Punchbowl marathon 32 miles.

Rucksack. Check.
Jelly babies. Check.
Garmin Watch. Check.
External battery. Check.
Gloves. Check.
Hat. Check.
Running Jacket. Check.
Spare clothes. Check.
Water. Check.
Phone. Check.
Wallet. Check.
Iphone charging lead. Check.
Trail Shoes. Check.
Trainers to change into. Check.
Compass. Check.

It’s amazing just how much I need to take to a race. Luckily I was doing the Punchbowl Marathon (actually 30 miles) with friends. We were off to Surrey and all I had to do was to make it to a friends house in Maidstone for a lift.

I knew that it would be hard to get up, especially after a late Saturday night, and I managed to sleep through 2 alarms – the first set for 5am on the Sunday morning! Ouch! I had left myself a decent amount of time and I made my way to friends place in Maidstone. As you can imagine, there wasn’t much on the road at that time of the morning.

Transferring the copious amounts of kit to my friends car we set off. Just over an hour later we arrived at the start. Cars were parked all along the grass verse near the village hall in Witley, Surrey.

Completed registration, and then managed to squeeze everything I needed into my new bumbag. I took a packet of Haribo Jelly Babies, my wallet (you never know!), my iphone, and four Rice Krispie squares (tucked into my friends’ backpack).

This was a Long Distance Walkers Association event so there is an element of navigation / following abbreviated instructions. It’s not as easy as you might think when you’re running and trying to read at the same time.

It didn’t take long before we had got ourselves lost. We were in good company, we could see other groups of runners all appearing to run around in circles. We ended up wading through standing water (up to a metre deep in places – and it was pretty cold!!!) We had to cross the busy A3 dual carriage way using the bridge, but the bridge was possibly half a mile up the road. We didn’t fancy running on the verge – which could have been dangerous, so instead we retraced our route and figured out where we had going wrong. We had misinterpreted the instructions involving a stone wall. Easily done – and its only extra mileage anyway – which means more to eat later!

The ground was pretty flooded and waterlogged and we ran on various types of ground – woodland, paths, pavement, grass verge, muddy track, and road. In places the ground was pretty muddy and sloppy shoe grabbing type of mud. At one point the instructions indicated that we were on the old A3 near the Devils Punchbowl. It had been a road until 2-3 years ago – and now there was absolutely no sign. It is really beautiful around there and we took the opportunity to take a few photographs.

Nuitrition-wise, I was trying not to eat too much. Just enough. I had had 200g of spaghetti / pesto the night before and a couple of rice krispie squares before I set off in the morning. That seemed to do the trick and I only felt I needed to supplement with a few bits during the event – half a marmite sandwich, two more rice krispie squares, a jaffa cake, and 200g of Haribo Jelly babies. I also had a couple of polysterene cups of tea (with sugar).

Tech – I was using my Garmin Forerunner 310 GPS watch. It performed perfectly and after 8 hours 5 minutes was still showing half battery remaining. Its quite large on the wrist, but it is possible to charge on the move.

Shoes – I used a pair of Mountain Warehouse Extreme scramble shoes. These are the same – bar some different branding – as the More Mile Cheviot trail shoes that I recently took delivery of. They performed magnificently in the muddy conditions. They dried out quickly during the race (until they got submerged again in mud and water at frequent intervals). They clear the mud marvellously, and I found, once again, that I didn’t slip and slide meaning that I felt much more confident on my feet in slippy conditions. I had worried at the start of the event that I was going to struggle with them on the road – but I found them to be fairly flexible and much more cushioned than I had been expecting. At the end of the race, they were absolutely caked in mud. Absolutely brilliant and for the £20 I paid, are amazing value for money.

Jacket – I used my Montane Minimus jacket (red). Kept me dry. Didn’t make me sweaty and was perfect for stowing my iphone in my pocket. Love the jacket and recommend highly.

The checkpoints were well marshalled as usual, plenty of food and drink, and a happy band of volunteers. These events work so well because of the brilliant volunteers who get involved instead of walking or running the event. A big thank you.

The three of us completed the event in 8 hours and 5 minutes (which includes our extended breaks at checkpoints and an extra 2 miles when we got lost)

For the last 10 miles or so we walk-ran because one of our group was struggling with an injury. These events are more of a social for me, and I’m pleased just to get the mileage in and I always feel that if we start together we finish together. Others have helped me out in similar conditions, and its much more fun to run as a group.

So big thanks to my friends who did the navigation, and provided such brilliant company. Also thanks to the other runners/walkers who we met along the way, and of course the marshalls of the Surrey LDWA. Definitely be back next year. Great value for money given that its only £6 for LDWA members. Recommend!!!

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