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New Forest Marathon – 22 September 2012

Steve Wyatt reports on his soaking!

September has been a lovely month; long warm days, crisp mornings and cooler evenings as we move into the autumn equinox. Or so I thought … The warning signs appeared about five days out with the doomsayers predicting a wet Sunday that happened to coincide with the New Forest Marathon. I tend to give this sort of report short shrift but the night before, saw the forecast on TV and put a few extra plastic bags in with my race kit.

I always take along a selection of race attire from the firm favourite (vest and shorts) to a chillier ensemble (long top, leggings and gloves). Some combination of the above generally hits the mark and I make the call at the venue, not sitting at home with my coffee!

At New Milton, race HQ, I am not alone in staring disconsolately out the window trying to make my decision as it is clear that this is not a brief shower. It is bucketing down and in the end I settle for the vest and shorts combination on the grounds that there is a lot less to get wet. I Vaseline every moving part, swallow a couple of jelly babies then worry endlessly about my race plan.

I am not alone at staying in the race HQ until the last possible minute before donning my bin bag and walking to the start. On the way I notice that there appears to be no finish and it is only when I get to the start that is a further 200m up the road than the previous year and I realise the finish must be further back than last year. This will be important information as I stagger those last 385yards!

At the start I meet up with Andys, Horsley and Olden, who remind me of the photo opportunity at the start and I foolishly discard bin bag to proudly show off my red vest. I thought we three looked quite athletic until the announcer manages to insult all assembled by proclaiming that the starter (Liz Yelling) is a ‘real runner’! Does she start every event in the South of England or is it just my imagination? At least this time she didn’t honk the air horn to signal the start, join the back of the field and then promptly overtake me about a mile along the course as she has done on two other occasions - very bad for morale.

I’m not sure what photo opportunity the two Andys had in mind because I can barely see the runner next to me it is so wet. I’ll be nothing short of amazed if the photographer captured any element of the race other than water on the lens. At 2 miles I’m just behind the lead group going faster than my intended 6.30 pace chatting to a bloke from St Edmunds Pacers (Bury St Edmunds) about the Bury 20 mile road race. On revealing my best time (02:02:55) he promptly decides he’s with the wrong runner and abandons me by slowing down, leaving me alone for the next five miles. We pass a sign for ‘TIPTOE’ that is either the name of the village or a polite reminder to keep the noise down on a Sunday morning. There’s a not insignificant hill at 4 miles and another at 7 miles. We pass the half marathon back markers and by this time I’m soaking, cold and running alone so decide to speed up and catch two runners dressed in black ahead.

I’m now about fifth and as we split routes, business is slow at the water stations; it is so wet that cooling is not an issue at all and I’m taking only the odd half cup out of habit rather than need. If anything I’m starting to feel very cold as we slosh our way up an old gravel railway track covering much more distance than we should as we weave left and right trying to avoid the worst of the puddles. My shoes feel like diver’s boots and if it gets any wetter I’m thinking of putting the whole SCUBA gear on. We get to half way at Burley and there’s a surprising amount of support (mainly from the inside of cars with their windows shut!) In a moment of supreme irony I get offered a wet sponge at 14 miles; presumably this was to wipe the water away from my face, legs, arms, back, chest … I decline and run on.

There’s another section of gravel uphill in the forest and a dead leg turn 400yds along a track, around a bollard and then back to the same point before continuing in the other direction. Whichever sadomasochist designed this element of the course needs a serious talking to! As I exit the woods at 16 miles I see what I think is a marshal getting out of his car to tell me off for being on the wrong side of the road. As I peer through the gloom it turns out that Jerry Shield is here and his cheery wave of encouragement sends me down the hill with a smile on my face.

The legs are not so willing now as I head around the back of Burley, see Rich House coming the other way in his car, more words of encouragement and hit 19 miles in 02:04:15. (I know this now but at the time my pace watch was covered in rainwater and no amount of wiping the screen would reveal the LCD display). The aforementioned watch is currently drying out as it has a surprising amount of water and condensation inside it for a supposedly sealed product!) Back to the race and I’ve had to give up on the watch and rely on asking people what the time is! Hopeless!

One thing I do know is that my early pace has evaporated and I’m really starting to slow. As I exit Burley and head downhill to Holmsley it is seriously exposed and the rain is lashing almost horizontally with no respite. I’m running almost in the middle of the road because the water is so deep at the edges and the car drivers aren’t happy about this. By this point I could quite easily chuck in the towel (if it wasn’t so wet) and I not so much hit as bump into the last hill at 22 miles. A few people have overtaken me now and as I enter the last 3 miles another couple slip past, I’m literally hanging on, pride keeping me going but in truth I really don’t care what my time is (watch still not visible), I just want it to be over. It seems never ending as the miles slip slowly by but eventually I make the last miserable turn towards the sports centre and I can see the end. I’ve nothing left for the finish and cross the line in 11th place, 03:04:06.

I see Annemarie Fachiri at the finish and she seems glad it’s over too but is worried about Andy Hobson who’s a bit further back. Anyone who ran on the day, in whatever event, deserves a huge well done - it was horrible.

I’m sure that in time we’ll all look back on this race with pride, a race where quite frankly swimming trunks wouldn’t have looked out of place. Right now though I’m dealing with chafing to my inner thighs so serious it looks like someone’s been at them with a cheese grater.

Steve Wyatt

WACers results:

Full Marathon

11 – Steve Wyatt – 3:04:05
27 – Andy Horsley – 3:14:26
41 – Andy Olden – 3:17:56
331 – Annemarie Fachiri – 4:10:36
407 – Andy Hobson – 4:23:14

Half Marathon

9 – Richard Swindlehurst – 1:18:59
177 – Paul Mallett – 1:37:25
368 – Danny Webster – 1:43:38
507 – Pete Kingswell-Farr – 1:46:54
1095 – Denise Craddock – 2:04:21

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