Heads and legs were everywhere. A veritable massacre had occurred and I was the perpetrator. No, this wasn’t a dream but the real life scenario in my bum bag. Confused? At the end of a 26 mile marathon I was too. But the body parts in question were identifiable. Jelly Babies! I’d had a cunning plan; I’d cut them up in case I choked and croaked on a whole one whilst masticating a mouthful during an intake of breath as I ran. By the last three miles I had thrown caution to the very strong wind and was pushing a rainbow mixture of torsos and heads into my mouth without a care for the throat blocking consequences. I also managed to generously hand them out to any flagging co runners I encountered with sticky fingered insistence.
I’d signed up for the Neolithic Marathon on a whim! Obviously the couple of glasses of wine after an early evening jog did a lot to enhance my belief in my own ability to compete in this Stone Age rampage. So having submitted my application I woke up the next morning with just a month to go and realised I’d have to get cracking as the odds were already stacking!
Training didn’t go quite as planned, a jog across the Ridgeway to Avebury in preparation left me slightly less agile than an elderly sloth. And the mileage reduction in the preceding week, and the increase in carbs, not a new name for an intoxicating liquor but an excuse for a pasta and bread binge, left me feeling as bloated as that bloke that plays Harry Potter’s Uncle Vernon, but without the facial hair.
The Marathon starts at Avebury and takes a cross country route to Stonehenge. Organised with accuracy and precision by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, (Wiltshire wildlife not being a euphemism for the perpetrators of late night drunken vandalism in the county of Wiltshire), it is well worth the £30 entry fee. By the second half however I’d forgotten about the ‘views of orchids, cowslips, milkworts, scabious, knapweed, and many grasses’ that the Wildlife Trust’s literature had offered as an incentive to run the route and was concentrating on making it to the end. I focused on the logo on the back of the shirt of the man in front of me. ‘Run fat boy run!’ It proclaimed. When I finally overtook him I managed to foist a jelly baby at him. I think he was grateful…
My lowest moment, both literally and metaphorically was when crossing a cattle grid. As I approached it, it looked like a pattern on the ground and when I realised what it actually was I had the misguided impression I could somehow, tiptoe/jog/jump across it. It wasn’t until my face was speedily approaching the grid that I realised – this must be how unsuspecting cows feel! It was a ‘Don’t try this at home’ moment, not that I have a cattle grid at home and if I did I’d obviously have practiced crossing one with more élan than I managed on the day. Luckily my teeth didn’t suffer the consequences of biting the metal grid and only my shins suffered. ‘Don’t stop, don’t stop’ I shouted in what was no doubt a subconscious effort to totally confuse the two lads I’d been happily jogging behind. I mean it’s a natural instinct to help someone, but a competitive one to keep going. Fortunately I managed to get up and hobble across the remainder of the grid and limp off smiling through gritted teeth as if it was all a jolly jape. A week later and my shins are still black.
The water stops were frequent and any jelly baby that hadn’t expired by dissection would have drowned! One of the Trustees told me afterwards that a rest tent that had been put up for participants on route had to be guarded all night because last year someone had nicked one. Images of burly men shuffling along The Ridgeway holding the tent corners and fumbling around for dropped tent pegs came to mind.
When I finally staggered across the finish line, a lady started fiddling with my leg, momentarily confused I realised this wasn’t the ‘Final’ for weird instrument playing in ‘Britain’s got Talent’ but the removal of my time chip. Having arrived at England’s best example of early engineering, Stonehenge, I was given a medal and a bag of goodies. Pizza, cake and coffee! Heaven! Having consumed the food it was an effort to get up from the bale of hay I’d managed to appropriate. The stiffness was setting in. After free entry to Stonehenge courtesy of the Trust, I boarded the bus back to Avebury, then drove home, exhausted. My bared teeth grimace and stiff walk to the back door would no doubt have got me a part in ‘Zombieland’.
A hot soak, a takeaway curry and a bottle of wine later and I was contemplating doing it all again. Only next time without the gummy tummy, sickly sweet heads and feet of the jelly baby slaughter! Sherbet dap anyone?