LDWA Punchbowl Marathon – 30 miles of sunshine and mud

My expectations for this event were terrifying.  A wonderfully organised and well stocked LDWA (Long Distance Walkers Association) event that has tortured runners and walkers with its weather and terrain.  Shoe removing mud.  Hills.  Lashing rain.  Snow.  Hail.  The list was endless and enough to terrify me before I had even stepped foot on the course.

So how was it? The weather? The course?

I’ll start with the weather because throughout the week the forecast for the weekend had been dire.  High winds, lashings of rain and no sign of sunshine.  On the day it was lovely sunshine with clouds and one very quick shower.  Couldn’t have asked for better weather.  It was lovely.

The course.  Even though the weather on the day had been lovely the incredible amount of rain that had fallen throughout the week had made one part of the course impassable.  I’m very glad they had a diversion for that part because it would have been a swimming/running/walking event.  The rest of the course was a mixture of very soft, very wet mud with the occasional completely flooded path or road that could not be walked around so you HAD to go through it.  Did I walk gently through these bits?  Oh no!  I jumped right in, started squealing with the sudden frozen feet feeling and then giggling like a kid as I kept splashing my way through.  I was confident my trail shoes would empty of water quickly and my socks didn’t hold onto water for very long, plus treating my feet with liquid chalk before a very wet run seems to slow down the wet foot/wet sock rubbing blisters.  That left me confident to just jump in and enjoy myself like a big kid.  The hill climbs were tough but nowhere near as tough as the Lake District so I stuck in and worked my way to the top. The course took us to trig points around the course that gave some absolutely beautiful views and with the clear weather you could see for miles.

The navigation was hard work.  I’ve been spoilt on big events because I’ve always been with someone who knew the way, had a partner in crime that could read the instructions and sense check them for me or I had the gpx route plotted on my Garmin etrex.  I had none of those to begin with.  It was a big wakeup call because it slowed me down a lot.  I was running alone for a good 8 miles trying to keep up with runners who knew the way before partnering up with a couple of slower runners who couldn’t have been nicer if they tried.  Thank you so much Fabrice and Anne – you were lovely company on a very long day out on the trails.  We worked together reading and rereading the route instructions which made us all confident of the very few unclear bit of the course.  We kept each other moving when we started slowing down.  It was lovely.

In summary I had an absolutely wonderful day out walking/running around the punchbowl marathon in Surrey.  It was hard work and I’m thoroughly impressed with my ultra-kit I’ve managed to get that made the day fun without worries.  Ultra HUGE thank you to the organisers and those lovely lovely LOVELY people at the check points.  I haven’t had lemon curd sandwiches since I was a kid.  THANK YOU

What surprised me most about the day was not the fact that it took me 9 hours 19 minutes to complete the course but the fact that I still had enough in me to keep going!! What was that about? My feet felt fine, my knees were aching, my back was complaining a bit but that was it.  I almost felt disappointed that it was over.  I’d been through flooded roads, mud, more mud and hills that should have wrecked me but it hadn’t.  I’ve not been out training as much as I should have for this event and I know that if I had trained for it I would have been a lot faster.  It almost feels like I’ve cheated somehow but my Garmin definitely recorded my day at 30 miles.

The only thing I’m doing different this year is rock climbing.  That takes an enormous amount of effort and I’m getting stronger each time I go.  I’m noticing the stronger I get at rock climbing the stronger I’m getting at running.  I’ve tried swimming, cycling, various strength training exercises and long distance runs to improve my stamina and strength with the end result being lots of injuries from overuse and blisters and chaffing in the oddest places!! I’ve been trying to increase my stamina and strength for running for the past four years.  I take up rock climbing this year and I’ve been handed a completely different body to run with.

Happy running

Helen

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