The Stickler 2018 (10 miles) – 28/10/18

The last few months have all been rather serious. Training plans, watching my waist line, and even this weird thing called ‘swimming’. Now Kona 2018 is in the books, it’s time to have a bit of fun and enjoy the novelty of not having a schedule to follow, giving me a good mental as well as physical reset.

Our arrival back in the UK was a bit of a shock to the system. It was like stepping into one of those ice bars after hanging out in a sauna for 3 weeks (or what I imagine that to be like; as if I ever go to any cool bars). Jet lag was going to have to wait, as we were straight off down to Dorset to celebrate the marriage of two good friends; Cathryn and Ed.


Having met through the Clapham Chasers, and with a large crowd from the club heading down South, it was never going to be your conventional wedding weekend. We kicked off proceedings with Blandford parkrun – surely there’s no better way to consolidate two weeks of zero running and eating absolutely everything in sight, than by punishing yourself over 5 kilometres?

The struggle was very much a real one first thing in the morning, as I tried to coerce Katie out of bed. I can only imagine it was a similar situation to that of a nagging mother trying rouse her moody teenager for school after a particularly late night; we had a fully grown sulkasaurus on our hands. Eventually, after putting on our entire winter wardrobes and scrapping the ice off the car (is this some sort of sick joke), we were on our way to the start.


To be fair, once we’d gone for a bit of a warm-up jog, it wasn’t actually that bad, and the scenery was beautiful. The course is a straight out and back along a fairly flat trail with a few small ‘undulations’. With the groom being a pretty nippy runner, it’d be bad form for me to beat him on his wedding day. Not wanting it to appear too obvious, I also let 2nd get the better of me and nearly gave up 3rd at the end as well. 18:19 was my official time. A nice little way to blow out the cobwebs.


The rest of the day was wonderful occasion, and it was brilliant to be able to share the occasion with Cathryn and Ed (the new Mr and Mrs Rees). The celebrations went on long into the evening, with a certain A Woolgar coming in for a special mention for his strong performance: no one can say he didn’t leave it all out there on the course.

Most normal newlyweds spend the morning after their wedding sipping champagne in bed and tucking into a nice bacon sandwich. Quite clearly, a group of people who choose to run for hours on end in a giant circle before ending up in the same place that they started can’t be defined as ‘normal’, and so we found ourselves standing in a freezing cold field, severely hungover, awaiting the start of the Stickler 10 mile race.

All those from the wedding party who had made it out of bed to race had been rewarded with these rather fetching  t-shirts; at least then we could be identified and make it clear to everyone else that we were probably feeling a little worse for wear, so if you could easy on us, that’d be great. All apart from Ed, who doesn’t drink alcohol: unfortunately my suggestion that he should give us all a 5 minute head start fell on deaf ears, and I guess someone needed to hold up the clubs reputation.


As if 10 miles wasn’t enough, the race also had 1,600ft of climbing, the first 500 of that coming within the opening mile: an absolute sickener of a climb, with gradients up to 30%. No need for a warm-up then, I guess we might as well just crack on.

We were unleashed onto the Dorset country lanes, with Sam Robinson (the boy loves a fast start) pulling on to my shoulder and joking that if he was here I might be taking it a bit too easy. We had a chuckle as I said let’s just wait until we get to that first hill.

There was significantly less chuckling once we reached said hill. Scratch that, it was a bloody mountain! It took pretty much everything I had to just keep running and not roll back down and take out other runners like a bunch of skittles. Someone told me I was ‘looking good’. You filthy liar.

I reached the summit gasping for breath, the views of the rolling countryside around us pretty jaw-dropping. After a large number of people going out like scalded cats, I’d passed about 20 people going up the hill and reckoned I’d moved up to somewhere near the top 10. Knowing how brutal the course was, I’d decided not to race anyone until the last few miles and just run a steady and slightly conservative race.

Not feeling fully in ‘race’ mode, I had a chat with a few of the local runners during the middle miles, commenting on the flat nature of the course and letting them know they should come to London if they fancied a real challenge. There’s a slight rise if you run across Battersea bridge for sure.

The jokes stopped abruptly as we reached the bottom of Hod Hill, the 2nd of 3 proper climbs on the route. For some reason, the organisers don’t count one or two ‘rollers’, and having not studied the course map in any detail, I was convinced we’d already done at least 2, before another runner destroyed that idea.

I hauled myself to the top, trying my best not to vomit (I couldn’t work out if this was the alcohol or the climb), before shattering my quads on the immediate descent. With barely enough time to take a breath, there was about 1.5 meters of flat before we were facing the wall that was Hambledon hill.

Decision made within 5 seconds, I was walking. Thankfully, so was everybody else around me to, so we all stuck our arms out and power walked up to the summit. From here, it was 2 miles home to the finish. If I’d been able to use my legs at this point, I might have been able to up the ante.

The field was really spread out by now, and there was just me and another local runner vying for position in the closing stages. Feeling very much like I’d been to a wedding and got drunk the previous evening, I immediately let him know that he could have the place: I’m more than happy cruising it home from here thanks chap.


The finish was a novel one: along a disused railway platform complete with an old steam train in the station. For some reason, unknown by everyone including me, I decided to roll over the finish line. That’s a new one. Free flapjacks being handed out were gratefully received and promptly hoovered up.

The great news was that the groom had won again! Not too shabby for a weekends work; 2 race wins and getting hitched. I ended up in 6th place, recording 1:11:56 for the 10.1 miles. There were some great results for the Chasers, with the women taking top honours in the team event and the mens team finishing in 3rd. Most importantly, everyone had a (sorta) good time, and we enjoyed an amazing buffet afterwards laid on by Ed’s parents – a lovely way to finish the weekend.



Not your conventional wedding weekend, but I think we were just about grateful to Cathryn and Ed for getting us out of bed on Sunday and making us slog our way around the Dorset countryside. It certainly blew away the cobwebs after eating our way around North America. Here’s to a long and happy marriage, Mr and Mrs Rees!


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