Miss Marriott was the head mistress at my junior school. Always extremely well dressed, with that heavy powder make-up of the time, red lipstick and fading blonde hair held rigidly in place. She radiated discipline and she had everyone’s respect, and she smoked Woodbines just like my Dad. That was her way. She was the first person I can ever remember who praised me, a reading test, she told I’d done really well and as reward gave me with a packet of Cheesettes from the school tuckshop.
The Marriotts Way Half Marathon is my first ever Trail Half Marathon – I’ve run trail races before but not this distance. Checking out the race brief I had no idea where it started from so, I set one day and cycled away, through the land where the puncture trees grow, and at the edge of the wood, Whitwell station stood, with Reepham about a mile up the road. I should have taken a better route.
With ten years since my last running race it felt odd to be prepping. What to wear? How to carry my phone? Gels? Drink, Warm clothes? Just take it all!
Mark Clues was at the bus pickup point and we stood there shivering as we waited for the chariot that whisked us to Whitwell. It was busy and I could see a few Tri-Anglia shirts here and there but my pre-race norm is to find somewhere quiet and contemplate my coming doom.
Eventually, we were ushered down onto the old rail track for the start. The Race Director came along to shout at us but I’d taken out my hearing aids and really just caught “its that way”. In the meantime two of the Marathon runners shot past looking as if they were late for something important, followed fairly rapidly by a young girl.
Then we were off. Slowly at first, like a training leaving a station, I could see the runners in 1st Class stretching ahead whilst I stood paused in the Guard’s van. Shuffled away, passing some runners as other passed me. We head West but the end lay to the East and like Alice we were running away from where we wanted to get to so a U turn was coming. There were trees, fields, badger setts, distant farms, bike riders, dog walkers – I’ve cycled in these parts and seen a sign for Nowhere Lane – I’m pretty sure we were near the middle of it. The wind changed direction we’d turned and were headed East – I took a gel.
6 miles in we came to Reepham; a road crossing, check point and feed station, a beautiful Golden Retriever and then my phone rang, My Queen of Hearts asking how it was going. I was passed by – let’s say – a dozen or so people, no matter I have nothing to lose. Then I was off again, and to my surprise began to pick off the people who’d passed me. My mood changed, an old memory stirred – “you cannot go through life looking for iambic pentameter” – I couldn’t help myself , I had something to go for, could I catch some more? Steadily I picked them off five, six – let’s say a dozen. Two more people in sight, I picked up my pace and made my way past them, and then with half a mile to go I passed another.
Onto the streets of Aylsham, twisting and turning around corners, the end was just out of sight, people in every line of sight which way should I go? A hand stretched out, a voice called “This Way!! – it was my Queen of Hearts and I raced through the Town Hall door and into the finish.
The pain in my hips and thighs was intense as I stood and gathered my senses. Over there a drink. Over there my bag with dry warm clothes. Over there a medal; a faded gold steam train spouting a plume of white smoke, and the race name in red. As I walked out I picked up a pack of Mini Cheddars- a little reward. Sixty years on from that test with Miss Marriott I felt like I’d done well – I couldn’t help but think of her. After all it was Marriotts Way.
Lots of Tri-Anglians in action on the day. Special congratulations to Mark Clues for coming 3rd in the race and to Mark Brown , Tony Sorensen, Mark Saunders, Guy Shearwood, Lucy Anderson, Philippa Rudd and Claire Oliff.
And to all who took part in the full Marathon; Ian Marcer, Julia Raymond, Allison Ragosa, Poppy Burnham and Hannah Rees.