So the final part of the Marathon Talk Run Camp weekend recap is basically the race recap of the Heartbreaker Half Marathon that took place on the Sunday.
Not everyone at the Run Camp was doing the half but most people did. The others that didn’t did an 8 mile or 16 mile run with Tom.
The handy thing about the race was that the race HQ and the start line was at Sandy Balls so it was really easy to get to in the morning, obviously, as that’s where the Run Camp was based. I knew the course was going to be tough and I had no ambitions to get a good time so I wanted to add some miles on beforehand to make it into a good marathon training long run instead. Happily some of my new (and old) fellow Marathon Talkers had similar plans so a small group of us planned to meet up at 8.45am to run five miles. The race started at 10am so it was more than enough time.
My fellow lodger, Hannah, and I headed down to meet Matt and another guy, Aidan.
We planned a fairly easy pace and a 2.5 mile out and back to keep things very simple so we wouldn’t be at risk of getting lost and missing the race.
We asked a passing dog walker to take our photo before starting so we could get a “Sandy Balls” photo. Annoyingly he missed the “Balls” off! Ah well.
The route was actually quite tough as it was rather undulating but it was just a precursor of what was to come really.
We saw lots of marshals heading out to their positions as we were very close to the actual race route and we waved and smiled. A walker wished us good luck for the race as Hannah and me were wearing our bib already to save faffing time later. Then we got back in time to have a quick pre-race pee and listen to the brief. I also spotted a few of my running club friends as well which was nice. It’s a fairly local race so I wasn’t surprised to see them (one of them had previously told me he was doing it but I was just an idiot and had forgotten).
Then we walked down to the start. “Down” being the operative word here. The race begins at the bottom of a rather steep hill. An actual hill, not an incline or undulation. If I’d have come across this hill at any other point during the race I would have walked it!
My friend Matt and me decided to run together which was nice as without any time goals it can be a bit boring just plodding out miles. Plus we’d both done the first five miles together so we were both fatigued to begin with. We tried to pretend the five miles hadn’t happened. Annoyingly my ankle chip thing had come undone and so I had to stop to sort it out mid hill. I told Matt to go on and this was pretty much the theme of the race!
After the awful hill we were then on to a very gentle incline along the road for about a mile and then onto the track in the New Forest proper. The ground was easy underfoot and the scenery was beautiful.
The course is a sort of T shape where you run down the stem of the T, where the aid station is based (water or a carb-based drink on offer), and then it’s a left turn to head down an out back of three-ish miles. There was an almighty downhill and then some sharp uphills before turning around and heading back…to that almighty uphill.
Matt is further along in his marathon training and in general I think he’s slightly faster than me so he was springing up the hills whereas I was struggling. I walked without shame when it got too tough, but I always caught him up again – though it did require me to burst some speed out.
As we got going along the next bit of the T out-and-back we were going along quite nicely, chatting away. The good thing about these out-and-backs were that we could see so many other people either going out or coming back. We waved and cheered other Marathon Talkers and people we knew, which was great. We saw Martin Yelling zooming along several times too. I waved and shouted to my running club friend, Mark, but he just looked daggers at me and grunted.
“Must be having a hard time, I guess”, I said to Matt. Then we got to the turnaround and began our final way back (after just being passed by Steve Way heading back on the last stretch of the marathon – the marathon began an hour earlier and was twice the course). As we turned around the wind hit us in full force. Jesus! Suddenly we were faced with a ridiculous wind and some nasty uphills. No wonder Mark reacted like he did when I cheerily greeted him. I would have been the same! Matt broke away from me again on the hills and I vowed to catch him up again on the flat – which I did (though I can’t be certain he didn’t just slow down for me).
Then finally we turned again to head back to Sandy Balls. Thank god, we were now out of the wind. The good thing about the course was that you could split it into segments psychologically I found this easier than one loop or point-to-point (ahh Boston is a point-to-point…).
