Alison Malcolm, Donna Austin, Emma Wallace, Laura Hume.
Race time of 5:13:52.
In an attempt to coax myself back into running last year, friends and I decided to sign up for the Clarendon Relay. With the race passing through our pretty village of Winterslow there really was no excuse.
Due to childcare issues we were doing things slightly differently by having the numbers posted to us prior to race day, and we were each responsible for turning up to the appropriate leg and making suitable travel arrangements. Taking on the first leg, I made my way to Wyvern College with my husband, Matt, who was running the full - his first ever marathon. The sun was shining and the pre-race excitement and anticipation was beginning to build as we mingled with the other runners and bumped into a few people we knew. With race time fast approaching we all began to near the start line - slightly nervous and eager to get those legs turning.
Laura and Matt just before starting the Clarendon 2018
Matt and I ran together for the first couple of miles, keen to get off the roads and on to the trails with rolling countryside views that only a race like the Clarendon Marathon can give. I really enjoyed the opportunity to run with him as it's something we rarely do, and I'd like to think I helped to steady his nerves and avoid him heading out too fast. It wasn't too long before the first big hill separated us and I wished him luck as he went on ahead. I certainly struggled up that first big hill and it clearly hadn't been a sensible decision to have a PT session two days earlier. So I was very grateful that the next part of my leg took me downhill through scenic woodlands and I tried to keep pace with the lady in front who was another relay runner. I was happy to arrive in Pitton, crossing through the village before heading cross-country again towards Winterslow. I knew the route well as I had walked it so many times with the dog and I found the familiarity helpful. This also meant that I knew another killer hill was coming! I certainly wished I had spent more time training as I was struggling and found myself tailing far behind the mass of strong and experienced runners. It was absolutely a crisis of confidence at the time but I carried on, concentrating on getting to the recreation ground in Winterslow where my leg would finish. Coming through the gate into the rec was a great relief. I had wondered previously how easy it would be to spot my teammate in the crowds of relay runners - however I was the last relay runner through so it was pretty easy! I handed the band to Donna and off she went. My daughter, Eliza, was waiting for me with my Mum and a few local friends so it was a lovely welcome over the finish line, despite the disappointment I had felt at being so slow.
Laura coming down the hill to Pitton
Because I didn't have to partake in getting to Broughton I was able to leisurely stroll home with Eliza to refuel and pick up the car. While at home I had a quick look at the tracking Matt and I had set up on each others phones. He'd been having knee problems during training and was unsure how they would hold out for the race itself. Being unable to communicate through the event I thought it would be a great idea to track his phone. However I had forgotten just how lame all the service is out in the sticks so of course there was no signal!
Eliza and I made our way to Farley Mount where we were planning on meeting our third team member, Alison, as she came over the finish line from running the third leg that includes the notorious ginormous hill at Kings Somborne. Rather than find ourselves at the handover station we found ourselves a little closer to the finish line at the start of the 5 mile race. This actually worked out well as we saw friends, one of whom was running the 5 mile race. We cheered her off and then set ourselves up at a perfect view point as all the runners came down the hill, through a gate and turned left into the woods. It really was the perfect spot. I checked the tracking of Matt's phone again but there's even less phone service in Farley Mount so we had to be patient and wait.
All the runners coming through were looking really good and we spent time figuring out the bib colours to signal who was running the full, who was running the half and who was part of a relay team. After a while I saw one or two runners come through that I recognised and that I knew to be strong and experienced. I knew that Matt would be behind them so we continued to wait. I started to see a few more faces that I recognised from the start line, runners that were ahead of us all those hours earlier in the day. Again, this helped me to place Matt and sure enough, before long he came into view. It was an exciting moment for us - his knees were holding out! And seeing him at this stage, with only 5 miles left to go, I knew he could complete it. I was really chuffed for him and we enjoyed a few minutes with him while he stretched out and took a breather. Hugs and kisses all round we sent him on his way and stayed put waiting for our fourth team member, Emily, to come through. Now I'd only met Emily once before - she is Alisons niece and doesn't live locally to us but wanted the goal of the Clarendon relay to begin her running journey and encourage her to get fit. Matt told me he'd seen both her and Alison so I knew she wouldn't be far behind. He also told me she had big coloured head phones on. Plus she obviously had the same bib number on as me! After a few minutes I could see Emily coming down the hill, lost in her music and focused on her run. I jumped around in front of her waving and pointing to my bib number so she'd know I was her team mate. She looked up and gave an awkward half smile so I was pretty sure she had no idea who I was but I didn't care - I'd seen her and now it was time to head to the finish line. As it happens, Emily had no recollection of a random lady jumping around in front of her!
Eliza and I headed to Kings School in Winchester where we met Alison and Donna and waited in a good spot for Matt and Emily to come through. We also saw our friend, Amy, who'd had a great 5 mile run and we all chatted animatedly about our legs (the race legs, not our own legs) and how we'd found it. The time was ticking by now and I was eagerly awaiting Matt's arrival. However, by surprise we saw Emily come through first. She looked happy and relaxed and Alison and Donna joined her to run through the finish line. I didn't want to miss Matt so stayed put, and I was also worried about him as he'd clearly started to pull back if Emily had overtaken him.
Emily, Alison and Donna were now back with us with t-shirts and medals and we had a proper group hug and enjoyed our achievement together. Emily said she'd seen Matt, that he was fine but having trouble with his knees and was having to walk. I checked the tracker on my phone - it was working! And I could see Matt was only down the road. Relief. He came in to view and crossed the line to lots of cheers from all of us. What a fantastic day. We'd all been challenged and we'd all been pushed out of our comfort zones but we had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Alison, Donna, Emily and I had given ourselves the team name The Wintersloooow Runners. It was very appropriate as we were the slowest of all the relay teams but we were really proud of our effort. The Clarendon is a challenging route and has a following of experienced, strong and competitive runners. It was a mental battle to keep going when we felt a little out of our league but we carried on. Running is such a personal experience to all of us. Many of the relay teams are affiliated to running clubs but we are just a group of Mums who need a goal to encourage us to prioritise time for running and time for ourselves. We all want to run each leg of the Clarendon so we shall certainly be back in October to tick another one off.
In the meantime I am busy organising the first Winterslow Run - a 10k and 5k distance starting and finishing at Barry's Field in Winterslow on Sunday 15 September. It'll be a great warm up event for all you Clarendon runners so we would love to see as many of you there as possible. The event can be found on Facebook, or all details are in our flyer. https://www.muddyrunners.org.uk/copy-of-abbotts-ann-trail-runs