Marathon 35, view from the top of the downs

35. The Roughest Runner Marathon

50/50 marathons

35. The Roughest Runner Marathon

7th June 2020.

Marathon 35, me and Caroline at the start

I’m getting a bit paranoid, last week was the Massive Anchor Marathon, now this week it’s the Roughest Runner Marathon! The name this week comes from the lovely Tracey and Mark Wozencroft. I’m assuming that they mean roughest as something that is a bit badass, rather than a comment on my appearance? Lockdown hasn’t been kind so it may well be the later. I won’t dwell on it 😳

Today I should have been running the River Meon Marathon, organised by Rural Running. You guessed it, canceled. This week the cancellations continued. An event called The Hampshire Hoppit can now only be run as a virtual marathon, or run in next year’s event. I was quite looking forward to this as it sounded like a good one, well, as good as any marathon can be anyway. I’m just watching them all get canceled. Now the ones that had been postponed until later in the year are also starting to get canceled. Not much hope for any organised marathons taking place this year.

I have spent this entire week continuing the head in the sand tactic, completely in denial that I had to run another marathon at the weekend. I’ve actually been feeling quite low about the whole thing, but it’s likely that could be caused by a heap of different things. Take your pick, there’s the whole Coronavirus lockdown thing, that’s affecting people in ways we never imagined, on top of that the way certain influential people are making up the rules as they go along without consequences. Our business, like untold many, has been massively affected. The craziness of the racial tension following the brutal killing of George Floyd. It’s unbelievable that after so many years we still find ourselves in a world where racism is still very much on the agenda! The list goes on. This is nothing to do with running of course, but these things affect people massively. For some people, it’s like water off a ducks back. For others, myself included, it’s very hard to not be affected, so it’s been one of those weeks.

The dark passenger (not in a weird Dexter way!)

Running these marathons for Mind has been a very personal journey. In some ways running a marathon is like living with depression, bear with me here, I don’t mean to get all somber, but I feel it’s relevant.

Some days you run and feel fine, for a while at least. But ultimately you get to the point where you feel that you can’t carry on. Your brain becomes the enemy and starts playing all sorts of tricks with you. ‘Give up, it’s easy’. ‘You’re rubbish, look at you shuffling along, it’s pathetic to look at’. ‘Go on, stop, sit down there on the grass and lie down. The pain will stop if you just give up’. But ultimately the aim is to carry on, run past that, ignore the demons as best you can because eventually, they will become quiet. For a little while at least. Until the next time, and there is always a next time.

For me running is a defense, it helps. Everyone has a thing that they do and it’s so important to have that thing, whatever it is, especially in the weirdness of now. You may not even realise how much things affect you, until one day you just don’t want to get up. The simplest things become impossible and you feel completely on your own. The thing is, you’re never on your own. If I’ve learned one thing from this marathon challenge is that I have an amazing circle of family and friends there to pick me up when I need it. Without that, I wouldn’t be here at marathon 35. The work that Mind is doing to support people when they need it is crucial, especially now, so I’m proud that I can do this to help them.

Well, that escalated!

So, today I went for a run. A familiar route, but it wasn’t bad. And an added bonus was that the ever-supportive Guy Boorman joined me on his bike for the first 9 miles. Could have done with it at the end but that could go wrong, let me elaborate.

A few years back I was running the Isle of Wight Marathon and was actually doing ok. 20 miles in and I was averaging a good pace that could give me a sub 3:30 finish. The last 6 miles to go and the pace obviously dropped off. Guy pulled up alongside me at about Porchfield and I remember just feeling empty, I had nothing left in the tank, even with Guy there to support me. I got to Bunts Hill and just couldn’t go any further, 4 miles to the finish but I knew I had to stop. To cut a long story short, I ended up being rushed to hospital in an ambulance, I was completely unresponsive. I spent the afternoon on a drip! Not much fun, but I know that it shook Guy a bit, so probably best that he joined me at the start when I feel Ok.

Marathon 35, me and Guy

Where was I?

Today’s route went out along the seafront to Gurnard and on towards Newport via Rew Street and Nokes Common. A quick cut in towards Parkhurst Prison and up Camphill. From here we joined Forest Road for a bit before turning towards Carisbrooke. There’s a little road called Nodgham Lane that leads to a path that keeps going up until you find yourself on the downs. Guy left me at this point to continue his cycle at a better pace.

Downs Lane is a long uphill trail, it’s just a slog, but once at the top and heading along the Tennyson trail towards Brighstone, it makes the slog worthwhile. This is where the Isle of Wight shows you what it’s got. Beauty in abundance, rolling hills, and a patchwork of greens. In the distance, the white cliffs of freshwater surrounded by a sea so blue that it looks unreal.

Marathon 35, climbing up onto the Tennyson Trail
Marathon 35, Poppies on the Tennyson Trail
Marathon 35, Tennyson Trail

I came off the downs and headed past Chessell Pottery and headed on towards Shalfleet. The route that I’d plotted took me out along some quiet Lanes rather than along the main road. I diverted slightly to follow what looked like a footpath towards Shalfleet, only to find that it was really overgrown with nettles, thorns and God knows what else to spike and scratch me.

Nevertheless, I plowed one. I got to an impasse and then ran around like an idiot trying to find a route out. By now I was about 19 miles in and, you guessed it, I was done. After lots of backtracking, swearing, and pleading with my phone to show me another route, I saw a gate. There was hope. The only thing is there was a huge pile of black bags full of manure to negotiate! I climbed over it and found the path.

Onwards towards Shalfleet and home

If anyone has taken part in the Isle of Wight Marathon you’ll be familiar with these last 6 miles. Through Porchfield, up the notorious Bunts Hill. Legs like lead, you trudge uphill and down, followed by a few more hills until you reach the final barrier, Pallance Road. This hill never stops. It’s not necessarily steep, but it sure does sting.

My route finished nearly at the top of Pallance, where yet again I was saved by Caroline to avoid walking the last couple of miles home. 35 down. Only 15 more to go. Woo🎈 (that’s the party I promised myself last week!)

At home, Caroline handed me a gold box with a collage of dubious photos of me on top and the words ‘Neils Marathon survival kit – from the Wozzers’. The Wozzers being the ever-lovely Mark and Tracey Wozencroft. Inside was everything I need to sort me out post-marathon. Can of beans, a big pack of vegan crisps that were very yum. Ibuprofen, massage oil, and an alcoholic muscle rub that was basically Sambuca. There was even some new elastic to stop my shorts from falling down. However, even after doing 35 marathons, I’m only half a stone lighter and still have a wobbly gut!

There was also a medal that Tracey got from doing the Rough Runner! Amazing. These are the best things about doing this challenge, I absolutely love it 😍

Marathon 35, survival kit
Marathon 35, survival kit
Marathon 35, survival kit
Marathon 35, Medal







I am running these marathons to raise money for Mind. If you like what I’m doing and would like to donate you can go to my Just Giving page below.