The Larmer Tree weekend was one of those big adventures.
We rented a lovely Air B and B cottage in Shaftesbury, about 15 minutes from race HQ. We went over on Friday night after work and hit the pub to watch the Wales rugby game as soon as we arrived.
The last time Nick and I were here was for the End of the Road Festival about 8 years ago. It was a bit bizarre being here on very different business. We looked like this back then.
The first race of the weekend was the Larmer 10 miles. The aim was to do a back to back weekend, so that I had tired legs on Sunday for the main event, the marathon.
The alarm was set for 6.30 for an 8.30 race start. As always, registration is easy and the coffee wonderful. The weather was misty, which restricted the views sadly, but at least we couldn’t see the tops of the hills that we had to climb.
Andy (Race Director and Mr. White Star Running) gave his usual race brief, you know, ‘don’t die, run a bit, it’s muddy’.
So, we were off, along the road off into the paths, mud and woodland that would be our hosts for the next couple of days.
The first hill is at 6km. It’s a beauty.
The big hill was followed by a bit of undulation, a bit of flat and a lot of downhill for over 2 miles.
And then it was the next challenge. A steep hill, followed by a circuit of a lovely valley.
And then it’s flat or downhill all the way home (apart from the climb back to the start)
And that’s it. 10 miles seems to fly by when you’ve been doing a lot of longer races recently. It was very pleasant as well.
I was meant to be taking it steady, but really loved it and did it a little quicker than expected. There you go. 1 hour 44 minutes of pure joy.
So it was back to race HQ, where they were serving really lovely food and selling the ever popular WSR merch. The food was free by the way.
While some of the team were getting a massage we had a stroll around the grounds, remembering where the stages were for the End of the Road Festival. We bumped into several of these these little beauties, the symbol of the race weekend.
After that, the world was our lobster. Home, a quick shower and then a walk around historic Shaftesbury (including Hovis Hill – here is the link to the original advert – Hovis Ad) before heading to the pub for some beer, some food and then home to bed for an early night.
Marathon start time was 8.30am as well. We already had our numbers. We had packed the night before, so all we had to do was to load the cars and get ourselves done to race HQ for 8am to get ready.
The marathon is soooooooooooooooo lovely. Hilly, mud, slippy, slidey, but above all lovely. Some of it takes in part of the 10 mile course from the previous day.
I changed my usual race plan. I really held back to start with. I’m not totally well at the moment and I wanted to check out the pacing for the South Downs Way 50, which is coming up in 4 weeks.
The best way to describe the course is in pictures. I can’t find the words to say how utterly fantastic it was. The views at the top of the hills were stunning. Well worth walking up. The hills were tough. They were long and muddy. Energy sapping and difficult to get any traction on at times.
And this is how up and down it is.
Deciding to take the first half of the race easy meant that I managed to spend a lot of time with Nick (and Karen), which never really happens during races. It was brilliant. I do spend time during races wondering how she’s getting on and it was great to be able to see it at first hand.
So, I got to half way in 2 hours 44 mins. I did the second half in 2 hours 34 minutes, giving a finishing time of 5 hours 18 minutes. The second half of the course was also more difficult than the first half. This is exactly what I needed to achieve. There was definitely something left in the tank and the terrain on the SDW50 will not be a tough as this, although the amount of climbing is the same.
This weekend is a perfect introduction to trail running. Tough but not too tough. 10 mile, half marathon, 20 mile and marathon options available. Lovely people, great marshals, lots of fancy dress, incredible location, route impeccably marked (it is impossible to get lost) and the medals are beautiful for those of you who collect pretty bits of metal.
A huge thank you to Andy and the White Star Team. We will see you again for the Ox. Thank you to Rob for the fantastic photos as always. Thank you to the lovely runners. I’m not a big talker during races, but I really loved the chats. I especially enjoyed the chat with the Vegan Runner who caught me up while I was saving a worm from being crushed on the trail. ‘Without worms and bees, we are nothing’ were the words of wisdom that I brought home with me from Wiltshire.
Next up is the South Downs Way 50. Have fun.