Milton Keynes Marathon – the run in

It’s an hour before the marathon and I slowly haul myself up and away from the booth at McDonalds. Quads, calfs and the egg sized blister on my right heel are screaming as I walk towards the baggage drop off area. As I stumble and groan along the concourse outside the MK Dons stadium I’m passed by a succession of tall, rapier thin, athletic types in the process of their preliminary warm ups. I shuffle past, staring enviously at their fresh faces, fresh clothes and almost certainly fresher odours, wishing I had had a t-shirt printed, “Hey, I’m not a broken old man incapable of running another step, I’ve already run 30 miles you losers”.

As I mentioned in the previous post MK Marathon had arranged for me to get a pre-race massage so I flopped onto a table and allowed Simon from Body Limits Clinic, Newport Pagnall (shameless plug but why the hell not, he’s got lovely hands…) to do his worst.

He did.

As soon as the agony of this was over there was about 5 minutes to the start of the race. Normally I’m the keen one heading to the start half an hour before I need to having got to the race 2 hours before I needed to. This time, however, I was in no rush. If I started dead last it really didn’t matter. There were more pressing issues at hand. Or foot.

I had brought spare shorts to wear for the race but it would mean taking my shoes off as the Ashmei shorts have a very snug merino wool inner short. I couldn’t face trying to put my shoe back on so decided to carry on in the same shorts. As the weather was getting hotter I was worried I would get a bit uncomfortable “down stairs” but as it turns out this area was about the only part of me not to feel any discomfort at the end.

I chucked my sweat laden race pack at an unsuspecting baggage handler who carried it gingerly, as you would a dirty tissue, to the farthest end of the hall, quarantined.

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I joined towards the back of the pack near to the 5.15 pacer. There was an interesting mix of people in there. Mainly they seemed to be first timers, anxious about getting round but also a fair few sporting their 100 club vests – old hands in amongst the nervously laughing newbies. Rather than thinking I had 26 miles to do I figured I was already over halfway through my race. I hoped this would make it less daunting. Later in the race it really did help; at this point though 26 miles is a feckin long way still to run.

The race started and about 10 minutes later, so did we. I tried to keep my pace slow and stay with the 5.15 pacer. For the first mile it went OK clocking a 10.35 minute mile but the pace was interminable. I decided I couldn’t go on at that speed (I would later yearn for a pace that quick) and accelerated a little to find the 5 hour pacer. The next few miles were pretty good with crowds on both sides as we weaved through the shopping area. Soon though the fatigue kicked in and, together with the heat and any other excuse I can think of, I faded badly. By mile 10 I was in a bit of bother. I had no energy, was constantly thirsty and a tiny bit pissed off. I’ve hit the wall once before – ironically at MK marathon two years ago – but not when I still had 16 miles to go. It was going to be a long afternoon if I didn’t sort myself out. Luckily the water stations are only every 3 miles rather than every mile so a) I couldn’t drink too much more than I should (or so I thought) and b) I had a target to aim for. Try to run to each feed station and then have a 10 minute walk. Unless of course there is even the slightest incline, in which case engage ultra marathon training and walk.

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So that is what I did. For the next 12 miles I pretty much ran/walked the marathon. But I was drinking too much, taking on a whole Gatorade and half a bottle of water every three miles. I knew it was too much but couldn’t help it. At 18 miles I had to stop for a wee in the bushes. To have enough liquid in me at mile 18 of a marathon meant I was seriously over doing it and gave me the jolt to calm it down.

I had passed the 4.45 pacer some time before but towards the end of this stint he passed me. Something was suddenly triggered and I decided that he wasn’t going to beat me. I had a purpose and an interest and for the final 8 miles we played the slowest, dullest game of cat and mouse as my geriatric frame slowly overtook him, like an overloaded lorry overtaking another uphill on a motorway. Then I’d have a bit of a walk and he’d overtake me, and so on. For miles. And miles.

Finally, a couple of miles from the end I did him, bashing out a 10.20 minute mile and leaving him spluttering in my dust.

Coming into the stadium and seeing the 200m-to-go sign was a great feeling. I crossed the line and felt like theatrically collapsing on the ground to be nursed back by a bevy of St John’s ladies but all I could actually think was “there is about a gallon of Gatorade that really wants to see daylight again.” If any pictures had been taken after I crossed the line I would have looked like I was reinacting Stuart Broad’s reaction to Ben Stokes’ Ashes catch. All I was doing was trying to keep my stomach contents in their right and proper place.

