Birthday girl Liz Fishlock was only going to do the first seven miles of this year’s Sarsen Trail, but was so blown away by the support of her friends and the buzzing, happy atmosphere of the event that she completed the full 26 miles – on her 65th birthday.
The Sarsen Trail and Neolithic Marathon took place on Sunday May 1 when about 1,850 walkers, runners (some with dogs) and mountain bikers thundered over the beautiful All Cannings Downs and Salisbury Plain between Avebury and Stonehenge to raise vital cash for the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
“I just wanted to show that at my age I am still up for a challenge, and this gives me a huge sense of achievement,” said Liz, from Swindon. “It was the first time I have ever walked a marathon and I really enjoyed it.”
The sponsored walk and run is the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s biggest fundraiser and is now in its 23rd year. The bright weather was brilliant for the event, but strong winds slowed down the runners.
“It was great fun, everybody enjoyed it and the event ran without any hitches. At the Stonehenge finish line everybody wore huge smiles,” says Derek Gard, event organiser.
Joy Okoye, from Finchley, near London, was the last person to finish the Marathon with her friend Nina Kristofferson. Joy said: “It was an absolutely magical atmosphere; a real family atmosphere. I shared bacon butties; the scenery was out of this world; and the staff and volunteers of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust were absolutely wonderful. They cared for us in such a loving way.”
“Next year I will do the shorter Avebury to Redhorn stretch, which will be easier for me but will still allow me to enjoy the scenery and wildlife,” said Joy.
Hannah Gray from All Cannings, aged eight, was one of the youngest walkers. She did the first 11 miles last year and completed the remaining 15 miles from Redhorn Hill to Stonehenge this year with her parents and twin 10-year old brothers Oliver and Andrew.
Cyclists were 50% up on last year and numbered 170 – they really liked the new route, which was bumpier, more rugged and had more variety – just what they wanted,” said Derek Gard.
This was the fifth year the event was open to Cani-Cross runners (canine cross-country), in conjunction with Cani-X UK – an organisation which encourages owners to take their dogs out for a run on a lead or harness.
More than 80 dogs and their owners took part. Cani-Cross organiser Richard Cross said: “This is the toughest one we’ve done yet as the hot, dry and windy conditions made it difficult; but it was a very enjoyable day and owners and dogs were all well at the end of event.”
People entered from as far afield as Sweden, Australia, America and South Africa. One marathon runner, Michael Julyan, from Tidworth, dressed as a caveman complete with club. “It was really good – I will definitely be back next year,” he said.
About 120 volunteers helped in putting out signs, registering entrants, road marshalling, manning water stations, car parking and handing out medals. New volunteers Gill McCombe and Mike Greeves at Fargo Crossing (on the Plain) said: “It was the most fantastic event and everyone was so happy. Please put our names down to do the volunteering next year.”
Young people from the Trust’s Future Jobs Fund team have worked in the background for weeks preparing for the event and turned out in force to help with the logisitics on the day.
All money raised will be used to help protect Wiltshire’s wonderful wildlife and natural environment. The Trust would like to thank the National Trust, English Heritage, Landmarc, Wessex Water and local landowners for their support and help in running this event.
Derek says: “Next year, to celebrate the Trust’s 50th anniversary, we are aiming for 5,000 participants. It will be held on Sunday May 6, 2012. Registration will be available from early January.”
Pictured, clockwise from top left: CaniX Half Marathon winner Mark Richards and Charlie; Keith Garbutt, marathon winner, at Stonehenge; Hannah Gray with her family
presentation of medals at Stonehenge; volunteers Gill McCombe and Mike Greeves; keen runners.
Pictures by Ryan Tabor WWT and Owain Shaw WWT