Monday, 15 September 2008

Shotley Peninsular 55 mile Challenge

This was my first run above 26.2 miles and it went surprisingly well, although to look at me now (2 days later) it’s hard to believe.

This was a run (not a race) with a difference. The event was organised superbly by the Essex & Herts. Long Distance Walking Association (LDWA), which supplied 8 pages (A4) of instructions of the route, which started at Holbrook in Suffolk. The route was as crude a route as you could find in those parts, consisting of roads, trails, public footpaths, beach (including scrambling over a fall tree blocking the way, through ploughed fields and across bogs and marsh areas, all at a pace that allowed me to read directions as i went.

The first group that went were the walkers, who left at 7.30; there were about 100 of these, and only 18 runners. We were allowed to leave from about 10.30 onwards and I started to catch the walkers after about 2 hours. Due to the nature of the course and the distance involved I decided that I would start steadily and not thrash the run, in fear of crashing before I got half-way. There were 10 checkpoints around the route all of which had various snacks and drinks, although these were hard to swallow having dried out towards the end of the day, and I had taken a few bits with me just in case.

I passed the marathon distance with a cheer, as I was now in new territory, and feeling good, feet were getting a bit sore, and I decided to change my socks at the next checkpoint, and take a good break (spent 1hr 30min in all at these points, so 10 mins each, and very glad I did). Once changed and refuelled with soup and a hot tea I was on my way again, passing 30 miles, passing 35 and still able to keep a good 11 min mile pace going. Psychologically I was fine, the distance wasn’t scaring me and at no point did if think I wish this was over (apart from the car journey home), I aimed to call Mandy at about 9pm to let her know when I hoped to finish, and hoped by this time I would only have 8 miles to go. And leaving checkpoint 8 in fading light I set off into a wood, to get to next point at the right time. This where the head torch came into its own, totally pitch black in the woods and with owls, foxes and who knows what else, but with the darkness came the reduced speed to the point where I was completely lost and only found my way back when I saw another runner coming in the opposite direction. Tagging onto him we head to checkpoint 9, where I phoned Mandy and said I hoped to finish about 11pm.

That was wishful thinking. Energy was fine and I was enjoying the nigh time scenery of Felixstowe docks (no honestly), and enjoying being out alone doing this. I had less than 10 miles to go and the final checkpoint stop was very quick as I want to get to that 50 mile mark. Once this was passed the energy started to drop a little and trotting became the quickest I could move, but I was determined not to stop now, and meeting up with another runner jogged the last 2 miles to finish in 13hours and 1 minute, but before midnight, which was my main aim.

Hot meal, great mug of tea and said my goodbyes to the organisers and headed home with a great satisfaction. I had achieved something I had dreaded in the previous weeks, but now I feel that I can get through anything if I try. Marathons should (?) be easier to get through with this mentally strength I have found and I can continue to the MdS happy that I am getting fitter and stronger with the training I am doing.

No comments: