Clarendon Marathon

I know better these days than to wallow around in bed when I have a hangover and feel sorry for myself. I've grown up a bit now and realise that the best way to get rid of a hangover is to run a marathon. It worked yesterday (though that was not a marathon and I'm done talking about that probably). All you need to do in drink a bit more and take some tissue and you are sorted.

This was always going to be a heavy weekend with 2 marathons following 2 compulsory drinking events. I'm glad that I don't compromise much on my social life for the running. I know I'd do better in races without the after effects of alcohol (5 minutes each race at least for the toilet stops). However it's important to keep in contact with friends. How else would I tell everyone about all the running I do?

I ran the Clarendon marathon last year and really enjoyed the sunny day out. I recall it being quite hilly with a large field. What I didn't recall was how to get there from the train station. It was lucky that Mark (Braley) turned up on the same train and he had a map (as well as a tendency to get taxis when it rains). When we got to the station we got a taxi, because it was raining.

I recalled that last year there was rain right before the start but then it stopped and the day was beautiful and not too slippy. I was holding out for the same. It didn't happen.

I didn't have any expectations of this race as usual, I just wanted to burn enough calories to pay off last night. Running and drinking are like spending on a credit card. You pay the interest of a night of drinking and eating crap with the hangover. You then have to settle the balance the next day and then some.

There was the usual crowd at the start. I never really make an effort to get ahead and there was no change this time at first. However I changed my mind when I saw that everyone was prancing around trying to avoid puddles. They were in for a big shock if they thought there was any chance they would finish this race dry. I yelled "you are going to get wet whether you like it or not" and ran through the middle of most puddles just to overtake people. It worked a treat and got some other runners a little wetter.

The Great Clarendon Way links Salisbury to Winchester and this course takes that in with a couple of loops around woods. There is some spectacular woodland and really nice meadows. There is plenty of the tightly packed mud trail which is the red carpet of running surfaces. Very few road crossings which are very well marshaled and not too much hard road.

I was keeping up with Nick and his friend for most of the race. I had my scheduled half marathon toilet stop and wasn't sure whether I was fouling in someones back garden. When that was done It felt good to run again and i picked up the pace a bit. I caught up with Nick again and overtook Dave (Ross) who looked like he was really struggling. Having run yesterdays "marathon" in 2.51 he could be forgiven for feeling a bit knackered. It's never nice to see another runner, particularly a friend struggling in a race but at the same time it is a bit reassuring to know that others have bad days too just as I do.

I chatted to Nick for a bit and was pleased to see he was looking and feeling very comfortable. He was slowing for his friend who was feeling the pace more. I said I found it useful to capture these moments as "reference points" to look back on in times of need. I said recall how you felt first thing, when your legs are knackered from the previous day. Then remember times in this race where you feel good and the end. Then later in another race think about these two opposites in a time when you are down, say 30 miles in a 50 mile race. Remember that you've been there before and you got through it. I have lots of reference points now, which is why I think I can do anything.

As Nick slowed for his friends I sped up and really enjoyed the last 6 miles. The mile markers count down after halfway which is quite funny. There is always some confusion when you pass 13 and then pass 12. Why they do this I don't know. Maybe when they went to the race mile marker shop that day they had run out of marathon kits. "How about 2 halfs?" Ok then.

A reference point I'll take from this race is my own view on hills. This time last year if asked to describe this race I would have said it was hilly. Today I would say that it barely breaks into the third dimension. Funny how the world gets flatter the more you run around it? I compared it to facebook where you become friends with some girl you were absolutely obsessed with years ago but not seen since. You look at her now and say "really?",  "Why?"

After 20 miles I was overtaking a lot of the half marathon runners. The half started 1.30 hours after us and at the halfway point (obviously). I was overtaken by a lot of the relay runners (this is also a 4 stage relay). They were easy to spot, they had clean legs. I threatened to push a few into the mud but they were too fast. Today I realised a life long ambition of taking candy from a baby. At the water stations there were always loads of children helping out. There was a girl (maybe 3 years old) who didn't  understand that the big bowl of jelly babies was for the runners. She was really cute and it felt bad to have to push her over to get the sweeties. Kidding obviously, but it is great when the kids get involved.  I continued with my puddle running to pass the half runners and watched the numbers count down. I'm not usually pleased to see a 1 mile marker but was today.

Dave had a revival and cruised passed me within the last mile. I didn't really care as I was near the end and was pleased to have had a successful race this weekend. I strolled though the finish and for some reason was concentrating on looking comfortable rather than sprinting. My time was 3.54 which was 1 minute better than last year and in hard conditions and the day after another race I was really pleased with.

I bought some new socks and trainers while I was at the finish as I didn't think to pack fresh ones in my bag. I've become so cavaleer about races now I just fill a bag with random stuff in the morning and hope it's going to get me through the race. Looking at the contents of my bag on the train I should probably take more time over this. I had packed no change of clothes, no rain jacket and 2 pairs of sunglasses.

Really pleased with this one. I'm adding it to my list of races I'd like to do again and again. Well organised, lots of runners and loads of marshals. 9 (count them) water stops with jelly babies and energy drink. Showers at the end and nice medals and t-shits. You can choose which one you have as your entry fee.

This time next year you may have a choice between this one and the 3 to go marathon. Choose this one.