For our wedding anniversary, I decided to treat Mary to a weekend away at an idyllic retreat in Dorset with fantastic coastal views – However we weren’t at Holton Lee for a weekend of peaceful meditation and yoga but to run a trail marathon! 15 years ago to the day (Apparently according to Mary it is actually 18 years) – Mary hit the jackpot when she married me as I really know how to treat a lady as we were going to stay the weekend in a tent before a marathon!
Rather than blissful summer weather we arrived the day before our run on site – a farmer’s sheep field – to drizzle and a gale! The Met Office had issued a weather warning so it was a real test of our £50 tent and our pitching ability! Possibly our marriage!
Despite a night of heavy rain, gale force winds and helicopters circling overhead all of which I managed to sleep through – a blast of ABBA at 6:30am signal the start of race day. After having breakfast from the mobile on site catering we were ready in plenty of time for the race safety briefing – it is easy when it is only 200m from sleeping bag to start line – in fact Mary reminded me that I had a lie down after breakfast and snored for another hour!
The race was laps of just over 5km. 8 laps = 1 marathon! As this was to be our wedding anniversary we decided to run this race together, and as the speedy runners shot off over the large field towards the woods we took a more considered and leisurely approach, and during the run even stopping on route to take selfies – the plan had been one a lap at a different points! No point in rushing as it is important to get value for money!
The route wound through pretty woods, between a stone circle, along farmers’ fields filled with cows and horses, across sandy heaths with ferns, and reconstruction of an Iron Age house, passed sculptures and even a short stretch of road and a magnificent view over Poole Harbour. The variety of the route was enough to stop me from being bored no repeat of GroundHog Day marathon for me.
Thankfully for me the summer sun didn’t make much of an appearance for long as the strong winds blew over clouds which kept the heat down, however on the more open and exposed parts of the course you really had to battle the wind. For Mary the wind took her breath away – just as I had done all those years ago in the 1990s. This wind caused her some difficulty with breathing.
Mary stopped at the 70s themed Lovestation for a drink and sustenance on the third lap and it was only after a mile of chatting to ‘some other woman’ did I realise I had left her behind. So I waited by the designated lap three selfie point for her to catch up. I found restarting running a really challenge and at this point to combat her breathing issues Mary was needing to take more breaks to catch her breath properly – so we agreed that I would run on – much to the disappointment of the ladies tallying off laps. However they did relay my messages to Mary so I was able to recover my Kendal mint cake on lap 6.
One down side of a lap marathon is being repeatedly lapped by the same person! Just as I finished my 5th lap the winner crossed the line! It was just after this point that my serious lack of training showed (only 5 parkruns over the last 7 weeks) and my legs couldn’t do much more – so I dropped to a walk / run… which after the fantastically marshalled aid station stocked with all manner of culinary delights by Kevin and his wonderful team I fell to a walk as I knew that I could finish the marathon within the cut off time.
My head start on Mary was slowly eroded and just before the 6th visit to the aid station Mary caught me up, gave me a few encouraging words, took a selfie with Kevin to help pass a message to Anne-Marie and then left me as she continued with her walk in the windy sections and run in the shelter method.
I kept on marching at a reasonable pace determined to make the finish, as I started the final lap I decided I just wanted it over and the quicker that happened the better, so I resolved to run the downhill and flattish bits and walk the uphills.
Fuelled up on watermelon, multi-coloured sponge cake and jelly beans (Flat Coke, Cider and Sangria were also on offer) at my final visit to the Lovestation I moved on. Despite being on my own and unseen by anyone I was totally unwilling to cut any of the route even though I could have got away with it. As I turned to run up the road the final time I noticed a familiar shape ahead. I noticed an identical hue of T-shirt to mine… Bizarrely we both had chosen to wear the same race top!
I was catching up with Mary.
We entered the path around the campsite together – Mary’s lack of training meaning she was unable to run anymore – well this was her first marathon after injuring her ankle at Halloween so this was a monumental effort. Despite being at the top of the hill and ready, willing and able to run that section I decided that like a dutiful husband as we started this race together and we should finish it together. And if I ran off and left her for the final ½ mile I know that I would never hear the end of it for the next 18 years!
I am pleased to say I haven’t been served divorce papers so my anniversary weekend away can’t have all been that bad!
This was a really well organised friendly great fun event that we both really enjoyed and I am sure that we will be running another White Star Running event before our anniversary next year. We might even stay in a tent again – well it did cost me £50!
Massey Facts and figures.
Daniel & Mary Connolly 6:18:38