2nd January, New Years hangovers behind us, calves a bit tight from running Brutal 10 on New Years eve, it was time for the first race of the year.
Phil and I were heading to nearby Winchelsea to take part in We Run, They Run, I Run’s Winchelsea Chase. Back in September we had done their first event, which was the same format as this race, just starting at the other end of the course in Rye and enjoyed it, so jumped at the chance of giving it another go, while getting 2017 off to a good start.
The idea of this race is simple, a 5.35mile out and back loop at the Rye nature reserve, to complete the race you have to do one lap, but you are given a 6 hour time limit and run as many laps as you want to/are able to in that time. At the end of each lap you have your wristband marked and when you decide you’re done, you honk the hooter and have your time and laps recorded. This makes this race a mental battle as well as a physical one, as there is no set finish, and you have to decided at what point you will stop.
Last time Phil had run 4 laps, and only stopped because he had to go off and play a hockey match, and I had managed 3 laps, my body hurting too much to continue. When we signed up to do it again, I had every intention of training properly for it, I downloaded a marathon training guide, hoping for the 5 laps that would mean I had run my first marathon. Sadly I had a spate of injuries which meant that far from training properly for this race, I had in fact trained less than normal, with very few runs, and none of any significant distance. The furthest I had run in the two months before this race was actually the Brutal 10 race on New Years Eve, clocking in at 9.61miles according to my Garmin.
I set off, making a conscious effort to keep my pace down, this could literally be a marathon not a sprint, deciding that I would do two laps straight off, before stopping to check out the re-fuel station. Lap one was comfortable, I got my band marked, had a gulp of water, then set straight off for lap two. The route was pleasant, along the smooth flat path next to the sea in the nature reserve, at the top end we veered off the path onto some shingle paths, dodging puddles, then down a bank onto a section of grass, this was slippery with mud, it made me smile as I skidded about, thinking about my first couple of OCR’s in normal trainers, how had I ever managed without trail shoes? This section ended with a muddy bank to scramble up, before looping back round and onto the proper path again back down to the start. I couldn’t help but wonder how much more muddy and slippery that section would become after a few laps!
At the end of my second lap I paused my watch and went to shovel in a few jelly babies, there were some small niggly pains in my legs where I’ve had previous injuries, but I felt stronger at this point than I had last time, I was ready for a third lap which meant I would at least equal my last attempt, which was still my longest run to date. I snapped a quick sweaty selfie and shoved it on facebook, crammed my phone back into the flipbelt round my waist, unpaused the Garmin, and set off for lap 3.
Lap 3 was OK, my legs were aching more, some of those niggles feeling a bit sharper, but mentally I was doing well, this is usually my undoing, but I was determined to keep a positive mental attitude! At the end of my third lap, I grabbed some more jelly babies, chocolate buttons and jelly beans, and got ready to head out for lap 4. Another quick pic and update, I had a quick scan of my notifications, the comments telling me to keep it up were really motivating and I was glad I had decided to take the time, I felt accountable now, I had to keep going. Every step I ran now was further than I had ever run before. The nature reserve was getting busier with people taking advantage of the bank holiday sunshine, dog walkers, kids on bikes, big family groups, there were a few hasty stops and a lot of weaving around, and at one point a very narrow escape from a small child who lost control of her bike!
At the end of lap 4 I was really starting to hurt, I’d run over 21 miles already, but one more lap would make the marathon. Another quick re-fuel, another quick update, I was less sure now that I would complete the 5th lap, my legs were giving up. My 5th lap did involve some walking intervals, and every step was painful now, but I pushed on, I had got this far, I wasn’t going to quit. I was nearing the 26 mile mark, and tried my hardest to pick up the pace a little bit, so as to keep my time inside 4hours and 15mins. It was agony but I just managed it, 4h14m57s, I wasn’t quite finished yet though, there was still a bit of a way to go to get back to the finish. After another little walk, I decided I wanted to finish running, as strong as I was able, so I gave it everything I had left to run it in to the finish, and honking the horn to signal that I was done. 27.14 miles, done!
I went to find Phil, who had also completed 5 laps, and had finished before me, and gratefully received the promised hot soup for finishing. We were both ruined, and getting down the step from the hut was comical. One of the race organisers asking us who was going to cook the dinner in our house that night (The take-away guys was my answer). As a side note, it’s probably best as a couple not to run a random marathon, on the same day, when neither of you are all that well prepared for it! 😉
I’m really proud of my achievement, not least because I didn’t give up, something I’ve been doing on a regular basis while running for months now. When I finished it occurred to me that the only thing that had stopped me was the pain in my legs, a similar thing that had happened to me after my first half marathon (that I had also not trained properly for), so I’m reasonably confident that if I trained my legs properly for that kind of distance, I could knock a chunk of time off what I achieved at this race, as well as knowing if I ran an actual marathon, I probably wouldn’t have to weave around stray dogs and small children! Whether I ever will try a “proper” marathon or not I don’t know, I’m not sure marathon running is for me, but running that distance can now be checked off the bucket list and I would definitely do this race again… next time, 6 laps?