Why did I enter a half marathon with the word ‘hard’ in the title? This question popped in to my head frequently during yesterdays run. The reasons were as follows..
- I wanted to do a trail half, never done one before
- Good training for VLM
- Great training for The Grizzly
- I loved the course description on the web site
‘The warm-up is a 5 mile section of good old-fashioned hard hilly running’, ‘An undulating route back to Doynton village will give you stunning views and a chance to get your breath back’, ‘It’s hilly, it’s muddy, it will probably be quite cold (it’s in January). The scenery is terrific and the terrain varies wildly’ and ‘It mostly takes place on public footpaths, bridle paths, and country lanes thick with mud. Through rivers swollen with winter rain and over hills with hellish climbs and wicked descents. In fields, forests, farm tracks and forgotten footpaths. Add in old bridges, a quarry, a churchyard, a secret glade (this is true; it really is secret) topped off with some magnificent views’
Who could resist such a write up?
It is a very accurate description – except for the bit about being cold in January, it was mild and perfect running conditions, although underfoot less than perfect!
As per elevation map which can be seen here, the first section was the toughest. Nothing however could prepare you for the mud. Having climbed up the first hill, it was time to head back down, unfortunately the down was across a mud fest, in case you think I am exaggerating please watch for yourself here. Like many others, I lost a trainer here, retrieving it and putting it back on was interesting, all the time I was worried that I would get stuck! I opted to keep left and use the barbed wire fence for help.
If you read Part One you will know I was worried about the cut off times and really did not want to be pulled off the course. At mile 3 I glanced at my watch. 35 minutes. 20 minutes to cut off, 2 miles to go, panic struck. I’m not going to make it. Running messes with my brain functions. By mile 4 I realised the cut off was at 75 minutes, not 55 minutes, I had plenty of time……. and breathe!
At 5 miles we were back in the village and ran through the churchyard, where we needed to jump off the church wall, I peered over the side, gasped at the drop (3ft) turned around and flopped over. To my horror on I turned to see a photographer, “please tell me you did not capture that on camera” I shouted!
We ran across more muddy fields than I care to remember, with thick stick to your trainer mud, creating heavy, large trainers, making them almost impossible to run in and certainly sapping energy from your legs. We crossed through knee deep water four times, clambered over styles of every shape and size, passed through kissing gates aplenty, plodded through woodlands, ran the occasional road stretch and when we could glanced some great scenery.
Around mile 10 I went past a walking runner and said something like ‘well done, keep going’. To which he replied ‘I think I have hit the wall’. I stopped. ‘Do you want some haribo?’ I asked. Out came the packet, he helped himself, thanked me and off I went. Two miles later he sailed past me!!! Cheek!
It was a very challenging run. It did not kill me (though my legs may disagree with this today!), and I am sure it had made me stronger. The organisation was faultless, the marshals (all 70 of them) were amazing from the car parking, to those standing in mud for hours, to the water givers, chip removers, cake bakers, tea brewers and goodie back givers. Each and every one of them made this inaugural event amazing, to say nothing of the spectators on the way, their cheering really helped. Thanks to everyone.
Next year I hope to return, with my shoes tied tighter.
(The icing on the cake for me was the haribo receiver, coming over at the finish and telling me that I was a wonderful human being and without those sweets he would not have made it to the end! What a lovely thing for him to say, runners are fab.)