More Blogs Than Biscuits

2017-04-02 14.50.34Every race day day, Nicky and I travel home, munching cadburys cr√®me egg s, declaring ourselves ‘ON IT!!’ from tomorrow. No more sugar, no more fizzy pop, plenty of core work and strength training, rest and stretching. girl doing stretching exercise clipart

Well, THIS TIME, we mean it!

North Dorset Villages Marathon 4 weeks today, we are ON IT until then……

Just a few dark chocolate digestives to see off tonight………

So, yesterday, The Devonshire Dumpling Marathon, hosted by the Devon and Cornwall Long Distance Walkers Association. Wow, what a wonderful day.

The start was in Budleigh Salterton, a gorgeous East Devon town. We were fortunate enough to grab what appeared to be the last parking space in the car park next door to the public hall. We then discovered what would be a theme for the day, it was going to be hard to offload any cash today!

The car park is free. All the time!

We paused outside at 8am and watched the walkers head off. The event had two distances, 18 miles or 26.2 miles, the walkers set off at 8am and the runners at 9am.

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The walkers setting off.

 

We nervously entered the hall, registered with the friendly welcome chaps at the desk, and approached the well manned (and womanned) service hatch. Regular readers of this blog might have gathered we like our pre-match coffee.

 

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Hardly suprising!!

Two white coffees please. How much do I owe you? Nothing, fresh air, zero, zilch. Blimey, how lovely. The volunteers in the hall were so so friendly, helpful and chatty, we learned so much about the route and any nerves about being in a fairly different environment to our usual races soon disappeared.

 

Back to the car to shed our top layers and we were soon outside the hall in a small gathering of runners and a couple of their dogs. And away we went…..

Through Budleigh Salterton’s back streets, the leading pack, i.e. everybody else, became smaller and smaller in the distance. ‘Are we going that slowly?’ Nicky asked unnecessarily. My reply is always to say that if they are all faster runners than us we won’t see them again, whereas some may be a little enthusiastic early on and we’ll catch them later. It really doesn’t matter.

Nicky said something about disused railway lines, I smiled, not really knowing what she meant.

 

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Some serious logging!

We were soon heading across country and encountering the first splattering of a day of mud! Whoever put this course together deserves our heartfelt thanks, we agreed as the countryside became coast path for about 3 miles.

 

 

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I think we took the opposite of this…

Heading back in land we soon found the first checkpoint……. quiches, cheese & chorizo tarts, chocolate brownies, drinks, sweets etc etc etc….. We each carried a small laminated number card which the, again, incredibly engaging and encouraging, guys stamped for us to prove we’d been there.

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Yum Yum – I reckon I ate more than I burned!

 

Off again, soon making a very small navigation error (the larger one was still to come!) before getting back in the mud for the flat path towards Otterton. We’d ran here before, in the Otterton Reindeer 10k back in December, an event, we discovered later that is also supported and marshalled with the help of the Devon and Cornwall LDWA.

 

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These ladies were bemused by us!

Honestly, we chatted to more people, and stroked more dogs than we would normally in a month, giving us a little rest every mile!

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Otterton is still beautiful and is a sort of gateway to mud. The next section, no less stunning, truly was laden with the slippy stuff. We did some serious giggling throughout this as we had worn our super slick road trainers.

One of us went to ground. Twice. (pssst, ssshhh, it wasn’t me…..)

Nicky said our footing would be more sure once we got to the disused railway lines. Again, I had no idea we were using old railway lines.

 

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What do we want? OLD GATES!

 

 

 

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We weren’t lost……

 

Across Woodbury Common (Bicton Blister country) and heading towards the halfway point, Rushmoor Wood, where we took a little detour………. Our only mistake on this self-navigating course.

We were catching walkers in small groups regularly now and every single one of them was friendly and upbeat and it was a pleasure to meet them all.

Into Woodbury itself and the village hall being used as the second checkpoint. Sandwiches and rolls, quiches, pies, cakes, jelly and ice cream etc etc… cold drinks and hot drinks and another room full of fun and banter.

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Something for everyone at the checkpoints

 

We didn’t stay too long, we might still have been there eating if we’d sat down, instead heading off towards the Exe estuary. We’d caught up with a couple of runners again and noticed they were sporting White Star Running attire (including the much sought after ‘I felt the badger’ badge) so we exchanged knowing smiles and wished each other fair winds for the rest of the run.

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She’s definitely a keeper!

 

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The shared use path to Exmouth was very busy on this beautiful Sunday afternoon but we couldn’t help but enjoy the wonderful scene.

 

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There was plenty of this!

A few miles of easy (ish) flat running on firm surface took us to the final checkpoint on the approach to Exmouth was followed by an undulating run through Exmouth itself and followed another (planned) detour where the pathway was closed. Before long we were back in the countryside and heading towards the sea. Running through the massive Sandy Bay caravan park, dodging the firing range on the headland and tackling the massive climb up the coast path, knowing it was all downhill to Budleigh Salterton from the top.

 

“So where were the old railway lines?” Nicky asked on the run in. I think she might have been reading up on the wrong race!2017-04-02 13.33.31

The finish back at the hall was a welcome sight after several and a half hours out on the trails, and we were presented with our personalised certificate to prove our participation.

