Heartbreaker Marathon 2017 – The New Forest

The alarm is set for 5am on a Sunday morning, which can mean only one thing.  To be fair, no alarms are needed really.  Our 2 new cats were prowling around from 4am, so I was lying there waiting for 5 o’clock to come around.

Here they are by the way.  Batman and Banksy.  Daft names (we inherited the names), but brilliant cats.  They couldn’t be more different from the 2 old girls that we shared the last 16 years with.


Everything was packed the night before and clothes laid out to wear for the journey, so it was beans on toast, a couple of cups of tea, a quick chat with Nick, before setting off on the 2 hour drive to the New Forest and the Heartbreaker Marathon.

I love days like this.  I love the time on my own.  Setting off before the sun comes up on my own little adventure.

As you enter the New Forest you cross a cattle grid.  That noise gets my heart going.  It always means that I’m heading to somewhere I’m going to like, somewhere remote, somewhere with trees and animals.

It’s a 15 minute drive in the New Forest to Fordingbridge, the home of the Sandy Balls Holiday Village.  The name suggests that you should be greeted by Kenneth Williams or Sid James, but it has to be said that the organisation was definitely not a carry on (sorry, I will have a word with my ‘joke’ writer).  Marshals are everywhere, parking ample, registration quick, site shop well stocked and toilet blocks meaning that there are no queues.


The start is an understated affair and is about a 5 minute walk from the middle of the holiday village.  There was a sudden sound from a hooter and we were off.


The first 3km of the race of very up and down around the perimeter of the holiday village before you exit via the main entrance onto the main road through the National Park.  This goes on for 2km and there is a pavement and a verge to run on.  Not at all dangerous.


After the first 5km you head off the road and it’s trail then for the next 35km.  The first view of the course out in the National Park itself is brilliant.


2.8km gets you to the water station and this is where the 3 out and back loops start.  They are undulating, but all on very easy trails.  It is the Fritham-Frogham cycle track.  Most of it is open, although there are certain sections that head through the wooded areas.


The half marathon started an hour later than the marathon, so there were soon a lot of runners out there.  I didn’t mind the first 2 laps as we saw lots of other runners and I like the encouragement that we give each other.  However, the last lap was tough and I did start to find it a little dull.  There were just the slower marathon runners left out there.  The wind got up, it started to rain and it got tough.  A lot of the course is open to the elements and the head wind was straight into your face.

I had set out to complete the race in somewhere between 4 hour 35 minutes and 4 hours 45. I wanted to do this with even 10km splits and I wasn’t far out:

1st 10k – 1 hour 6 minutes
2nd 10k – 1 hour 3 minutes
3rd 10k – 1 hour 2 minutes
4th 10k – 1 hour 8 minutes (this is where it got tough and the conditions changed)

I finished in 4 hours 39 minutes with a very quick last kilometre.  All in all, a pretty successful day on a demanding course (although not as demanding as the Steyning Stinger and the WSR Larmer marathons that are heading my way very quickly).


Check out the new Suunto watch, by the way.  Very nice.

The organisation of the event was excellent, the marshals lovely and attentive.  The aid stations were limited with just water and ‘energy drink’, which I think was probably Tailwind.  I think that there were some sweets as well.

The course is good and challenging although potentially a little dull towards the end.

This race would be an excellent introduction to trail half and full marathons for a newcomer.  Would I do it again – probably not.  There are a lot of new races that I want to do.  Both of these points are irrelevant as I heard that the event is probably not going to be held again, which is a really pity.


Nice medal too.


On a side note, it’s around 3 months until the SDW100 and the preparations continue.

I read an article/interview recently with Robbie Britton, and I found the whole thing pretty fascinating.  This is one passage of real interest.

Some of these guys have been doing it (running Ultras) for 10 years and they’re just hammering their head against a wall for 10 years. You have these crazy conversations:

“What’s your nutrition plan like?” – “Oh, I don’t worry, I just go and smash it.”

“How do you pace?” – “I don’t, I just got out and run as hard as I can for as long as I can.”

“How is that working out?” – “Oh, I’m still running the same times as I was 10 years ago. But I’m experienced…”

No, you’re not experienced You’re a fucking moron who’s been doing the same thing for 10 years.

It reminds me of the interview with Shane Warne, where he said that Monty Panesar hasn’t play 33 test matches, he’s played the same one 33 times.

So, I’m trying to make sure that I iron out as many potential mistakes as possible for the 50 and 100 mile races this year.  I’m listening to my mentors and working things out for myself and I think I’m getting there.  Here are a few of the things I think I’m getting right or at least improving.

Pack everything the night before

If you are getting up when it’s still dark, make sure that you have packed everything the night before, so that you can pick up your bag and leave.  Also, have the clothes that you are going to wear for the journey laid out ready.  Make sure that you have the correct clothing with you, so that you can make the appropriate choice of clothing when you arrive at the event.  A list of items to take is useful.

Pack your hydration vest sensibly and eat well.

I have learned that having as much as possible as accessible as possible is really important.  My food is now going into smaller bags that fit into the front pockets of my S Lab vest.  I had a bag of dried fruit and Nakd bites for each hour.  The spare empty flexible bottles of Tailwind go into the back on the pack to be filled up when necessary.


Have a plan and stick to it

There’s no point of thinking that you feel great after 25% of the race and you accelerating away at 7 miles.  You will crash and burn and the last quarter of the race will be tough. Assess the conditions and the course, set yourself a sensible range of goals for the day according to your training, ultimate goal and upcoming races.  I have a good range of goals for the SDW100 and there is a plan in place.

Choose the correct races

I entered the Heartbreaker Marathon before Christmas.  However, the possibility of doing the Multistory Car Park marathon came up on the same day.  I love spending time with the Sussex Trail Event team and the runners who are at all of their events, but I came to the conclusion that 71 times up and down a car park was not sensible.  It didn’t tie in with the ‘A’ race and it could easily have pushed my unhappy back a little too far.

Don’t be afraid to amend your training plan

I put a lot of miles in in January and my body didn’t thank me for it.  I had a plan through until the end of May and I have decided to throttle the overall mileage back.  In order to finish the SDW100, I have to make it to the start line in one piece.

Also, missing a short period of your training will not hurt you.  Continuing to train with an injury may well do so.

So, it’s on to the Steyning Stinger next week for a lot of walking up hills.

Take care, Neil


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