A Journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step

Marlborough Downs Challenge Marlborough Downs Challenge - 2009

There was a strong wind from the south west as I started my ride from Melksham to Marlborough. For the 23 miles I had a strong following wind as I pursued a cloud front westwards. I was fully expecting to get soaked in my approach ride but the rain held off. With the following wind it took me just over 1:30 and I arrived feeling fresher than I expected.

I intended to put my theory about psychology and exercise to the test. I had done little running since the October 2008 marathon in Jersey with only one run of 4-5 miles a week since January. Not exactly ideal training for a 30+ mile race. This is mainly because I am currently planning to do an Olympic distance triathlon home (1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run) in the next few weeks so my training has been mainly swimming this year.

I chatted to Ali Mordey who I had had email conversations with and I told him of my theory about exercise and training. He is faster than me based on our previous times but he said he would be interested in how my theory held up.

We started off running together chatting about recovery/recuperation of which we both have experiences and we seemed to share a lot of the same philosophies. As we ran through West Woods Ali decide that he would step up his pace and ran on with a group who were passing us.

As I left Gopher Wood and climbed up onto the ridge it became more exposed to the wind still blowing strongly from the SW. This was to be a constant feature of the run along the Wansdyke, which is a phenomenal construction for the time it was built (between 400-700AD).

At one point the group of runners I was loosely with all went behind the Wansdyke ditch for a bit of shelter from the wind, I did the same.

The Wansdyke path is much improved from 4 years ago when it was a lot rougher with rabbit holes and other potential ankle turning problems.

I continued on the 33 miles route and turned directly into the wind on the descent into Bishops Cannings and the canal towpath. I was feeling pretty good on the canal towpath out of the wind. After the climb up out of Devises to Leipzig Plantation (Around the 1/2 way point) I had been going for 3hrs, so it was looking promising for matching my time of 2005 (6:20). It was going to be interesting to see if my 'training plan' of relying on self belief would work out ok. I was convinced that I would get to the finish ok but I was not so sure about the time I would complete it in. So running/speed training would probably be required to improve on my time.

Going over Morgans Hill I did a bit of 'exploring’ as I had done in 2005 in low cloud but once descending into Calstone Wellington I had no more route problems.

I was doing a lot more walking than in the first half, walking virtually all the way up Cherhill. Once over the top I was even walking on some slight inclines along the bridleway to Avebury.

At the CP in Avebury one of the marshals said that it was only 7 miles to go. I was quite surprised because when I cycled through earlier in the morning I had seen a sign ‘Marlborough 6’ at the Beckhampton. I thought the running route would be quite a bit further.

Leaving Avebury gave me the 'opportunity' to walk up to Overton Down, so walk I did. However I did keep catching up with a couple other runners either when they were checking direction at gates, etc or when I was going downhill. I was feeling strong going downhill as least!

I finished in 6:10 which I was very pleased with, a 10 minute improvement over 2005, and without proper training and my ‘warm up’ cycle of 23 miles to get there.

Ali was at the finish having showered and eaten his pasta and was waiting for me. When we were running together he had said he would wait for me at the end but at the time I had no idea how I would get on.

All that remained was for me to have a cup of tea and my pasta meal and cycle the 23 miles home; I was not looking forward to riding into the wind so I delayed my departure by chatting to Ali for an hour and a half.

My ride home was not as hard as I was expecting but it did take me 45 minutes longer than my ride there.