Sunday, 1 May 2016

A day of firsts.

I don't really know where to start with this blog entry.  I have so much that I want to write and I know I will forget to say something or muddle things up.  So grab yourself a cup of tea, because I think this might be a long one!

Yesterday was the inaugural 'Wickham Whistler,'  the first race organised by On The Whistle.  It was a timed challenge event rather than a traditional race.  The basic premise is that you have 6 hrs to complete as many laps (3.5 miles each) as you want.  You can complete one lap and still get a fantastic medal or you can carry on (and on).   This type of event is an awesome way for runners of all abilities to take part - everyone is a winner!  The venue was a winner too, taking place on the Meon Valley Trail which is a discussed railway line and very scenic.

We pitched up to the start area at about 8.30am, collected our numbers, 69 for me, 70 for Husbando (who quipped that he wants more than 69), and wandered into Wickham to grab some breakfast.  The Village Bakery was open so we grabbed a cheese and bacon pastry and a cup of coffee each and sat in the sun commenting on the fact that this probably wasn't the best pre-race nutrition strategy, but it was very tasty, and as we had some coffee left it might be a good idea to grab a Belgian bun too.  Having removed tell tale crumbs from our clothing we wandered back to the start area, said hello to a few people we recognised and waited for the race brief.  It was great to talk to Steve from Film My Run - I've seen him at several races, but this was the first time I'd actually 'met' him (his film of the race can be seen here).  The race was started, obviously, with the blowing of a whistle.

We ran out...
Husbando, having decided that he will run his first marathon in Paris next spring, decided that this would be the first time he had run a half marathon since he was 17!  Off we went with 148 other runners, on a lovely sunny morning.  The outward leg was ever so slightly up hill, the inbound leg ever so slightly down hill - not so much that, in the early stages, it had any noticeable impact on pace. When approaching an ultra my normal approach is to start slow, and get slower slowly.  But we were running a half marathon.  We set off at a comfortable pace - somewhere around the 8.40min/mile pace, chatting with runners near us, and generally having a lovely time.  I did a strip tease part way through the first lap - it was far too hot to be wearing a long sleeved top under my tshirt - thankfully I seem to have done this well away from anyone with a camera.  Back at 'base camp' we grabbed a drink and some sweets and then went out and did it all again (minus the strip tease)!
…and we ran back

I've been suffering with Morton's Neuroma, mainly in my left foot, but sometimes in the right one too.  This was a two footed pain day.  As long as I am careful, and stick to fairly smooth ground under my foot the pain is manageable, it is when I stand on a bumpy stone that it gets 'owy'!  This meant that, on a packed gravel path, I had to tread carefully.

At the end of lap 2 we realised we had covered 7 miles - so the laps were longer than advertised.  Suddenly Husbando wasn't just running his first marathon since he was a teenager (i.e. a very long time ago), he was also running his longest run ever.  We hit 10 miles in 1hr 25(ish) minutes, and the half marathon (13.1 miles) distance in 1hr 53mins - not a bad time, but not a great start to an ultra!  Husbando found the last lap tough going - groin pain was complained about at one point - but we still managed to pick up a bit of pace at the end of the lap to finish the '14 mile half marathon' in 2.01.23.  He rang the bell, and received his medal - I hung around for a few minutes for hugs and celebratory photos and another handful of Haribos before setting off on my own.
He's done it!

This is the bit I hadn't been looking forward to.  We'd spent the first 4 laps chatting to each other and having brief conversations with other runners as they ran in the other direction, but I was now very conscious that I was all by myself.  And I had at least another 14 miles to run.  I made a conscious effort to slow down, at 16.35miles I was lapped for the first time - we had a little chat as he ran past me - and I was aware that one of the 2 ladies in front of me had stopped running.  This event was not about 'winning,' but the competitive part of me couldn't help but think I might be the second lady.  At the end of lap 5, having collected yet another hair band from the very helpful children handing them out, I saw the other lady sitting by the aid station with a medal around her neck.  She'd run 17 miles and decided to call it quits.  Now all I had to do was to keep running and not get lapped by any of the women and I could get my name closer to the top of a results table than ever before.

Last lap selfie!
Where did I put the lap bands?
Half way through lap 6 I met up with Ian and Helen, and asked if I could run with them.  They explained that they were run/walking - 9 minutes running/1 minute walking, but I was welcome to join them.  We had a great time, talking about everything from hypnobirthing to Everest Base Camp and the miles flew by.  We had 'lunch' at the end of lap 7 - an extended stop at the aid station, where I tried to inhale as many Haribos as possible (lots) and we chatted with other runners.  Back on the course, the other runners looked to be having as much fun as we were, there was lots of encouraging exchanges and friendly banter.  I hit 26.3miles in 4hrs 19 minutes - not bad for a 'for the fun of it/messing around and stopping to pig out marathon!'  I was a lap ahead of Ian and Helen and had told them that I was going to do a marathon (28 miles) and then a victory lap.  I said that I would let them go ahead at this point as I was going to take it slowly 5 mins running/5 mins walking.  In the end I got bored 2 minutes into a walk break so decided to run for 10mins at walk for 2!  During my 'victory lap' I had my first ever compliment on my running style.  The lovely man who finished a lap ahead of everyone said that he was glad to have caught up with me as he wanted to tell me that I had an 'amazing running style!'  He said I looked so 'relaxed and fluid and comfortable!'  That made my day as I approached what I thought would be my last turnaround point and kept me going as I flew (=hobbled, swore as feet landed on sticky up stones that I couldn't work out how to avoid) towards the 31.5 mile mark where I planned to finish (time on my watch 5hrs 14mins) and there was Husbando!

I had every intention of stopping, I honestly did, but the naughty race director told me that I had loads of time to do another lap. 31.5 miles would be my longest run so would have been a great achievement, but 35 miles is a more pleasing number, and 10 laps sounds so much better than 9.  Husbando was still in his running gear (he'd been off to do some work and came back to pick me up) so I said we should walk the last lap together.  I started my Garmin again and off we went.   We started walking and then tried to run - I think I had stopped/walked for too long to run easily again, and Husbando was feeling the miles he'd done that morning too.   It was lovely to do one final lap - this lap was so quiet compared to the the previous laps.  Husbando and I took our time and took some photos, I still managed what felt like a sprint finish, but was probably more of a ponderous wobble, to the finish line and, finally, rang the 'I quit' bell.  Sweaty hugs all round - followed by a medal, some Haribos and a drink!   My watch said 6hrs 01min - but I knew that the eventual time would be a bit longer as I'd stopped it before the last lap, the results table shows me finishing in 6hrs 03mins and 55secs - I am more than happy with that!

This was an amazing day out.  I had worried that the backwards and forwards laps would be mind numbingly dull, but the runners and marshals were all so friendly that time just flew.  Breaking a marathon down into laps makes it much more manageable than counting individual miles (even when that marathon is 28 miles long!)  I haven't had so much fun running for a long time.  Most people I saw were laughing and smiling and running well all the way through the event.  The organisation was brilliant - a lovely low key event that was run by runners for runners.   Sadly I am on holiday when On The Whistle will be holding their next event, The World Emoji Day Run, but it looks like fun and the medals are going to be awesome.  I reckon this one will be a sell out too, just like yesterday's race.

Turn around scarecrow!


  1. That sounds brilliant fun!

  2. It was LB! We were very lucky with the weather. A few spots of rain during lap 8, but that was it - bright sunshine, but not too hot for the rest of the day.