Last year I had my first DNF at this race, I screwed up big time and didn't enjoy it right from the beginning, my race ended by getting timed out at CP5 and although I was devastated I was glad to stop.
Fast forward to this years race...
I was looking forward to getting back out there and trying again, I trained hard and had run the whole route in sections over the past few months including doing some in the dark, I'd hopefully learnt from last years experience, so all I needed to do was keep my head strong, focused and get it done.
Richard and family delivered me safely and unstressed to the start where I registered and then just chilled in the sunshine, I was nervous but kept calm, ate my pre race food and willed it to be 6pm!
After a race brief from Lindley we were on our way, 10.9 miles to the first checkpoint, my race plan was to only think about the distance to each checkpoint, not the whole distance. So a nice evening run to Hockley Woods it was. I started out a little quick but the first couple of miles are easy running so went with it, the sun was shining and all was good. I wanted to run as hard as I could till it was dark and then slow down a bit so I didn't make navigational errors in the night. I reached the first check point in just under 2:15 hours and was happy enough. Maxine offered to fill my water bottles and I realised with horror they were both still practically full, I hadn't eaten much either. I knew I needed to sort this out pretty quickly if I wanted to finish the race so tried to get back to my usual strategy of eating/drinking every 2 miles.
Leg two was just under 7 miles and again perfectly runnable, all was going well until I was struck with awful stomach cramps, I slowed down and worried how on earth I could run feeling like that. Fortunately after about 3 miles they went as quickly as they started and didn't bother me again. I reached checkpoint 2 at Battlesbridge not far off the time I wanted and feeling ok. I still hadn't eaten much and asked Maxine to fill a sandwich bag I had with me so I could walk and eat as I didn't want to stop for too long. It was almost dark by now and head torch time!
Leg 3 is where it really fell apart for me last year but no such problems this time, navigation was going well. I was on my own and had been since Hadleigh, there was three people behind me including Ian and Simon who were sweeping, so I expected I would run on my own for most of the race. Mentally I felt good and I was enjoying myself. I can't remember where exactly but a whole family were outside their house on that leg and clapped and cheered me through! I made it through the creepy graveyard and onto CP3 feeling strong. I was now well inside cut off times.
Leg 4 would take me through Chelmsford and I was slightly worried about running through the city at what could possibly be pub/club chucking out time but all was good and I was half way into the race. I stopped in the park as my Garmin had died and I had Richard's in my pack so I swapped them over and found some different food. I was feeling a little sleepy and looked forward to reaching CP4, where my sister, Michelle, was volunteering and had lucozade for me. I really needed some caffeine. Then I had the most surreal experience of the whole race, a man appeared asking if I was ok. He'd been following the online tracker and living very close to the course was supporting the runners. He said he had coffee and gels at the next bench, as we approached the bench another figure appeared, my brain was saying 'look it's Dan' but it didn't make sense, it was nearly 3am, why were people in the park at that time? I had no idea at that time how many people were losing a nights sleep watching the tracker and supporting me, Dan thank you so much for coming out to see me it was amazing and to Andy for being brilliant, seeing I made it safely through Chelmsford and that coffee was the best coffee ever!
I arrived at CP4 about 3:15am and it was great to see Michelle and Dan. I was still feeling good and was having the best time! I did get slightly overexcited about a tub of strawberry custard, amazing what is appetising at that time of the morning, it was one of the few things I actually enjoyed eating during the whole race. I knew the next leg quite well and knew I only had about an hour of darkness left all was good and I still well ahead of cut off times.
I laughed when I got to Great Waltham as I remembered phoning Lindley last year and telling him I'd had enough, I nearly text him this year to say I was having a great time but my phone was in my pack and I didn't want to stop! I sang to myself and chatted to the cows as I ran, it was only a very slow run but it was running and the miles ticked past, the head torch was put away and I was still having fun. As I ran into Felsted, John appeared to offer some support and see how I was doing, thank you John was much appreciated. I had a text from my son about 4am saying 'your legs might hurt but you're still as strong mentally as when you started' it was perfectly timed and a real boost, thanks Ben. I was looking forward to CP5 for many reasons:
1. Rich, Len and Dan would be there.
3. I wasn't going to get timed out there this year.
I arrived at CP5 at about 6:30am (I think) that was two and a half hours quicker than last year and I didn't feel I was moving very fast. It was a massive boost and just the best CP ever, the bacon sandwich was great and Rich, Len and Dan you are just the best friends a girl could have, thank you. As much as I would have loved to stay longer I knew I needed to keep moving so bacon sandwich in hand, hugs gratefully received I set off again, less than a marathon to go. A little voice in my head already saying yes you're going to do this!
Next stop would be Tilty church and I knew Michelle would be manning that one, less than eight miles that wasn't much! Legs were hurting now but all was good! I ran/walked/shuffled along, it rained a bit but it was quite refreshing. The closed footbridge didn't collapse when I crossed it and it was an enjoyable leg that I knew quite well so didn't require as much concentration to navigate. Grapes and bananas was all I could manage to eat but was enough to keep me going. The weather had brightened up and there was just over 15 miles left, I really was going to do this!
The next leg isn't my favourite though the overgrown fields weren't quite as bad as when I ran them a few weeks before. I was walking a bit more but still managing to run downhill but it just seems to take forever to get to Newport, I had known all the way if I could make it to Newport then it was in the bag. So arriving at CP7 was the best feeling. I felt as though I had blisters forming under my big toes but decided just to get through the last 4.9 miles and sort them at the finish. Chris and Liz were at this CP and there was custard (never had a thing for custard before this race!!). Was great to see Chris thanks for making the last CP a good one.
The last leg...
My feet hurt, maybe I should have sorted the blisters but I ignored the pain as much as possible, I just wanted to finish. I cursed the last few hills but tried to find some sort of speed, there wasn't much! Going through the gates at Audley End I knew I was almost done and had a small emotional moment. Just a little further through Saffron Walden to the common and there it was... the finish, Michelle, Richard, Holly, Becky and Chris had all come to see me finish, Lindley presented my medal and it was the perfect end to an amazing race.
It didn't really sink in till this morning that I had done it, it was amazing, I loved it from start to finish and I haven't stopped smiling yet!
Thank you to Lindley, Maxine and all the volunteers at Challenge Running, I couldn't have been looked after any better.
Well done to the other runners I didn't see much of you but you were all awesome.
Sorry to those friends/family who lost sleep because of the tracker but thanks for supporting virtually!
Special thanks to Richard, Holly, Becky, James, Michelle, Len, Dan, Chris and John for giving up some/all of your weekend to support me, I am really very lucky to have such amazing friends, love you all.
Abbi, Ben, Mum and everyone else who sent messages and have sponsored me thank you too.
Have an amazing week and happy running xx