One day I’ll have the perfect build up to a marathon, then wake up on race day feeling fresh and fit. December 11th, 2016, the date of marathon number four of 2016, was not that day. Since the Yorkshire marathon in October, I had moved house, started a secondment at work, and got engaged. All exciting stuff, but all meant running was put on the back burner slightly. Then the day before Bovington I woke up with a sore throat. All in all, I wasn’t feeling particularly confident about tackling my first trail marathon on an army training base in December after two days of rain.
Anyone familiar with White Star Running will know the pre-race build up is a little different to other races… While your race number and all essential info is delivered in the post beforehand, most other info is shared via email and Facebook, complete with videos of the route hinting at what’s to come (in this case, several river crossings). By the time race day rolled around I was feeling a little too well informed and was slightly petrified by what I’d let myself in for.
Plenty of portaloos at the start, as well as toilets at Bovington Tank Museum. On the route there were a few portaloos along the course, and of course there were plenty of trees and bushes along the way… Marathon number 6 proved to be a first for me, in that for once I didn’t actually go to the toilet on the way. Hoping that I can replicate this in my next road marathon and shave a few minutes off my time!
By the time it came to gather for the start, I was slightly terrified. But once we kicked off the legs went into autopilot run mode and the nerves soon eased off.
It wasn’t long before we reached the first of the promised river crossings. A fair few people dived right in but I was keen to keep my feet dry for as long as possible!
We’d already seen some tanks at the start, but it was still quite the novelty to see the tanks scattered around the route. Naturally I couldn’t resist posing for a quick pic.
A slightly misty morning led to rather beautiful views of the sun creeping through mist and trees, providing a nice distraction from the fact I still had quite a long way to go…
A few miles in and my shoes were relatively clean and dry, but a long muddy stretch soon put paid to that. Shortly afterwards an unexpected cleaning opportunity when I accidentally submerged my feet in a boggy patch while trying to avoid a muddy puddle.
And there were some rather steep hills.
I was plodding along quite nicely when I realised we must be running alongside Monkey World, as suddenly noticed a gang of primates were watching on slightly bemused as the runners filed past.
Later I became a little confused as I realised I didn’t recognise most of the runners around me, and when my Garmin was totally different to someone else’s I worried I’d managed to somehow accidentally take a shortcut. Fortunately for me (less so for everyone else) I then realised a fair number of people had accidentally taken a diversion, so these strangers were people who had now rejoined the route!
By the time I got to the Lovestation at mile 20 I was pleasantly surprised by how good my legs were feeling, although I still wasn’t quite feeling up to having any rum or cider. A bit of brownie and a glass of coke later and I was back on the route and ready for the final stretch.
For the final few miles I ended up running alongside two tri runners, who after a couple of miles had convinced me I could do a triathlon. My swimming is terrible, but apparently this is something that can easily be overcome… It was really pleasant to talk to them and made the final stretch fly by, as well as making it easier to keep up a consistent pace. I always enjoy the friendly camaraderie you find during many races, but this is especially true of White Star races.
As the finished line approached there were a few river crossings to overcome, but at this point my increasingly soggy feet weren’t too much of a concern. Soon came the welcome sight of the Tank Museum sign, before turning the corner to the finish line. Although I did nearly miss the finish as I was slightly on autopilot.
I actually finished feeling quite good, and for the first time in a marathon managed not to completely crumble in the second half, which does give me confidence for future runs. I still spent the next three days struggling with stairs though.
With White Star Running it’s all about the bling, and they didn’t disappoint. The hefty tank-themed medal was so heavy it actually gave me neck ache when I wore it home. The race goody bag (which I managed to forget to pick up, so had to do a quick dash back afterwards) was also pretty decent, containing a race buff, booze and a flapjack amongst some other stuff.
A really fun and interesting course, fantastic atmosphere and brilliant medal. It’s inevitable with a first-time event of this complexity that there will be a few teething problems, but I hope the event does return next year. Would recommend to anyone looking for something a bit different!
I ran four marathons in 2016 for Stroke Association and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. You can sponsor me here: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DaniellaGraham