In the spirit of trying out new venues I decided to have a go at the Vanguard Way marathon which is notoriously tough route, eek! Then I revisited another challenging route I ran last year in Ashford.
175 was The Vanguard Way is a 66 mile footpath route between Croydon and Newhaven but the marathon only used a few sections of it.
I'd been warned it was a hilly route so I knew there might be a few UPdulations and indeed there were but the scenery was beautiful and I had a grand day out with some fellow members of the 100 marathon club. It's easiest just to let the photos tell the story.
|I met up with my mate Emine for a nice coffee beforehand|
|Here we are with Paul who's been trying out the Forrest Gump look for several months. He's subsqeuntly shaved his head and trimmed his beard and looks 20 years younger!|
We set off near the back with a mix of half-marathoners and full-marathoners and it soon became apparent that Emine was going to have a bad day. She has Bi-polar and a host of other mental health issues poor love and she'd already had a panic attack at the start when she spotted someone with whom she's had some angry exchanges in the past. I hoped that she'd overcome her anxiety but sadly she didn't at she wanted to quit after about 7 miles but the lovely David, Chairman of the 100 club who was the tail-end Charlie for the day and who you'll see later, persuaded het to carry on until halfway and see how she felt.
It was a very mixed terrain and I absolutely loved it!
|It's hard to show quite how steep this downhill bit was and as it was an out-and-back route it felt even steeper on the way back!|
|So, if you go down a hill on this route then you'll have to go up again pretty soon!|
|That's David Moles on the right. I see him at lots of the LDWA events.|
|Oh my goodness, I'd blocked this hill from my mind. It was steep! Having said that, I preferred coming back up rather than going down as I always have a fear of tripping and going headlong down the slope!|
|You can see the M25 motorway in the distance and the noise was really intrusive in such a beautiful area|
|The Wild Parsnip was teeming with insects|
|Aha, the photographers car! That's David Lewis at the back.|
|Taken by the official photographer on one of the rare flat sections. I'm laughing at a doggie who was dragging his mummy along 'cos he wanted to roll in the grass!|
|Crossing over the motorway bridge towards the halfway mark. By this stage Emine was going really slowly and we had to keep slowing right down and stopping occasionally to keep her going.|
|A large quarry|
|Passing the photographer on the way back|
|Emine was walking most of the time by then and she picked up these big sticks to help her up the dreaded slope|
|Oh heck, I knew what was just round that bend......|
|I didn't look up once as I knew it would deflate me and I just got my head down and marched upwards using these large footprints which were like steps.|
|I had to wait for ages for the first David to catch me up and even longer for Emine and the other David as she was really struggling.|
|I was intrigued by this flint lodge at the entrance to Flint House which we couldn't see|
After we'd passed this lovely wall again there was another checkpoint at 20 mile mark and Emine pulled out there. We knew she'd be taken care of by the marshalls and was be driven back to the start. To be honest it was a relief as we really speeded up after that.
We then started collecting and packing away all the red and white tape markers which was quite good fun.
|I spotted this quintessentially English scene of Sunday afternoon bowls|
|Crossing the line with 2 marathon legends!|
I really enjoyed that one and will definitely be back.
I entered number 176 on the day as I was supposed to be doing the Downland Challenge, a 30 mile ultra marathon in Clayton, the day before but the weather was so vile it wasn't sensible to travel as it was quite a long way from home. With winds gusting at 65-70mph here along with torrential rain I very sensibly stayed at home and battened down the hatches! I found out later that the Firle Vintage Fair, which held was nearby, had been closed due to safety issues so I was glad I didn't go.
So as the weather was much better the next day I headed off to Ashford for the Owler marathon which I'd run for the first time last year. It's a challenging and undulating/hilly route on mixed terrain - some quiet country lanes, grass sections, woodland with lots of trip potential on tree roots and paths with loose flints as well as tree roots.
Last year I was dead last and finished in 5:19:48. This year I had no idea how my legs would behave so decided to just run at a pace that felt comfortable.
There was still a bit of a breeze but nothing like as bad as it had been, mostly overcast with bursts of bright sunshine then overcast and threatening rain. I only took a few photos as I ran out of memory on my camera as I'd forgotten to clear the memory card after having made several videos the day before.
|I'm near the back standing next to Jake (white cap) but obscured by a the tall bald man with a beard and wearing a red top.|
When we set off it was not too hot but it went through phases of being overcast then bright sun with a strong wind all the time. Sometimes the wind was welcome as it cooled us down, sometimes it was hard to run into it and not so welcome!
The first section was across grass then into the woods with tree roots and loose stones to contend with. Then there was a stretch along the lanes, through another wood with bits of hardcore sticking up, so I walked carefully across those bits, then along a few narrow winding lanes and into the village of Brook situated at the foot of the Kent Downs.
This is the Church of St Mary, one of the most complete Norman churches in England, mostly dating back to the late 11th century. I would have liked to have a look inside as apparently there are wall paintings of biblical scenes which you can see here.
A bit further along was The Honest Miller, a public house with a rather welcoming sign especially for us runners! In case you can't read it the message is for us runners and reads: "Runners, bring in your running bib and get 10% off food this week"!
As we left the village we got our first view of the Kent Downs.
Then we started to climb upwards, but thankfully not up that hill, before heading down winding country lanes in a large circuit back to the start and then do it all again. When I checked my watch at the halfway mark I was surprised and delighted to see it read 2:25 although I wasn't sure I'd be able to maintain that pace for the second half.
The next photo was taken near the end of my first lap, shortly before there was an incident.
Now, as you know, I can trip over my own shadow and I frequently do. When I was.5 mile away form the turnaround point of my first lap I was running along a perfectly flat section with grass and compacted earth when I suddenly found myself doing the trip/stumble/will-I-fall-or-can-I-save-myself move. No, I couldn't, and so I just relaxed completely and went splat, full-on arms/face with my knees slightly grazed and my left arm more-so. Thankfully I was only a bit shaken, more surprised really.
As I got up I heard a girl screaming behind me so I ran back to help her. She too had tripped and fallen really hard breaking 2 fingers in the process. I started walking with her but she asked me to run ahead and ask a marshall for assistance which I did.
I suddenly wondered if I had perhaps subconsciously heard her fall which had distracted me momentarily hence my own fall. I firmly believe in fate/what goes around comes around etc and I think I was meant to be there to help her.
Of course, after that I set out much more cautiously on my second round although I still felt really strong. Mike phoned to check on me when I was 2 miles from the finish and I realised that I might get in under 5 hours if I maintained my pace so I got my head down and got it done, with a sprint finish around the athletics track, to cross the line in 4:57:58, 22 minutes faster than last year. Wow, I was very pleased with that, especially after my 3.5 months out with injury at the start of the year!
|Shelley inspected my bib and medal|