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It was over. Fairly anticlimactic really. But I finished and that, after all, was the point.

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Nice legs, shame about the face.

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Milton Keynes Marathon – the run up

As I have mentioned (endlessly) over the past few blogs, the idea for April was to run three marathons on consecutive weeks raising money for South Bucks Hospice (www.sbh.org.uk). London Marathon, on the 24th was the culmination of this.

There have been thousands of blogs over the past couple of weeks about people’s experiences of London so I won’t add to them. All I can say is that it is a very special marathon, different to any other I’ve run and I shall be applying every year, despite the slim odds.

Even before running London, knowing it was the end of that particular challenge, I was seeking something else to look forward to. Maybe running marathons so close together gave me a permanent “runners high” but I couldn’t comprehend not running another one for a while.

So, between Brighton and London I signed up for the Milton Keynes Marathon. I’ve run it twice before and although they change the course a little, I was comfortable knowing what the set up was like.

However, rather than just run the marathon I decided to run the 30 miles from Wycombe to Milton Keynes in the morning and then run the marathon. This would give me a total mileage of 56 miles and hopefully around 11 hours on my feet.

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I’ve agreed to run a 24 hour race around a local track in June so I thought this would be a good way to get some serious training in and get a bit of bling at the end of it!

So first to get my kit together. I decided on a 3am start which would get me into MK for about 9 am. MK Marathon had kindly agreed to let me get a massage at 9ish (the power of twitter!) so I had something to aim for. As this was all about time on feet rather than speed I figured this was a fairly comfortable pace for 30 miles (around 12 minute miles on average).

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But obviously it meant carrying a torch, reflectors, lights, jacket, gloves etc. I also took a change of shorts and top. The top basically because I didn’t want to be waiting around in a sweaty, damp shirt before the race. The reason I took a spare pare of shorts was that I was trying out a new pair of Ashmei shorts. These had just been delivered and while I wanted to give then a good test I wasn’t confident they would be comfortable for both distances.(I was wrong.)

At the last minute I swapped the Ultimate Direction bottles for their soft ones which, though having a smaller capacity, were more comfortable on my ribs. I also only took a few of the jelly babies and didn’t take the Body Glide as I had a sachet that would do the trick in MK. What aren’t shown as they were still in the fridge are the peanut butter bagels and pork pies – don’t leave home without them.

So 2.30 am came and I got dressed and was ready to go. How ecstatic do I look?

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As soon as I stepped outside I realised that the gloves and cap weren’t necessary so dumped them inside and got going.

It’s pretty obvious but it’s really dark at 3am!

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The first few miles were on a country road with no footpath so I was pleased not to see any cars. I pretty much knew all the route so hadn’t brought a sat nav, though I did have the route programmed into my Suunto Ambit Peak if I needed it.

It was amazing to be running, completely alone, before even the birds were up. The only sound I heard for the first couple of hours was a fox doing whatever foxes do at that time of night. Whatever it was, they seemed to be enjoying it…

After about an hour and a half I was off the backroads and into Wendover. I’d decided this was where I’d have a bit of food so out came the peanut butter bagel. Again, I look thrilled.

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It tasted great and gave me a bit of a boost. the next section was all residential and a series of straight long roads as I made my way to the A41 at Aston Clinton.

Here there is a lovely little cut through that takes you to Bierton and onto the Wing road. As I got to this little road there were signs saying it was closed. Not a problem, I’m not a car. Just as long as they haven’t taken the bridge over the canal down I’ll be fine. Oh, crap, what if they have taken the bridge down? I had no idea how to get the MK if they had. Plodding on I got to the bridge and thankfully it was still there.

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What was also there, however, was a familiar feeling in my right foot. That feeling that a bit of grit was rubbing gently on the side of my heel. I knew from Reading Half Marathon that this wasn’t grit, this was another blister. I already had a Compeed plaster on the previous 3 blisters in the same place so wasn’t surprised to see another one poking out from the side of the plaster. I whacked another Compeed over that one and managed to get my shoe back on. I was 12 miles into the 56 and feeling a bit crap.

No time to feel sorry for myself though as I came across the reason why the road was closed.

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Not only had they dug up the road, the developers had decided to build a new estate where the road should have been. It looked like they were building a replacement road but it was going in completely the wrong direction for me.

I ran along the now muddy track hoping I’d see a familiar landmark to aim for. What I did find was this…

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I’d found the other end of the road but also an 8 foot high fence. I ran along it for a while trying to find a gap but there wasn’t one. Eventually I found a small gap underneath and managed to crawl under. It was 5am and I really wasn’t up for this!

