The Farnham Pilgrim Marathon and Half Marathon 2014

It’s pretty easy to get carried away straight after an event, especially when you live in my head and that type of thing comes very easily.

However, it has to be said that this race is brilliant.

We arrived early. Of course we did. I’d rather be there 2 hours early that a second too late.  The car park was nearly empty, but already manned by helpful, friendly marshals.

I was doing the half marathon as part of my taper and Nick was doing the full marathon as part of, well, her continued enthusiasm for 26.2 miles.

We had the pleasure of sharing the day with a group of Burgess Hill Runner friends as well.


From the word go, you can tell that this event is tremendously well organised.

Everything was in place well before we arrived.

The facilities were excellent, check in and bag drop as smooth as you could wish.  This was probably helped by the marathon and half marathon runners setting off at different times, but even so.



The more I visit this type of event, the more I can’t see myself doing another mass participation road marathon.  The race director came over to thank us for coming around an hour before the marathon started.  I can’t imagine that happening at too many events.

So the marathon runners set off at 9.30, leaving the half marathon runners with an hour to kill.



As with the full marathon, we had the race brief and a warm up conducted by a local fitness instructor.

And before we knew it, we were off.

The course offers a bit of everything. On road through lovely little villages, spongy forest trails, sand covered trails, open fields and mud.  Everything that tempts people like me to go to events like this.









This is not the place to go for a PB.  That’s not what it’s about.  It’s about doing the Farnham Pilgrim Marathon (or half in my case).  It’s about sharing the day with people who enjoy the same thing.  It’s about spending time in the beautiful countryside.  And it’s about pushing yourself over a pretty tough course that is sapping at times.

My experience of off road long distance events always leads me back to make comparisons with Steyning Stinger and the 3 Forts Challenge.  The elevation gain on the Farnham Pilgrim is less than both the Stinger and 3 Forts. Don’t let this fool you into thinking that it is easier though.  There are many sections on the Farnham event that are on sand covered paths.  The sand is loose and not compacted, which means you move some sand each time you push off.  There are a lot of single file trails through the forest as well, which I find energy sapping.  I didn’t get as far as St. Martha’s on the Hill Church (which is on the marathon course), but I understand that said hill is a bit of a git (as you can see at 12.5 miles on Nick’s GPS below).  It is far from being flat.  The marathon course has 590 m / 1935 ft of elevation gain on it.

pilgrimI have touched on the organisation of the event and this is personified by the volunteers.  There were 200 marshals out on the course.  At every bend or stile there was someone to point you in the right direction or give you a cheer.  They were an absolute dream.  There were also aid stations at very regular intervals.

This event is worth every penny.  You even get a technical t-shirt, as well as a medal.

I know I’m biased, but give your hard earned cash to events like this rather than ‘the big ones’.  They’re so much more fun and much much cheaper.

Have fun everyone and enjoy.


The photos are mine or the ones that I have shamelessly stolen from Caz Wadey’s Facebook page.


Horsham parkrun and the River Relay make my weekend

There was a time when a good weekend involved going straight to the pub after work on a Friday night, then spending most of the weekend drinking, sleeping and feeling a bit crap.

Well times change and although spending time in the pub is still a favourite pastime of mine, it certainly doesn’t get in the way of other, more productive activities.

This weekend was great for several reasons.  I got to spend some time in the pub with some friends and my wife and I attended 2 events for the first time.

It was the launch day for Horsham parkrun on Saturday.  It was a bizarre feeling when I got there as it didn’t feel like a new parkrun.  The organisers and the volunteers all had a lot of experience of parkruns and how they work and this was evident in how smoothly the event went.  It was a very good job that they were organised, as 366 people turned up for their free 5km run.


As usual, there were lots of people visiting from other parkruns across the South of England with their wonderful  selection of 100 and 250 t-shirts.

The most pleasing thing was the amount of people raising their hand to the question ‘who is running their first ever parkrun today’?   As an Event Director, I think that one of the most pleasing things is to see people getting into parkrun because it has started in their town.

The course in Horsham Park is excellent and a mixture of concrete and grass.  It is 3 and a bit laps.  I’m a big fan of laps.  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love the fact that the supporters gather in one place and they cheer you on each time you go past.  This happens 4 times at Horsham.

As usual, the event attracted a huge range of abilities and ages.  This is what parkrun does.

There is also a great café nearby with inside and outside areas serving hot and hold drinks, as well as a good selection of food.

It is well worth a visit.  It’s also potentially a PB course.  I went under 23 minutes for only the 3rd time ever.

This is another great addition to the range of parkruns available in Sussex.  This week 1506 runners completed the 7 parkruns now on offer. I am pretty sure that this is a record.

On Sunday morning we met at 7am in Burgess Hill to head up to London for the River Relay.  Having done the Green Belt Relay in May, there was a real sense of excitement about the Green Belt Relay’s little brother, which is organised by the same people, The Stragglers Running Club.

It is a marathon run over 5 legs of varying lengths, starting at Virginia Water in Windsor Great Park and finishing at the Hawker Centre on the banks of the river in Kingston.  We entered 3 teams.

Due to some unexpected circumstances, I had the pleasure of running legs one and three for different BHR teams, rather than just leg 1, as expected.

Leg 1 was great.  I had never been to that part of London before and it is fantastic.  The lake was shrouded in mist as we arrived.  The course went round the outside of the lake and headed to the north end of the park where I handed over the baton to our second runner.


leg 1Unlike the Green Belt Relay, this is a true baton relay, where the baton has to be handed over and each team only has 1 running on the course at each time.


My time for the first leg was excellent, despite the early start and the quick parkrun in my legs from the previous day.  There was no time to warm down, as I had to get into the car to drive to the start of leg 3 before our runner arrived.


We did so with about 15 minutes to spare, so as Vicky came in, I set off on my second leg of the morning, not really expecting to set the world alight (by my standards anyway).

10628423_10152412095298763_763051774101726809_nThat’s where I was wrong.  I ran the first 10k of the leg in a 10k PB, which I had just not expected.  I was helped along by a runner from the Stragglers.

leg 3Leg 3 was part of the first leg of the Green Belt Relay course, only in reverse, so it was pretty familiar.


After my leg, we went off to the start of the final leg where Linda handed over to Nick and she had the honour of bringing the team home in a total time of 3 hours 30 minutes and 38 seconds in 31st place out of the 51 teams.


The other 2 BHR teams came home in 40th and 41st places.  An excellent performance by everyone.

Again, for us this was a running event and social event in equal measures.  The event itself is much more manageable than the Green Belt Relay and there were certainly more teams at the slower end of the ability range.  There is also much less distance between the legs and less time pressure on getting your athlete to the start of their leg.


The Stragglers certainly know how to put on an event.  This ran totally smoothly, even with a last minute course diversion on the final leg.

It was also a very nice touch at the end when large sums of money were offered to charity chosen by the winning teams.

I would certainly recommend it to any club, whatever their ability.  I’d love to see us put out a strong team next year to see how close we can get to the front runners.

So there we go.  All of a sudden it was Monday morning and the hectic 48 hours were over.

A huge thank you to everyone involved in making these 2 very different events so enjoyable.