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Giants Head Marathon – 29 June 2013

Jon Braund reports from a Dorset classic

I was first attracted to the Giants Head marathon by the fabulous part of Dorset I had run through on the Wessex Ridgeway relay but also by the ‘feel’ – organised by runners in conjunction with the village of Sydling St Nicholas (the entry form had a space to donate a few pounds to the church maintenance fund) and with a good sense of humour all the way through the instructions.  I was looking forward to a day in beautiful countryside with great people on a challenging, hilly course but mainly having fun.  It didn’t disappoint.

I picked up Jerry Shield and we pootled down, parked in a field and walked about half a mile to the village hall (trying not to imagine the walk back)  where it looked like a village fete was taking place – people standing around in the sun chatting, a few stalls offering stuff. We met Steve Guy (and John, spectating), Paul Hougham, Robin Hughes and Pete Lemon. Queuing for the loos, a lady from the village said we could use theirs – a big change from the antagonism runners often get from the locals.

Pete, Jon and Jerry at the Giants Head Marathon.

We set off at 9.00 and ran a little way through the village before turning up the first hill (of 11).  I could see Jerry and Pete were walking so happily did the same. After getting to the top there was a glorious long downhill grassy gambol until we reached the second hill, which went on for rather longer, walking and running as necessary.  At one point all six WACers were running together, and we were fairly close for much of the race, bumping into each other at the water stations. And so we went on, glorious scenery, lots of hills – many that needed to be walked – and, about half way round, there was the Giant up on the hillside in all his glory which a few sheep dotted around did nothing to hide.  Jerry and I were having a game of  ‘spot the Ridgeway’, piecing together the bits of legs 5 and 6 that kept cropping up.

It started getting harder at about 18 miles when my achilles got quite sore so I told Jerry to push on (aka push off) and he quickly disappeared into the distance. I ground on, passing a few people and caught Steve whose legs had started seizing up (at one point I think he sat in a stream to ease them).  We ran together on and off for a while, counting down the miles to the end. Unfortunately that was on the assumption of a standard marathon.  At a bit over 25 miles I saw a sign to ‘Sydling St Nicholas 1¾’.  Then 2 marshals about half a mile apart told us we had a mile to go.  In the end it was about 28 miles (and around 4,000 feet of climb) having been detoured to avoid several fields of cows that couldn’t be mixed. Not a big difference in distance but the uncertainty was hard on the head.

There were plenty of water stations and plenty of nibbles (including a cracking piece of sun-warmed apple cake at about 15 miles).  Also cider at mile 20 – I didn’t try it as they say don’t do anything you haven’t done in training, so I’m building cider stops into my training plan for 2014. The marshals were great and the views were the best I can remember with the possible exception of North Devon. The terrain was virtually all off-road,  varied, often not easy and much of it simply pathless fields.  Overall, it was one of the best, great value for money (especially with the extra miles and t-shirt, pint glass and medal all sporting the giant) and a real challenge.  And they are talking about an ice cream van with 99s at mile 19 next year ...

Jon

 

 
 
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