The Bad Cow weekend consisted of a marathon and early evening 10k on Saturday and then a marathon and half marathon on the Sunday. The course is laps of approximately 5.3km, making the marathon 8 laps. It’s flatter than other White Star events. However, it’s not flat. It’s all relative. If you’ve done 3 Forts, Steyning Stinger, Beachy Head, Dorset Invader, Giant’s Head and so on, you’ll find it pretty flat. The total climb is 288m over the 8 laps.
To make this more of an adventure and a bit of a ‘holiday’, we set off on Friday afternoon through the painful rush hour / New Forest traffic to arrive at around 6pm. The 2 second pop up tents are set up in around 5 minutes and we pop down to register, get our numbers and have our pre-ordered food.
One of the beauties of these events is that this is all so easy. 15 minutes after setting up the tents we have our numbers, lovely food and a beer in hand.
The food was provided by MYO. You could pre-order it and there was a range of pasta, gnocchi and burgers. They were all very nice at £6 each.
We were fed and watered by 7.30, so we decided to have a walk to the local pub (about a mile away on foot) for a bit more watering. About 2 minutes into the walk Andy, the Race Director, came up behind us in his car and gave us a lift on his way home. Now that we a very pleasant and lovely surprise.
So 3 pints later we walked home. It was pretty much dark and the camp site was filling up. We went straight off to bed ready for the challenge of the next day.
I got a good old sleep, punctuated only by a sprint across the field to the toilets (Did I not mention that they have real toilets and a shower block? Well they do, and they were great). I woke up around 5am and watched the sun come up. Why wouldn’t you? It’s a beautiful morning, I don’t get to do that too often and I’m as excited as hell.
I spent 90 minutes listening to the birds and the local beasties waking up, while tucking into my ample breakfast.
The real silence is broken about 7am when Andy drove around the campsite with music on full volume and a loud speaker announcing that breakfast was served and it was time to get up.
So, it was time for breakfast number 2. The MYO team were serving hot food (bacon rolls, sausage baps, crepes, porridge, tea and coffee). The sun was up, it was getting warmer and we were eating breakfast in the lovely open air while the organisers finished the set up.
I had a quick shower (Did I mention them? Oh yeah) and got ready. It’s a 2 minute walk from the campsite to the start/finish where Andy delivers the usual White Star-style race brief.
There were cows near the start finish area. Mike the Bull had the look of an animal who knew the race could have been named after him.
Time for a quick Burgess Hill Runners team photo before we start.
And we’re off.
Right from the start it’s pretty obvious that this is not flat and is not going to be easy. After a short incline you descend through a field with great views of the harbour before the first climb, which is about 200m long, before you descend to the Love Station.
This is like an Aid Station, but nicer. It’s one of 2 aid stations on the course, the other being on the start/finish line.
It’s then along a private road for 350m (downhill), then straight off road through the zig zags, which are a mixture of open heathland and covered wooded areas.
The campsite and the race HQ keep popping into sight, as we never stray too far away from the centre of events.
You emerge out of this section into an open field before a lovely twisty turny bit that takes you past the spooky tree (it’s a tree that’s been hit by lightning really) and the stone circle before heading up the steepest hill (it’s not that bad and it’s an excuse to walk).
You head out into the open with a beautiful view of the sea, before the descent down to the start/finish area.
Simple. Just do that 8 times.
People don’t like laps, but I didn’t get bored of these laps. It was a nice way to break a marathon down. I usually split them into parkruns, so the organisers did this for me. The tough thing was the weather. It got really hot (unlike Bad Cow Sunday, when it rained). I don’t go well in the heat. Luckily the wonderful people from Bingley Harriers set up an impromptu water station about 1.5k from the end of each lap after a couple of laps. They must have seen that people were starting to wilt.
So, my race. As I said, I don’t do heat very well. I’m a pasty bloke from Lincolnshire. I much prefer training in February than August. I’m also not always the cleverest of runners either. I find it hard to stop at aid stations to ensure that I take on the relevant food and drink through fear of losing time standing still. I was determined to ensure that I did take the correct precautions this time and I managed it.
My approximate lap splits are as below:
32 mins 20 seconds
32 mins 40 seconds
33 mins 30 seconds
32 mins 40 seconds
34 mins 52 seconds
37 mins 17 seconds
36 mins 40 seconds
39 mins 00 seconds
There is an obvious slow down. That’s to be expected with the heat and I also stopped at all 3 aid stations for longer periods and on the start/finish line I stopped several times to get my bag and take a hydration tablet.
There was very little in the way of walking and I didn’t slow as much as I could have done. The goal was to go somewhere between 4.30 and 5 hours, so 4.39 was a real result.
As a warm up for Downslink, this can only be seen as a success.
At the end of the race we sat in the finishing area to cheer all of the runners in. The finish area has such a great atmosphere and it is a pleasure to be able to see other runners cross the line.
The moto of White Star Running is ‘Keep Running Rural’. It could also be ‘Keep Goodie Bags Local’. Local cider and fudge are included. Given that there was a Bad Cow marathon on Saturday and Sunday, it would have been easy to make a buff to cover both days, but no, not these people. That’d would be too easy. There’s one for Saturday and one for Sunday. The medal, as you can see, is brilliant.
It’s a real measure of the care taken by the organisers that they get a flag for each of the countries of their regular runners and put the WSR moto onto it and Philippe was certainly not left out.
Finally, you know how great it is to get the link to post marathon photos and then you realise that you can’t really afford to buy one (well that’s how I feel anyway). Well, none of that here. I think I saw 5 photographers out on the course. They upload their photos to a flickr group for everyone to use. A huge thank you to these volunteers. You really are the icing on the cake of a brilliantly organised event.
The photographers really did capture all of the emotions of marathon day, but the one below really is the best. This is what it means to get there.
I can’t recommend White Star Running enough if you’re looking for a calm, laid back, low key, trail event. Check these races out for next year. We will do all of them over the coming few years. I’m a bit annoyed that some of them clash with events we have already booked for next year, but in 2017 we will plan our running diary around some of the WSR events.
Take care all and thank you so much White Star Running.
Next stop Downslink.