Sunday 4 October 2015

The Forest of England Marathon 3 Oct 2015

I completed my very ever first, my very first ever, marathon on 3 October 2015. This was the Forest of England Marathon that started in Henley-in-Arden. A superb marathon organised by the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA).
I had prepared for this marathon by running 1-4 times a week for the past 18 or so weeks. On top of that I would cycle on occasions and fit in the odd swim here and there (I think they call this 'cross training'). My final bit of preparation took place just a couple of hours before the event - this was deciding what to take with me.
I took a plastic Noddy mug (rules stated you had to bring your own mug; I didn't have an alternative plastic mug), 2 x SIS gels, a protein bar, ibuprofen, prop-plus, a jaffa-cake Graze snack and an SIS pouch.
All my gear was covertly hidden under my running vest. Felt it wise to hide the Noddy mug. Oh, I also took a camera with me too.
All prepared, I drove to the start. I got there early and once registered just chilled out with a bunch of other walkers and runners. This was a strange sort of marathon - it was organised by a walking club and sure enough some folk were walking and others running. Some folk would run/walk 15 miles and others the full distance. At registration we were also handed maps and directions as this marathon required a great deal of orienteering too. We were also given a card (like a brevet card I thought) to get stamped at each of the check points (which I kept calling controls). And we had to carry our own mug!

My start time was at 9.30 a.m., the walkers started a couple of hours earlier. All in all, I think around 260 folk took part in this event. The mass start really slowed everybody down and and we were all in single file as we climbed up a path to run across an old railway line. It was nice to see so many runners all kitted out in different colours. The runners vest that stood out most was a girl in a bright orange vest that had male suicide printed on it. She was raising moneys for a suicide prevention charity and I was too (though a different charity). Before too long and the mass of people started to become more spaced out. I figured following others would be a better plan than navigating myself - how wrong was I?! Took a wrong turn at both the 5k and 10k mark. The run to the first checkpoint took me past Studley Castle (where I spent my first night as a married man) and to the Church 'over the fields' where I live. My Noddy mug got filled with coke here, then water, and after a mouthful of jelly babies, I was off.

The second check point was not too far out. The route took me over the familiar fields of Studley past the 'Greens' and onto Purity Brewery. Sadly we didn't stop at the brewery but took a right turn and stopped at the check point at Spernal Farm. Here they were dishing up bacon and sausage and the likes. For £15 entry fee, we were really being looked after. I chose to eat jaffa cakes instead and had one of my gels washed down with coke and water.

The route continued and we passed Karens house (my running partner from years ago) before taking me along familiar MTB routes I like to cycle. Much of the whole route I had either cycled or ran before. I ran through fields that took us to Alcester Town and then stopped at checkpoint 3 - about half way now.
As per usual, the food at this check point was awesome. I had quiche which was washed down with coke and water. I took a pro plus tablet and 1 ibuprofen too. Good job really because I was starting to feel cramp. Just prior to reaching this check point I had started running with a nice chap called 'Owen' and we essentially ran together from here on.

Starting off from check point 3 was difficult with my legs feeling achey. Owen said I'd get the wind back in my sails soon and he was right. We ran through Oversley Wood where SJ and my girls ventured only the other day. Much fields were crossed as we made our way to the next checkpoint. We crossed loads of foot bridges, stiles and kissing gates throughout this marathon too. Not exactly sure where the check point was but it was up and down hill to get there!
Hillines profile of marathon
At this control (cycling audax events has made me refer to check points as 'controls'), I once again drank coke and water. Sometime prior to this I took 2 more ibuprofen tablets and my legs were working fine. A nice danish pastry was devoured before I ran the final leg. 

Final leg was a bit hazy but it essentially took Owen and I back across fields heading for Henley. Once I spotted a rail bridge/tunnel I knew the end was only moments away. Quite strange there was not crowds of people standing on the pavements as we ran towards the finish. A couple of folk clapped as we reached the School and once inside the hall I felt utterly awesome in knowing that I had actually ran a marathon for the first time in my life. Funny end to a marathon - I didn't get given a medal, I had to give in my check point card!
A kind fellow took my card and exclaimed 'all the fives'. He then wrote 5:55 on my card. It had taken me 5 hours and 55 minutes to complete this marathon. Shortly after, I got awarded a certificate (pictured at start of blog).
It felt like the done thing to do - to take a photo of myself and my running buddy Owen at the end. For a few hours we had shared an awesome adventure and helped each other get to the end. Amazing! Better yet, we had actually finished an 'ultra' event because our marathon was over distance. Indeed we actually ran 44.2k (27.46 miles)! A guy at the start informed that any distance over marathon distance was considered an ultra - so there!

Would I do it again? Most definitely yes! I loved this event. The fee was cheap, the volunteers were lovely, the runners friendly. The food was great (I had baked potato and quiche at the finish). In fact, I am already considering my next marathon already....

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