The Meon Valley Marathon is organised by Second Wind Running a relatively new local company who specialize in trail events. Most of the route is interspersed onto the infamous South Downs Way and with 2,500ft of elevation this is no walk in the park. This was to be my first race in a while and I felt I was well prepared as the past few weeks training had gone really well. Being a November marathon the weather was always a question mark, but I woke to a beautiful crisp, clear and sunny morning! Perfect! I had a couple of weetabix and a banana, then into the car for a 30 minute drive and a quick pick up of my race number. I was ready to go. I had opted for my 600ml handheld with a Powerbar wafer and energy gel in the pouch. The sun was so bright I needed to grab my sunglasses! Still a relative novice at this marathon running thing I didn’t have any particular race strategy, I would just go with the flow! After a race briefing we headed out for a 10 minute walk to reach the start line.
With everyone assembled the claxon sounded and we were underway. After a little bit of hustle and bustle there seemed to be a group of five pulling away from the rest, so I decided to tag on. 2 miles in we hit the first hill that dragged on for about a mile and a half, it spread everyone out a little bit but the highlight here was watching a couple of ambitious mountain bikers getting half way up before falling over! I am not sure if it was the shock of us that upset their mojo, but they seemed to call it a day, at least until we went passed! With the next few miles ticked off I found myself at mile 6 and feeling I was running more than within myself, we had formed a tight knit group of four by this point. I seemed to be able to pull away on the ascents, so I bided my time and waited for the next big hill. This came at about the 9 mile mark and I went for it! Nobody followed but did they know something I did not? I didn’t let this phase me and I pressed on. Approaching an aid station at the 10 mile mark the marshal mentioned that I needed to go through the farmer’s gate at the top of the hill. Not thinking anything of it I reached the hill only to discover 2 separate gates heading off in opposite directions. Without hesitation I went for the nearest one, only to glance briefly to my left to see the marshal arms flailing and bellowing out WRONG GATE at the top of her voice. Thankfully I doubled back to the other gate! I kept running at a reasonably conservative pace as I still seemed to be pulling away, until I hit a behemoth of hill at mile 15 which disrupted the flow somewhat! Time to regroup, eat the Powerbar wafer and get some drink down. By now I was starting to catch some of the half marathon runners which made things rather tricky trying to pass them on some of the single file trails. But this always gave me a target in the distance. I had decided that in the next couple of miles if I was still feeling good I would turn up the wick at mile 21 to ensure I didn’t get caught. Mile 21 came and I upped the pace to low 6 minute miles. With me now catching the half marathoners at a vast rate many were giving me some evil stares as we struggled on. I started to believe I could win my first ever marathon, so I dug in and kept the momentum going and before I knew it I passed the 26 mile sign. I blitzed past and reached the field and with the finish in sight I put on a sprint finish. I had done it, to my disbelief I had won my first ever race. I crossed the line in a time of 3 hours and 3 minutes to set a new course record of over 6 minutes. About 10 minutes after finishing I drank a can of coke and treated myself to a steak and kidney pie! Healthy…This was an awesome race and it will always live on in my memory as my first win! Plus I got a massive trophy!