Running in my First Marathon

Running in my First Marathon:  The Clarendon 2014

By JJ Heath-Caldwell

In 2013, having by then been involved in the management of the event for a number of years, I thought it would be great to actually enter and participate myself.  Running the half that year was great fun and so the following year, 2014, I entered the full marathon, 26.2 miles from Salisbury to Winchester.

Although the Clarendon is much more challenging that most marathons I was never the less very pleased that it was my first.  Most marathons are on roads and you run around in a circular route eventually finishing up where you started.  These events where you are running on tarmac are ideal if you want to get the fastest possible time but they can be rather lacking in scenery and in purpose.

The Clarendon is a point to point event (and it has hills!).  The runners start at Laverstoke on the east side of Salisbury and then attempt to make it in one piece all the way to Winchester.  The majority of the course is on the old Clarendon Way footpath which gradually meanders through the Wiltshire and Hampshire countryside with excellent scenery all the way.  After running through sections of forestry and a lot of countryside, the runners eventually reach the finish in Winchester.

For my marathon I was up out of bed at 6.00am and across to Salisbury ready to see the early starters off at 8.30am, all of whom were walking.  These were followed by the 9.30 start for slow runners and by then the early busses were beginning to arrive bringing the runners who had parked their cars in Winchester.  The main start was at 10.30 with about 500 runners.  After shouting go, I waited for the last runner to cross the start line and then I joined the pack.

Having been involved all year in the organising of the race it was a great feeling to be actually running in it.  The weather was perfect.  Even though it was in October, the day was sunny and the ground underfoot was firm.  Everyone was in high spirits and it was all very much of a party atmosphere.  Hard to imagine that we were all actually competing trying to get to Winchester as fast as we could.

We headed out through the Clarendon Estate and for those of us who looked back we saw an excellent view of Salisbury Cathedral.  Then it was up to the top of the hill and past the ruins of the old Clarendon Palace.  This was the first drinks station and from here we were to encounter drinks stations approximately every two miles.  The trail took us on for a few miles through woods and then down a hill to the village of Pitton and the second drinks station.  Then on to Winterslow where the first relay changeover took place.  No change for me though as I was running the full distance.  A few miles later I managed to meet up with my wife who was marshalling and I was able to pick up a sandwich.  With hindsight eating a sandwich when you are in a marathon is not to be recommended but I was having a busy morning and my appetite was up.

The old Roman Road from Winterslow was a perfect straight line, as to be expected, until we got to Buckhold Farm where the Clarendon Way veers off a bit to the left to take us on to Broughton.
The village of Broughton is the halfway point and it is here that we had the second relay change over, another drinks station, and the half marathon runners join the route.  Up until this point a lot of the route had been in the trees but leaving Broughton we had a long stretch going over very much open country side until we got to Houghton.  I always get Broughton and Houghton mixed up as the spelling of the two names is so similar.  From here the trail goes over a footbridge on the River Test which is full of trout but I didn’t stop to see if there were any swimming in the stream as I crossed it.

At Kings Somborne we ran down the hill and crossed the busy A3057.  Cars of course have right of way but a temporary road closure was in force and in among the numerous road cones there where marshals with bright jackets helping to keep everyone safe.

Leaving Kings Somborne we climbed quite a steep hill and by this time I was certainly starting to feel pretty jaded.  I was surrounded by runners of all shapes and sizes.  Some were the half marathoners who had joined us at Broughton and so were still looking full of energy.  The others were the full distance runners like myself.  Going uphill I was happy to walk while I regained my breath.

Another few miles on and we started an even bigger hill.  This was Farley Mount and when you see it you instantly know why it is called a ‘Mount’.  It is also known as ‘Beacon Hill’.  Here the path is quite narrow and as the people in front of me were walking I was also quite happy to slow down even more.

From the top of Farley Mount there is a wonderful run which goes downhill steadily for a mile or so into the trees of Crab Wood.  Much of this is now forestry and the trail follows some of the tracks for a bit over two miles.

Miraculously by this point I had covered 22 miles with no pain but my energy level was now very much drained and I was starting to feel the occasional cramp pains in my legs.  As I came out of West Wood I knew that I only had another three miles to go so I kept moving forward, sometimes walking, sometimes taking up a slow jog.

This is where the marshals really come into making the whole day so enjoyable.  They were spread all along the route and were giving all the runners much needed encouragement.  Another drinks station at Ham Green and then onto Pincent Scout Camp where there was yet another drinks station even though it was only 400m to go.

By this point I must admit that time wise I was trailing very much at the tail end of the runners.  Most of them were well and truly in front of me.   However, a few minutes later, it was still a fantastic feeling to cross the finish line in a time of 5 hours and 26 minutes.  Medal and tshirt well earned.

I immediately put some more clothes on to keep warm and I tucked into two ‘Broughton Farm’ beef burgers.  Very pleased to still be standing up.  The following day my legs were a little bit flaky but other than that I felt great.

I am all set to run again this year but I think I might go back to do the half marathon rather than the full marathon.