New Plodders brace themselves for memorable challenge

Denmead Striders' Julian Manning is among the favourites to lift this year's Meon Valley Plod title
Denmead Striders' Julian Manning is among the favourites to lift this year's Meon Valley Plod title
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Newcomers have been warned to expect a serious test of their stamina and endurance ahead of tomorrow’s Meon Valley Plod.

The 21-mile multi-terrain race around the Meon Valley has become a popular fixture on the runners’ calendar as competitors battle the mud and energy-sapping hill climbs on one of the toughest events around.

The 2012 champion, Julian Manning, is the man to beat once again and the Denmead Striders ace will be eager to better his remarkable winning time of 2hrs 25min and 49secs last time out.

But race director Alan Shons, who came up with the course 18 years ago, has been encouraged by a healthy entry list for this year’s event and is hoping those who are taking part for the first time know what they have let themselves in for.

He said: ‘The entries are up by about 25-30 per cent and we’ve got a lot of new people running this year.

‘I hope they know what to expect!

‘It’s 21 miles and 3,000ft of climb. It’s a real challenge.

‘I take pride in the fact that it’s one of the most testing races around.

‘I invented the course 18 years ago and it started as a training run. I used to love the mud and the filth and you would come back and put a hose on you.

‘Somebody once suggested that it would be a really good course for a race and that’s how it started.

‘But it’s called the Plod because you are expected to plod around gently – not go around in ridiculous times like Julian Manning!

‘The majority of people run a bit, walk a bit, swear going up the hills and then get covered in glorious mud.

‘It’s all about endurance, rather than speed.’

The course is one complete circuit, which starts in Little Hyden Lane, Clanfield (10.30am).

And with more than 250 finishers last year, Shons is hopeful even more will make the finishing line of the Portsmouth Joggers-run event this time around.

He said: ‘We have a cut-off point of about five hours but that is just to protect the marshals who stand out there for several hours in the freezing cold. The runners love the different challenge.

‘They don’t always want to beat themselves up just running on roads.’