Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Stonehenge Stomp

I have dedicated the next couple of years to (relatively) shorter races and events. This is both to reduce pressure on training while my family is young and also to have some breathing space and recovery after a hectic couple of years of running achievements.
The first on the agenda for 2017 is one I last did 4 years earlier, the Stonehenge Stomp! This is one of the many and various Long Distance Walking Association events. Many LDWA events welcome runners and the Stomp is one of them.
Starting from a sports hall in Amesbury there are 10, 20, 30 and 40k routes, all weaving around the rolling hills and woods north of Salisbury and at some point passing near Stonehenge. If you are from a running background there are a couple of things to note about LDWA events: There is no official start or finish time. You simply check in and out of various checkpoints so they know where you are but there is no official time. They ask you to start near certain times to allow checkpoints to be open. It is incredibly cheap, just £2 which includes as many biscuits and cups of squash as you can consume. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. After finishing, absurdly cheap cooked breakfasts and cake are available from the sports hall kitchen. I love this event!
Both times I've run the weather has been wet and the ground pretty muddy. And both times I've been blessed with outstanding company for the run. In 2013 I ran with a friend, Sue, and the miles flew by. This time I ran with my friend Kirsty.
Kirsty with Stonehenge in the background
However before any of that could happen I had to get to Amesbury. You see I had arranged with my wife that I would go and assumed that I could take the car. When I asked her however, she requested the car. Small things. Fortunately both Kirsty and a friend Tracey offered to give me a lift. As Tracey lived much nearer I gladly took up the offer and also it was good to catch up as I hadn't seen any of them for ages due to not going to and then leaving my old club.
Much running, race, life and philosophy later we arrived in Amesbury! Registration was straight forward and there were a handful of Didcot Runners taking part. We had a watch show down. Interestingly everyone else was wearing a TomTom. My two Suuntos was a little ridiculous, especially when I couldn't get the HR strap I wearing to pair with either of them, and one didn't find GPS for ages. Tech fail. However this is what beta testing is for, and the two GPS tracks lined up beautifully afterwards, so it wasn't all bad.
Kirsty and I ran together the whole way, bumping into various friends in various states of navigational problems along the route. We ourselves took a half mile extension at one point but in general the route was well marked and easy to follow if you also paid attention to the written instructions and didn't just chat away the hours.
Kirsty is training for a Bob Graham Round attempt, and her coach had told her to go hard up the hills. This was different from what my coach had told me (eat all the biscuits) but I am nothing if not susceptible to being carried away with enthusiasm so off we shot at 8 min /miles. My brain kept trying to tell me that this was dumb and I would suffer later on a 20 mile, hilly, muddy course. Stupid, correct brain.
It was loads of fun though and we got properly caught up.
The fog had rolled in and we could hear the hounds calling...
I definitely slowed down later in the event, and had to have a couple of walking breaks near the end, where Kirsty kindly didn't laugh at me. (Ultra runner walking in a 20 mile event, ha ha ha!).
Before I knew it we were back at Kirsty's car, where she promptly put her clean trousers on over her muddy ones, then looked at me with confusion and commented that perhaps she hadn't thought that fully through. I got my bag, we sauntered back to the sports hall and finished the run. See. Bag first, then finish. Excellent stuff.
Then there were butties and tea and more catching up before Tracey gave me a lift home.
Great. Day. Out.

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