Enjoyed this run….well as far as I am able to enjoy running. Running and I are frenemies at best. Weather was bipolar, the boy was challenging and my husband’s half marathon started in a different location so needed a bus but the organisation was excellent and I have to give credit to them for providing a great event.
The Neolithic Marathon which has races for half, 10k, 5k, canicross and cycling of various distances is a charity event for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. The various events within the overall event started from three different locations with coaches provided to get everyone where they needed to go provided by Barnes Coaches. All the events traverse the Salisbury Plain (normally used by the UK army for tank practice) so the Army had to make the area ready (safe) for our races. All the unexplored ordinance was cleared out and we luckily did not have to deal with dodging tanks along the way.
We arrived at the Old Carter Barracks carpark outside of Tidworth at about 8am as my husband needed to get the 8:30am coach to the half marathon location. He was meant to do the marathon but due to injury so lack of training it was a half instead. Now the weather was grey and raining (in fact at one point pouring down) so we mostly hid out in the car until my husband left. There was not a huge number of people taking part in each race so the handful of portaloos were somehow sufficient and not once did I need to wait in line which with three trips before the 10am start time was greatly appreciated.
My son (16.5yo) and I were running the 10k though she is a spring chicken and I am a knarled old hen he should have been well in front of me. In fact in the past he has run 10k in 58minutes so I expected to be on my own the whole way. I was wrong!
The run started out on a primitive paved road material which surprised me very much. I guess my imagination of a tank practice site didn’t involve paved roads. The first mile was all up hill. I don’t know where they found this hill to bring to the Plains special for this run that I expected to be quite flat but nevertheless it was right there in the first mile. Now I failed to mention that the day before this race I unexpectedly did a personal best at parkrun of 35:40 and failed to sleep for more than an hour and a half the night before so I was exhausted and this was a fucking HILL! I was really questioning my ability to finish without walking most all of this. It was near the top of this hill that I caught up with my son who was walking.
The walking boy was annoyed because he found the signs confusing as they didn’t state 10K or 5K on them. In fact they actually did have colour coding but he didn’t know what colour we were and didn’t understand that half of our race was the same route as the 5K. I explained and after some complaint of being unable to pace himself he sprinted off. I kept my snail pace of about 7:20 min/kilometre going which I knew was a bit fast but I also am not good at pacing. We are still following along the paved road at around about 3k when we get to the point that the 5K turned right and we turned left. The boy is with me again because of course sprinting off is not good pacing and we have a cup of water at the water station and move on. It is shortly after this that the frustrated, hungry (he neglected to eat breakfast that morning) boy excised to walk after begging me to let him do 5k instead (I am mean and made him do 10). I jogged on and left him behind. Somewhere near to 5K we came to a left turn into a mucky, unsaved tank track for our off road piece.
Over the last couple weeks we have had reasonably dry weather so the conditions were not too bad but the last couple days it had been raining so the well packed tracks were sticky muddy. I don’t have trail shoes so the mud just caked on the bottom until I felt like I was running in snow shoes and would find grass to scuff the mud off and repeat. I managed to keep running to almost the 6k mark when I came to a smaller muddy hill. The mud wasn’t bad but I was so tired and decided to walk up the hill. The boy caught back up to me again around this time and wee walked up together.
The boy….ugh. While walking he decided to have a Clif Block (energy thing) which forced him to breath through his nose which he discovered worked well for him. He had stated running and caught up to me which at one point was quite a distance. Of course he ran a bit too fast and needed to walk so joined me for the walk up the hill. This was the end of my running on my own. We didn’t so much run together as we regularly passed each other.
From the top of the hill I ran on for a bit and again walked slightly before we reached back to the paved road. By this time my pace was slowed to around an 8 min/kilometre and the sun had come out. In fact the cool grey skies were now a blazing sun and I was drowning in sweat. The road was totally open to the direct sun and was slightly uphill which I think I noticed on the way along the first time but wasn’t as tired then. It was only a short bit of repeated road and a straight line. I was so hot and tired that much of that short piece involved he running with my eyes closed as they refused to be open in the bright light. We got to the crossroads and collected another cup of water before continuing to the finish…..uphill!
Why is it that downhill seems flat but uphill is always a steep ass mountain?!? I walked up this hill that was at the 8K mark while the boy sprinted up it like an idiot. At the top of the hill I went back to my jog and caught up to the boy quickly as he was walking downhill. I was determined to only run for the last 2k and I did succeed at this however the boy still walked more than he sprinted. Each time I caught up to him he sprinted off again so that he would finish before me. I can’t tell you how annoying I found this. I deserved to have been the turtle beating the hare but he would not allow that.
The last mile of the race and I was so wet with sweat that my shirt that normally weighs about 10g at best felt like it weighed a kilogram. The sun was beating me viciously about the head and shoulders and there was a slight incline that looked like Everest to me but I was not going to walk. After this point in was all downhill. In fact it was sufficiently downhill that I had my fasted kilometre of the race at 7:01 minutes. There was a photographer at this point documenting our certain deaths from heat exhaustion and a lovely lady telling us it was almost over.
As is so very common the 10K event did not end at the 10K mark though. I have done enough of these now to expect a sneaky bit of extra at the end. We turned left down into some trees coming back into where we started. I was almost back up to the boy who was walking again. I told him to run into the finish which he complied with to beat me. I got up my last bit of push going and stretched out my legs for a good, quick finish. This was not a sprint as I didn’t have that much left but it was a respectable speed. I saw the timer saying 1:19:49 and I just wanted to finish under 1:20 as that was my time at the Milton Keynes Festival of Running. I ran with all I had and crossed the chip timer at 1:19:50 for a new personal best. The boy beat me by 9 seconds with his grumpy mostly walking with a bit of sprinting strategy. The tortoise lost to the hare but this tortoise was very happy with her performance.
After the race we were given a medal, lunchbox and two bottles of water. The lunchbox options were ham, cheese, or egg (no vegan options). I got the egg option which had a lovely apple and an apricot flapjack inside. The boy and I sat down on a bale of hay and had a bit of our lunches before he retired to the car to read and I waited on my husband to finish.
The half marathon was meant to have one start time at 11am however the weather at the stat location was bad so they started them off in two batches in the end. Hubby started at 9:30am in what was almost a blinding downpour. I can’t comment on most of this as I wasn’t there but apparently the mud for them was less sticky and more slippery so he found it tough going. His first half was going very well but the second was in that scorching sun and it took its toll on him. He finished in 2:21 according to his watch which is very slow for him but due to the injury and training issues he was still happy. Now I mentioned that he had been signed up for marathon but changed it to a half in the last week. They happily did this and he got his race number fine but something went wrong with timing so he does not have an official time listed on the website. He will be contacting the organisers about this but it is not the end of the world. We collected up his medal and food and headed back to the car.
The events were amazingly well organised especially considering the large number of different races within the overall event. Who I run this again? Yes, I most definitely would do this again. The boy has already asked that next year he be signed up to do a cycling event there and hubby wants to do this again as well. Next year will be another day of everyone going off in different directions but I do look forward to it.
Thank you Wiltshire Wildlife Trust for a great day out. Thank you Barnes Coaches for transporting my husband and so many others to their starting points. Thank you marshals for your support. And thank you British Army for clearing allowing us to run and not blowing anyone up.