Salisbury is only an hour's drive away from the homestead, so a not too early start got me down to Sarum, centre-piece to Thomas Hardy's master-piece 'Jude the Obscure', (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jude_the_Obscure) in good time for the start, although this time I made sure the trainers were the first thing to go in to the van!
|The green/ car park with the start/ finish to the right.|
|The fire-station hosting the event|
They call it the 54321 because of the features of the route:
3 country estates
So in theory they say you can count your way down through the route - although, what counts as a hill to qualify as only being 1 of the 4 is open to interpretation!
My van was parked on the very far edge of the green, so with the changing facilities being limited to pretty much one of the many portaloos I was grateful for the space I had afforded myself with my mobile changing facility! Parked behind me was a battered early 1980's VW camper, which made me kind of envious as I can't wait to get my van fully tricked-out in to one and give myself a bit more luxury for these running trips… Namely a place for cooking a bacon sarnie and a comfortable kip afterwards.
|My customary 'milling around at the start' photo.|
The race started by doing a lap of the green in which the cars were parked and headed off to Old Sarum and the climb to the castle - so one thing ticked off the 54321 list within the first mile or so! With the field being quite bunched at this point and the track being very narrow it was an Indian file walk ascending the hill. As we traipsed upwards we were treated to the spectacle of a plane disgorging its load of sky divers and watch them slowly descend to the earth, which took the mind off the frustratingly slow progress - that and the fact we had to battle our way through some people who decided in their infinite wisdom to descend the path at the same time as several hundred runners were ascending it - you do wonder about some people's common sense!
|Indian file up the hill to the castle.|
|Onto the ramparts.|
|Skirting the moat.|
|Underneath the arches.|
|The detail of the brickwork.|
|The approach to Longford Castle|
and the right the mill house.
It was a spectacular sight with its ornamental garden that made it seem like a French chateau rather than an English castle (of a Swedish design). As I crossed the river I could see the river was teeming with trout, which shouldn't be too surprising seeing as the river Avon is renowned globally for the quality of its trout fishing.
|Leaving it all behind.|
After one of the aid stations the route afforded the opportunity for some respite from the sun with a run through a thousand year old yew forest. The trees are naturally at their full height with their age, which is not anything near gigantic, but they just expand outwards to a massive girth with many over several hundred years in age. On entering we were told to follow the string and to keep the cord on our left, so we were able to jog through on the marked-path under the low canopy shading us from the oppressive heat in a very pleasant way. It was all very still and the fine carpet on the woodland floor of shed needles muffled our steps, so the whole atmosphere was one of silence, stillness and very other-worldy. It was almost like venturing through something you would expect to see in one of the Lord of the Rings films.
|Follow the cord round the seriously old trees.|
|The dappled sunshine.|
My target for the race, as the South Downs before it, was for a sub 5 hour time. The hill after the final water-station there had done-for me then with the heat and the sunshine causing me to feel like I was burning-up and my heartbeat racing out of control necessitating in total stoppage twice to calm and cool down. The final exposed sun-baked tarmac section here as we headed onwards over the streets of the outskirts of Salisbury just sapped my energy from me, causing me to run-walk and realise that my goal would not be achievable, although a pb was still doable, so my goal was re-set for this secondary target… I also decided to let it slip by as with Reykjavik coming-up in a mere 2 weeks time, that race is a nailed-on cert to beat the 5h barrier, so no point in pushing too hard here to narrowly miss it and doing myself a mischief that impedes my performance in a couple of weeks.
Soon the route took us right in to the heart of Salisbury and a run through the grounds and past the cathedral, the owner of the tallest spire in the country.
|The 'inspiring' cthedral|
|Through the old town|
|The cobbled high-street|
|Follow the water back to the finish.|
My drink finished, I went to drive home thinking I would be able to munch on my opened bag of jelly-babies en-route, only to find they had melted into one gelatinous mass whilst I was running… At least this is a problem I won't be having in Iceland!