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John Tovell reports back from the Neolithic Half Marathon

Continuing my search for events off the beaten track, last Sunday I did the Neolithic Half Marathon.  I was attracted by the fact that this was to be run on Salisbury Plain over military land normally closed to the public.  This is one of a number of events organised on the same day by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.  As well as the Half, there are 5k, 10k and full marathon events.  And as well as running events, there are events for walking, trail biking and canicross. 

The half and full marathons follow a point to point route so, having parked at the finish line, we boarded buses to take us to the starting point at Redhorn Hill.  This was a lovely spot up on the plateau of Salisbury Plain with views for miles around and skylarks singing overhead.  The weather forecast was for thundery showers all day.  In fact, the only rain was before the start while we were registering.  We all managed to squeeze into the registration tent, so that was OK, if a little cosy.  The rest of the day was warm, humid and later on, sunny.  I got quite sunburned as I took the weather forecast too literally and did not pack any sun cream.

After a safety briefing which included “Don’t stray off the trail and don’t pick up anything which might be unexploded ordnance!”, we were on our way.  For the first 2k, the trail was newly laid with what seemed to be railway ballast, so quite uncomfortable to run on.  Luckily, the surface soon reverted to hard gravel/mud which was easy to run on.  There were a few gentle hills but nothing too dramatic.  That is until about 8 miles when the surface changed to a claggy, chalk/mud mix and the trail became more rutted.  Up to that point, I was doing OK, keeping my pace below 9 minute-miles.  But afterwards, I struggled to keep to 10 minute-mile pace.  My final time was 2 hours 7 mins.  I guess I need to work more on my endurance!

Highlights of the rest of the race were passing Larkhill (horse) racecourse and crossing the lovely River Avon.  After climbing out of the Avon valley it was downhill to the finish where Wiltshire Wildlife Trust kindly provided a lunch box with sandwich, chocolate bar and crisps.  There were hay bales spread out on the ground so you could sit and listen to a live entertainer playing some surprisingly good cover versions.  There was also an exhibition caravan by Wessex Water, one of the event’s sponsors.  Unfortunately, I was too tired to visit the caravan!

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