Meon Valley Plod 21M: 15 February 2004

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All runners

Pos arrow Name arrow Time arrow Cat arrow Club arrow Pace arrow
1 1 Chris Saunders 3:02:00 SM Serpentine 8:53
2 2 Robin Gray 3:30:21 SM Serpentine 10:16
3 3 Lars Menken 3:39:55 SM Serpentine 10:44


Race Report:

The alarm clock sounded, it was 4.30 am and as I lay in bed I started to
question my sanity. In a previous life, I would have just returned home,
snuggling up after a night of liquid poetry abuse and heavy partying. So why
is it now that I am contemplating leaving my lovely warm pit and how the
hell did I get talked into a race that requires one to get up at such a
ludicrous hour?

It was towards the back end of last year when this race was mentioned as a
possible Flora London Marathon training run. 19.5 miles of running in the
good old English countryside, of which 16 miles was cross-country running
through fields, over stiles, up and down hills and 3.5 miles of which was
along quiet country lanes. I thought this sounded quite interesting so sent
in my entry. The application form clearly stated that 'No Wimps' were
allowed to enter this race and at this point I should have known better and
opted for something a little more suitable for a big "Yorkshire Pudding"
such as myself, like a leisurely 20 mile run along the 'very flat' central
London parks and Thames paths or maybe even just a date at the local

We (Lars Menken and our driver Paul Flood) arranged to meet close to Earls
Court tube station, leaving at 7am prompt for our quest to face the joys of
Hampshire's claim to the South Downs. At this point you are probably
thinking 'Why did the monkey get up at 4.30 am for a 7 am departure'? Well,
this in itself was an adventure, travelling from North London to Earls Court
on a Sunday morning is a logistical nightmare, which involves three
different bus journeys (the tube does not operate from my local station
until 7.30). Of course, any normal person would have just arranged for a
taxi and enjoyed an extra couple of hours sleep but not me, being from
Yorkshire, there is the reputation of being a bit tight a*sed to uphold.

The drive down the A3 to the race HQ in Clanfield, which is near
Petersfield, North of Portsmouth was almost traffic free so we were
virtually the first runners (plodders) to arrive. In fact we were there 2
hours before the race was due to start, this again could have been more
extra sleeping time in my lovely warm bed!! Anyway, at least we were there
bright and early which gave us plenty of time to contemplate the race ahead
and to think about things like warm ups, race strategies etc. After
reviewing the course map, we decided to discard all this thought and just
have a cup of tea. Many a problem has been solved with a cup of tea so there
is no reason why this should be any different.

The event organisers had warned us that temperatures on the top of Butser
Hill (the highest point of the course) have been very low in past years, and
so hat, gloves, & several layers were order of the day. These were packed
into the rucksack and we lined up for the start of the race. The claxon
sounded and we were away, immediately running up an incline, which gave very
poor footing and was probably one of the flattest parts of the entire
course. From the outset one member of our team, Paul, was suffering with an
old injury and had to stop on several occasions to stretch. This found us
located at the very rear of the race, which for me was nothing new. However,
this is a great position to run from as you receive a great motivation boost
for each runner you catch and pass. After three miles, our long suffering
companion decided to withdraw from the run and make his way back to the race
HQ. Given what was to come, this was a very wise decision for we were
immediately faced with an almost vertical hill climb, which I named the
Eiger. I mentioned to Lars that we should prepare for altitude sickness;
This was as steep as any Mountain I have climbed in the Alps and I have
never tried to run up anything like this before, in fact nobody was running
at this point. I could have sworn the resident sheep at the top were
laughing at us, they must have been thinking 'look at these mad people, they
choose to run up here'? A fellow runner in the race mentioned that this was
a taste of things to come. She was not wrong, after the Eiger came the
Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, K2 and then the highest of all, Everest, known
locally as Butser Hill. With a name like Butser, you just know it is going
to be tough and to top it off; this was at the 16-mile point of the race. It
was probably a mile in length and very steep, once at the top you could see
a long line of runners in front and a long line of runners to the rear. By
this stage of the race, I had well and truly lost Lars, he had just
disappeared, maybe snatched by the beast of Butser Hill (we can live in
hope). From the top of the hill there was just a few miles of steady running
left to the finish.

One may think that at least running tough hills means that there will be
some nice downhill stretches - not so, the down hills were so steep that you
did well to stay upright, and for good measure, there was the occasional
hurdle (or style) to negotiate. Very tempting to try and clear without
breaking stride, but the risk of looking a complete fool, if you don't clear
it, ensures that you carefully climbed over like everybody else. Not only
this, but if you did fall on one of the steep descents, you ran the risk of
knocking over many runners, and as you can imagine, with the momentum
someone of my size would pick up, I could do some very serious damage not
only to others, but also any buildings, trees walls or anything else
encountered in my path. You might have also thought that surely the flat
parts of the course would prove a little easier to deal with though - but
again, not so, the flat parts were the boggy parts, running across ploughed
fields and negotiating horses and even off road motorbikes presented many
additional challenges which one could not forsee!!

So a very tough mental and physical challenge was completed in 3 hours 40
for Lars and 3 hours 30 for me, too much relief. Although these times don't
appear to be fast, this was never going to be a race for either of us but
instead, a long training run in a beautiful location. It was an enjoyable
experience and great to see Paul and fellow Serpie Chris Saunders (who also
ran the race, be it a bit quicker) waiting at the finish to cheer us on! The
whole event was very friendly and very well organised by the Portsmouth
Joggers, excellent 'Jelly-Babies', fruitcake, Mars bars and oranges at the
checkpoints for all and endless free cups of tea and soup at the finish.
There were even women waiting to take you're muddy running shoes off for you
at the finish (this could certainly catch on!).

Lars said he would like to point out that there are no hills on the 3 parks,
this is why we found it tough, he also thinks it should be introduced as a
2005 club championship race!! If you fancy this race in the future, I would
advise taking a camera, the views from the hill-tops are stunning

report by Robin Gray

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