Fourteen down, six to go
What a difference a marathon makes …….
Some of the marathons I’ve run in the course of this challenge have been a real struggle mentally, mainly due to the fact that I travelled and ran alone …. No.12 & No.13 to name just two.
Surrey Bacchus wasn’t one of those marathons.
I travelled with friends, had friends supporting and friends running …. marathons like Bacchus are one of the reasons why I love to run. That and the fact it was a beautiful course, the water stations were also wine stations, we were fed well and the weather was beautiful !
BCRC buddy and ace supporter Abi (who kindly supplied lots of food goodies for the weekend) and I had an early start to catch the 0730 coach to the Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, the location for the Surrey Bacchus Marathon and Half Marathon. We were fortunate to be offered spaces on what can only be described as a fun bus organised by two lovely ladies and friends from my local parkrun.
I think we’d just about made it to the motorway before being offered our first glass of homemade wine. As Abi wasn’t drinking I did the gallant thing and refrained for the journey up !
Arriving at Denbies with an hour to spare, I collected my race number and soaked up the festival atmosphere with many of the competitors running in fancy dress, 113 in the marathon and almost 1400 in the half. The estate has been family owned and run since 1984, the vineyard was planted in 1986, and since then has become one of the largest wine producers in the UK. I was looking forward to sampling their produce …. and doing a bit of running too.
Shortly before the start, Abi and I met up with Natalie, a regular running companion on the circuit this year. Leaving Abi to the all important supporting duties we made our way to the start in glorious sunshine.
With our fun bus friends cheering us on from the start, we were off and soon running through the vineyards on the slopes of the surrey hills. The majority of the course was off-road and despite a heavy downpour the day before conditions underfoot were pretty good, although with an overall ascent of over 1700ft similar to Dorset Invader, I was unsure whether I would dip under the desired four hour mark.
With the Half Marathoners starting off half an hour after us, the first loop was uncongested and so I remained disciplined and avoided the wine tasting on the first loop making pretty good progress whilst enjoying the stunning scenery.
The second loop got interesting for all sorts of reasons. I started sampling the wine just after half way, the marshals at the wine ….. sorry, water stations were just far too persuasive ! Unfortunately I couldn’t find any red but their Surrey Gold went down pretty well … I detected a floral and fragrant blend showing hints of spice and juicy fruit flavours … actually I didn’t, I just swigged it and ran.
Soon after my first swig, I got chatting to and subsequently overtaken by a bloke dressed from the waist up as a Nun. He went on to win my age category …. religion has so much to answer for !
I also got chatting to an amazing guy who very kindly sponsored me at the finish who was running in flip-flops. I soon left him behind and made my way on through the second loop.
Unfortunately the course became pretty congested this time round as we came across the half marathoners who were making an even better job of tasting the wine than I was. Slowed partly by this, partly by a humbling and emotional walk and chat with a lady who had only just finished treatment for cancer within the last month, and feeling the effects of the wine, I was happy to be nearing the final mile only to hear the repeated slap of flip-flops fast approaching ! He got me, within the last mile an albeit kind and generous bloke in flip-flops overtook me in a marathon !
Thank goodness for Abi, supporting down that final straight, flags, balloons, minion outfit and all ! So, despite being beaten by a male nun and a beach bum …… I still managed to finish in the top ten, under four hours, and kept the wine down. I’ll take that.
As soon as I got over the line and was given my medal and t-shirt, I crammed some cake and sweet tea and the queasiness I felt in the last few miles was a distant memory, so I met up with Abi and grabbed a beer …… carbohydrates don’t you know.
After basking in the sunshine for a while and greeting Natalie and our fellow fun bus buddies we grabbed some food in preparation for the journey home.
Wine and vine bought, we got back to the coach and made the journey home fuelled by some pretty dire homemade plum wine.
It was a great day ….. and one I definitely hope to repeat again soon.
Learning points :
- Running loops isn’t all that bad
- Running Bacchus …. coach travel is essential to enjoy the full experience
- It is possible to run 13.1 miles dressed as a bunch of grapes, the tardis, a star and the solar system
- To be considered mad for running twenty marathons in a year by someone running dressed as a bumble bee is quite surreal and an experience never likely to be repeated
- Effort is relative. You can not judge someone’s achievement by finishing time or position alone, but by what they have overcome to compete at all
- I will never cease to be amazed by the sheer will and determination of people …. qualities that Sharon had in abundance
“Strength does not come from winning, your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength”