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Cranleigh 21 – Fern Stonestreet finds the wrong car park but the right race for her VLM prep

This was my first time running in the Cranleigh 21, as preparation for the London Marathon, perfect timing, it would be my last long run before tapering for the big event.
The previous day I got my gels ready and had a text back n forth with Mim Cure, a friend who was also running, about what we would wear and just how many gels to take. We decided to go for one every half an hour and she convinced me not to be such a lightweight and to wear shorts and t-shirt. I have a very bad habit of overdressing and always end up discarding clothing after the first mile. So, t-shirt it was but I packed a mahoosive bag of clothing just in case.
Apart from the long run ahead, another big challenge I could see was that the clocks changed the night before so when I set my alarm for 6am, which was already plenty early enough, I knew it would feel even earlier so we tried, unsuccessfully, to get an early night, too nervous. Just as we switched the lights off Ian and I then had a lengthy discussion on whether our phones would update themselves to the time change if they were in flight safe mode… in the end we agreed to go for do not disturb mode to be on the safe side. We are still none the wiser as to what would have happened, I must google it some time.
We’d arranged to pick up Mim en route and and we followed the Satnav to the postcode given in the instructions. This was a first for us, we usually set the SatNav and then Ian argues that she is undoubtedly wrong and chooses to go his own way. We spotted a race car park sign and parked up in plenty of time…. In the wrong car park. Not exactly wrong, but not the car park conveniently located next to the registration hall which now meant a chilly 5 min walk along to the Bandroom. We’d received an email in the days prior to the race giving us our race numbers and where to pick them up. I had my suspicions it might be a bit shambolic, I’m not sure why, but I was proved completely wrong. Walked in and picked up my number, nobody checked to see I had taken the right one though which was very trusting! 5 min walk back to car to disrobe, there’s no bag drop area, just key drop…. Another good reason to park in the correct car park. 5 min walk back to Bandroom for the start line.
It wasn’t very crowded at all, considering the number of participants, but there was the usual lengthy queue for toilets, two cubicles for the ladies and only one for the men!! No portaloos so just lots of runners greedily eyeing up wide trees and dense bushes!! Perhaps this was a good thing for me as portaloos and I have some bad history, having dropped my phone down one at Brighton marathon a few years back.
There was no fanfare at the start or fancy warm up, it just became apparent that we were off! So, Ian, Mim, myself and another friend set off. As in most races, it was a slowish start but the field soon spread out. I wasn’t at all convinced that I’d be able to keep up with them all the way around the course and I didn’t really have a plan other than to treat it as miles in the bank for London and to finish.
After 9miles you arrive back where you started and then you begin a 6 mile loop for those that want to do 15 miles and you repeat that loop to complete 21 miles. The course was undulating but nothing too steep and with some long flat stretches, most of it on quiet country roads.
The first time I went around the 6 mile loop all I could think was, oh no, I’ve got to do all this again in a minute, especially the hill that I didn’t much like the first time and wasn’t at all sure I’d have the energy to attack a second time. I told Mim that if I slowed down she should go on but we stuck together and we were running fairly consistent splits. When it came to the 2nd of the 6 mile loops it wasn’t as bad I’d built it up and I felt more confident in keeping my pace up, perhaps because we were now counting the miles down and could feel the end in sight, even that last hill at about 20 miles was okay because I knew we didn’t have much further to go. We ran up it passing a few people that decided to walk and had clearly had enough.
Fern Cranleigh
As at the start, there wasn’t much fanfare at the finish line but a friendly greeting whilst we were given our medals. No goody bag but tea and coffee and lots of homemade cakes were being sold back in the bandroom …. again, another good reason to park in the correct car park so that you have access to your money!
I’m so glad I took part in this race, in previous years I’ve done a lot of long, monotonous, marathon training runs on my own because of my irregular work patterns so it made such a difference to run in a race with support, regular water stations and above all good friends to encourage and keep up with! As that lovely saying goes; “When you run alone you run fast but when you run together you run far”.
I have a lot to thank Mim for as I’m sure she could have run faster but instead she chose to stick together and listen to my bodily functions (something not quite right on the nutrition front I fear!) We finished in a respectable 3.15.59 which I was really pleased with.
I’d thoroughly recommend the Cranleigh 21, it’s quite low key, friendly, well marshalled and has plenty of refreshment stations offering water and orange squash and one with fruit and sweets. Free parking but the usual lack of loos. Medal but no goody bag. Chip timing results appeared quite quickly.
Glad that’s my last long training run done before London. YAY!!
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