Me and Ewan (2nd and first places at Founders XC marathon 2013), a photo by ultraBobban on Flickr.
This event is definitely not for the faint hearted. 3600ft of hills, 3 checkpoints of which the first 2 are at 8 miles and 18 miles and with the heavy rain this last 2 weeks, a quagmire ensued.
I invited my good running buddy Ewan as I had not caught up with him since our 2nd place podium at the NC50 earlier in the season. I think this West Country chap is a talisman for me as you will find out. We had a chit-chat at the start and watched the first couple of waves of runners go off at the start. This marathon was a low key affair and essentially what we would call a 'training event' but it was for me a chance to exorcise some demons from last year as nearing the finish, slipped from top 3 to mid-table obscurity. It was also a chance to test the recent injury to the limits and see how things would pan out. I decided to ditch the OS map as Ewan had a GPS. Little did I know that after about 30 seconds from the start, with the steep climb of Pitch Hill up to 780ft in the first 2.5km I realised this was a man with the bit between his teeth. I initially rued leaving the map at base!
I lost sight of Ewan after about 2k and found my own rhythm up the slope, nestling nicely in 2nd place about 300m in front of a group of about 8 chaps. Around the top of the hill I was quickly caught by the guys behind and we started a bit of banter. Jeff, who I had run with for about an hour on the SDW100 and Darren who I have seen but not run with before and a couple of other guys and a girl. These fellas also had the bit firmly between their teeth and there was a bit of bravado and shoulder shuffling in that initial phase. I know races are not won up to CP1 but are definitely lost. We hit the base of St Marthas Hill at 573ft and these fellas wanted to go in a different direction. Darren stayed with me for about 100m and then after being unsure, turned and caught up with his group.
I felt confident in my own directions as I usually do. No self doubt had even penetrated my cerebral hemispheres so i carried on to CP1 on my own, confident that Ewan was way, way ahead by now. CP1 was a stock up on bread pudding and juice and off down to the next 10 miles of 'bedding in' to CP2, which was 10.5 miles further away. Dropping down into the Mole valley and then up to Newlands Corner along the NDW gave some light relief from following the paperwork. I was shocked at 11.5 to hear panting behind me the one and only Ewan, who had veered off course for about half a mile and was behind me. This was the 'race radio' that I needed. Ewan had passed Jeff and the others about 5 mins back and we realised I was in the lead! Now, dear readers, I have been here before and pride comes before a fall. I maintained race focus, deep breathing and removing any possible negativity from my brain. What else could I do anyway with the LEDG Ewan D blasting along Blatchford Down by my side. Anyway, enough about man-love and onto the race. Ewan clearly had some legs today and stated that he didn't want to be beaten. Some of this rich vein of form rubbed off on me and with the exception of 15 mile wobble, toys out of pram....then back in again, we traversed the undulations of the NDW and also had more man-love hugs for Johnny Cripps and Mal (early wave starters) on the way.
Blasting down to CP2 at about 7s, I couldn't keep up with Ewan and this way HIS time and time for me to enjoy my own running. Back with a BOOM from injury. Keeping my race focus and breathing I navigated without error and had an occasional sneaky peak behind for the BIG BOYS who had told me that they were in this for the podium.
I had one of those runners high moments for about 2 miles. No looking at the watch, focus, energy and totally aware of everything.....yet kind of nothing. A small nav error onto the 'old' course by 1/2 a mile snapped me out of this and after CP3 at Friday Street, one more 850ft hill (Holmbury) and it was a 500m brain off-brakes off descent to the finish.
Arms aloft. 2nd place! Awesome! Ewan was at the finish having some refreshments having completed the round 14 mins in front and winning the event. This was the fastest winning time since 2009. My second place would have won the last 3 years!!!!
After a cuppa and then a run the cars to change in the torrential rain we sank a pint of cider. Ewan stated he felt a little guilty that I had invited him to an event and he had beaten me into second place. Not so. Had he not been there for banter and for running so much better and beasting me, I probably would have settled back in the pack. So thank you Mr D for my 2nd place podium. Next time your batteries are low on your GPS, you deffo know who to trust with mapwork. I reckon we should do a LAMM or KIMM for podiums, ciders, shits and giggles. Great to catch up again. Cheers