Fairlands Valley Marathon

There are not a lot of races which can boast to have something for everyone. This one has got to be up there. Run or walk, long or short, race or stroll, it's all here. Add to that the beautiful weather this day enjoys every year and so much bread pudding that you actually put on weight during the run, all of a sudden you have a great day out.

Running marathons every week take really take up your time. Even fairly local ones like this one still involve leaving the house at 7.30 and maybe not getting back till 6. It's a commitment to use half your weekend in this way but one I resolved to do long ago.

This was always going to be a tricky one as I had been to the clubs summer party the night before and didn't hold back on the drink or awful food. Nor did I resist stumbling into the chip shop at Ealing Broadway at 2am once I awoke from my nightbus slumber. I didn't feel too bad. Nurofen before going to bed and still lemonade in the morning seem to sort me out.

I got the train up with Alan Hall and I'd said I'd try to keep up with him as long as possible. He was planning a brisk but not all out pace. I was planning brisk until I fall out of place.

This event has become so big over the last few years that it has 5 starts now. Waves every 15 minutes for the runners from 10, 10.15 and 10.30. The latter was good enough for us, and about 200 other people.

Despite being near Stevenage this is a lovely route. I recall from the 18 mile version I did 2 years ago how nice it was and was really glad to be back. It's not too hilly and has a great mixture of open fields, covered woodland and country paths. Events like this can sometimes seem to merge into the same course, however this one sets itself apart just by getting so much so right.

The run does involve some navigation but it's not hard. I can't recall a time when an instruction was ambiguous or wrong. There were a couple of times when I was unambiguously wrong. I lost Alan after about 8 miles as I had a date with some bushes. I hurt myself a lot climbing through the bramble but thought the pain was necessary to avoid anyone seeing me suffer the effects of last nights paella. I didn't catch up with him after that.

So it was down to me and my instructions, which went ok for the first 2 lines and then I got lost at the point where the race organiser told us explicitly what to do. Don't turn left at the fallen tree he shouted. I did just that.

I spent the rest of the race running with a guy called Duncan. He seemed to know where to go and was keeping a steady pace. It's great to chat to people on runs like this. Having last Alan I was no longer bothered about a time, I was pleased I even got out of bed.

Towards the end I was alarmed when someone shouted "COME ON BINKS". Binks is my fetcheveryone.com name and also a name given to me by Uni mates. Something to do with being clumsy and stupid. Not justified in this race as I didn't even fall over once. It was Patrick (or PS-66) who I met at the picnic and ran the GUCR this year too. He added "I beat you this time". I replied "Not by 3 hours" which was the gap between us arriving at Paddington a couple of months ago.

Duncan sounded surprised to hear that I was Binks and announced that he was "Duncs" on the same website. 

After finishing the race I met up with lots of other runners who I had not seen for a while. Alan was there and Dave who had started earlier turned up. I met Ryan Spencer (another Fetchie) and a finisher from GUCR 2007. He made a great video and posted it on u-tube. It helped me with preparation for the race and it was good to thank him in person. I also met a few people who knew who I was from some race results. Keeping track on race results you see names appear again and again. It's really nice to put faces to them, often you might be running with them before it registers.

I thought more about the time I dedicate to doing these events. Usually I am keen to pack up and get the next train home, however this was very different. So many people to talk to, including Steve Cooney who was celebrating his 50th Marathon with champagne and some others who I'll see on the Centenary Marathon on Thursday. Pam Storey and her husband were also there. Hanging around at the finish, eating and chatting was time well spent. I was in no rush to go, it felt like a social event with the people I liked to hang around with.

At some point I'll probably start making "top 10 races" lists and other such monstrosities. Right now this one would be in there for all the great reasons mentioned above. It's well catered for, not too hilly, very friendly, easy navigation, bread pudding and BBQ. I hope I don't make a list.

Instead I'll endorse this race by saying that there are not many races that I'd want to do again and again. I want to do everything that's out there and that means different things each year. However there are a few races that I enjoy enough to think about inking them into my future race schedules. I certainly think this is one of them.