The next section was pretty bland. The route took me 7 miles up the main road into Wing. It seemed to be slightly uphill all the way except for the serious uphills. The monotony was broken only by avoiding the Arla milk trucks and Morrison artics hurtling the other way. I also saw 3 ambulances which didn’t make be feel any better.

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At Wing I treated myself to a pork pie, king of all running foods. I wasn’t hungry but knew I needed something. The final 8 miles were fairly undulating across country and eventually into Bletchley. There I finally saw the sign I was craving.

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A mile or so later I was there.

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It was 8.30, I was dying for a coffee and something salty and McDonalds was just around the corner. Perfect!

It was crowded with runners and supporters so I took my coffee, full fat Coke and hash browns to a table already occupied by a fellow runner.

As I poured salt into my Coke runner and I looked at each other. Without needing any words, with just that look, I knew what he was thinking.

Dick.

 

Manchester, sorted for pb’s + whizz

I woke up to my first marathon since York in October last year with ice on the car and a cold feeling inside.

I’d been training, I mean really training, for this one since Christmas. Actual Christmas Day. I’d decided to run 3 marathons in 3 weeks but had entered Manchester specifically because it was reputedly flat and fast.

All winter I’d attended interval and track sessions in a bid to get quicker. Training had gone well up until about a month out when I couldn’t run for two weeks due to illness. But I’d recovered and run a couple of (for me) pretty quick half-marathons quite comfortably.

This, then, was the culmination of all that work. I had put a lot of pressure on myself in trying to attain a specific time and now it was time to go for it.

I had three targets in mind.

  1. Sub 3 hours 15 for a Good For Age automatically qualifying me for London next year

  2. Sub 3 hours 25 to allow me to apply for Boston Marathon next year

  3. Crash and burn and just enjoy the run

3 wasn’t really an option but its nice to think I had every base covered.

I knew 3.15 was going to be really tough as I hadn’t run at that pace (7.26 minute miles) for a sustained period as, but the time I was well again I was into my taper. However, the half marathons at Cardiff and Reading (both 7.17 minute miles) showed that, if the stars were aligned, I could get close.

My previous marathon pb was 3.26.59 so I would need to beat that by 12 minutes or nearly 30 seconds per mile.

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I’ve read a lot of blogs over the last couple of days detailing the failure of the infrastructure at the start and finish of the marathon so won’t detail it here. The only thing I will mention is that it was unclear where the start line was until you were running over the timing mats which caused a lot of confusion but ultimately didn’t affect my race.

By the time the race started the sun was out, there were blue skies and no wind. I guess it started at about 5-8 degrees. Absolutely perfect running conditions.

I wanted to start with the 3.15 pacer but couldn’t see him as the pens were pretty fluid. Luckily there were a fair few switchbacks early in the race and I saw where he was. Slowly I reeled him in and spent most of the race sitting 50 feet behind. The pace was ok to start with but by 8 miles I was wondering how I was going to sustain it.

My pace started to drop a little, from 7.20’s to 7.30’s but I was still keeping up with the pacer. I should have realised something was wrong but it was so comforting to be putting all my calculations in someone else’s hands that I just went with it. Looking back, from mile 8 to the end we only went under 7.26 4 times.

There isn’t much to say about the race really as I was so focussed, so exhausted and so determined to keep up with that bloody bobbing flag in front of me I didn’t take anything in around me. I was hoping to see some Frank Sidebottom characters around Timperley but couldn’t tell you where Timperley was on the route. I did see a couple of fellow Handy Cross Runners on the long out and back to Altrincham which was great but aside from this there was no distraction from the relentless pace.

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Eventually we were on the home run, about 5 miles from the finish. These were my slowest laps. I was pretty much done in. I’ve never wanted to stop and walk before but I could easily have done over these 3 miles. The pacer was slipping away from me and I was averaging 7.35 minute miles. My only consoling thought was that, as I had started quite far back from the pacer, as long as he was in sight I had a chance.

The last 2 miles I really don’t remember. I know I managed to increase my pace to 7.30 and then 7.25 for the last mile. I also remember the finish gantry never seemed to get any closer. And I remember slumping on the barrier immediately after the finish line. Oh, and a chap puking just over my shoulder and thinking “well at least I’m not THAT guy.”

I knew before I looked at my watch I hadn’t beaten 3.15. There had been too many slow miles and sure enough I came in at 3.16.13. The pacer was only 30 seconds ahead of me but obviously had a problem and came in around 2 minutes slow.

