Saturday 10th August to Sunday 11th August was supposed to be volunteering for North Downs Way 100. In all the distractions of work/kids/marathon training and the terror of Lakeland50 I hadn’t replied to an email which now left me at a loss for the weekend. I was all ready to be up all night cheering on super, fantastic people that were attempting one hell of a distance – for fun/choice/adventure/madness!!
What do I do now? I start looking at the 100 marathon club web page for marathons that weekend of course. But why a marathon? Why not 10k or a half marathon? Give myself a rest and just chill for the weekend? Do some gardening? Go to the swimming pool? Loads of other weekend things to be doing other than running a marathon just for the hell of it!!
There was a local 10k race near Wendover – Bearbrook 10k. I had already run that event a couple times before and I knew there was no medal. Yes. Medals. I’m a medal hound. I like my race bling and if I’m going to enter an event more than once it’s because it has medals. Sad, I know!
There were a few marathons on that weekend – Hardmoors, Isle of Man, Salisbury 54321 and Northumberland Coast. None of them sounded close. Salisbury sounded the most interesting from the description on the website. There were places still available and better yet – Firemen! It was at Salisbury Fire Station. Plus there were medals. Sold. It was going to be an early start to get there for the morning start but from the looks of the course it would be a nice challenge. Anyway – my plans for the weekend involved not sleeping at all Saturday night so an early start was a lazy morning. Yep. Makes no sense at all does it!
5am wake up call and on the road by 6:20am. The roads are empty and the trip down to Salisbury was easy. I didn’t even need to use my sat nav. I arrived at 8:30am with more than enough parking spaces still available. There were walkers starting at 8am who were also walking the same routes as the runners. The runners got to leave an hour or so after the walkers. The weather was cloudy with the occasional feeling of drizzle to begin with. I had my emergency poncho and featherlight trousers ready for if the day turned into a drench fest.
Number collected. Kit checked. Kit checked again. I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Kit checked again……sun block!! On goes the sun block and my back pack and water and food and road shoes. I had brought my trail shoes but from the description of the course being half trail and half road/path I wasn’t keen on ruining my comfy Inov8 slippers on roads. Right. I’m ready. Very nervous but ready.
There wasn’t a huge number of runners for the marathon which made the start very easy. Of we all jogged away from the firestation and up the first hill to run around the castle. The first checkpoint – rather nicely timed just after the hill climb! After that it was path, track, road, trail for a while. Nothing to slow any of us down for at least a few miles. The very regular checkpoints were lovely. I made sure I gulped down at least a cup of water at each checkpoint. Made sure I had my dextrose and gingernuts at each calorie alert from my Garmin. A lot of the trail was very much like the Dunstable downs marathon route. One hill in particular stood out – it wasn’t steep but the ground underfoot was so uneven that every time I tried to break into a jog I was almost falling over and twisting my ankles. I couldn’t get into an even stride and the heat of the sun at that point was very distracting so I kept myself safe and steady and stomped up that hill nice and steady. Lovely views at the top of hills. I’m beginning to see the good side of hill climbing. Yes, I did just say “hill” and “good” in the same statement! What has happened to me this year????
The rest of the run went really nicely. I kept myself moving. Walking when I felt over exerted and jogging along and enjoying the scenery the rest of the time. The big country house was beautiful to look at. The lovely coolness of running through some spectacular woodland following red string. Walking then running past a horse race course after scoffing some biscuits from a check point. Then the last few miles were counting down. Getting close to the end of the marathon. My legs were feeling a little heavy but the rest of me felt fantastic. My feet were sore but I couldn’t feel any hot spots. My backpack was irritating my left arm a little. That’s all I could pick fault with myself. One last checkpoint before heading into the town centre and they had mars bars! THAT’S WHAT I FORGOT!!!! My mini mars bars. I quick gulp down of water and I’m walking again whilst chomping down a mars bar. A few minutes later and I’m back to jogging along at a nice steady pace. Having a walk now and again to ease the tiredness in my legs.
It’s at this point I meet a few of the Ultra runners who started of at 9am. They were running 50k today. We kept passing each other and having a little chat and a laugh. Only 3-4 miles to go. Not long now. Keep up the pace and the finish is only 30-40 minutes away. A lovely lady kept me running through the last couple miles past the cathedral and through the town centre. My legs were tired and I was used to stopping to relieve the tiredness. But the finish was so close. We could hear the band. If I could just keep my legs moving the tiredness in my legs will finish sooner. But walking is easier. But running is what I’m supposed to be doing, not walking. Keep running. Keep the breathing steady. Keep the pace steady. Keep running. I can see the field. Woohoooo!!! It’s the finish!
I wasn’t out there to run a fast marathon so I’m pleased with my time of 5 hours 47 minutes. If I’d managed to get up and down the hill with the ankle breaking ground I’m sure I would have shaved at least 30 minutes of that time. My feet were amazingly unscathed. Only one blister on one toe. Rather amazing for shoes that usually give me loads of blisters!! A quick change into some fresh clothes, a lovely cup of tea, handing in someone’s lost £5 note that I found on the course and then I’m in the car heading home feeling okay about running 27 miles.
For those of you who think running a marathon is a bonkers distance. 5k used to feel like a huge distance when I started running again. 10k was an immense distance that I kept repeating until I felt okay with it. Half marathons were a stupendous effort that amazed me, they were not easy and my first half marathon nearly stopped me running long distance for fun. Marathons – yes, it really is bonkers. Nothing else describes the feeling of having completed 26-27 miles of running/walking. It’s amazing. It’s an adventure. It has its fun moments and bad moments. It’s hard to beat the feeling of accomplishment though. Awesomeness!!