I decided to run the Hampshire Hoppit Marathon after running the Thames Meander in March. I don’t remember how I got to find its website, I was browsing some other runner’s webpage I got to via the Thames Meander photos or something.
The pictures on the Hoppit Marathon site were really inviting and it was taking place just in between the NDW50 and the Race to the Stones, a perfect slot, so I entered.
I had never been on those hills so I did not really know what to expect. I got to the race start very early in the morning. I woke up at 3am to take my wife to the airport and then drove straight to the race. I got there at 7am and I had 3 hours to kill before the start. I tried to sleep in the car. I parked on top of a hill through which the race was running. It was a good indication of the type of undulation we were going to run on. I did not sleep much, 30 minutes probably, before the car became an oven, the day was already very hot and it was still early morning. I started worrying for the day: 10am is quite a late start for a Marathon.
Race HQ was in a beautiful horse stable grounds, with endless horse race tracks, beautiful grassy fields and nicely trimmed bushes. Everything very well organised, everyone very friendly, but no shade anywhere. By 10am I was already drenched in sweat and I had not even run yet. It did not help that the car park was quite far away from the start and I had to walk there twice.
When we finally started I felt tired already. After one mile there was a very steep climb, luckily the only one so steep in the whole day, but as a start it was a killer.
I then settled in a nice running pace that I knew was a bit too much, but I was enjoying it. The terrain was a mix of nice easy dirt road and very ankle breaking single tracks in fields, tracks that are large enough for a tractor wheel but not enough to run comfortably in.
The heat was the real killer of the day. I don’t know how high the temperature was but I guess 33 degrees and most of the race had no shades at all, no wind either. Luckily the sky was not completely cloudless.
I kept on running out of water before getting to the aid stations. I sweated so much I had the worst chafing between my legs ever.
I had decided to race with no vest and just carry a water bottle. I did not want to wear any more layers than needed. I am not so keen on handheld bottles and I have to say, I hated the decision as my right shoulder complained a bit after 30k.
I don’t remember any particular part of the first half of the race except that the views were really nice and the hills not too tough.
Finally at around 28/30k there was a long stretch inside a wooded area, I was very thankful as it was quite fresh. It also helped that it merged with the half marathon race for a couple of kms and it mentally helped a lot to overtake people.
Once that bit finished, the hard part started. This is where I suffer the most, after the thirty-second km. I had very little water, I was over heated and my legs where jelly. I walked 400m with another guy but then felt better and started my 1-2-3-4-5 counting routine that makes my legs move. Legs gone, no water, it was just a mental game.
I started overtaking some people, got to an aid station where they showered me in water and gave me an ice lollypop (which I did not eat, I just kept it in my hand to cool me down) and raced at best I could. I was suffering but I was enjoying it too.
After a final climb it was possible to see the finish line, but it was still quite far away, down the hill, but I was relieved to see the end and started running faster and crossed the line in 3:56:11.
I sat down on the grass and could not move for 20 minutes. It was hard even to recover, having to sit in the sun, but I finally got up and went to get more water and bananas. I did not opt for the free beer as I knew I could not handle it in that condition.
The walk back to the car was endless. It felt far away in the morning, but after the race it was a torture. I had to stop twice, light headed and with my usual hiccup.
I got home in time for some father’s day celebrations. Thanks to my daughters for the wonderful cake and dinner. I did not do much apart from racing that day. Just kept my legs up, slept a bit and ate a lot.
And now it is time to prepare for next month race, my first 100k!
See you on the trails.