Oakley 20 23rd March 2014

What a lovely day that was.  I may have been freezing at the start and on some parts around the course but I had a fabulous time.  Plus I completely amazed myself on how much I managed to push myself into a semi fast run over the last two miles.  Where did that come from? 

Last weekend was a hot 14 miles that should have been a marathon training run of 20 miles around Leighton Buzzard.  I was testing my new Raidlight Olmo12 racepack and it was lovely.  The only exercise I managed to do through the week was lots of core strength training.  Watching telly whilst tying myself in knots so I’m not sofa surfing and adding to my curvy padding haha!!

No rock climbing, no sprint training and no distance running.  I was buzzing to go for a run by Saturday and I should have stayed indoors or done some gardening or something!! As usual I didn’t chill out the day before a 20 mile run.  I went for a tough 8 mile run that took in some of the hilliest bits I could manage from Asda in Bletchley to my door in Leighton Buzzard via Great Brickhill.  That definitely chilled me out for the evening and in my eyes boosted my weekend mileage up to what I wanted it to be. 

Sunday morning, Oakley 20 day, was chilly and my plan was to stay in a team with Julia and Emma from Leighton Fun Runners (lovely ladies).  We’re normally a similar pace and I was happy to stick together with them no matter what.  I had not done Oakley 20 before, last year was cancelled due to snow and very icy conditions, this year was chilly but at least the sun was shining.  The Oakley 20 is a two lap course, the first lap is 12 miles and the second lap is 8 miles. 

All three of us were having wardrobe nightmares at the start. Too hot, too cold, nothing felt right.  It was too late anyway because our bags were already dropped off and there was no quick way of getting to them now.  At least standing in the crowd at the start was warmer than being exposed to that cold cold wind.  The start gun goes and we’re off.  With open roads on the day it was a bit of a squeeze getting past some cars that didn’t want to wait for the main crowd to filter through from the start.  The marshals were doing their best to keep the runners safe, thank you marshal! I always try and thank every marshal in an event.  I really do appreciate they’re out there to keep us dopey runners safe when we’ve got our heads in the clouds. 

We’ve made it safely to mile 3 and the hills are starting to hurt Emma and Julia.  I’m determined to run every single hill so we start a relay race.  I run up the hill and walk at the top whilst they walk up the hill and catch me up running at the top.  It works really well throughout the course and I’m feeling pretty chuffed that I’ve kept up my personal challenge with the hills. 

The first lap was a tough cookie to crack with some long hills tackled.  We start to head back to the school to start our second lap and we’re discussing giving up or pushing on.  This is the time to quit.  Right where all our warm clothes are.  Julia is in pain with her hip and the hills are getting to be pure agony and Emma was not feeling the love of the event that day.  They were both hurting.  I felt a little guilty that I felt okay, my left knee was not enjoying my attempts of stomping up hills but I wanted to train it to get stronger.  Everything else felt fine.  It was very strange considering I’d purposefully tried to tire myself out the day before.  I got told a number of times to carry on without the lovely ladies but no.  My plan was to work as a team and that’s what I was going to do. 

The lovely ladies pushed on.  There was no quitting talk after passing the school point.  Heads down and pushing on to complete the next 8 mile lap.  I’d made sure I’d brought along food and more than enough water for myself.  There were very regular water stops but they didn’t seem to be at the right points for Emma.  My new task – water mule.  Go team Mule!    

We were now counting down the miles.  The scenery was unfamiliar for a while as we took a slightly different route but then we were back on familiar roads, we knew how far away the finish was.  I was eager to finish but I didn’t want to push the lovely ladies too much.  It was at mile 18 that I couldn’t help myself.  I reasoned that the lovely ladies could manage after this point and some senseless monster took over and I wanted so badly to finish.  Julia and Emma were very graceful in cheering me to go on.  My pace picked up and then I was flying.  Pushing and pushing until I was back at the school, then directed through the housing estate, corner after corner after corner….. Slightly disorientating.  One last corner and I’m in the field chasing down another runner in front of me.  “GO ON, YOU CAN DO IT, NEARLY THERE, ONE LAST PUSH, GOGOGOGOGOGOGOOOO!!!”  She gives me a confused look and cranks her pace up a gear and we’re both sprinting for the finish. 

3 hours 55 minutes.  Very chuffed with that.  I get my breath back then I realise I’ve left Julia and Emma, how could I have been so rude!!  I start to jog back to the entrance to the field.  I needn’t have worried.  There they were, pushing themselves for that last sprint to the finish.  Well done lovely ladies. 

Thank you Bedford Harriers – the Oakley 20 is a very lovely and challenging 20 miles.  The marshals were very helpful and encouraging – THANK YOU.  I’ll be back next year to see how fast I can go along that route.  I hope the weather will be just as kind next year. 

Happy running

Helen

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