If you don’t like car crashes look away now. This was the weekend that I was going to affirm good progress towards the Edinburgh Marathon in six weeks time, but it turned out badly.

But (fortunately) these away trips are as much about the fun of seeing new places, meeting new runners as the race itself. It started disconcertingly enough at Jersey Airport by being shooed on to a Blue Islands Airline 19-seater Jetstream. I suppose it’s good to confront my significant fear of flying now and again but being bounced across the Channel in one of those contraptions was an unexpected factor. Whatever, I fetched up in mid-afternoon at the Star Inn, an establishment deep in the Oxfordshire countryside four miles outside the cute market town of Wantage, birthplace of King Alfred the Great. The Star Inn I can recommend although

  • they had no knowledge of my booking
  • there were no evening meals, necessitating a trip into Wantage to eat
  • their credit card machine wasn’t working
  • the single bed was as hard as a mortuary slab
  • this morning (race day) there was no sign of life let alone breakfast, so I found the kitchen and made my own!

 

But the welcome was friendly, the Real Ale in fine nick and there was good footy chat in a part of the world where Don Rogers is still God.Wantage church and town.JPG

On to the nearby village of Grove, the epicentre of this well-recommended race organised by the White Horse Harriers. It’s a bit of a swizz as the famed White Horse isn’t on view from the course, but I nit-pick. The whole event is superbly managed, with more marshals and other helpers that you can shake a stick at. I was feeling good in myself and trotted through the first couple of miles at 9m/m, nice and relaxed. Too slow a pace of course but I was confident I could move up the gears. After a mile through suburbia you are suddenly in the rolling countryside – I never fail to think that the English are so unappreciative of the landscape all around. Miles 3 & 4 passed and I was chipping away at my splits but…I was already aware that this wasn’t going to be an easy day. I didn’t feel it within me to step up the pace and gradually the cruise turned into a slog. By halfway I was resigned to running mid-1:50s (against a PB twelve months ago of 1:46.xx) and, as the temperature rose, my spirits fell. By Mile 10 my resolve was broken.

The last half hour was simply a struggle to finish. I no longer cared about the time, though surely I could still go sub-2? There was some good support in patches in the villages – that certainly helped. Getting on for midday it was getting pretty warm. In the last mile one woman was sitting on the verge and, ascertaining that she wasn’t injured, I pulled her to her feet. Her legs had turned to rubber and happily a marshal arrived with Lucozade. I left her, dodging around a lad who had collapsed in the heat and who was being attended to by St John Ambulance. The finish was well-appointed on the village green and, by that stage, I didn’t really care that the clock had ticked past two hours.

This was crap and demonstrates that no way will I be in Edinburgh. I’ll take stock of what the hell I’m doing over the next week.

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