The training for this year’s Paris and London marathons continues. This week, I travelled to Portsmouth….on my own again…to take part in the Meon Valley Plod, organised by Portsmouth Joggers. It’s a 21 mile race over the South Downs with hills round every corner. Last year I was accompanied by club mates Grant and Scott. This year Grant was unwell, Scott was running a half marathon somewhere and my running wife, Richard, remains sidelined with a stress fracture. I completed the course last year in 3 hours 30 minutes whilst suffering with an ankle injury.
Carrying the GoPro
This year I intended to try and race and my goal was a possible 3 hour finish. However, as I usually do these days, I took my GoPro camera with me to document the day. Some have said this is bound to hinder me as I run and slow me down. I don’t think it slows me down to hold it whilst I run. However, it obviously slows me down if I’m taking time out to film things. As the Meon Valley Plod was not one of my A races for the year, I thought I would take the hit, run the race as fast as I could whilst still trying to film decent footage on the go.
I arrived well in time so as to find a place to charge my electric car and to collect my race number. I got 90. Shame I’m not called Joe, thought I. Initially it was sunny and bright, though cold. However, as the start drew closer so did the clouds, and the wind got up. The race route last year meant rather a funnelled start to the 2014 Meon Valley Plod and some complained that it slowed their progress. So this year the start/finish line was moved to the foot of Butser Hill, not far from the Queen Elizabeth Country Park, where I had parked. It was the widest start line I have ever seen. I hope my camera angle does it justice.
The start took us straight up Butser Hill and down the other side. Unfortunately, there had been some sabotage of signage on the route and after no more than a mile a local runner in front of me saw an arrow pointing in the wrong direction. A large number of the front runners had been sent down a steep hill and we were shouting at them all to come back up. It was at this point I realised that because of this, I was rather higher in the placings than my ability warranted! I was 8th overall! I decided to go for it to try and maintain as higher place as possible.
By mile 7 though, the faster runners who had been mis-directed were catching up and passing me. I soldiered on and kept up a decent pace. Despite the blustery conditions there was some good support out on the course, particularly at the aid stations. Lots of the volunteers had those huge foam rubber hands to high 5 people with as they went by. There were also plenty of Swiss cow bells being clanged. Always reminds me of Ski Sunday, when I was a lad! To be honest, apart from the snow, there’s not much difference in the landscape between the Meon Valley Plod and the Swiss Alps.
I hit the half way mark in under 1 hour 30 minutes, but last year I remember the first half being easier than the second. So I was sceptical as to whether I could finish in under 3 hours. Last year the mud was horrendous, or spectacular, depending on your point of view. This year it was much drier underfoot. Other than the uphill sections, everything was completely runnable.
I definitely began to flag as more hills sapped the energy from my legs. However, the most debilitating thing was the increasing pain from my toenails. I have had my Salomon Speedcross 3 trail shoes for a few months now and they have done over a hundred miles. Each time I have worn them I have tried to ignore the fact that they do squeeze my toes and this becomes worse the further the distance and worse still when running at pace downhill. So 21 miles of pounding down hills as fast as I could go, did my feet no favours whatsoever.
Meon Valley Plod
For the final 5 miles of the Meon Valley Plod I was in quite a bit of pain and running at speed downhill simply wasn’t an option. I went as fast as I could but I certainly lost time. I walked up Butser Hill on the return journey. The final mile downhill all the way to the finish on nice soft grass would have been awesome if I could have pelted it. But a pacy jog was the best I could manage! I crossed the line in 3:09:20, which is 20 minutes better than last year and really not too bad at all. I just feel I might have done a little better having hit half way in well under one and a half hours.
Filming had gone well. I interviewed fewer people on this run, as I was trying to maintain a bit of speed. I did most of my talking to camera on the uphill sections whilst walking and I made sure I had a spare battery (which I did use) and a spare micro SD card (which I didn’t). I used the film to introduce my new idea called Film My Run. It’s my plan to accompany people on their races and film them, so they have a momento of their day.
Big Fat Burger
You don’t get a breakfast at the Meon Valley Plod, like you do when you finish the Steyning Stinger Marathon, but you do get Carrot and Coriander soup with a roll and a big fat burger. So it’s more like a nice lunch. Fair enough I say, as it’s actually quite a late start at 10:30 in the morning, so by the time we finished it was effectively lunchtime. Although to be honest, by the time I finished the Steyning Stinger Marathon it was nearly tea time.
Thanks for reading. Do watch the film and if you’ve found this race report useful, please do share it with your friends and give it a ‘like’ or a +1. Next up will be the Paris Marathon and two weeks later the London Marathon 2015, so really looking forward to a great couple of months racing.