The Hampton Marathon: Saturday 6th June 2015

In 490 BC Pheidippedes ran from Marathon to Athens, a distance of 24.85 miles, to deliver his victory message and then promptly collapsed and died. On the 6th of June 2015 six Hamptoneers paddled 26.2 miles (the modern marathon distance since the 1908 London Olympic games) from Godalming to Bell Hill and survived. Just!

The Godalming paddle is long established at the Club but is generally viewed as the preserve of the solitary and perhaps, dare I say, slightly deranged paddler. But not anymore! Phil, with his usual exuberance, has elevated the Hampton Marathon to the status of a mainstream trip although the prerequisite of mental instability still remains [let’s face it: you’ve got to be mad to undertake a paddle over twice the length of The Loop].

Just as actors would be unable to perform without the back-stage hands so our Hamptoneers would have been unable to undertake their epic journey without the support of Yan and Paul who kindly volunteered to transport boats and paddlers to our starting point under Godalming Town Bridge.  Thanks!

Conditions were almost perfect as Phil, Andrew, Derek, Chris, Daniel and your correspondent set-off on a hot sunny day accompanied by a following wind to fan the body and ease our passage.

Within a couple of miles we had negotiated Catteshall and Unstead Locks and, according to Phil’s super-duper gizmo, were paddling at almost five miles per hour: a pace we were to maintain throughout our journey.

On the hour mark we were passing through Guildford and had only just caught sight of Chris Brocket who, by agreement, had started ten minutes before everyone else at Godalming [thus proving the point that she’s pretty pacy when she puts her mind to it].

With ten miles gone and only [!] sixteen to go we stopped for light refreshment at The New Inn at Send where Phil, not so surreptitiously, provided everyone with cake and chocolate cookies [telling us he made them himself from a secret recipe passed down through the ages but I’m not convinced].

Next stop The Anchor at Pyrford where, thanks again to Phil for racing-on ahead, our orders were waiting for us [if ever in doubt then go for the battered cod and chips. Good value at £9.50].

Fifteen miles gone and under ten to go. At our speed we’ll be back at the Club in no time. This is a breeze! New Haw Lock, Coxes Lock, Black Boy Bridge, Town Lock, Thames Lock and we’re at the junction with the Thames having paddled the entire length of the navigable Wey. This is a feat in itself.

The last section of our marathon was undertaken in familiar territory but this didn’t seem to ease the pain that was developing in the shoulders. Or the growing numbness in the nether regions where the parts that retained feeling demanded to be scratched: a manoeuvre that threatened our five miles an hour figure [in truth, this is a highly personal comment: I didn’t actually see anyone else scratching below decks!]

Walton Bridge, Sunbury Lock and then, around the final bend, the beautiful St. Mary’s Church and spire came into view.  We’re back! Never again! Until next year.

 Andy Garbett

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