Charnwood Marathon

It was an early start, but not as early as a lot of Saturdays lately, for a quiet drive to Loughborough or more precisely, Quorn.

I parked up at Rawlins College and went inside to register. I had already booked and paid so just had to make myself known and pick up my card. I was also given a disc with my number on.

“What’s this for?” I asked.
“I’m not sure, I’ll ask – I’m bound to be asked the same question later,” replied the helpful man.

A few seconds later, he returned. “At the first manned checkpoint, you drop the coin into a box and call out your number”, he explained, “The runners don’t like to stop!”

A grabbed a coffee and used the facilities before returning to the car to change and get everything that I’d need on the walk.

Around ten to eight, without being instructed, the mass of walkers made our way through the school grounds to the start.

Just before 08:00, one of the organisers thanks us for coming and explained that all monies raised from entry fee would go to The Children’s Air Ambulance and Rainbows.

He then looked at his watch and started us with, “Well, it’s eight o’clock – on your way!” and we were off.

It took us the best part of the first mile to make our way out of the village, passing under the Great Central railway although I never realised on the way out and into the fields.

The next mile was fairly flat and easy going and at about two miles I turned right. After a big loop, the route would return to this point for the last couple of miles.

It was shortly after this that the accent of Beacon Hill started and the walkers started to spread out.

Although only 814 feet high, Beacon Hill is the second highest point in Leicestershire. I passed a statue of a man, a ram and a beacon, although this is not the real beacon – that was seen just a little further along the trail. Come to think of it a wooden beacon wouldn’t be such a great idea!

From Beacon Hill I dropped down to cross the M1 for the first time.

The route continued along road, tracks and paths through a changing landscape of open fields, woods and the occasional village with checkpoint three in the grounds of Mount St. Bernard Abbey.

I grabbed some cake and filled my water bottle at the friendly stop and continued on my way.

From here it was mainly up hill with the odd steep climb thrown in. In a dip just after Bardon Hill I came across the self-clip checkpoint which roughly marked the half way point.

After a little more up and down, re-crossing the M1, the checkpoint at Copt Oak came into view. I decided to forego the cake and pressed on – downhill.

Another abbey or more accurately, Ulverscroft Priory, was passed before hitting a long stretch of road.

It was while walking along this nice, downhill section, engrossed in a podcast, that I made a bit of a navigational error which resulted in an extra quarter of a mile being walked.

After passing through the village of Newtown Linford, a footpath rose sharply leaving the houses, then fields behind and depositing me in Bradgate Park.

The park was originally enclosed by a ditch and bank to keep in herds of red and fallow deer so that the lords of the manor could go out and shoot them!

I saw a fair few deer (not sure what kind) during my journey through the park. They are probably descendants of those medieval animals.

The final big climb of the day was to the top of the highest hill in the park and home to a war memorial and a folly known as Old John.

According to local legend the folly was build to as a memorial to an estate worker (no idea what his name was) who died in a freak bonfire accident.

Down from Old John, the park ended at a road which was followed for a short distance before a path lead off to and through Swithland Woods, where I was held up by some horses until they turned and moved off in the other direction.

After Swithland Woods the route rejoined the original route leaving less than a couple of miles to go.

Before crossing under the railway, from this direction, I spied a green DMU parked up just outside of Quorn and Woodhouses station.

I passed under the Great Central Railway, along a bank to avoid a very muddy track and was back on the outskirts of Quorn.

I retraced my steps and six hours and forty five minutes after departing, walked into the school hall and handed in my card.

I waited a few minutes whilst my card was checked (to make sure that I had visited all the checkpoints) and a certificate printed.

I was with happy with my time – 6:45 for 27.3 miles. That works out to an average pace of 14:49 per mile. And, according to Endomondo, I had burnt 4,694 calories – cake and beer may be in order for this evening.

All in all, a good day out. An interesting and varied course and the weather was fine – dry and not too hot. I may well return next year.

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