White Horse Half Marathon (South Oxfordshire), 6 April

I have been encouraged to enter this event by the Oxfordshire Vegetarian & Vegan contact Paul Appleby who ran a few events back in the 1980s including the Plamil Half Marathons near Folkestone, Kent. I was prepared to book a bed at the local Youth Hostel but Paul insisted that I take the opportunity to stay at his home, a short walk from the venue of the event at Grove, near Wantage and will be assured of vegan catering. Paul even found a video of one of the Plamil Half Marathons and we started watching it before departing to the venue. Saw some familiar runners who were members of the Vegetarian Cycling & Athletic Club and Mike Stanton is still with the club.

Leading up to the event the weather was forecast to turn wintry with overnight snow but given the time of the year it was likely to clear before the event. Awake at 630am I looked out and saw heavy snow falling with a covering of maybe two inches. By the time I was up it had stopped and the footpaths & roads were mostly clear. The local school provided the facilities. The Start was actually back near my overnight residence.

Despite the weather there was no delay to the start. Held in the Vale of White Horse, I was not expecting any significant hills. We were going in a northerly direction for the first half and with a northerly wind, it was noticeable if not slowing us much. I was more concerned by a callus on my left foot and was taking turnings cautiously. At about 2-3 miles I was greeted by Maria, marshaling at one of her local events. Started at a fair pace and with the flat terrain apart from the noticeable camber affecting my callus, I managed to run at a consistent pace. With the wind behind us in the 2nd half it was more comfortable and we could see in the far distance the snow covered Berkshire Downs.

Apart from the village of Denchworth at 2 & 11 miles, once we left Grove there was hardly a property to be seen on the course. It was mile after mile of country lanes bordered by hedgerows. The only noticeable climb was to cross over the Great Western Railway. As we approached Denchworth for the 2nd time I passed Maria again who must have been quite cold to say the least.

Feeling strong, in the last few miles I started to increase the pace, overtaking some runners although there were not many around. I was a little surprised to see the finish on the outskirts of Grove and just made it under 1.37, a small improvement after the Brentwood event four weeks earlier. Paul & Galina Appleby were helping at the drinks station not that we needed much in this unseasonal weather. On the rather longish walk back to the school I met a country guy who was asking about the club and who use to be vegetarian but due to the pressures of working in a farming community, he was only vegetarian 4 days a week…

As I rested in the school hall, surviving on a black tea as nothing else was suitable, Maria came along after her stint and followed later by Paul & Galina so, there were four of us vegans together. Galina works in a local wholefood shop in Wantage. After the presentations I was invited back by Paul & Galina for a much needed vegan lunch.