Larmer Tree Half Marathon by Trevor McAlister & Diana Swyers
2nd Place Overall by Trevor McAlister
Having finished 5th in the Larmer Tree 10m race in 2019, I had been training hard in the run-up to the Larmer Tree, with the aim of trying to get on the podium this year in the Half Marathon.
Spoiler: I finished 2nd place overall. This was my first ever (solo) podium finish, and hopefully the first of many.
For a lot of the 382 competitors, the Larmer Tree Half Marathon was more of a jolly than a race, and usually involves dressing up, as is traditional with most White Star Running races.
But up the front of the race, there were some serious runners taking on this challenging off-road Half Marathon, with its 1,661ft of assent. The top 11 finishers were under 1h 50m and the top 30 under 2h.
Although I was planning on taking it seriously, I was also getting into the spirit of the race, so along with the other Ryde Harriers taking on this challenging half, we were all of us dressed in various colours Tutus and face paint.
So, I looked slightly out of place in my green Tutu lining up on the front line of the start, next to the serious club runners, most of which were over 5’ 10” versus my 5’ 5”. In the couple of minutes chatting with other runners before the start, one of the club runners commented that he didn’t fancy being beaten by a guy wearing a Tutu. (and the others were probably thinking it)
Almost as soon as the race started, I think the serious club runners had a bit of a shock, as myself and the guy that finished 1st, shot off up the track neck & neck. At 2miles, I was still only 30 meters behind the leader, so any thoughts the other runners had that I may have just have been a fun runner starting far too quick soon disappeared.
At around 3 miles, and the first big hill, the leader was still pulling ahead from me and I was having to work hard to keep the incrementing difference small. At this point I had to make a tactical decision, to keep pushing hard and hope that he doesn’t know how hilly the course is ahead and that he may slow down or blow-up. Or that he knows what he is in for and is just a faster runner than me, and that by pushing to keep up with him I risk blowing up myself, and dropping a number of places. So, I decided not to try and chase the leader, but to concentrate on keeping a good distance between myself and the guy in 3rd.
Throughout the entire race I remained in 2nd, with the time back to 3rd position yoyoing between 20 to 60 seconds, as we had different paces on the ups, downs & flat sections. And occasional I was still able to catch glimpses of the leader, on sections that looped round or on the longer hills.
I finished in 1:41:14, 2nd Place Overall, and 1min 33sec clear of 3rd place. The leader was 7 minutes ahead of me by the end, so probably the right decision not to chase him, this time at least.
I had been looking forward to seeing the expression on one of the serious club runner’s face as I went past them with a mile to go, whilst wearing a Tutu, and possibly pinch their podium spot. But with the way the race unfolded, that wasn’t to be, I’ll just have to save that for another race.
As I hadn’t stopped at any of the feed stations the first time past them, which were well stocked with sweets & shots. I when for a warm down run back to the last feed station, and a bit further, to then run in with the rest of the Harriers.
The runner that I was chatting to at the start, turned out to be the same guy chasing me all the way and came in 3rd.
It just goes to show, never underestimate a short guy on the front row of the start line, especially if he is wearing a Tutu!
Running, shots, laughter and grunts by Diana Swyers
Larmer Tree Half Marathon was my first cross country half, running only 10k cross country before. I accepted the challenge, only after being told that ‘it’s a great social run, gorgeous medal and… it’s really a piss up’ (which it was, in the end)….hmm, but no one told me that it will be quite like this:
The morning of the race (after having a good few drinks, the night before), I was a bit nervous but loved the idea of all 8 of us wearing tutus and war face stripes…we looked a picture. We all drove together, got there in time for lots of selfies and just cheering each other up.
Trevor went ahead…with the ‘serious’ runners wearing his tutu. Later on, I saw him leading the race with his bright green tutu dancing in the wind. I/we started laughing and cheered him on!
The 7 of us (Carolyn Ward, Keith Ruth, Sian Savin, Nat Rose, Ken Oatley, Graham Gardner and I) stayed together for the whole 13.6 miles. The run was hard, long, hilly, windy, a bit muddy and brought out the animal within me (still not sure of its identity). I just made some weird animalic noises/grunts which really helped me ‘concur those hills’…but I laughed sooo much, danced as a ballerina and galloped (and neighed) while running down hills.
We were amazing as a team. We helped and encouraged each other, talked sooo much and took lots of selfie and photos…so many!
Before the run, they told me that at mile 7, I will find the ‘Love Station’, which will have shots, lots of yummy snacks…. I have never run so fast (with Ken Oatley), when I heard it was ‘just around the corner’. It was not a disappointment…. there were two tables – one with food and one with drinks. Shots anyone!!
….and then, we ran some more!!!!
The camaraderie and banter were our ‘middle name’. We were just so happy to be outdoors, escape the city, the jobs, the day to day duties, the bills, and just remember and not be afraid to be silly, fun, children like, and just run and let go!
Don’t get me wrong. It was hard….did I say this before? 😊 I am not used to running on the grass and the hills, well, I try to avoid them, as much as I can….so yes, my body was like: Diana, what is this? But why?
So, let me make this clear…I would not have been able to do this (and remain sane, to some degree) without my friends! The banter, the distraction, the encouragement, the shots (they did help), the silliness, the laughter, the medal, is what made me do it….and the views, and the newly found animalic drive, and the feeling of freedom whilst running down steeeepppppp hills.
Trevor ran back for us (I think it was 2-3 miles, after winning second place) and then ran together to the finishing line, was just the way to end a great run. Together!
The 13.6 miles gave me an opportunity to enjoy being alive and a runner, surrounded by friends and stupid crazy hills. It took me out of my comfort zone and gave me an incredible satisfaction once I had that medal around my neck. I just could not stop grinning with my hair being tangled in my flowers (they were on my head for the whole half marathon and survived gale force winds…it was not that windy…for any tips, please get in touch with me).
The evening and celebrations were just hilarious!! After a shower and a nap, we had takeaway fish and chips, my Dave’s homemade strawberry tequila shots, very strong drinks (which I mixed them), danced with the hover whilst listing to a selection of 70s music (Keith and Carolyn were the DJs), got boxing lessons from Nat which made me cry with laughter whilst saying ‘stop hitting me!!’ and just watched everybody let their hair down and get all ‘pickled’. In the morning, the amazing, Ken made us a cooked breakfast and then we drove back home exhausted but happy.
We are already talking about doing the next year Larmer Tree 20 miles run. It is clear to me that this running bug is dangerously infectious and fun and that I’m surrounded by masochists, which I am very proud to belong to.