Caught first bus to Broughton, Hampshire situated midway between Salisbury and Winchester, two beautiful cathedral cities linked by the Clarendon Way, a 26 mile country path over picturesque undulating landscape frequently travelled by the ancient Kings and Queens of England.
Meanwhile about 400 runners were setting off from Salisbury on route to Winchester, all willing participants in the annual Clarendon Marathon. I was amongst another 400 or so runners joining them at 12.15pm to run my first ever half-marathon (or competitive race of any kind in fact!).
It all started the previous month when JJ, an acquaintance from the Muscat Hash House Harriers some 28 years earlier asked me to help out with the event. As Race Manager what he really wanted was assistance in marking out the course and acting as marshal on the day. But I rather foolishly replied “Actually, I’d quite like to take part. I could walk. I’d enjoy that”. Having committed to such a venture the idea then grew that running would present more of a challenge. Having no previous running experience my first thought was “How does one prepare for such a thing?” With hindsight I could of course have consulted Madoc but I stuck to a plan of running 2 miles most evenings and then increasingly longer runs of 5, 7, 9 and 12 miles on successive weekends trusting this would get me through.
While I could run 2 miles continuously on the flat fairly easily, the first time I ran 5 miles incorporating the occasional hill I found I had to walk parts of it on 3 or 4 occasions. However, by the time I had worked up to 12 miles I only walked twice. On race day, running with a pack for the first time and encouraged by cheering crowds, the only time I walked was up some incredibly steep hills where it proved faster to walk than run anyway. I was running behind some guy in an Iron Man suit for much of the way who proved very popular with the many young children lining the route.
I hadn’t been paying much attention to the mile markers and when we entered a forest towards what I understood to be near the end of the course I thought for some reason I was close to the finish and so started to increase my pace. Then one of the marshals devastatingly shouted out “only 4 miles to go!”
Four gruelling miles later I eventually finished in the first half achieving a respectable time of 2:08:06 for a novice, 7.5 minutes ahead of Iron Man and was rewarded with a welcome complimentary banana courtesy of one of the event sponsors Fyffes.
I haven’t hung up my running shoes just yet. I’ve since started doing 5k Park Runs and aim to get my time below 20 minutes. I will definitely do the Clarendon half-marathon next year and may even consider the challenge of a whole marathon – or is that just too nuts?