Serpie Planner - event reports

Fairlands Valley Challenge Marathon (22 Jul 2007)

Fairlands Valley Challenge - a "multi-terrain" event, involving Marathon, 18 mile and 12 mile options. The event starts in Stevenage and takes you out into some (modestly) undulating countryside. This truly is multi-terrain - maybe 50% on minor roads and paths with the balance on tracks, bridleways, footpaths, through fields, woods etc, with a decent number of stiles and fences to cross etc. Inevitably your footwear will be inappropriate for at least some of course!

You are given a detailed set of instructions by which to navigate. This is close to orienteering in a few places and few spells of being "lost" are inevitable. Basically it is not too tough though, since there is a staggered start... While the main event starts at 10.30, you can, if you wish, start as early as 9am, so there are people on the course ahead of you most of the way, although the dangers of relying on other people to navigate are obvious. Drinks and food (including great bread pudding) at the 5 checkpoints plus one standalone drinks stop.

Conditions were fairly good, despite recent heavy rains, with only a few mud baths to dance through. A few uncomfortable spells through cornfields and stinging nettles to take your mind off the fatigue. On the day it stayed dry and was a little warm - low 20s probably.

I'd say (never having done this sort of event before) that this is a good introduction to off-road events, being not too hilly and the terrain not too tough. At a guess, take a road marathon time, add 30 minutes for the off-road elements etc, and 15 minutes for navigation and inevitably getting lost a few times. Definitely recommended.