We just had one final nasty long slow incline to power up. Before that we had a nice downhill so I sprinted down it to put some distance between Matt and me so that when I inevitably slowed down on the hill the distance between us both wouldn’t be so huge and my catch-up wouldn’t be so hard.
The hill was relentless but we powered up and Matt, once again, got ahead of me.
But on the final mile back we were on a gentle downhill with the wind behind us. I did my fastest mile and felt completely in the zone of strong running. I caught Matt up and we pushed on to the end. Whew!
At the finish line we received our medals and a free cup of soup and bread roll (though I somehow missed the roll as I was talking too much). What a great way to finish a race! My time was 1:44:37, 58th overall, 10th lady and 6th in my age category. 18 miles in total. Not a bad training run!
The race was fantastic but it was really hard work. The hills and wind… it was tough, tough, tough! Especially with five miles to begin with. But the medal is great – with the race and date engraved on the back.
I rushed back to get showered and sorted and then met the MT crew back in the usual events room for a carvery lunch. Before the lunch we had another talk, this time from Andy Lane who’s another Marathon Talk podcast interviewee (it also gave people a bit more time to finish and shower before lunch). Andy Lane is a psychology professor and does a lot of research into emotion regulation in sport. I was a bit zoned out at this point and very hungry. I hadn’t had breakfast or anything during the run, only the small cup of soup and it was now heading towards 1pm. My concentration levels were a bit blurred. What I did hear was interesting though.
He talked about how as runners we need to have more of cyclist mentality where not every training session needs to be goal-driven and pressured. We should have more “cake rides”. Cyclists are renowned for just going out and cycling a fair distance but then stopping and enjoying some cake and social time. This rarely happens with running (OK logistically and stomach-wise it’s obviously tough, but we rarely have a run where it’s just about catching up with people and not focusing on the actual run). He said that goals don’t always need to be time-driven and hard. They can be things like: take some photos during this run or simply enjoy the outside. parkrun is a great example of this – it’s not all about your finishing time.
Then it was finally time to eat. It was a carvery so we had to go up and serve ourselves. Our table was about sixth to go up and I was getting increasingly hungry. Thankfully chatting distracted me so I wouldn’t turn into more of a monster.
When we got up there I piled my plate high with vegetables, potatoes, gravy, and what I thought were stuffing balls, and then roast beef was placed on top from the chef. I tried not to wolf this down at breakneck speed… Turns out the ‘stuffing balls’ were actually vegetarian falafels. An interesting addition to the roast dinner! It was so lovely sat there eating this delicious meal amongst running friends and discussing the half marathon and running in general. I was very content.
Then we went up for seconds The chef gladly gave me more meat (there was loads!) and I was in my happy place. Until I was in my very full uncomfortable place (arguably this is also my happy place…).
I plucked up the courage to go up to Martin and Tom, similar to the last Run Camp, and asked them for a cheeky photo. I told them I’d been there two years ago and showed them the older photo. They found it quite amusing.
They’re so friendly and lovely! I really hope I can make next year’s running camp. They’re just fantastic at organising the camp. It’s so well put together.
Then to finish Martin explained his epic running he’s got planned: running the South West Coast path! Twenty-one days of running 630 miles! Ouch! On the website you can sign up to join different stages or parts of the run with him which is quite cool. I might think about doing that – maybe! And not an entire stage!
And then that was it! I headed home with a lovely warm fluffy feeling in my stomach, and not just from all the food Anyway, the Marathon Talk Run Camp was EPIC, amazing, so much fun and just fantastic. I learnt a lot, met some truly brilliant people and did some really enjoyable running. Fully recommend it to anyone interested in running: whether a veteran marathoner or a newbie runner just doing 5ks. It’s so inclusive and friendly. No one is left behind or made to feel like they’re not good enough.
Would you be interested in a training camp?
Are you better at running up or down hills?
What kind of course do you prefer – an out and back, a loop, laps, point-to-point, etc.?