I was ecstatic. No really. 3.15 had been a dream. It would have been a miracle to beat my pb by 12 minutes.

But to beat it by over 10 minutes was still incredible. Almost certain to qualify for Boston just amazing.

There were many things I could have done that may have shaved those 74 seconds off. Not eaten ALL the Easter eggs, trained harder, lost that half a stone I’d promised I’d lose.

But I’m not going to beat myself up. On the day I simply couldn’t have run any faster. Its the first time I’ve felt I left absolutely everything out on the road and I’m kind of proud of that.

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3 in 3 becomes 4 in 4 (and a bit)

Its 2 days until Manchester Marathon and what was going to be the first of three marathons in three weeks. However, I couldn’t resist running Milton Keynes again so last week decided to add that one. It is the week after London but, as it’s on the Monday rather than the Sunday, I get an extra day off!

Sadly, confidence has dipped rapidly this week. On Sunday I ran the Reading Half Marathon. Initially I was going to take it easy as I had “gone for it” at the Cardiff Half the week before. However, after a mile or so I felt really good so decided to try running at marathon pace (around 7.25 minute miles) for the rest. It all felt great and my pace increased as the race went on. I came in at 1.36:09 only 9 seconds slower than Cardiff.

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I’ve got mixed feelings about this as, if I’d decided to go quick from the start I’m sure I could have easily beaten my pb of 1.35:21. Conversely I could have taken it easy and saved my legs.

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What has really got my worrying though is the huge blister on my heel I got from the run. I don’t do blisters, not even in ultras, so this is a bit of a shock. It’s huge and I’m struggling to see how I’ll be able to run properly in only 2 days.

I spent yesterday sticking needles into it as there was no way it would go down on its own. Liberal amounts of Savlon and plasters have made it go down a little. I really wanted to go out for a run today but am worried that it will knock my confidence too much.

However, I’ll definitely be parkrunning tomorrow as this is a pre race ritual I can’t do without – especially as I am now only 10 away from my 100 t-shirt!

I’m looking forward to Manchester though, as it supposed to be a good flat fast course. Initially I wanted to try for a 3.15 but after illness during the middle of my training I would be happy to qualify for Boston (somewhere under 3.25). If my foot holds up I will hopefully go for this and leave the Good For Age 3.15 for Berlin Marathon in the Autumn.

The course looks like it has a lot of out and backs which I really didn’t like at Bournemouth but I think I was just having a bad day.

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From about 9 1/2 miles to 17 miles is a long out and back so it will be great to see the leaders coming back the other way, less so to realise they are on their way back and I’m still on the way out!

So that’s it. All the training since before Christmas, the run on Christmas Day, the endless training runs in the cold and pouring rain being drenched by cars, the fantastic days of sunshine running through woods and trails, the 20 mile races and half marathons are all over.

It’s time to pack the marathon bag, try to forget about what can’t be controlled and focus on the things that can. And most of all enjoy it.

I might just have another go with a needle on my heel though….

 

I’m running these marathons for the South Bucks Hospice – a charity who support patients and families coping with life limiting illness, death, bereavement and grief.
If you feel you would like to help please click here to donate. Many thanks.

Runner

Win a pair of Ashmei Compression Socks

It isn’t a secret that I love Ashmei gear. I’ve been wearing their clothing ever since I started running (which, admittedly is only three years ago).

At my first race, the Henley 10k, they had their airstream at the start and I was immediately drawn to their styling. I’ve now got a couple of their shirts, a hoody, jacket and a number of pairs of socks.

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The main reason I like them, as well as looking good, is the fact that, after wearing them, they just don’t smell. I’ve used a shirt three times in a row letting it dry out between sessions and it still hasn’t smelled as bad as a normal shirt after one use. And the salt marks make you look pretty hardcore/disgusting!

Anyway, that’s enough free advertising. I bought these compression socks a week or so ago but they are the wrong size for me. Ashmei offered to take them back and refund the money but I thought I’d spread the love a bit and offer them up as a competition prize. I haven’t even tried them on, I realised once I had them that there was no point even trying. If a sock doesn’t fit, its just a blister waiting to happen.

 

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These are a size 6.5-8 foot (European 40-42) with a 39-44 cm calf circumference. I’ve had a pair of these previously and loved them but unfortunately hadn’t cut my toenails close enough before a particularly hilly ultra and put holes in both big toes.

