So my first marathon of 2016 was the Hampshire Hoppit Marathon. It’s taken me 6 months to lose my 2016 cherry and I’m very glad to have completed my 20th marathon. A lovely little milestone.
It’s an early start to Sunday morning. 5.30 alarm call and an hour and three quarters drive over to Hampshire.
On arrival at the race venue, the first thing that strikes you is how lovely the area is. We’re only about 10 miles or so outside Basingstoke and we are pretty close to the M3, but it’s lovely. The view from the car park was probably worth the drive.
The field of 400-500 runners for the half and full marathons slowly arrive, park up and make their way over to the start/finish area, which is about a 15 minute walk from the car park (no big deal before the start, but I thought it was going to feel a lot longer for the journey back after the race).
So, the start/finish is in the grounds of the horse racing stable. Not a big fan (understatement) of horse racing, but you can see how much the industry is worth. They use huge expanses of land to train on. This isn’t the back end of Lincolnshire where land is cheap. It’s prime land in the south of England.
Everything is well set up. Start/finish arc, massage area, baggage drop, food, drink and most importantly, the toilets, of which there were plenty.
The sun was out and it was a bit too hot as I changed into my running gear and got lathered with sun block.
I only knew one other person running the race and that was Jan, who is probably the single biggest influence on my running in recent years, so it was lovely to have this picture with her before the start (photo courtesy of Jon Lavis)
The race stared bang on 10am and off we went. Up the hill.
That’s the hill in front. This is it close up.
And this is the view from the top back down. Big, isn’t it?
Welcome to the Hampshire Hoppit. It was worth the climb though. That’s where the best views are.
The first 5km are pretty much all up hill, but after that, there is a lot of gravity assistance until after half way, with the odd little bump thrown in.
It’s a tough race. It is technical in places and you have to concentrate in order to keep your feet. The sections with wide paths are a welcome relief.
There are less photos from the second half of the race, as there tends to be with me. The second half was tough. Obviously I was getting tired, but the net gain in the second half compensated for the net loss in the first half (when you remove the huge hill at the start and the finish), as the profile below shows.
I am preparing for a couple of 50 milers at the moment, so there were a couple of things that I wanted to check out as part of my prep.
First of all, fueling. I had used Ella’s Organics baby food in the past and quite enjoyed it. This time I decided to try some sweet and some savoury. The savoury was horrific. Cold lentil and vegetable stew. It had the texture of when you’re sick into your own mouth and you have to swallow it again, so that no-one realises (we’ve all done it in the pub before).
The sweet ones were lovely though, so I will take some of those on my first 50.
The other point was mental attitude. I chanted a mantra in my head. ‘I’m so lucky to be doing this’. Over and over again. It seemed to work. Maybe I should come up with more mantras and put them to a tune, so that I can hum them as I go along.
Anyway, so other things about the race. The marshals. Bloody amazing. They ranged from lovely and polite, to really encouraging and cheery to slightly crazy, dancing to the music on their stereo. Probably the best marshals for some time.
For me, this race was a huge confidence boost. 2016 has been pretty rubbish health wise and there hasn’t really been a period of sustained happy training. To be fair, there hasn’t been before this race either and that was the test.
My 10km splits were really quite cool in the way that they were so even.
1st 10km – 1 hour 7 minutes
2nd 10km – 1 hour 7 minutes
3rd 10km – 1 hour 6 minutes
4th 10km – 1 hour 19 minutes
That’s pretty consistent given the hills and I kept myself going well towards the end.
The last mile or so is really tough. Steep downhill and that’s not funny at that stage of a marathon.
But I did it, all in tact.
And a little tired.
I would seriously recommend this race. Apart from the hold up at the bottleneck at the top of the first hill, which can be resolved very easily by staggering the half and full marathon starts, I’m not sure what could have been better.
I love it. I love the feeling of being free in the countryside. I love the feeling of pushing my body and I love crossing the finish line and the elation it brings.
Thank you Tim and everyone that made this happen.