Signing up to a 50km ‘on a whim’ a few days after the Farnham Pilgrim marathon seemed like an excellent idea at the time, and with an event called ‘A run with no witty name’ – I couldn’t resist. Driving down to Wiltshire on a misty October morning, with the promise of heavy rain for most of the day, this seemed like a less good idea, and as the rain started about 10 miles from the venue, I even considered turning back.
Walking downhill to the very low-key start area from the car park, I remember thinking, this is going to be a terrible walk back to my car later. Some other participants ran past me and I looked at my watch, hmm, I think registration is supposed to close in about 3 minutes…but I had a feeling it wouldn’t matter, and it didn’t. There was an announcement made that the start would be delayed as the medics hadn’t arrived, pretty handy for me, as I wasn’t ready and hadn’t been to the loo yet! As the rain started and the wind howled around the registration marquee, 150 or so runners tried to stay warm whilst I faffed with my kit and wondered whether I should’ve brought a better raincoat (having grabbed my green London Marathon marshaling freebie jacket on the way out the door).
Only about 20 mins late, and we were off back up the hill which was handy for warming up, and I had a fairly solid plan to just keep going as long as I could. The cut off was 9hrs and there were 3 aid stations, evenly spaced along the route. About 2hrs between each one, with a bit of time to space. Easy.
I had assumed I would be running by myself for most of the day, so had a playlist of podcasts to catch up on, but made a deal with myself that I would try to make it to the halfway point before starting them. It turns out I didn’t listen to any, as I ended up running quite early on with a small group, one of whom thankfully had the gpx file loaded onto his watch, which turned out to be extremely handy, the route was not especially well marked in places, and where it was marked, they had used yellow tape – not ideal in the early autumn conditions!
The promised rain fell for about the first 6hrs of the run, and when running across fields the wind made it feel more like January than October, it was absolutely freezing! However, the route was absolutely stunning and I was only sorry that I couldn’t stop to take more photos, for fear of my phone getting wet! The aid stations were amazingly well stocked (with one of them set up in the grounds of a National Trust castle), and it was a struggle to leave the relative warmth of the tents that had been set up. Our little group of runners grew throughout the event, and there ended up being 8 of us running at a very similar chatty pace, meaning the time absolutely flew by. Breaking the route into 4 x 8 mile chunks really helped psychologically too, as the only thing to think about was getting to the next aid station.
The rain stopped for the last couple of hours, which meant we were able to dry out and start enjoying the views as the pace slowed, and before long we were retracing our steps for a couple of miles back towards the start. Unfortunately the way the route was set out, we had to pass the turning for the car park and head back down the hill to the start/finish area. The camaraderie of our group was such that the faster runners waited for the rest so we could cross the finish line together – something I’ve never experienced with a group of complete strangers.
A bit of kit faff, some hot food and then it was time for a long old slog back up to the car park – over a mile that wasn’t even being tracked on strava! Considering it was only the company’s second ever event, they did an absolutely brilliant job – however, I might still be lost out in the Wiltshire countryside if it weren’t for my new running friends! It might be time to invest in some better navigation technology!