We woke up to a beautiful late autumn morning, clear skies and frost. I de-iced the car, threw a couple of extra layers of clothing and some gloves into my race bag and set out to Staunton Country Park. It felt odd to be setting off by myself, but I didn't know of anyone else local to me who was taking part in this event. The day started well with me getting my favourite race number which I pinned onto my t-shirt underneath a couple of long sleeved layers. I was sure it would warm up as soon as we got running.
After a brief 'Elf & Safety' announcement we were under starters orders and raring to go at 9.30am. I'd remembered this course as being flat, which just goes to show that my memory is useless. We set off down a definite hill, on the sort of track that seems so popular in country parks, you know the sort with stones and bricks sticking out at odd, ankle twisting angles. Strangely these paths seem lovely when your legs and feet are just setting out, so long as you avoid the ankle twisting (I didn't), but get really painful to run on after 15 miles!
The start was busy. We were all in high spirits and the muddy bit about a third of a mile in was frozen solid at this stage. We soon spread out. I had no real plan for what I wanted to achieve today, I hadn't run more than 15 miles since Endure 24 back in June. I thought that I would run a half marathon and then see how I felt. That is three 4.6mile long laps at this event and I have to admit that I was pretty bored of the course by that point! I'd completed them in just over 2 hours, so had loads of time left (it is a 6hr challenge). I faffed around at the well stocked aid station and remembered that I had headphones in my race bag. That meant that I could listen to my audio book while I carried on. I'll be honest, as the day went on and people dropped out there were fewer and fewer people to chat with, the people I knew well enough to run with were either too fast for me or not there today so I was on my own for a lot of time.
I walked a lot. I ran the obviously downhill bits and then just enough to stop me from getting too cold. It never got warm enough to take off my extra layer although the repeated footfall through the muddy sections meant that they did thaw out and get nice and sticky! My feet and legs were complaining about this unexpected amount of work, they particularly hated the uphill section at the end of each lap and were more than happy to stop for Haribos and coke at the aid station before I coaxed them into another lap. My last lap was painfully slow, but running slowly means that you see amazing fungi that you missed on the first 5 laps, and because you are going so slowly anyway it doesn't matter if you faff around for 5 minutes trying to extract your phone from your pocket to grab a photo of the fungi.
At the end of my 6th lap, with 27.8 miles behind me, I had a brief, irrational thought that I had plenty of time to run another lap. Luckily it was fleeting and I rang the bell to announce that I was done before attempting to eat all the remaining food at the aid station and collect my medal and ginger bread man!
I am hoping that by taking it slow for the second half I won't suffer too much tomorrow. I'm doing a mental checklist of all the classes I have to teach and wondering how much I will be able to do while sitting down, the tutor team meeting at the bottom of the hill is going to be a tough one - I may have to get a head start to get to that one on time!
Great organisation, as ever, from On The Whistle! Low key and friendly with gorgeous bling at the end. Thanks guys!