A brilliant day was had by everyone. Runners, supporters and the volunteers! Met so many kind and supportive participants.
A few months back I heard via the grapevine that a few people I know in our local running community who had joined forces to create some races, had released details of their first event. It was called The Wickham Whistler and the format was something that I’d not tried before. So I not only entered, but I also roped in a few others too, including my good running buddy who is preparing to do the London to Brighton 100km with me at the end of May this year. And that was that pretty much. Time went on and about a week before the event we hooked up for a few drinks one night and read the race details which had been sent. It was then that we realized the event was going to be 6 hours or running up and down a 1.7 mile track in Wickham. At first the idea was like …. “What?!”, but please do read on. It was totally the opposite! A well picked route and spot out in the woods made it seem like you were just out and about on a long run.
This run was going to be my last ‘BIG’ one before London to Brighton. It was a test for the distance, food, drink, shoes and general routine for the day. If I could get 6 hours out, then I’d feel that more confident about doing 12 hours in a month (he says!). Race day came and after a very bad nights sleep including a nightmare about getting up and missing the start, I was up and digging my way through the morning routine. Crunchy nut, bran flakes, a coffee and a toasted whole meal pita bread was what I had. It was off to pick up Jason and we headed through to Wickham, arriving at about half eight. Parking was easy, and runners were gathering in mass and collecting their race numbers, which, Claire one of the organizers allowed us to choose from. I picked my age and attached it with my fat fingers – which always takes ages! Some other friends arrived and we had time for a quick catch up which was nice to take our minds off of the event a bit. About ten minute pre start we gathered round together and Kiernan did the briefing which was short, sweet and to the point. All rules were easy – start, keep to the left, be weary of everyone else and collect a wrist band when you come through the finish. This was so that a total number of laps could be counted at the end. Once you had enough, you can ring a massive brass bell at the aid station, which would end your run.
Five minutes later we were off. The track was all pressed gravel, so easy on the feet and softer than road. I spent the first mile or so just easing into a pace which ended up being faster than I had intended. I figured I’d get a few laps in like that. I got chatting to a man named Phil who had finished the London marathon a week before in a very respectable time of 2:58 or so (sorry if that’s wrong Phil!). He is a Portsmouth jogger and it was only after a few minutes we realized we had met a few months back at a club taster session I tried. We got chatting about running and I had mentioned what my goal was in a few weeks. He then mentioned that he was organizing a 100 mile event in July called the QE2QE. It must be fate 😉 Perhaps not this year, but something to look forward to next year? After some more chat we parted ways and continued on. It was then I could see the turn around point marshal who was one of the event organizers, Del. He snapped some photos as we turned and headed back down the track. The distance was a bit more than had been advertised but the more the merrier they say. It may have been closer to two miles but I don’t recall exact numbers. Lots of high fives begun as we all started to pass one another on the way back to the start and feed station. I saw a few familiar faces heading down, including some people I know through social media running groups – one thing I love about the running community.
The route was beautiful. Well picked spot. Trees with sunshine coming through in spots made it perfect. Bluebells in many spots. The weather was good to us with only a few spots of rain at about 4 hours in. There were no hills or anything, but the route had some long slants, going out and coming back. These proved to feel worse the longer we went. After the first lap, the bells started to ring with some people wanting just the 5k time, and all doing really well. The feed station was well manned with food, liquid and supporters. Lots of Haribo to choose from, fudge (apparently?), water, squash, and lots of crisps. Fortunately I had sliced and diced a load of fruit (kiwi, bananas, apple and oranges) so I stuck to those after two laps. Amazing how such a well packed bag turns into utter chaos once it has been rummaged through once or twice. I think one of the things that would work better at a next event would be to have a little more room for bags, or maybe another spot to spread them out a bit. At times I felt I was in the way and a few peoples items got trod on and a bit dirty. Still, we managed fine.
I soon caught up with my mate who was going strong. Incredible that he has back surgery a few months back and has been pushing on through the recovery so well. Today was a huge milestone for him. To be able to run 6 hours after all that, and realize that he’s finally there and likely ready for London to Brighton is a massive achievement. We ran together a for a while and had a good chat and separated out a bit here and there. It was really beneficial as we were able to both pace it well and imitate what we’ll be doing for the 100k in a few weeks time. Before long, we realized the families had arrived as we headed back towards the four and a half hour mark. Kids were fantastic. They joined me getting back to the feed station for the second last lap. Del gave them both a wrist band as if they had finished a full lap, which by the way, they were really chuffed about. They were still wearing them at bed time! Then came the last lap, which was tough. Incredibly the scenery never got tiring or boring, but parts were starting to grate a bit. The little tiny lumps along the way felt harsh on the knees but I said good bye to the route as I turned around and made my way back. I finished in under six hours, and had managed 38.2 miles. Close to 40, but not quite. A huge run for me and the longest by far. (Strava entry here)
I’d like to say a big thanks to the organizers, Del, Claire and Kiernan and all the lovely volunteers. The kids who gave out wrist bands were great. Even the turn around marshal who ended up just being Del’s coat on a few bits of wood was a friendly chap. All participants were extremely supportive and everything was easy. I’d recommend this event for anyone who can do 5k and who may be looking to increase their distance. Photos are all starting to come out now and there are some really good ones of everyone. Well done runners. It was amazing seeing everyone hurting and digging in. We all at one stage wanted to call it quits, but everyone dug in and carried on. A big achievement for everyone. Look out for the next event that has recently been announced here!
And that’s that. Now, I’m off for a sleep…. Zzzzzzz.