For most couples valentines day probably means a day spent spooning with your significant other, a nice dinner, being spoiled with gifts, chocolate, champagne, or this year, since it was a Tuesday a quick exchange of cards before heading off to work, but for my husband and I, this year, we were doing it a little differently.
There was indeed the early exchange of sentimental cards (mine to him a picture of a plug with the imaginative caption “you turn me on” and his a joke about nothing coming between us, except an i-pad, yeah we’re romantic!), an exchange of thoughtful gifts (from him, I’m rubbish at gifts) followed by an early exit from the flat, but it wasn’t to work we were travelling, but to a race.
We were travelling to Gravesend in Kent to take part in a 6 hour running event, which consisted of a 5.25 mile lap along a cycle route based at a Cyclopark. One complete lap means you have completed the race, and you can do as many laps as you want to within the 6 hour time frame, 5 being a full marathon.
When you arrive you are given your number and a laminated card that is punched every time you complete a lap, and there is a bell to ring once you have had enough. After a short race briefing explaining the route we were off. Considering it was a Tuesday it was a well attended event, with a fair number of people streaming out of the car park start/finish point and down the short hill onto the cycle path we would be running along.
The route took us up a shallow hill to start with, along a fairly straight path until you reached a gate, where you turned around and went back the way you came, you then carried on past the turn off to the start point, along past the cyclopark building and down another path that finished with a small section of woodland trail, ending at another gate, where again you turned around and went back on yourself, this time turning up the hill back into the car park to complete the lap. Once your card was punched you could visit the aid station which was well stocked with cake and jelly babies before heading out on another loop.
Phil was aiming to run a full marathon, but I was taking it a lap at a time, as I have been suffering with a very painful knee injury, although I did quietly hope I could complete 3 laps, which would be a little over a half-marathon. It became quickly clear on lap one however that I wouldn’t be doing many laps this race, my knee was hurting from the get go, despite having felt a bit better in the week leading up to the race. I couldn’t bring myself to stop at one lap though, having come all that way, and knowing that Phil would still be running for a few hours, so I headed out for a second lap.
The course wasn’t the most interesting that I have run, I tried to tune into the music I had pumping from my i-pod rather than focusing on the pain in my knee, which was quickly spreading up to my hip, and as I turned around at the second gate I knew it would be stupid to go out for a third lap. I was relieved to come up to the finish point and ring the bell, where I was handed my huge medal and amazing goody bag! Saxons, Normans and Vikings claim when you sign up that they give you “a proper goody bag” at the end of your race, and they weren’t kidding. A bottle of beer, crisps and lots of chocolate!
I went down to the car, put on some warmer clothes then went to watch Phil complete his race. By the time I got back to the start he was about to set off on lap 4. He had been flying around the course while I was still running, around the 4th fastest person out there at that point. I settled down on a barrier and watched everyone carry on, waiting for Phil to come back past me, he was starting to struggle now, fighting through cramp in his legs. I gave him a bit of a calf rub as he prepared to go out for his fifth and final lap, adopting a run, walk, run approach to get round.
Despite finding his final lap a struggle, he still managed to knock 10 mins off his Marathon PB, set in January at a similar type race, and keeping it well under the 4 hour mark. I’m very proud of him!
Both feeling a little worse for wear, we eventually headed home, for our romantic valentines evening of a take away pizza, our goody bag beers and chocolate, and a few glasses of champagne (well it WAS valentines day after all!)