I finished the 2016 Larmer Tree Marathon organised by White Star Running yesterday. It was my first White Star Running event and it certainly wont be my last. I heard about their events when I was chatting to a lady on another marathon. We started talking about the motivational/funny signs that some of the spectators hold up. She said that if I wanted motivational signage then I should do White Star Running’s Giant’s Head Marathon. I got home and signed up. I’m not the patient type though and when I saw at the last minute that White Star Running had places available on the earlier Larmer Tree Marathon I couldn’t help myself. I signed up and 9 days later I was on the starting line.
The start of the event is the Larmer Tree Gardens in Wiltshire near Tollard Royal, and it is a lovely location. It might be a bit exposed if the weather was worse, but for us it was a chilly start with blue skies and barely any wind. It was my first run of the year in shorts and a t-shirt, although I did also sport a merino buff, Ronhill gloves and a baseball cap.
I had a debate with myself the day before as to whether I would push it for a 4 to 4.5 hour finish or take it easy and go much slower. I do a lot of races through the year and I have to pick the fast ones carefully so they don’t “break” me for other events. I had four weeks before my following race (The Oner Ultramarathon) so I decided to pack light and give it a bit of ooomph. My strategy was to use the conveniently spaced aid stations for food and drink. It would mean finishing a touch dehydrated but hopefully the payoff would be some extra speed as I would only carry a small bumbag with some emergency spares in it.
When I arrived onsite about an hour before the start there was already a big queue for the loos, so I joined that before signing on. With the necessary done I grabbed my race number, put my running shoes on and stripped down to my gear before joining the loo queue again. I got through it just in time and arrived at the start line for the race brief which was frank, honest and practical. By which I mean funny and well worth a listen. I wont relay any of it here as you need to experience it for yourself. The same goes for some of the signage which had me laughing several times while on the course.
The route itself was very well signed, and on varied terrain from tarmac to mud to chalk. From wide trails to poky single track to wide open hillside. The variation kept things interesting all the way around. The aid stations were well stocked with at least water/squash, jelly sweets and gels. Some had a much more extensive selection and resembled ultra marathon aid tables with lots of savoury food and cake. They were great.
The marathon was the first start of the day with subsequent 20 mile and half marathon events starting a bit later. They were timed and routed so that the marathon runners would join up with the runners on the other routes as the day went on. I really enjoyed that aspect of it. There was the occasional bottle neck, but nothing to complain about. Everyone seemed good humoured and there was lots of banter on course. I ended up talking to one person or another for most of the event which helped to keep me moving.
The two days before the race were dry, so the course was never too muddy. As a trail marathon it wasn’t that hard, although it really depends on your experience and background. I cut my teeth on coastal races and the odd bit of mountaineering, so the gradual climbs and occasional steep bit of the Larmer Tree Marathon didn’t phase me. I don’t get on with the flat bits though, so that is where I often start to suffer in a race.
My strategy went well except I was so busy talking to folk that I didn’t slow enough at the aid stations. The result was more dehydration than planned and a lot of cramp at about mile twenty two. I slowed a lot and did my best to undo the damage. I knocked back a couple of isogels from my bum bag, stopped a bit longer at the mile 24 aid station than normal and then managed to put in a reasonable last couple of miles before staggering over the finish line in 4:17:07 and 70th place out of 303. For me that is a really good result and I was extremely happy with it.
In the car park a couple that had taken part in one of the shorter events saw me on my way back to the car and I overheard the following:
“Oh look, that’s the full marathon medal.”
Followed by “….and that’s the full marathon walk!”
After my experience of White Star Running and the Larmer Tree marathon I am now hoping to do a lot more of their events this year. I will be slowing down a bit though as none of them will be a performance focus, simply some interesting and fun training for some of my longer events. I can’t wait, and strongly recommend them. You really do have to experience them for yourself. For your money you get great signage, bags of humour, a hot meal after the race and free event photos, not to mention amazing courses and of course 100% guaranteed good weather. Honest!
I also bumped in to this guy during the race and chatted to him for a bit. He films lots of running races, and you can see all of his contact details below the video. Don’t forget to subscribe to his Youtube channel.
Film My Run Contact Details:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/filmmyrun/
- Website: http://filmmyrun.com/
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjphxoB7x0A_VhB1CUz3AwA
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/filmmyrun