about a hotel!  However this proved a bonus as Nicholas was away on a World Scout Jamboree Camp in the pouring rain, and I needed a hotel room for three!  Luckily this was sorted fairly cheaply and fairly close to the Larmer Tree Gardens – perhaps for the other 9 White Star Marathons I have booked for this year I should check if I have booked camping or a hotel.  Then again leaving it to the last minute adds to the fun!

Supporting a trail marathon isn’t really possible, and standing by the finish for hours as I trudge through mud in the middle of deepest darkest Wiltshire and Dorset isn’t the most fun so Mary and Beth kindly dropped me off at 7:30am as they went off on a Mothering Sunday outing with the promise of returning 6 hours after the start of the race to collect me and drive me home.  It would be an epic race report if they had just abandoned me.  However as I am sat legs splayed on my sofa moaning as I type, it is fair to say that I was collected and driven back as I snored away for most of the 2 1/2hour journey.

Number collected, I had nearly a 40 minutes to kill before the start of the race.  By the race collection a local running shop had a stand of new running backpacks – after moaning about mine being to flappy and big I took the chance to try on the ones they had.  Last season’s sale version fitted a treat and with so much off it was a real bargain!  So I bought it in the spot – removed the label and transferred my race pack contents to my new bag – What better way to test new kit than on a long run!  Anyway I was wearing brand new trail shoes so more new kit wouldn’t make any difference.

Having done a few events with White Star Running before, you get to know fellow runners maybe not by name but by kit.  Or in my case nipples.  Being greeted with, ‘Hello Nipple Man!’ Is probably not your customary even in Dorset but rather shows how bad the blood stains and my nipples must have been at the Bad Cow last year!

The race started shortly after 8:30, in dry cool conditions, perfect running weather for me.  The first 8 miles flew along – slightly faster than I should probably have gone but I can never get pacing right.  However I did fall in with a crowd of runners from SRC Bristol acting almost as an honour guard for Teresa doing her 100th marathon.  Strangely I saw her do her flake run (99th!) last week at Eton Dorney.  Chatting away really passed the time and made the running effortless?

Just before the bottom of Pregnant Sheep Hill (Don’t ask me!) I decided to take a nice roll in the mud as I caught a flint / tree root / dip – who knows what.  My Mr Bump marathon running vest has been well earned over the years!  I quickly righted myself and started to run again – back the way I came!  After being reoriented by fellow runners started the arduous slog up the hill.

I wish I could say I ran up the hill like a youthful mountain goat full of the joys of spring – but it was more huffing and puffing, hands on the thighs pushing!  I was actually delighted with my 17.40 minute mile!

After having caught back up with the SRC group and enjoyed an offered BBQ Pringle at just after 13 miles I couldn’t sustain the pace they were making, so they ran off into the forest as I lumbered on.

The joy if these friendly trail events meant it wasn’t long before I fell into step with others and for a few miles we chatted and kept each other going.

Mile after mile passed admittedly more slowly than the first 8 as the constant slog through the gloopy mud sapped the energy from your feet.

Just after the aid station at 16miles we had a cross roads but no signs!  So far the route had been sign posted perfectly but locals are not always friendly and some might take down signs!  It has unfortunately happened before at other races!

With no other runners to follow we had a decision to make left, right or straight on… As the route straight on was uphill and had a  bridleway sign the small band of merry runners decided that this was the most likely of route so we ran on up the hill, off the road and onto a track.  Using skills of Sherlock Holmes I felt the muddy path was rather clean – free of hundreds of feet to churn it up.  A quick question to a pair of walkers coming the other way confirmed matters. We had made an error!  So we turned around and headed back the way we came scanning up and down the roads for any hint of signs.  After seeing nothing we felt the best course of action was to head back to the aid station and ask there.

Suddenly driving towards us up the slope appeared a White Star 4×4!  We were rescued.

A van had been parked blocking the sign just after the aid station pointing us up a hill, we shouldn’t even have got to the cross roads!

With only a mile detour we were back on track heading towards the delights of the infamous WSR Lovestation, scotch eggs, cocktail sausages and sweet treats to be washed down with cider or flat coke accompanied by a hug or a kind word.  My nipples and Bad Cow race mess up were even remembered here – even enquiring after Mary (Probably wondering if she had divorced me yet after another marathon disaster or two!)

Scooped up by two White Star regulars just after the Lovestation I was pushed on to run and walk, tackling another monster hill (or two) and a couple of deadly slippery downhills whilst discussing parkrun!  Despite the warning from SatNav – the runner who had memorised the route from previous run – the downhill to the final aid station was nearly my downfall – literally!

I was warned that the narrow path, the camber on the downhill, combined with the slipperiness of the route – even if it was dry – made this descent hard.  So I was sensible – walked the whole way.  Well almost!

Half down my leg slipped from under me and I was felled like a large elephant shot by a poacher!  With a few stylish rolls (I did almost expect to end at the bottom of the hill embedded in the fence of under the aid station table.)  I came to a rest.  I was mudded and shaken but apart from a few aches I was in one piece.

Pulling myself up and back onto the path I kept going.  I was asked by another runner if I was alright to continue, but at 25 miles with only 2 to go who or what is going to stop someone trying to complete the race.

Thankfully the last few miles continued uneventfully again sharing the journey with a runner planning his 50th Birthday and 100th marathon for November 2020 in New York!

As I crossed the line Mary and Beth were waiting to escort me to the hot meal that waited the finishers.  Wearing my medal as I tried to eat the pasta bake I realised that my new shoes and new pack had caused no issue during the run however my well-worn running boxers on the other hand have shredded bits of me you probably don’t want to know or ask about!

So before I have to brave moving and further chaffing as I hunt for the sudacrem, I had better order a few new pairs of boxers, but with my marathon organisational skills it might be October before I get around to it!