It seems like ages since I actually did any running, having bailed out of White Cliffs (terrible weather and a fall) and dropped to the half at the Pilgrim (illness). So, although I was still getting back into training after illness, had some treatment on a long term hamstring injury and also had a bit of a patella tendonitis niggle too, I had at least done a couple of decent 10 mile runs and survived the Sandhurst Joggers Running Weekend training camp, so I decided to give Clarendon marathon a go.
It's been a couple of years since I last did this race and I previously managed to get round in about 5 hours, with enough time to spare to catch the bus back to the car park. The race is similar to the Farnham Pilgrim in that it is organised by the local Rotary Club as a charity fund raising event, but Clarendon is a point to point race rather than a loop. The logistical issue of transport, getting to the start and getting bags back to the finish is well organised. You can park at south Winchester park and ride, take a bus to the start, dump your bag back on the bus when you are ready, then it is taken to the finish for you, where you can get another bus back to your car. All this is laid on for a very reasonable price. You can also do a half marathon, a relay marathon of 4 legs or the 5 mile "mini marathon" over the last leg.
I arrived at the park and ride near Winchester and got the second of three buses to the start at Wyvern School, arriving with an hour to go, picked up my race number and sorted my kit, had a last trip to the loo (there were loads of portaloos as well as those at the school gym) and dropped my bag back on the bus. The start was in playing fields behind the school and we were treated to bright sunshine and a cool start to the day.
The main marathon start was at 10:30, but there was an option for slower runners to start earlier. The organisers really want everyone finished by 4pm and are quite strict on cut off times, so if you think you couldn't manage a 5:30 hilly trail marathon, then go for an early start.
The run mainly follows the Clarendon Way setting off through the Clarendon Estate and then on through the villages of Pitton, Winterslow and Broughton. Broughton is the midway point where the Half Marathon runners join the course. From here the route takes you through to Houghton and then across the River Test to Kings Somborne, then on up to Farley Mount, the biggest hill of the day, then down through the woods and eventually on to the finish at Kings' School, Winchester.
The route is mostly off-road on mixed trails and tracks with about 3 miles on tarmac. It is tough and challenging but very scenic when the weather is good. Interestingly, for a trail marathon, there are mile markers showing you how far you have left to go all along the course. These proved to be quite accurate, all except the 5 miles to go marker which seemed to be placed at about 4.5 miles to go - I cheered up a lot when I saw the next marker was back matching my Garmin for distance!
There were lots of people to chat to on the way round the course, especially slower runners on the relay race who were finding some of the hills tough, especially on the third leg, which takes you up Farley Mount. This starts with an aid station at 19miles then a mile of climbing to gain about 90metres altitude. The views are worth appreciating on the way up.
As with the Pilgrim, the marshals are all marvellous and manage the aid stations and road crossings to perfection. There was only one minor problem with congestion just under a mile from the start where peple had to filter into a single track path. The aid stations were reasonably well stocked if you like jelly beans, bananas and squash, but only a couple had home made flap jack, which I would have liked earlier in the run, as just a small piece had huge clarorific vallue.
I managed my knee trouble by taking it easy on steep descents and my hamstring didn't play up at all. After all those hills the final few miles were hard work, but I managed to get in under 5 hours, and in a time that beat my previous best on this course by a couple of minutes. A very pleasing result.
You can see that they give you a tiny medal and I was also too late to get a t-shirt of my size, as more people had picked up medium sized shirts that actually ordered them - I had to go for a rather ambitious Small. The medal is similar in size as for the Pilgrim and I think it's acceptable for a run like this, raising money for charity, to keep costs down on medals. It also goes along with Richard's Rule of marathon medals - the size of the medal is inversly proportional to the diffculty of the marathon - you tend to get big snazzy medals on easy, flat lapped marathons and little ones where the hills are huge.