It wasn’t until about 11 o’clock on Saturday night that, having consulted the weather forecast, I decided that I would head east for Portsmouth Joggers’ annual Meon Valley Plod the following morning. It was a new course this year (not that I have run the old one) which proved to be nearer 20.5 miles rather than the 19.5 that were advertised. Disappointly, the amount of road running has also increased from around 3 miles to over 5 with another couple on concrete farm tracks. I was therefore glad to have taken the advice of those at registration and worn trainers rather than fell shoes.
After the starter had apologised for the poor quality of the race t-shirt (presumably not the hideous green colour but the unreadable text), we set off along the edge of a field. The route began with a short loop to the north including a nice steep climb to warm the legs. This was accompanied by the first of many squaly showers that hadn’t featured in my forecast. The course then headed east to Old Winchester Hill. Descending the slippery slope from the fort was one of the several occasions where I wished my trainers could magically sprout studs as and when needed. The other disadvantage of heading downhill was that it was shortly followed by a steady grind back up again.
The course was well marshalled with numerous drinks points also providing other sustinance. Although I passed on the cake and fruit I wouldn’t like to guess at how many jelly babies I wolfed down on my way round!
We descended again, this time in to East Meon, and were treated to a particularly muddy path along the back of the church. It was therefore almost a pleasure to experience another steep climb, if only to escape the cloying mud. Eventually we reached the infamous Butser Hill. I will readily confess that, unlike the guy ahead of me, I wasn’t able to run all the way up despite it being a relatively gentle incline. A glance over my shoulder revealed that others weren’t fairing too well either.
When we eventually crested the hill the run along the ridge was made distincly unpleasant by the wind blow rain. It took a lot of willpower (and another handful of jelly babies) to keep me going to the end. I failed to catch the runner in front of me but in at least attempting to do so I put a clear two minutes between me and the next finisher. My final time was 2:34:39 putting me in to seventh place.
The post race hospitality was excellent with a pressure washer to clean off your shoes, someone to undo the laces and then lots of free drinks and edibles. Would I do it again? Probably yes. Although it sounds like a return to the old route would be welcome and I’d use a more reliable weather forecast next time!