Monday 24 October 2011

Greensands Marathon

I was feeling relatively relaxed ahead of this race, I knew with all the ultra training over the summer that I should have the distance in my legs and the hill training of the previous weeks felt like good preparation.  Most of all I just wanted to run it as hard as I could but enjoy the course as well.
After a brief rendition of Jerusalem we were off.  Up the first hill I ran with the leading pack, more to avoid being stuck in the bottle neck down the first hill than any pretensions that I was going to be in the top 10.  As the long slog up to the top of Leith Hill began I happily let them stride off out of view- running mainly on my own but passing and being passed by the odd runner.  Made it to the tower at Leith Hill in 53 min which was a bit quicker than planned but felt good.  The course then plunges down a long hill followed by a long incline and then a series of short and sharp ascents and descents over difficult ground to get to the turn around point.  The views from the ridge were fantastic, and there was the odd moment where you could take you eyes off the trail to enjoy them!
I hit the turn around point in about 14th place, picked up a bottle of Lucazade and set off back to the start.  As an out and back course and a friendly race it was great to cheer on and be cheered on by my fellow runners, however once they were pass I ran completely on my own back to the top of Leith Hill.  The course marking was pretty good, but it was a bit unnerving as I knew if I took a wrong turn I'd have to find my way back on my own.  I got back to the tower in at about 2:48 and whilst I felt pretty good my legs were starting to get pretty drained.  As I started the long descent back to Dorking the past 20 miles were ever present and as much I wanted to bomb down the hills my body had other ideas. This said at mile 22 I was still on my own. 
After the penultimate water station, at which I took on water and plenty of Haribo I got to a fork in the path where there were no markings; I was pretty sure it was the left  hand path but being on my own I wanted to be sure.  I wasted 30 seconds to a minute but was glad to have confirmed the course with some passing walkers.  This, however meant I was no longer alone on the course and over the next 3 miles I was passed by 4 runners who were in better shape to make the most of the downhill sections.  At mile 25 we hit the inevitable killer hill to get you over the Nower and to the finish.  Me and another guy were neck and neck as we dragged our sorry selves up the steps.  As we hit the flat section before the final descent we started to increase the pace.  I decided I wasn't going to let another person pass me and as we hit the corner for the finishing straight I just threw every remaining bit of energy into what was probably the most enjoyable sprint finish to any race I've done.  I was literally screaming at my self to run faster!  I finished 7 seconds in front which either means I got some serious pace up or the other runner couldn't be bothered to contest it!  Either way, as I collapsed on the ground and received my medal it felt great.
Final time 03:48:26 18th.
The Greensands Marathon is a great race.  True its tough but its all do-able and who wants to run a flat marathon anyway?  The views from the Greensand Ridge are immense, the conditions underfoot are certainly enough to keep you occupied (or fall over if not) and the overall atmosphere of the race is fantastic.
The finish line in sight!

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