2017-04-02 12.40.32Here’s the thing – have a really good look at the LDWA website, they have some absolutely lovely events both social and recognised distances (we found this via the 100 Marathon Club) and we met dozens of lovely people today and wouldn’t hesitate to do any other of their events. In fact we picked up three tempting leaflets whilst we were there……

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Big smiles at the finish of a wonderful event.

 

2017-04-02 15.39.03If you want to know where Nicky and I are  starting tomorrow….. we’re ON IT!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Stevenage?

I’ve never been to Stevenage.

On our first date, whilst I was nervously supping a sparkling water, Nicky asked what races I had planned.

“The Stevenage Marathon…”

Nicky nearly choked on her scallops.

You see, prior to falling head over heels in love with Nicky, I’d always thought racing was all about finding races to go as fast as possible. “What about you?” I asked.

The Eden Project Marathon. Doh! Time to re-evaluate…eden project

Later that evening, sat listening to some Barry White in my bedsit, I used my smart phone for two things…… Firstly to compose a message thanking Nicky for a splendid evening, hoping beyond all hope that she’d want to see me again. Secondly, The Eden Project Marathon was entered and a Travelodge for one, in Stevenage, was cancelled!

So why do we chose to do events at all, and when we do, how do we decide which ones? A quick search on Fetch offered a choice of 245 different events listed for tomorrow (2nd April 2017). We had long since settled on the Devonshire Dumpling, I wonder what the other 244 couldn’t offer us?

DOES IT COUNT?

100 MC Vest
We’re on a quest for the vest!

Well, we were looking for a marathon around this weekend, so other distances were eliminated. Also, we have our goal of joining the 100 Marathon Club so we check to see if it is listed on their website.

DOES IT COST?

We try to keep the cost down of our days out, trying to preserve funds for our ‘big’ trips, so the Devonshire Dumpling being only 40 or so miles from home it was an immediate contender.

IS IT BEAUTIFUL?

The route, terrain and, I’m sure, the panoramic views will make it a wonderful day out, enjoying the East Devon coast and countryside.

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Setting for the Devonshire Dumpling

WILL IT BE PACKED?

Organised by the Long Distance Walkers Association, featuring walks and runs of 18 or 26.2 miles, with staggered starts, we’re pretty confident the queues for the stiles won’t be too bad.

WILL WE FEEL ADEQUATE?

I know the Elitism In Running blog provoked plenty of debate, but, trust me on this, it is there. We’ve had so many people say “me too!” in response to how demoralising some race situations can be for those further down the field. So, we tend to lean towards events which look a bit more quirky and which might not offer sufficient kudos for the more self-confident runners to attend, or where we know the race organisers actively encourage participation as a priority, over pace.

Such companies, White Star Running and Mudcrew particularly spring to mind, seem to manage to pull of the trick of having some seriously quick guys and girls at the sharp end, whilst being all embracing for the rest of us mortals. There are plenty more, but these two are South West based and host some of my favourite ever events.

Morrisons Great North Run 2015
Crowds – great for some, not really our thing

We do take all sorts of other factors in to consideration, whether we are taking other people, maybe the dog to be walked by one of our friends, so is the venue dog friendly. Sometimes we end up just fancying a race and we don’t know why.

A running friend started a debate on social media recently around whether events are over priced, and whether, particularly if you’re lucky enough to live in a beautiful running area, we need to do events at all. For Nicky and myself, the event is our adventure. We don’t drink or smoke or snort white powder, we don’t particularly go out to pubs and very rarely have meals out, so our time and money ‘budget’ is put aside for these days. So, as for price, we don’t really notice, if we’ve decided it fits our budget for the weekend then it’s the right price for us.

Just occasionally we’ll come home and say NEVER AGAIN, if we’ve felt the price didn’t reflect the quality of the event, or the venue was dull, or repetitive, or the company was dull, or repetitive, and then we’ll cross that one off our list. AND if they run out of cake!!!!

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Don’t you DARE run out of cake!

BUT, that’s just our opinion, those 245 events taking place tomorrow will ALL be attended and enjoyed, so there is definitely something out there for everyone.

Even in Stevenage, I’m sure! (although I couldn’t find a link to a 2017 marathon to share – maybe a reader could correct this?)

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The first marathon we went to together…. Ain’t life grand

SO I never did get to Stevenage for my attempt at running ‘Good For Age’, I joined Nicky and her merry gang in a trip to The Eden Project and I ran what I still believe was my finest race to date.

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Finishing The Eden Project Marathon 2014

On a hilly course, yes in beautiful surroundings, I ran 3h18m50s (Good For Age would have been 3h15) for 5th place and had a monster pasty straight afterwards. Another enticer for us – post race grub! We did the marathon again in 2015 and the half in 2016. Great event.

I went on to run my Good For Age time twice the following year without resorting to a train to Stevenage.

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Nicky’s 2nd fastest marathon NDVM last year

As for this year’s marathons, next up is the North Dorset Villages where I’m hoping to chase another Good For Age. I’m older now so they give me another 5 minutes, 3h20m is the target this time. Nicky, too is chasing a time at this one. And no, I’m not telling you what it is, I do like my marriage…….

After that we’re having a week in the Lake District, incorporating the Coniston Marathon into the holiday – I reckon we’ll be ‘Good For Age’ whatever time we run!

Anyway, much eating and resting to do ahead of tomorrow’s sojourn up the coast there…