The Clarendon Marathon was obviously a marathon event but it also allowed runners to join as a team of four and run the race as a relay too. I'd signed up with three others from my running group (Hedge End Running Club). My leg was number 3 but was "only" 7.6 miles. This would be fine but in reality I needed more as I was marathon training. I also didn't want to run a mega long run the day before as I wanted a lie-in and had plans.
After discussing it with my team mates I decided I'd run another leg unofficially just to top up my miles. I added up three legs but it came to almost 20 miles and I wasn't sure I was up for that long a run. I decided instead I'd run with Mike on his leg (leg 2) and then carry on for my leg after, giving me about 14 miles. Then I'd try and do another shorter run later in the day when I got back (urgh).
So on the Sunday morning I was up early and had some porridge. Ordinarily I wouldn't have bothered with breakfast (I never tend to before a run) but as I wasn't going to be running until after 11am it wasn't a good idea to leave myself that long without food and then try and run. Plus I didn't know when I'd be back and I'd probably be a hangry wreck to be around. Then I headed off to meet the team at Hedge End for 8.30am. I got to the meeting spot and found there were quite a few doing it from our club - I hadn't realised it would be this busy!
We had a few teams entered for the relay and a few guys doing the full marathon - so we were amongst very friendly company.
The race starts in Salisbury and we managed to park close to the school. This was great as we knew that once our first runner had set off, we would need to hot foot it to the car and drive to Winterslow for the first relay change over. You also need to keep in mind that this is a point to point, the race finishing in Winchester.
Alan, our first relay guy, got himself ready to go and the rest of us milled about putting our numbers on and joking around. A photographer came over to me and asked if I was part of the HERC and I said yes. He then asked if a bunch of the male HERC members could pick me up and hold me for a photo. Riiiiiight. I was quickly hoisted up and had a very bizarre photo taken. In efforts to keep the balance, this was quickly replicated with another member - a larger male runner. It was quite amusing.
We then headed outside to cheer on the marathoners and the first relayers. It was beautiful and sunny, albeit chilly, and surrounding us was beautiful hilly scenery and fields. It was lovely.
So we cheered the first runners and marathoners off at 10.30am and then headed quickly back to our cars to drive to the next point - just over 10k away (I obviously didn't do any of the navigating or driving because that's far too much adulting required).
Relay races always feel like such an adventure in this respect. Everyone rushing about trying to get to the next point on time and all the while knowing your runner is out there steadily heading that way.
We got to the next point and I had a quick wee before waiting with Mike to see the first runners come through. This was Mike's leg and I was merely going to be joining him - he would set the pace and I was happy with that. I wasn't looking to break any records (nor was he). Just a nice scenic amble of just over 10k.
Alan headed through in just over 51 minutes (very respectable considering how hilly the course is) and Mike took the chip from him (which could be strapped onto his wrist) and we both headed off. The course was mostly off-road and undulating/hilly. But there were minimal cars, it was well sign-posted and the smiling cheering marshals were frequent enough for us not to get lost and push us on. There were lots of aid stations as well full of squash, water, cakes and nibbles. The temperature was perfect for running - a bit nippy in the shade at the start but lovely in the sunshine without being too hot.
Mike and I chatted away when the hills weren't too strenuous, and I started to ponder what I'd do about my run. I felt very comfortable running… the miles were ticking by easily. I could take my run nice and easy and then maybe, just maybe I could keep pushing until the end? Wouldn't that be easier than having to tack some more miles on later in the day. I mean, we'd have to wait for Keith, our number four runner, anyway so it made sense to use the time wisely rather than schedule it in later. I decided to judge how I felt during my run, which I knew would be the hilliest of all the sections (leg 3). If I needed to stop after that then fine. But I also knew Keith's leg was the shortest (just under 10k) and not as hilly.
As we got to about 100m from the relay hand-over point (the sign posts were nice and clear for the handovers which made it a very seamless transition), Mike suddenly put in a sprint. I was not prepared for this and had to sprint with him to keep up - after all he would be handing over to me!! I grabbed the wrist-strap from him and as we got to the point I headed off and he stopped. Lots of our club were there and they cheered me on.
