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The New Forest Marathon Event

The beautiful New Forest, the UK’s most recently formed national park (or so I thought until I checked Wikipedia to write this report – it’s now South Downs) and one of the main reasons for myself and Laura deciding to settle in our university city together. More importantly, it is the location of a brilliant running event which offers a marathon, half marathon, 10k, 5k, children’s events and even a walk in the woods for those preferring a gentler alternative. People enter running events for several reasons. Some enter to win, some enter for a sense of personal achievement. Laura entered this one because she had the day of an event off work for once, and I entered because I’m really bad at saying no to things.

The organisers will tell you to arrive 3 hours prior to your start time which to me feels frankly obscene given the marathon start time is 9:30am. Having settled on arriving just 2 hours before, we joined the queue to get in the car park and after what felt like quite a long time parked the car and entered the race village (more on car parks later…). Like previous years, the race village is filled with various stalls displaying the latest running paraphernalia that money can buy as well as various food stands and a stage area to provide the post-race entertainment.

At this point a special shout-out must be given to Vicky Couzens who admirably tried to organise a team photo for any Totton runners in attendance. Whether or not this ever happened I’m not sure, so if the space below this paragraph is blank I’ll assume Vicky’s best efforts were in vain and you’ll all have to imagine what a group of Totton runners smiling in anticipation of their races at New Park showground looks like.

A fresh start turned into a warm September morning as the marathon runners (no Totton runners that I’m aware of in this distance) assembled in the showring, and were herded to the start line before setting off on their 26.2 mile gallop around the forest. Next up was the half marathon event, in which the majority of Totton runners were entered. So at 10:10am we also gathered in the showring, whereby following a short briefing a round of applause was conducted in honour of her majesty Queen Elizabeth II which was observed by everybody at the event. In a sudden change of pace, a man dressed in bright yellow stood in the back of a lorry trailer and led an enthusiastic warm-up which was followed by most all of the entrants. I for one bailed on this idea at the point of being asked to do alternate squats and lunges in fear of hearing a loud ping from my legs.

A clear day for the event meant it got quite warm!

The wave system employed by the organisers worked well, with runners able to run at a pace which suited not only them but those around them. If only the same consideration had been given by the lady who emptied the entire contents of a puddle inside my shoe within the first half mile, I would have been much happier. With some under-the-breath grumblings finished with, I settled into my stride for the race. Within a couple of miles Sean arrived alongside for a chat, who after saying that he was going to drop back to preserve the health of his heel proceeded to shoot off into the distance. Somewhat surprisingly, this conversation was alongside my fastest split of the race.

Generic New Forest gravel tracks turned into yet more generic New Forest gravel tracks until suddenly you arrived on Rhinefield Ornamental Drive for what was by far my favourite part of the route. Whilst running alongside a man who spent the vast majority of his time staring at the tops of the very tall trees and his partner (who seemed somewhat less interested in the trees), the man declared that he thought there was a tree on this road which he had read about in a book. After some Googling it sounds like he was referring to Knightwood Oak which devastatingly for this particular runner sits on the other side of the A35 (again, thanks Google). Sensing an opportunity to impart some local knowledge on this man, I told him that further down the road is the tallest Giant Redwood in the UK. He was not disappointed as a few miles later heading back up the drive he once again ran sideways looking to the skies after spotting the sign telling him precisely what I had told him just 20 minutes earlier.

As I returned to Rhinefield Ornamental Drive once again at the 8 mile mark, I heard an enthusiastic cry of “Hi Totton runner!” (or similar) from a vaguely familiar face who was running the 10k event which shared this part of the course. As a newer member to the club, I don’t know everyone yet, so thank you Sohini for your encouragement and apologies that I had to use the race results to find out your name! The only hill of any note on the course takes you into the grounds of the Rhinefield House Hotel, at the summit of which I caught up with Sean who by this point had also caught up with Dave Nightingale. After a brief exchange of encouragement I descended through the spongy, uneven lawns of the hotel hoping not to roll an ankle with just 4 miles to go. As a rare, tarmacked section appeared, I was feeling strong and so thought I’d give it a bit of a blast for the last 3 miles. This was a good idea for about 2 miles.

Coming back towards New Park, I knew that a half marathon personal best was on the cards so I continued to push on despite having told myself before the race that I should take it gentle so I can run the Solent Half at full tilt in 2 weeks’ time. Seeing the line approaching, but with 500m remaining to cover to complete a full half marathon distance I knew that a runner’s worst nightmare was about to happen. I was to achieve a half marathon personal best of 1:48:07, but it wasn’t going to count on Strava.

A good medal and t-shirt

After watching a few more runners come in, the smell of the dirty burger van proved too much and I sat in front of the stage listening to a man with an acoustic guitar whilst indulging in a free 0% alcohol beer and a staggeringly overpriced cheeseburger and chips. What an athlete. In a bizarre repeat of the 2019 event when I came to support Laura (myself not having run more than a few parkruns at the time), we listened to the event team announce that the traffic situation leaving the event was severe owing to a burst water main. Not sure whether this was a ploy to get people to eat more burgers we decided to go home before I visited any more of the food stalls. It was not a ploy; 45 minutes later we had not moved more than 5 metres from our parking spot. An hour and a half later the exit was in sight but still 15 minutes away. A total journey time back to Totton of 2 hours means that the drive home took longer than the time taken for me to run the event, although this didn’t detract too much from the enjoyment of what was otherwise a fantastically organised event with some of the best marshals I’ve experienced.

All smiles after queuing to get out for nearly 2 hours

Well done to all of the Totton runners who took part in the event. An honourable mention for Lee Trueman who completed the course in 1:31:08 (first Totton Male and 35th overall) which after consulting the Totton Strava club was the middle part of a 35km training run completed in just under 3 hours.

The results below includes anyone who entered in affiliation with the club, plus anyone who I either knew was there or put their run on Strava and is part of the Totton Running Club Strava club.

Half Marathon Results

10K Results

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