Hurrying around the supermarket on a Friday night, I calmed the recurrent pre-race “What if I die?” niggle, and called my Dad. In my attempts to settle some of the nerves that were dampening the feeling of my Friday evening, I was failing.
“It’s alright, you’ve trained for tomorrow haven’t you?” He asked.
“Errrr….” I thought.
“Well, no. I’ve just been running.” Shit. What on earth was I doing.
On a last minute decision to run Country to Capital a fortnight earlier, calming words from friends had allowed me to iron out these fear filled creases, and look obliviously past the 40+ miles that lay ahead. Although now, I thought back to long runs that saw my legs up to September, and began to wonder whether these would be enough to get me through. The answer would be yes. When panic clouds your focus, it’s easy to forget that in many situations the biggest battles to overcome are in your own head, and being able to manage your situation. All I needed to do was chill. If worse came to worst, I could just stop, put out my thumb, and hitch a ride home.
On the train to the Chilterns, I began to feel much more at ease with the journey ahead, finding myself distracted by a cotton candy sunrise, and refreshed at how relaxed first time ultra marathoners Stephanie Muzzall and Laura Fountain were. We hurried to register, light snow began to fall, and before we knew it, we were off into the Wendover wilderness. Despite the race numbers, scatter of neon, and influx of adrenaline, it’s much easier to see races such as this as a ramble out in the countryside. The first 20 odd miles are reliant on a map and a basic knowledge of orienteering (of which, I’m no good at), so getting lost in the countryside is potentially on the cards. With this being said, my waning sense of direction and I were more than grateful to be offered an eye shot of people who appeared to know where they were going, after our starting pack had spread.
Within these country miles there were up-hills, down-hills, an unexpected blizzard, and some sunshine that shone through the trees lining this section of the race. I let my legs flow through the scenery, and spent a brief while with a lady called Elisabet Barnes, coming to learn that she was fourth lady last year. I find it so inspiring when the standard of a bar is raised higher, and instantly, and for me Elisabet’s finish did exactly that. With an hour off her previous PB, she completed the 42.5 mile course in sub 8 minute miles, coming home as first female with a new ladies record of 5 hours 37 – champion.
Near the close of an 18 mile stretch of canal towpath, I brought my mind back from wherever it had floated off to, and focused on the mileage on my watch slowly increasing. I waited eagerly for it to creep up to mile 39, knowing that I would have some mental relief, as one of my Brothers had offered to meet me here, and run me home. Upon reaching this point, and looking up to see familiar faces joined in a little running dream team, I felt an overwhelming urge to bomb it, though not knowing if my body would allow me to up it a notch and keep at that pace. For these 4 miles I repeatedly turned to my Boyfriend and threatened that I may throw up, or that I may stop, but, somehow, none of these things actually happened. Thanks to this boost and these people, I crossed the line as fourth female, a little bewildered, but happy.
Whilst I would not necessarily recommend running an ultra marathon on a whim, I would recommend throwing caution to the wind every once in a while, and setting your head, and your legs, free. In the end, that’s what this race felt like – balls to a training programme, I’m just going on an adventure – and, worry aside, it worked. 42 and a half miles and 6 hours 26 minutes of thinking, running, passing a scattering of sweet supporters, and just appreciating being a little moving dot on a big blue and green sphere – an adventure I bloody loved.
I’m raising funds for The Children’s Trust-