After a mile I switched my Aftershokz headphones on and listened to some very chilled music on a low volume. It was just nice to have some background noise while I zoned out. It was one of those runs where you think of nothing and everything. I took in the beautiful scenery and found myself running a bit faster. It was a good running day!
After a mile or so of my lap suddenly there was an influx of runners who appeared coming round the corner. Like over a hundred runners joining the run! It shocked me - were two races merging on one day? Then I remembered that this was Broughton where the half marathon was joining the trail. They all looked super fresh of course. It was a little frustrating to suddenly have to weave through a lot of people and I felt like a bit of a dick at times but eventually I got to a position where I could be "one with the flow" rather than dodging my way through.
And yes the hills were tough. On one significant one I decided to walk - as a lot of others had too (Killer Hill just past Kings Somborne). I saw a friend of mine, Ben, from Lords Hill and we chatted as we slogged on up. He had done the cross country earlier that morning (he too was after more miles for a long run) so we were both taking it relatively easy. That said, his easy was not my easy!
As we started running again we chatted for a bit before I told him to go on. I was no longer feeling relaxed at that pace. I did manage to catch him up later as he had a rough time of it towards the end, but he did well regardless (I think he did over 17 miles in the end).
There was quite the break-neck downhill at one point and I tried to just let myself go. I could see the bottom of the hill was clear running so I had nothing to fear. It was terrifying but fun!
As I got to the handover point I knew I was going to carry on. I felt strong and I felt good. I ran over to Keith and handed him the relay arm strap thing and told him I was running on but not to wait for me. I didn't want him to hold himself back (and ultimately our team!) because I'd decided I wanted more miles and couldn't keep up.
I managed to stay with Keith's VERY fast pace for about a mile before he gradually peeled off. I was more than happy with this because honestly his pace was insane to me at this point! I couldn't maintain that having run all the miles before and it being a hilly course. The main thing that kept me going really was that I knew it was less than 10k and a few people had told me beforehand that the last leg was the easiest OK, just hold on Anna.
I went past one marshal who happily yelled "fantastic! We need more ladies up the field!" which was nice. All the marshals were brilliant to be honest. I kept Keith in my sights and was able to overtake a few marathoners and half marathoners as I went and felt so pleased that I wasn't going to have to run again later.
I was very conscious that I didn't want to hold our team up though because they'd have to wait for me at the end. This was strong motivation to keep me going and maintaining a decent pace. I did feel a bit cheeky that I was getting cheered on as technically this wasn't my race anymore... The photographer even jokingly remarked at how often he'd seen me (on our bibs it says our leg number). My bib said leg 3 but I was now clearly on leg 4.
There were two quite sneaky and painful hills at the end and then finally someone shouted it was about 500 yards to go - not that I had the foggiest what a yard looked like really. But surely that meant reasonably close?
I turned round the corner into the school grounds and there was a nice stretch of grass before the finish funnel.
Whew! 19.75 miles DONE. I was so pleased to have gotten almost 20 miles done and dusted. And it hadn't felt like a super long run. Being joined by different people together with the undulating course helped break up the monotony. I was glad to have a guzzle of water at the end, pick up my medal and t-shirt (which fitted perfectly! Actual female small sizes yay!). Then I joined my team to celebrate.
Keith had finished just ahead of me so thankfully they didn't have to wait too long for me. We came 5th out of the mix relay teams which isn't shabby at all! Our overall time was 3:30:42. This is a great time! I don't think any of us would have been able to have run the entire marathon in that time!
The winning team did it in sub-3 hours which was insane - a solid 42 minutes ahead of us (can I also say, a full female team as well!).
Then we cheered on a few more of the other HERC team members coming in (and other runners of course) before deciding to head off home. Whew! I was so so glad not to have to run again and that I'd gotten it done all at once.
This was a fantastic race - I fully recommend. Friendly, scenic and well organised!