I have a vested interest in this race because it starts and finishes just 10 mins walk from home and goes past the end of my road. This means I know the route really well and could train on parts of it which gave me “home advantage”.
Basingstoke does not have a reputation for being beautiful, the only thing most people know about it is that there are lots of roundabouts. However, very wisely, the HM route goes out of town, into the surrounding countryside and through some lovely villages.
I ran it with my running buddy last year, our aim was to get round and avoid being last…we achieved that, just, coming in at 3 hours 21 minutes with 4 people behind us. This year I decided to make it my autumn focus race and train specifically for it with the aim of getting close to 3 hours (while dreaming of sub-3 hour time).
The race was very well organised, race packs and t-shirts could be picked up the day before or from 8.30 on race day. There was massage available and few small number of stalls from companies such as Alton Sports our fab local independent running store. I had a splendidly slow start to the day, wandering up to the park after my porridge. I didn’t need to use the bag drop as I was so close to home. There were plenty of loos and virtually no queues. After the organised warm-up it was time to make my way to the back of the race for the start. There were pacers for those who wanted them, not for my 3 hour target though!
The first kilometre was down hill with lots of crowd support then we left the town and headed out into the countryside. The first water station was just before Cliddesden where it seemed the entire village was out cheering. At the pond we hit the first long, long hill, at the top of which someone told me I was looking very “fresh”… not sure what she meant but I was feeling good. I’m very much a run/walker but had comfortably run most of that hill using my tried and tested run 2 telegraph poles and walk 1 when necessary strategy.
After a brief downhill stretch it was long hill number 2. This was steep and always seems to go on for ever but I had joined up with a couple of other runners so we puffed and chatted our way up the hill and on to water station 2 where there were some very welcome jelly babies (and gels for the serious(!) runners).
Next we reached Ellisfield where they have a scarecrow festival to give us slower runners something to look at as we trot past. I could have stopped and taken pics of the fabulous creations but today I was on a mission to see if a sub 3 hour HM was a possibility for me and I was running well and feeling good. We met some of the faster runners on their way back as there is a short section run in both directions.
The weather was perfect, bright and sunny but still with a hint of autumnal chill in the air as we reached a welcome downhill section, my companions had picked up their pace and left me on my own… not a problem as I had run this section of the route on my own numerous times. Although there was a lovely gentle kilometre of downhill I knew that the worst hill was yet to come-3kms of solid uphill. Lots of people were outside their homes with jelly babies, cheers, encouragement and there was another water station.
Half way up the long hill was the halfway point. I checked my watch to find that I was inside the 90 minute mark. Knowing that the worst of the uphill was behind me, and that most of the last 5k was downhill I realised that sub 3 hours was definitely a possibility. That was the boost I needed to focus on keeping my walk breaks as short as possible.
The next “highlight” was Bedlam Bottom…otherwise known as the ‘double dipper’, two steep valleys, a place where it is easy to go just too fast and fall over! At the top we reached the gloriously named Farleigh Wallop, more jelly babies and another water station.
From here it was almost literally downhill all the way and I began over-taking a few people…that is a very rare thing for me as I am more often being over-taken! Back through Cliddesden along the dullest part of the route back towards the town.
The last kilometre went almost past my road and then into the park with a short uphill section which I hardly noticed… I knew I was very close to my 3 hour target and was pushing myself to just keep going. After I crossed the line I turned my watch off, it registered 3 hours 1 second…. I couldn’t remember exactly when I’d started my watch…at the gun or at the timing mat, but was fairly certain my chip time would be just inside the 3 hours.I texted my husband to let him know I’d finished and possibly at 2.59.59!
I sauntered home, wrapped in a foil blanket, wearing my medal and eating the Mars bar given to all finishers, while passing runners still coming in. Being able to cheer other runners home is very much a novelty for me!
My official time was 2:58:53 a massive 22 minutes chopped off my PB. I was grinning like a fool for several days, it’s not often everything comes together quite so well as it did on that day.