Thursday, 25 September 2014

Farnham Pilgrims Marathon - The local marathon

Believe it or not, but this was the first marathon I ever ran just two years ago. It's a two year marathon runniversary! 

It's my local marathon and I like to support my local event, however this is no easy marathon. A tough trail marathon taking in the beautiful sites along the Pilgrims Way between Farnham and Guildford predominantly around the North Downs. 

In 2012 it was marathon number 1, in 2013 it was marathon number 12, this year it was marathon number 39. Safe to say I've got the bug!! 

After being confirmed as one of the lucky 18 to be running 2015s Brathay 10 in 10, marathons have taken on a new meaning. Until now I had cruised a few marathons with no time to worry about, to enjoy the distances and socialise with my fellow runners. Now, however, I feel I need to structure my running to be gaining something from each run. That's not to say I won't enjoy it! 

Since my DNF on the North Downs 100 in August the legs had felt heavy, until two weeks ago where I managed to pull out the quickest 5km I've done in two years. Speed work is something I'm going to be bringing back into my running. To compliment the long runs I have booked.

Back to Farnham and my plan was to run at least a good half. My fitness isn't back up to putting down a great marathon at the moment, so a good attack on the first half and then get through to finish number 39. Plan was to run at 10min/mile pace. On a road, this is comfortable, on trail it'll push me. 

The start area was really enjoyable for me. I've made so many running friends since December last year, the actual start of the race got in the way of socialising!!
The race starts at The Sands recreation ground. Roughly 1.5-2 miles from my front door. So it was nice to have a 5 minute drive to the race.

Anyway, I had said I would run with Paul Sahota. I think we are of equal running ability and it would be good to enjoy his company on the route. As the gun went off, I went off. Chatting with a few people early doors and noticing I was a bit ahead of Paul. 

I settled into my planned pace and felt comfortable on the early road section. It wasn't long before joining onto the NDW. A route I know well and train on. It didn't make it any easier. In the distance I could see Jay and Cam chatting. Or more Cam chatting to Jay!! 

I decided to keep an eye on them and not lose them. 

After a little detour through Seale we were back on the NDW and heading towards what I call Nemesis hill. A lose stone and sand hill that goes up on to Puttenham common. In training I run this hill, but it kicks my butt. During the race and only 3-4 miles in, I wasn't going to run it. There's not much to gain running it but more to lose. A good fast walk up got me to the top without the need of a defibrillator! The up is followed by a good quick down into Puttenham. 

The course settles out and stays pretty flat as we follow the NDW towards Watts Gallery near Guildford. Here the Pilgrims Way splits from the NDW. I'd lost sight of Jay and Cam, but knew they weren't to far, so I put a push on. 

A few miles further on, and they were back in sight. A combination of me pushing and them enjoying the aid station. We were around 8 miles in. It was really good to join them and a new running friend Paul Hart. 

We had a good chat while pushing on. A few miles further on and the course starts to get tougher! The climb up to St Martha's on the Hill. Best way to describe this, is a church on a massive sand dune!!! 

The top of the sand dune signifies halfway. Some how, I look pretty alive in the pic at the very top of the page with Cam, Jay and Paul despite the climb!! 

At this point Jay got out his little boom box and got the party started as we turned to head back west and downhill. 
You'd think it would be welcoming to have a down hill run, but I was struggling with my toes banging inside my trainers. Which ultimately left me with some tender toes. 

Of course, it wasn't long before we faced an uphill again. This time heading slightly north to take in the views from Pewsey Down!! Then another quick steep descent back on to the Pilgrims Way and towards Shalford Park and the river Wey.

Then, another cheeky little hill to take in St Catherine's. A hill you go up, around the ruins and come down only actually getting a few feet closer to Farnham. 

With this detour out the way, the route continues on the NDW towards Loseley farm. I should also point out I let Jay, Cam and Paul get ahead as I eased off according to the plan.   

Coming past Loseley farm and the Dark Lord himself Paul, you know the one I was supposed to be running with, turned up. We had a quick chat and he ran on in front of me. I started to settle into a run walk strategy I have for tough times, run 200 steps, walk 200 steps. I also realised how hungry I was!! 

The route continues to Watts Gallery where we then rejoin the route we took heading towards Guildford earlier, but heading back. I stuffed some ritz crackers in my face and trotted on towards Puttenham.

Arriving at Puttenham, rather than continue to head back to Farnham, which would've been really nice, we turned to head out on to Puttenham common. Here come the stys!! 

My legs were now feeling like lead and I could feel where my fitness wasn't at the level it needs to be. A few miles into the common and I started chatting with a new marathon runner Neil. It was his first marathon. Who would be so stupid to chose this marathon as a first?! Then do it twice more?! It was a welcome distraction as I offloaded all I knew about running. That was 30s killed!!! 

We stated together for a good few miles until we were back at the bottom of Nemesis hill. Neil was suffering now, and I'm not surprised, a tough first marathon. I started to push on and actually started to feel comfortable again. I knew where I was, what was coming and how far left to go. 

It wasn't long before I was on the home straight heading towards the Barley Mow pub in The Sands. Lots of support from fellow runners who had finished. Turning left into the field and seeing the finish line! Marathon 39 done and the hardest one of the year so far!

Although my time wasn't great, I knew it wasn't about time but how I performed over the first half. It's a tough course and I'm really pleased with how it went. Something I want to carry into the next marathons as I continue to build the fitness!

I'm never going to win races, I'm not a natural runner. I just have bags of determination and I don't know when to quit. In fact, I don't want to quit. 

Now my brain starts the process of removing the memories of the pain and discomfort, preparing me for some later post run internet marathon bookings!!

Despite how tough the course is, it is a stunning route, plenty of aid stations, 95% traffic free on 80-90% on trail (read sand). I'm proud it's my local marathon as it challenges every year!


  1. So it wasn't just me who found it tougher than last time round, which is a relief... I made the first half in a surprisingly good time, but after the canal on the way back I just couldn't get my running mojo on and ended up run/ walking to the end - with more of the latter than the former and 15 minutes slower than last year's time. I had one eye on Glencoe in 2 weeks time so I just hope I fare better in the far tougher conditions there.

    1. It is a beast of a race. I thought the Tolkien run on Wednesday would be a nice welcome flat race, but turned out it had the same elevation gain as Farnham!!