Thursday, 25 July 2013

Stansted Slog 2013

It has been boiling recently and I have been really struggling to run in the heat. My 5k times which were slowly coming down have shot back up over the last couple of weeks as I've melted whilst attempting to run quickly.

Probably not ideal for a half marathon then? Well, no. But we did one anyway.

The Stansted Slog is organised by my sister's running club, Portsmouth Joggers. They describe it as an "undulating/hilly route", which is mainly off road. If you are thinking about doing this race in the future, I'd err on the side of hilly.

The first few miles fly through very gently undulating forest trails. I wasn't out trying to set a good time, I was out simply to enjoy an organised long run and I set off at a very comfortable pace which quickened as I got myself carried away with leaping over numerous chunky tree roots and clambering over (the many) stiles on the course. I'm sure tree roots do wonders for my running technique as it means I actually have to pick my feet up properly; for about three and a half miles I felt like a gazelle, a wonderful, fit gazelle.

My light, leaping gait was broken as I spied the first hill. It looked like a bigg'un. I made full use of the water station at the bottom and valiantly started jogging up. After what was probably less than a minute, I couldn't breathe and sweat was dripping into my eyeballs. It was time to walk. I've recently become a bit of a fan of this walking mallarkey, it makes going up hills so much easier.. who knew?!

It was a fast hike to the top at least and after skirting around the edge of some fields through a path with a generous helping of foliage, we emerged from the trees. It felt like you were on top of the world, the panoramic views of beautiful countryside certainly made you forget (briefly) about the legs. The top path was exposed though, and the sun was beating down intensely. Even running gently downhill felt like a bit of an effort through the grass. I could see a marshal at a T-junction ahead, I prayed he would point left down the hill. Alas, he - very cheerfully - directed me right. The uphill didn't last long through, and this trail led onto a brilliant, if not slightly tricky, descent. I meandered  pegged it down the hill, loving life all over again and nearly tripping over the little stile at the bottom.

This was the point at which I started to notice that my garmin was not matching the mile markers. I was expecting to see a water station approaching very soon at around 7 miles but had to do a double take as I saw the 6 mile marker. By the time I eventually got to the water station (which, by my calculation was at around 7.8 miles), I was parched. I downed two cups of water, grabbed a bottle to take with me and ran for about eight seconds before realising I was attempting to run up another hill and had water sloshing in my belly. I was torn between being thirsty and feeling a bit sick from drinking too much. I decided to hike up the hill and drink all the water. This one went on a while though, and I probably walked for a good ten minutes before it opened out onto another lovely forest trail.

I tried to get back into a rhythm but I'd made the wrong decision. My gut was aching from too much fluid and my legs were starting to tire. Fortunately another technical downhill was approaching. This one was very naughty indeed, a steep, narrow, uneven, chalky, root-ridden path weaved between the trees. By the time I'd made it safety to the bottom I was so exhilarated that I'd forgotten about my tired legs completely.

Another marvellous forest trail followed and eventually a sharp right hand turn led onto a single-track road. I knew I was nearing the end at this point but really had no idea whatsoever whereabouts it would be as my miles were so far off. As I ran down the path toward Stansted House I saw that my time was - by a fair whack - my slowest ever half marathon, but it had been a bit of an adventure and I had enjoyed it enormously.

The marshals were plentiful, friendly and supportive, so thanks to Portsmouth Joggers for a well run event. I'll definitely be returning next time with a steely determination to run up all those hills..


  1. I love it that you "pegged it" down the hill. That's a wonderful expression that I have not heard for years!

  2. no cake waiting for you this time though sure you would have been twice as fast if there was

  3. Haha I do love a bit of pegging it!

    Fortunately, William, I had brought cake in our picnic box (lovely stuff from aforementioned farmers market).. phew!

  4. Haha I do love a bit of pegging it!

    Fortunately, William, I had brought cake in our picnic box (lovely stuff from aforementioned farmers market).. phew!

  5. So what's next for you since meeting in Emsworth (Rebecca) i am an avid follower
    and wondering if you can whip me into shape slowly but surely
    as although i sell cakes i rarely eat them but still an unfit fat boy

  6. Ah you should get yourself along to a parkrun!! We will be at Queen Elizabeth next Saturday (10th), it's a free 5k that's run every Saturday morning, you just have to register online and print out a barcode.. do it!!