Saturday 27 June 2015

Giants Head

#97  Giants Head 5:13:27

And I was happy with that time.

Now that is Hilly
114th overall out of approx 300.

I had heard a lot about this marathon. Not least as it had been voted by Runners World as the No.1 Marathon in 2014 and also Brenda, Collette, Eimear and Olivia had visited it last year and had wonderful things to say about it.

They left their mark last year
I was however under no illusion as to how tough it was going to be. It was all off road and had over 3400ft of elevation in 10 significant climbs. Add to that temperatures upto 23 degrees and high humidity. It was going to be a monster.

It had long sold out and I was lucky enough to get in. This is my first White Star Running event and I have to say it will not be my last. I loved it.

Sydling St Nicholas (the host village) was in very very rural Dorset and one of the things I loved about this race was the whole community seemed to get involved in the event. The atmosphere before, during and after was quite magical.

Magic no 97
It was a 1:45 min drive to Sydling and as I always do in rural England I get a laugh out of place names. Today quaintly you had to go through Puddletown and Piddlehilton (via Piddle Lane) en route.

A lot of people had camped the night before and food and entertainment had been laid on by the locals. Registration was a breeze and they even allocated me Bib no 97 for Marathon no 97 (cool).

The Atmosphere was brilliant and around 300 lined up for the race briefing at 8:20.  We even had a marriage proposal during the race briefing.

Horn to start
A lady with a hunting horn on a horse sent us on our way.  First thing I saw was a drone above our heads that videoed the start:

Drone video of the start

We immediately went off road and within a km hit the first hill. It
wasn't runnable for the vast majority of the field and we got into a familiar forced march routine.  Once crested we had a lovely run down though open country side. I knew there was 10 climbs in total but I lost count very quickly and they all merged into one. After 3km I heard a bell in the distance as I got closer it was the famous "naked farmer in the bath" and this year he was ringing a bell and wishing everyone good morning. It was surreal.
Naked Farmer in the bath

Up and down we went with some nice runs along the crests of hills with panoramic views over the Dorset country side. Then after about 7 miles you could see on the side of an adjacent hill the Cern Giant (a huge chalk drawing cut into the hill). This is the logo of the race and a major local attraction. We ran around the Giant for around 2 miles.

It was an absolutely stunning run with very very well stocked aid stations every 3 miles or so. I also ran with my own water bottle. I was glad I did as in the second half of the race it got very hot and it just about sustained me between aid stations. I could tell I was de-hydrating fast as there was a constant stream of sweat coming from my running hat. This slowed to a drip and then dried up. I was de-hydrated.
Cern Giant

Beautiful vistas
At approx 10 miles I noticed about half the field running back straight at me. They had all gone the wrong the way with everyone following the leader like lemmings. I suspect those at the front had gone as much as 1.5 miles extra. I duly turned around and after about 10 minutes running was back on the right track. I had the race measure long because of this at 27.47 miles. 

I by now had found my place in the race and managed to gain only a couple of places over the last 15 miles. It was lovely tough running but very enjoyable with the up hills and the downhills merging into each other. There was a very long portion that was quite technical and involved running in a narrow rut bordering a barley field for a couple of miles that was tough and quite dangerous.

The aid station at 20 miles was named the "love station" and because of the proposal earlier it had pink champagne and strawberries as well as cider and a plethora of other goodies. They really were good.

At the finish
And home
I thought at one stage that a sub 5 hr run was possible and I even came in on marathon distance at 4:59:59 but I was still someway short of the finish. In fact just after full marathon distance I came across another aid station which didn't bode well. This led to a steep downhill which inevitable lead to a steep uphill which fortunately was the last of the day. Once crested it was a downhill run to the finish back in the village. There was a big big crowd picnicking at the finish and the all cheered every runner in.

Lots of goodies
Cool medal
A cool medal featuring the Cern Giant together with a muff and T-shirt (also featuring the giant) were handed out at the finish as
well as as much cider as you could drink.

Apparently next years medal will have a spinney bit.

An Ice Cream van was at hand and at the athletes village there was BBQ on the go.  Later that night there was to a barn dance for those staying over. I had to high tail it home so was sorry to leave early.

All in all it was a brilliant day.

More photos here

Polar stats for today

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