I’d like to say that Sunday morning dawned bright and clear and I leapt out of bed full of excitement for the day ahead, but I’d be lying. Instead it was miserable and rainy, the kind of morning where I dragged myself out of bed wondering what on earth I was doing leaving the house so early in my running kit. I arrived in Woking by 7.30am to avoid the road closures as I didn’t fancy having to find my way to the car parks once the roads were closed. It was a 15 minute walk to the venue where I bumped into Kerstin and Matt Johnson who were marshaling and were doing a fab job, knowing all the answers to the questions they were being asked.
The race village was busy and organised, with quite a few trade and charity stalls for a race of its size. From previous experience I knew that the queues for the bag drop could get quite long so I didn’t wait too long to drop my kit, just in case. Luckily despite the rain it wasn’t a cold day so I didn’t mind dropping my bag a bit early. Whilst sorting my kit I bumped into Dick Newman who was spectating and Lynn Washbrook who was running.
On the way out of bag drop I also bumped into Nigel Evans who had run this race with me in 2015 and pushed me to my current PB. We realised we were aiming for a similar time to each other again as Nigel is coming back from injury, so we joined the 1:50 pacers on the start line.
The race set off on time and Nigel and I positioned ourselves between the two 1:50 pacers who were about 20 meters apart. The pacers set a fairly fast but consistent pace and Nigel and I worked hard to stick with it. It rained quite heavily at the start of the race and although the rain eased off, we were in wet kit for the rest of the race. One stretch of the route is an out and back so you have runners on different sides of the road going in opposite directions. I know that some people find this tedious but I enjoy the opportunity to cheer the front runners and to look out for anyone I know. I missed Mark Patrick but I spotted Lisa Hale. Nigel saw Helen Vizard and Chris Szabo-Hemmings so I was able to give them a shout out as they passed. I also saw Monica Burbidge and Lynn Washbrook but I know there were others there who I didn’t see. Sorry! Our pacer was cheering all the other pacer groups as they passed and they cheered back at us which was great encouragement. There was some confusion about the 10K point as the 10K marker stretched over both sides of the road. It turned out the the 10K point was actually after the turn and was on the return stretch of the out and back.
The route is not the most exciting in the world but I like running on quiet country lanes. I generally avoid them when I’m running due to traffic and the lack of pavements, so for me it’s a novelty. Its pretty flat with a few little hills but nothing too taxing. With 3669 finishers it was a bit crowded at times especially as I was running in a pacer group. We almost had a pile up when a girl dropped a gel and stopped dead to pick it up with several of us crashing straight into the back of her and knocking her down as she bent to pick it up! She survived and won’t do that again in a hurry!
At ten miles the fatigue was kicking in and Nigel started to get ahead of me. The second pacer, who was only about 10 seconds behind the first pacer at that point noticed this and started to chat with me. He verbally dragged me around the last few miles, checking I was OK when I dropped back on the final hill and encouraging me all the way. I crossed the line in 1:49:07 which I was very happy with. Nigel finished a few minutes ahead of me having maintained his pace for the last 3 miles. It was lovely to see that Kerstin and Matt had moved to finish line duties and so my medal was presented by Kerstin who got a sweaty hug for her troubles, as did Chris Szabo-Hemmings who I happened to meet at the finish line. Sorry guys! As well as a medal we were given water, a flapjack, banana and a space blanket.
After the race I changed into some dry clothes, sorted my blisters and headed back to the car. Seeing the queue to get out of the car park I wandered into town for a hot chocolate, where I got chatting to two guys who were part of the communications team and were listening to the end of the race on their radios.
I was running this year on a free entry as I marshaled last year. I have done this before and will probably continue marshaling one year and running for free the next. If you’re looking for a way to keep your entry fees down and to give a little bit back to the sport then consider marshaling. There are often reduced or free entries for other events as a thank you. Marshaling, although hard work, is good fun and without volunteers there would be no events!