In a bid to complete my half a month challenge I booked the Meon Valley Express half, Wickham. I had been looking forward to the race from the moment I entered as I have two little boys and have had to endure hours of Thomas The Tank Engine torture, train spotting, and going on many a train ride. I have now been brainwashed to think fondly of the idea of running along a disused railway track described as being flat and fast, what could be better?
On my way home from a night out at 1am, I thought it would be best to check the timings and location of the race. It was then I got a slight shock that the race is actually in Fareham, when I thought and had been telling everyone it was a race in Farnham (facepalm), so with that I set my alarm for 5:30am to get up and get to Fareham (with my boys & husband in tow). We arrived in plenty of time at the Wickham centre, the centre had lots of free parking spaces left and a playground right outside, result! I collected my race bib and then played with the kids in the playground until it was time. The race is only a small event with 100 places for the half, although there was a 5k & 10k route too, it actually felt very relaxed and calm being part of it. I was able to use the loos about 4 times (standard), and never had to queue, which is another big positive.
The race started at 10am and the half went first followed by 10k and 5k all 5mins apart. The route was simple you had to follow the road down the hill and into the old station carpark until you hit the trail. I have to say the other runners were super friendly, I made friends with some ladies from the Solent Sisters and a few men, we ran together for the first three miles and as they said I was doing a nice pace they all stuck just behind me. The people I met gave me nice facts of the trail and bridges, pointing out historical places along the way. The trail is now a path and you see a lot of Victorian bridges as you run along it. Just after the 5k mark there was water and the group I was running with stopped, as I was still feeling ok I carried on solo. I was then pretty much on my own until getting close to the half way turnaround point.
The track was mostly dry, except for a muddy half mile at the start and the trees arch over the route pretty much the whole way, a man that I had been running with had said you can get a bit tunnel vision so I did have to keep looking away and up, otherwise it did space you out, especially when your on your own and it did feel a bit never ending, as its just straight, I’m not sure if it’s an optical illusion, but it felt like I was always running up a slight incline, even on the way back. On approach to the halfway turnaround point I got to see all the other runners that were on their way back, everyone was so friendly giving a little well done to each other.
At the half way water station you simply turn around and run back exactly in the same direction you came in. I enjoyed this as for me it’s all in my mind and to know with every step I was closer to being finished and back at the start, It was like retracing my steps, and seeing the key landmarks again. I mentally had something to look forward to. One of the men who I was running with initially caught me up when I slowed for water and we had a nice chat for the last three miles talking and encouraging each other on.
The final leg of the race is to run back through the carpark and up the hill to the centre, my boys all greeted me at the top and we all ran over the finish line together. I congratulated the man Charles I was with, collected my medal and made my way to the food. It was quite a random selection of treats, a little bit like biscuits that people had been given the year before for Christmas, however there was lots of fruit, nuts etc to have a graze on. After we had a nice walk into town which is about a five minute walk away in search of lunch. I have to say it was a nice pretty, maybe boring at times half, but its definitely the straightest route I have ever been on, my only slight disappointment was there were no actual trains.