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Meon Valley Plod Ė 10 February 2013

Itís muddy and very, very cold Ö Jon Braund reports.

On 10 February Phil Whitehurst picked me up and we trundled off in the rain to the Meon Valley Plod (or Mean as someone mistyped it with unwitting accuracy). Iíd done it a couple of times before but it was Philís first visit and I almost felt guilty for encouraging him, although I was looking forward to his company. Itís a tough, hilly, muddy 21-mile off-road race (good distance training for the North Dorset Marathon) and given the amount of recent rain I knew it would be sploshy.

We got there in good time and waited in the race HQ eyeing up the clothing choices of the other huddled loonies. Some were seriously dressed up but there were a couple of people just in vests. I went for a base layer, vest and jacket.

The start was relaxed and jokey (also cold and wet!) as we headed off up a lane that soon turned into a muddy climb through a wood (must be delightful in the spring). We jogged along cheerfully chatting to strangers (they had to be strange to be there). Eventually it levelled off and then after a while we headed down a steep muddier track, struggling to keep footing. At a metalled lane we sped up a bit and I started to feel nicely warm and settle in for a pleasant morning. It didnít last. We walked up the first serious hill and at the top met driving wind and icy sideways rain that felt like it had needles in it. Suddenly I felt cold. I tried to talk to Phil but my face was numb and I could only slur as if Iíd been to the dentist. This was a recurrent theme on the exposed parts of the course. At other times we hit long stretches of mud that varied mainly between ankle-deep and knee-deep, although I found a few potholes that had me suddenly groin-deep Ė although thatís not the word Phil used. I fell over a few times - but the landing was soft.

We continued over exposed hills (after hill, after hill) and quagmire valleys. I lost feeling in my hands and feet. At one checkpoint they apologised for not having enough water out; they had just had an emergency. I saw someone in a foil blanket being driven away in a car. We came to a very pretty, fast flowing stream with a rocky bed and tinkling waterfalls. It may once have been a path because we were running up it. My orthotics started wandering around and it felt like I was running on edges every step (their days are numbered) so I tried to take my shoes off to adjust them. I managed one but my numb sausage fingers couldnít do the other. I asked a marshal if he could help but his fingers were as bad as mine. Eventually I got them a bit better, but not much. I could see Philís orange top in the distance so I sped up to catch him Ė at least it would warm me up. We scrambled the 500 feet up Butser Hill, a 45 degree ice rink. At the top there was a great view to the left but I couldnít look that way because of the driving rain and sandblasting wind.

I had good, and less good, patches (I canít think of anything Iíve done harder and more uncomfortable than the middle stretch) but as with any long run, if you keep going the miles will tick past. In the last couple of miles I felt a lot better and picked up the pace, passing several people and finished feeling surprisingly strong. Of the 350 entered, 252 finished. The others dropped out or, presumably, thought better and didnít turn up at all.


Jon (above) and Phil (right) tackled gruesome conditions in the Meon Valley

 Itís a great, if challenging, race with marshals who really cared and were awesome in foul conditions. Thanks to Phil for the great company Ė he was like a rock all the way round and took it all in his stride. I wouldnít have missed it and am looking forward to next year.



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