This was another of Traviss and Rachels excellent events but this time it was the sort of event I prefer - off-road and undulating rather than the flat, fast courses Traviss prefers. What a lovely venue it was too; Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve in the North Downs just minutes away from the M2 motorway yet it felt as if you were entering another world. It covers an area of 560 acres
The day before I received an email asking everyone to park off-site as some stupid person had superglued the locks on the gates and whilst they had managed to free up the main gates they hadn't been able to open the gates to the parking field. This meant I parked about 3/4 miles away so it was a nice leg-stretcher before and afterwards (although I had difficulty crossing the road on the way back as it was so busy!).
I'm always pleased to discover places like this where flora and fauna are left to flourish in their natural environment (or, as natural as possible in an area that is farmed).
The day before the temperature had been high and I was quite relieved that the sky looked overcast with the threat of rain. Although it was still quite humid there was a nice refreshing breeze to keep us cool. Some of my photos didn't come out very well because there were spots of rain on the lens but there are enough to show here to give a flavour of this beautiful place. I did actually remark to Rachel that it was a good job that the sun wasn't out or I'd have spent even more time taking photos of butterflies as well as the flowers!
I'll let the photos do most of the talking:
|The views walking form the entrance to basecamp. bright dots of poppies shone out on a dull day, with Field Scabious in the margins.|
|Is that the River Medway in the distance?|
|Oh my goodness, look how those poppies shine out amongst the different grasses!|
|Time to collect my race number|
|I always like a palindrome!|
|The obligatory portaloos. The young man with his back to us is James and he ran 2 ultra marathons there over the weekend. Yes, 2! On Saturday he ran 50 miles and then knocked out another 53.7 miles on Sunday looking fresh as a daisy - what a star!|
After the usual race briefing we were off and I started to drink in the fabulous views, oohing and aahing as I spotted some beautiful flowers en-route. I'd only gone about 500 metres when I started taking photos.
The undulating route encompassed chalk/flinty paths and passed through fields and woodland where you had to watch your step as the tree roots had the potential to trip you up. A few people were caught out by them but amazingly I only managed to trip over on a flat bit, thankfully with no-one around to witness my loss of dignity!
|The small white flowers are Chamomile and when it warmed up later the smell was divine.|
|The terrain was flinty and chalky.|
|I loved the red splash of poppies in a band across this field and the way the Chamomile follows the curve at the far end.|
|The mixture of Sow Thistles, Hawkweed, Poppies and Chamomile was intoxicating!|
|A more moody view with the clouds low down|
|View from a bench in a woodland clearing|
|A summer patchwork made even more vibrant as the hay had been cut in some of the fields.|
|Friendly moos - Belted Galloways|
I won't bore you with all the photos of wildflowers that I took so here are just a few which everyone will have noticed:
|Agrimony. I love this little plant. If you get up close it smells of apricots! In olden days it was used as a remedy for all sorts of things from snake bites to dysentry. Today it is used in preparations for catarrh and digestive disorders.|
|Wild marjoram. I smelled this little beauty before I saw it.|
|Wild/hoary mustard - it has wonderful seedpods.|
|Common Mallow - the young shoots were eaten as a vegetable in pre-Roman times.|
|Convolvulus avensis (field bindweed). This is a much more dainty version of the larger flowered bindweed you see scrambling through hedges. It has the most amazingly robust system of roots which can extend up to 5 metres below ground!|
OK, enough of the vegetation.
How was my marathon journey? Excellent thank you. I loved every minute of it despite my nose running more than I did (hayfever - which is rather unfair for someone with a love of gardening isn't it!) and my little tumble early on. I walked some of he uphills and was cautious on the downhill bits - for anyone who doesn't know, I have a fear of going down hills or down steps. I was, therefore, very pleased that Caroline posted this photo of me on Facebook, taken after the steps, rather than the coming-down-the-steps-sideways version! Thanks for the photo and your support Caroline.
I chatted with many people on the way round and high-fived some of the speedy peeps. Every 2 laps I heard the metronomic footsteps of Joe Hawkins approaching from behind which meant I had to move aside on the narrow sections to let him pass.
After each lap we returned to basecamp to receive a wristband, to indicate how many laps we'd done, and to refuel with water/squash/biscuits/crisps. As always we were looked after very well so thank you ladies. It's easy to forget that all the helpers give up their time to stand around for hours on end whilst we runners are off on our adventures.
On my last lap I ran part of it with Karen and we were having a good old chat when Mike phoned up to check I was OK. That's when I realised I'd taken a bit longer than I expected probably because of all my photo opportunities. Well it was never going to be about a time when there was so much for me to see………...I didn't mention all the photos that I took of tree bark and I can't wait for Rachel's Ranscombe Ramble next Spring when I'll see all the early Orchids and Bluebells in the woods. Oh my!
I think my finish time was 6:15 something. Rachel gave me my lovely medal (isn't it pretty) and goody bag then Karen remembered that it was my 50th marathon and told her.
Traviss wasn't around so Rachel went to find a new badge that they'd just created for people celebrating their half century. I was the first person to receive one and it felt really nice and has joined all my other medals.
Then Traviss reappeared and congratulated me and we had a chat about how inspiring it is to meet all the amazing people who do his events - him and Rachel are included in that. He then announced that as it looks as if I'll be at 57 marathons by the end of 2015 then I'll probably be getting to 100 marathons before I'm 60 in June 2017!
Although it's unlikely, I'll definitely be doing something extra special for ARUK in my 60th year as I've already started scheming……….