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The Farnham Pilgrim Marathon & Half Marathon is now in its fourth year. It draws participants both locally and from far afield. It won 'Best New Event' in 2010 and was voted into the top 10 marathons that year by Runner's World readers. Based at The Sands Village, near Farnham, Surrey, the routes are mainly off-road, using the extensive footpaths and country lanes east of Farnham. They feature parts of The Pilgrims' Way, along the North Downs, after which the event is named and provides us with a bit of 'horrible history'.
It is said that on 29th December 1170, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, was hacked to death inside his cathedral by knights from the court of Henry II, for standing up to the King. The site of his martyrdom soon became a shrine to which people travelled out of respect for Becket's courage, especially from Winchester, in those days the capital of England. These routes of pilgrimage became known as Pilgrim Ways, a description still applied to the surviving trackway from Winchester to Canterbury.
Its most likely course would have been along terraces on the southern slopes of the hills, avoiding the muddy valley bottom and, for the most part, also the danger of exposed ridges. When you find yourself following such a path, as perhaps on the steady ascent of Pewley Down around marathon mile 14, consider in whose company you could be travelling, somewhere along the dimension of time. The more recent North Downs Way National Trail which traces the downs for 153 miles between Farnham and Dover via Canterbury, follows the more picturesque ridge of the Downs. Nevertheless, there are many stretches where it coincides with the original Pilgrims' Way.
Our course uses parts of these pathways and also parallel routes for variety, to take in historic monuments (pubs included) and for the expansive views from such spots as Puttenham Common or St Catherine's Ruins. It features several interesting churches including the high point of St Martha's, isolated on top of its sandy hill at 570 ft, half-way along the marathon course and certainly a former shelter for medieval pilgrims.
2013 Cotton T-shirt included in price. All net proceeds go to charities.