First off, I am so bored running round where I live you wouldn’t believe it! It’s flat as a pancake, it’s not pretty (bypass, anyone?) and apart from the fab times when people from my running club have run with me, I’ve been on my own so when I found that Gade Valley Harriers in Hertfordshire (not a million miles from me) organise these special marathon training runs (3 a year to be exact – 12, 17 and 20 miles) I thought it would be ideal for me. Plus it was only £5 (bargain) and cake at the end – win, win!
An ex colleague and friend of mine was also going along so we decided to run together (she is a newbie runner also training for the London marathon).
I parked up at Hemel Hempstead station and immediately met up with a few of the runners and walked the short 5-minute walk to the clubhouse where we saw the 17-mile finish sign (scary stuff!). I wasn’t feeling amazing for a 17-mile run – we are having our kitchen done so I couldn’t find any breakfast (made do with some Brevita breakfast biscuits) and I was really late the bed to night before filling, sanding and plastering.
Danni arrived, and we set off on the staggered start. The first 2-3 miles were a hard slog over the muddy tow path, but because we had so much catching up to do (haven’t seen each other for about a year and a half) we hardly noticed the time going by. Quick water stop (yes, they had water stops!) at the top of one of the many hills, photo op and off we set.
The route is mostly through villages and forest, which was such a lovely refreshing change for me – not a bypass in sight!
Up and down a few more hills we went chatting away and then I spotted the 8 mile sign – how had we done 8 miles without me noticing (particularly as between miles 5 and 6 there was an enormous hill!)? Next water stop, jelly baby refuelling (screw gels!) and off we set again. Danni had run up to 13.1 before so up until that point we were both quite comfortable, then we said to ourselves ‘only 4 miles to go’ – by this point though my arms were cramping (clearly done too much upper body work that week!) and we were both quite quiet. The next goal was to get to the infamous jelly baby stop at mile 14. After that we were told it was all down hill and flat (phew!) which gave us a bit of a boost. We were back on the horrid, energy-sapping tow path though for the last mile where we were joined by two other ladies. We kept each other going with the promise of cake and a cup of tea.
We finished the very hilly course in 3h 11. I was really proud of Danni as she’s a new runner and not used to hills at all. There was no medal of course, but who cares?
It’s given me a huge amount of confidence now that I can do this marathon – if I can run 17 miles up and down massive hills then flat London is totally doable! Bring it!
DIVA rating: 5/5 – awesome!
– £5 (criminal – they should charge more!)
– Amazing organisation and marshals
– Water stops
– Jelly baby stop
– Cake at the end!!!
– Interesting and undulating course (my favourite)
– Easy to get to by train (Hemel Hempstead) and car (parking at Hemel Hempstead Station)
The next training run is on 23rd March and is 20 miles. If you are at a loss as to who to run with and where to run, I couldn’t recommend this highly enough.