The week before I had been on antibiotics to try and clear a touch of Tonsillitis and a head cold, I had made up my mind that if I didn't wake up coughing or spluttering I would run, I had been feeling better since the Thursday, but looking out the car at the rain lashing at the windows I did begin to wonder if maybe I was suffering with a fever for considering that this was a good day to attempt my longest ever run.
As we pulled into the car park at Fowlmead Country Park it became obvious this was not going to be quite as flat as we thought, The challenge information had said 19 metres of elavation, not hilly but undulating........ I had joked with Mark that I hoped this wasn't going to turn out to be just one big hill.......We could see the park cafe and then this steep slope up to the starting line/base station. Mark went and collected our numbers while I struggled to change into my running tights in the front of the car...*.note to self get dressed at home no matter how long the journey*
My strategy was still to use a run/walk ratio right from the start, I didn't care if everyone went off like a bullet. I was going to stick to my plan and just take it steady, after all 6 hours is nearly three hours longer than my longest run ever.
We listened to the event briefing, I set my trusty Gymboss to gently bleep and vibrate at each change of run/walk and my Garmin so I could keep a check on the elapsed time, then we were off. Lap 1 was pretty uneventful just trying to get my pace right and not freak out when everyone vanished and I was all alone trying to make sure I stayed to the route. I tried to register landmarks so I would know how I was doing on future laps.
Laps 2 & 3 were very wet the heavens opened and the trail was starting to get very churned up 64 runners sploshing over the same 3ft wide path led to some pretty quick sand type tracks not the ideal surface for Luna sandals even with injini socks........it was close to the end of lap 3 that I did my first of 2 spectacular Dawn French moments straight out of the Vicar of Dibley.......I'm sure you all know the scence where she jumps in a puddle only to find it comes up to her head............well I slipped and landed sideways up to my armpits in lovely muck.....as Fowlmead is an old coal mine the mud isn't really mud it's Black coal dust tiny tiny bits of grit that get everywhere like sand.........
My second fall came just a few yards further up the same part of the route on lap 4 and it was at this point I decided I was going to quit at the end of lap 5 a half marathon would be just fine............then the sun came out for the first time...........Mark caught up with me (well lapped me really) for a quick chat and that encouraged me to set a new plan, finish the 5 laps in the Luna sandals and then change into my trail shoes and just plod out whatever I could manage till the time was up.
After a change of shoes and a lump of cake I headed back out and finished a further 3 laps, On that last lap I tried to take in all the scenery and soak up the feelings of what for me was an amazing event, all those weeks and months of plodding along on training runs to increase my distance. All those nights where Mark had encouraged me to go faster or push myself harder. All the support from my husband who patiently puts up with my moaning and groaning. Just as I was off daydreaming in a world of my own I looked up to see Barry my husband coming along the path to cheer me on, we had a quick chat and he said Jaime (my future daughter in law) had gone on to the finish to get some photos of me crossing the line. By this time Mark had already finished an Ultra distance of 29 + miles but when he found out that I was going to be the last runner he ran back to run the last 100 meters with me to the finish.......
Yes I was last ....64th place......but I had also completed a fantastic 21.6 miles in 6 hours 9 mins and 27 seconds which put me in 42nd place for distance covered. I know it's slow and I may never be speedy but I will also never forget the fact that 15 months ago I could not run for 30 seconds........I am not disappointed with the result, but there is a little nagging voice that wants to know if I hadn't had two toilet stops (which you had to walk 100 yards downhill then go into the cafe to the loos) maybe just maybe I could of squeezed in another lap or 2 in the time allowed.......................guess we will find out next year
Before I sign off I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone that made this event possible - the organisers and volunteers were amazing but also my hubby Barry for putting up with me and driving us to and from the event, Jaime for putting up with my cranky mood and last but not least my son and running buddy Mark who tries his best to bring out the best in me.