Phil Martin is a British Masters V35 Half Marathon and Marathon Champion, who currently runs for Peterborough AC. He is this year's winner of the Giant's Head Marathon.
Words: Phil Martin
A trail marathon that can already, in its short 5 year lifespan, lay claim to having been voted the UK’s number one marathon seemed like the perfect place for me to make the transition from road to trail marathons. Described as a 26.2 mile-ish marathon on a very, very challenging hilly but beautiful course it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Starting in the lovely picturesque Dorset village of Sydling St Nicholas, the course is filled with amazing scenery and fantastic views of the Sydling and Cerne valleys. Just so you are under no illusions about how tough the course is going to be, less than half a mile in the climbing begins, and it’s tough. It’s sharp and steep and you continue climbing for around half a mile. Not far, but the gradient ensures your legs know all about it.
The rest of the course is a mixture of ups and downs across a variety of different types of surface, constantly keeping you on your toes and challenging you. On your third climb you finally see the Cerne Giant, a huge naked figure carved into the chalk hillside. Just in case you were in danger of missing it, the White Star Running Team's signage ensure you are aware there is a 35ft phallus coming up. This is just one of the many stunning views you get throughout the race.
The aid stations along the way are plentiful and have a superb array of goodies on offer to help fuel your marathon and are staffed by the best volunteers I’ve ever come across. They not only offer a variety of tasty treats but are fantastically vocal in their support of every single participant. The love station about 20 miles in is something truly unique and worth entering for on its own, however with the finish nearly in sight I decided to pass on the vodka shots.
From here there’s one more really challenging climb before you start the long glorious descent back down to Sydling St Nicholas and the finish line on the village green. Upon finishing you receive a buff, t-shirt and medal, all in keeping with the events unique appeal and it’s this attention to detail from the White Star Running Team that makes this a must do event which I can’t recommend enough.