So, the important question –  how do you win these socks (retailing at £30)?

Simple really. Retweet my competition tweet and follow me both at @thebaldrunner and @mattfowlerphoto. Oh and following my blog wouldn’t go amiss too! Obviously it would be lovely if you took a look at my business site www.mattphoto.co.uk but that would just be an added bonus for you!

Good luck!

 

T’s+C’s
The winner will be drawn at random on Friday 8th April from everyone who has followed both of my twitter accounts and blog page and retweeted as directed above. Postage will be paid. UK participants only. The prize is one pair of Ashmei Compresion Socks size 6.5-6 calf 39-44 as described. This competition is in no way linked to or endorsed by Ashmei. No alternative prize is available and no correspondence will be entered into.

 

(pre) Cardiff World Half Marathon

My only previous trip to Cardiff city centre was in 2003 when I was asked to shoot a number of rubbish bins at the recently completed Millennium Stadium (don’t let anyone tell you the life of a professional photographer isn’t glamorous…)

So I was doubly pleased to win a last minute place to the World Half Marathon Championships (many, many thanks to Advent Running) this year being held in the Welsh capital.

As it was a last minute place I was going to struggle to get accommodation but luckily one of my club mates was going and had booked an apartment. All I needed was a sleeping bag and roll mat and I was sorted. Friday afternoon saw Gareth and I crawling down the M4 getting into Cardiff 2 hours later than expected but still with plenty of time to meet up with another Handy Cross Runner, Soraya, pick up our race numbers and get to our pre-booked restaurant. It was a good job Gareth had reserved a table as, when we arrived for our 7.30 slot, people were being told the next table available would be 10pm!

Two and a half hours later we left feeling stuffed, and not feeling in any way like athletes!

The race wasn’t going to start until 2.10 on Saturday so I thought I would have a trot around Cardiff parkrun in the morning. Luckily a friend who I’d met at the Marathon Talk run camp a couple of years ago (and again earlier this year) had the same idea so I arranged to meet Anna there. She is training for Boston marathon in late April and wanted to get a few miles in either side of parkrun. This was supposed to be my first week of taper but I figured a few more, slow,miles wouldn’t do me any harm.

The apartment was at the other end of the park so I had a pleasant run towards the start of parkrun; until I realised I didn’t have my barcode, sprinted back to the room and legged it back again to where I was meeting Anna. We then did 2.5 miles around the park before the start.

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As we were running we met Mark, one of Anna’s club mates who had also run down to get some extra miles and had the obligatory selfie, all resplendent in red.

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I had been checking the weather constantly the day before as it wasn’t looking too friendly but it stayed dry and, down in the park, hardly windy at all. Hopefully this would set the tone for the day as the forecast was for 40mph winds at around 2pm.

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It’s a nice flat out and back (ish) course on tarmac paths and probably a quick one. However, having just done 4 miles beforehand, and having 13.1 to do in the afternoon I took it fairly easy. I’d love to come back and have a proper go at another time.

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As a parkrun geek I really liked the way they organised the barcode scanners by extending the finish funnel and having a scanner at the end of each exit. So naturally I got a few shots and have fed them back to my local run.

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Once parkrun was finished we still had over four hours til the race so there was only one sensible thing to do. Eat a full English (Welsh) breakfast.

We went back to the apartment to get changed and then off to a little cafe Anna had been told about. Full monty breakfasts all round. Happy boy.

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We managed to spend a good hour and a half over breakfast then a bit of a wander around town before finally plucking up the courage to take off the warm clothes and don the oh-so-flattering but very welcome ponchos.

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Anna went to meet her club mates and I wandered down to the start line to find my starting pen. I bumped into Soraya there and as she was going to run 7.25 minute miles we thought we’d run at least the first part together. I still wasn’t sure whether to go for a good time or just enjoy it but thought a 7.25 pace for the first mile would let me figure out how I was feeling.

But that’s for a later blog.

Ashridge Boundary Run

This Saturday is the running of the Ashridge Boundary Run (www.ashridgeboundaryrun.co.uk) and yet again I won’t be able to attend. Unsurprisingly, the route is run around the boundary of the Ashridge Estate near Berkhamstead in Hertfordshire. It is a 16.5 mile course almost exclusively off-road on a mixture of woodland trails, ridgeway paths and, at the moment, mud.

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I first heard of the race three years ago and every year something has cropped up to stop me entering. This year I am at The Photography Show as part of my day job.

With that in mind I decided yesterday to run the route anyway.

