Stuart Mann

Stuart Mann Completed the Clarendon in 2017

If you take a look at Stuart Mann's twitter feed (@runningmann100) you get the impression of a typically outdoorsy South African lifestyle, with non-stop sunshine and races that take in the Cape Winelands, game reserves (watch out for the elephant poo!) and the Kalahari Desert. So how did he find the 2017 Clarendon Marathon – a year that was, shall we say, “good for mud”?

We begin with Stuart (who was in London on a work trip) finding his way to Winchester and making the traditional double decker bus trip to the start of the race.

Story reads as follows:

We pulled into the parking lot and made it onto the last bus with a few minutes to spare. We received a friendly welcome and were invited to grab some jelly beans and bananas before boarding the bus. Jelly beans are the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast and the two handfuls I grabbed paired well with a couple of bananas.

After a 45-minute bus ride we arrived in Laverstock, Salisbury and I was surprised to see how many runners were in the registration hall. As a late entrant, I paid £45. All the race fees (minus running costs) go to Rotary who organise the race. As most of the prizes and incidentals are sponsored by local organisations I think that only major cost that needed to be deducted was for jelly beans which were plentiful before, during and after the race.

The start was very relaxed: after a short race briefing the organiser realised that there was still 5 minutes that needed to be filled. He asked the runners for ideas, it turned out someone was having a birthday so we proceeded to sing “Happy Birthday” and this was followed up by a detailed description of public toilet facilities along the route (as a regular guy I always appreciate this kind of information). As we were on the Wyvern School sports fields, it was fitting that instead of a gun it was the more traditional starter's orders, “On your marks, get set, GO!” that sent us on our way.

It took me about 30 seconds to realise that I had put my beautiful (plenty of compliments on Facebook – not all of them sarcastic) South African flag running pants on backwards but it was too late to do anything about it. However, I can now say that I know what it's like to run a marathon in a G-string (for the record, not entirely unpleasant provided you apply enough Vaseline). This got me to thinking (there is plenty of time to think during a marathon) that there must be a marketing opportunity for the Mara-thong – I'm just not sure I want to live long enough to see it!
Aside from the distinguished pants, I was also easily identifiable as one of the few out of town runners because I was the only person who had bothered to bring sunglasses to the race.

The race claims to be both “picturesque and challenging”. Based on previous UK marathon running experience, “picturesque” I had no doubt of, but I was somewhat sceptical of the “challenging” claim. In London a “large spacious bedroom” is one where there is room for a really thin person to walk around a single bed and in the UK a challenging marathon usually has one hill of insufficient stature to earn an official name if it was on Comrades or Two Oceans.

The first half of the route proved me right – a few little speed bumps here and there but really nothing remotely challenging. I had to reassess my opinion in the second half of the race where they served up a few real hills and I realised that the “picturesque and challenging” tag was definitely not false advertising.

However, the real challenge was the mud – frequent patches of thick, sticky, treacherous mud which made running conditions perilous along several sections of the route.

You need to make sure you've laced up tightly because this was the kind of mud that sucks you under and steals your running shoes. It's also the kind of mud that quickly clods up your shoes to make a massive “mudshoe pie” – providing zero traction and tests your core muscle strength via mud surfing every few steps. I took the prudent approach and walked most of the muddy sections which helped me avoid falling into the mud (until about 2km from the finish).

There are 14 drinks tables along the route and each is stocked with water, orange squash, jelly beans, flap jacks, banana bread, bananas (without the bread) and more jelly beans. The tables are all manned by local organisations and the marshals are volunteers from the local Rotary – despite the deteriorating weather they were super friendly and very efficient at ensuring that everyone got their fair share of jelly beans. The mid-morning start meant that I would miss my normal hearty Sunday lunch but I more than made up for this with a 14-course serving of jelly beans over 4.5 hours.

This is an excellent marathon – a real team effort between two towns who put on a great event for the runners and raise plenty of money for charity. The race is tough but scenic and it was great to get off the tar and run a cross-country marathon. The only downside is that I don't think I'll be eating jelly beans again any time soon!

Stuart's blog and more of his running experiences can be found at:

http://runningmann.co.za/2017/10/05/clarendon-marathon/

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