The New Forest Marathon took place on Saturday 19th & Sunday 20th September. The venue was relocated from the New Park showground near Brockenhurst to St Giles House in Wimbourne, Dorset. This was because the Forestry Commission expressed their worries over the impact to the habitat, due to thousands of visitors flocking to the forest post lock down.
On the Saturday, the Marathon and a 5k race was held, followed by a 10k and half Marathon the next day.
Due to the news coverage focusing almost solely on the rise in Covid-19 cases on the week leading up to the event, the atmosphere was somewhat strange as we socially distanced parked in the sprawling field. It felt like we were attending an illegal rave!!
Andy Daish and Chris Farr were the race organisers, and with the help of the race volunteers, a range of Covid-19 safety measures were implemented. We passed through a sterilisation station before entering the course village. It was here that we were asked to leave details for the Covid track-and-trace service. Runners were reminded over a loud speaker to remain socially distanced from one another during the warm up, before being directed along the start funnel. A traffic light system ensured each runner set off at a safe distance from their competitors. Runners were instructed to stay to the right, to allow for overtaking on the left.
The weather conditions were not conducive for long distance running. A 15 - 20mph breeze and temperatures reaching 22 degrees really made each race a tough test.
Each race was run almost on trails through forest, across and around farmland, over long stretches of grassland and over tricky stony/pebbly paths. The underfoot conditions were bone hard and very uneven. The total elevation was a tad under 1500 feet.
Teresa Holmes and James Saunders flew the flag for the Trotters in the full Marathon.
Teresa gamely battled on around the two looped course, to finish in a time of 06:21:18 to claim 400th place. A really gritty performance.
James also ran well. He went through 8 and 16 miles on 1 and 2 hour pace respectively, until spasms in both hamstrings put pay to his race. Stretching and water stops kept James going to the line. He finished in 33rd place in a time of 03:36:57 and 3rd in the 50-59 age category.
Tye Farrer took the honours, winning in an amazing time of 02:46:38. There were 408 finishers.
Derek Skinner travelled east on the Sunday to compete in the Half Marathon. Derek has been suffering with a long standing Achilles injury, so came into the race on the back of one ten mile run and hundreds of cycling miles! Therefore, Derek’s finish time of 01:53:11 and 111th position was a hugely impressive performance.
Race winner was Andrew Siggers, clocking a rapid time 01:19:12. There were 550 entrants.
The entire event was superbly organised. The race stewards and marshals did a wonderful job supporting each runner to make up for the absence of spectators. The aid stations were well stocked with water bottles, energy gels and sweets. Any empties thrown down outside the permitted areas could have led to disqualification!
At the finish line, each exhausted runner was coaxed along to the self service area to collect their medal, ‘t’ shirt and of course, a banana!
The event felt very safe, and possibly this is how racing in the UK can return?