The morning started bright and clear so I thought I’d have pretty good views along the way. By the time I’d got the kids off to school and arrived at Ashridge Estate however, it had clouded over and was pretty chilly at the start.

I started and finished at the Bridgewater Memorial where there is also a really good cafe. If theres one thing the National Trust do well (and there are many) it’s a decent cafe.

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This year the race is being run clockwise so I figured I’d run it that way too. From the memorial I turned right and headed through the woods towards Ivinghoe.

This is a great start to the course as it is flat, smooth and pretty wide. Eventually I turned left and dropped down out of the woods into grassland. This quickly turned right and to the first hill of the day. My Gore Racelight Windshell was soon packed away as I made a  decent (for me) ascent.

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At the top it got quite boggy and I lost the path a bit looking for drier routes. However, it was pretty easy to pick up and I was soon heading for Ivinghoe Beacon. Another short sharp incline takes you to the Beacon and some breathtaking views over the Aylesbury Vale and further north.

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Sadly I didn’t have the best of weather, the wind was  strong and my Ashmei jersey wasn’t quite enough so I pressed on over the ridge.

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Although the race will certainly be well signposted this is the first place where navigation could be tricky. Halfway along the ridge the boundary takes a sharp right down into fields. Yesterday the gates had fallen over and I ran straight past before realising my error. As soon as I was down in the fields the ridge protected me from the wind and I warmed up, especially as it started a gradual uphill climb. A picturesque run through a copse led to a very steep ascent and the first sign of the mud that would feature later.

This part is very narrow as steps have been made up the hill so, if you are going to try overtaking at this point serious trail shoes will be needed to run along the side of the steps.

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From the top it was a straightforward run to the road where, the last time I ran it, I got horrendously lost. Maybe because of this or the fact that the signs may be better this year, I had no trouble following the many switchbacks through the wood and eventually came out on the B4506 and crossed over into the golf club. Good straight surfaces here and I managed to get motoring a bit. This was all new to me as I had gone so wrong before and was a nice stretch down into a valley.

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This section is basically a straight run without deviation until you hit a fence at about 9 miles. Then a right turn up a pretty sharp hill. Immediately at the top of this is a left turn (easily missed) and through a small wood and out the other side.

Bit of a tip for you lucky taller runners. At the end of this stretch, when you pass through a farm and immediately turn right along a narrow downhill path DUCK! There is a piece of wood at about 6′ high (I passed under it easily). I presume it is propping up the fence on the RHS but could scalp the unwary.(Don’t mention it)

This is where the wheels started to come off a bit for me. I’ve no idea why I do it but I never pay as much attention to hydration and nutrition prior to “just” a run compared to a race. Before Sunday’s Spitfire 20 I ate well, drank loads of water the day before and on the morning, had porridge, banana etc. For this run, only 3.5 miles shorter, I had cereal, two cups of coffee and that was it.

By around 12 miles I was feeling it. And you’ll tell by the lack of photos and a much hazier recollection of the course. I’m pretty sure that this part ran alongside another golf course and that once past the fairways was pretty muddy.

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Finally at the end of this stretch I came out at a house in the woods and, unexpectedly, instead of carrying on turned 180 degrees into the driveway, past the house and seemingly back the way I came. My already addled brain was not amused.

I can’t really remember much else of this part. I know I took this shot going along an enclosed footpath which may, or may not, have been here. Sorry!

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Eventually I crossed back over the B4506 and knew I was on the home straight(ish)

After a quick up and down after the road crossing there is a really nice downhill blast along a gravel track before turning right uphill along a path. Along this section there are a couple of trees across the track. One looks like it has been there a while and there is a bit of a path around it but the other looked fresh and may cause a but of a problem if it hasn’t been cleared (more like a decent sized branch).

After this it is pretty level though I was struggling badly now with no energy at all. One more small road to cross and suddenly there is a sign saying Bridgewater Monument 3/4 mile. A massive tonic! I got a bit of energy back and cruised the next 1/2 mile until…

The hill! The final 1/2 or 1/4 mile is all uphill to the finish. I was feeling better now and got up without drama finishing at the glorious cafe.

I would have taken a picture of my food but, even though well deserved, two cakes would make me look a bit greedy so I’ll finish with this…

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If all else fails, this is what you are looking for. They are pretty much everywhere.

Whether you’re racing on Saturday or just fancy a 16 ish mile run through some beautiful varied and “undulating” countryside, enjoy it. It is a great route and providing you remember to fuel properly a really pleasant experience.