Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Great Notley parkrun core team does St Peters Way Ultra...

A year ago I ran my second St Peters Way Ultra, friends Len and Richard were waiting at the finish line and mentioned they were going to run it next year, Now I'm sure they won't mind me saying I was sceptical, Rich wasn't a fan of mud and trails and Len had yet to run his first marathon! But I was wrong, something about me coming out of the gloom and up to the finish line at the chapel had stayed with them! So on Sunday, along with John who had said he fancied it too, the four of us were on the start line ready to run 45 miles from Chipping Ongar to the Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell.

We had run the route in sections over the previous months and having run the race twice before I wasn't going to repeat last years navigational errors and I was prepared, and had prepared the guys, for the mud!! My tales of the last two years being ankle deep mud for most of the route had been told but a drier winter meant that there was very little mud and the route was much more runnable than previous years. (Think it was only me that was disappointed by the lack of mud!)

We started well and the first leg flew past and we arrived at CP1 ahead of schedule which did mean John and Len missed seeing their wives, but Dan was there and I was able to have my custard pot (custard is now my ultra food of choice!!). Dan, Paula, Vanessa, Holly, James and Becky spent their Sunday driving across Essex supporting us at CPs and generally being awesome. Thank you to all of you.

Leg two we maintained our pace and everyone was in good spirits, we had some photo stops, coaxed John through the tunnel of doom, Richard managed to not bang his head, or electrocute himself as he had when we last ran that leg, and I was having a great run, I felt good physically and mentally which I was pleased about and we arrived in Haningfield and CP2 still ahead of schedule, our support crews were waiting, we refuelled and were quickly on our way and heading for Purleigh.

Serious ultra runners at work!

Leg 3 we slowed a bit but we were maintaining a good pace and everyone still seemed happy, actually nobody really complained all day, there were quiet spells but we dug in and kept moving and we worked well as a team. I really like this leg of the race, the scenery is beautiful and you know when you get to Purleigh you are over half way. We were lucky with the weather and although a little chilly it was a lovely day for running. We had our friends Ruth and Gareth manning CP3 and with Gareth being an Ireland rugby supporter, it would have been rude not to serenade him with some 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariots' after Saturdays result in the Six Nations! We also grabbed a hot drink at Purleigh (thanks Holly).

Check Point 3

Legs 4 and 5 can be quite bleak as you head towards the coast, we were run/walking now but always moving forward. Being with the guys and really wanting them to make it to the finish line of their first ultra meant I didn't ever slip into the negativity that can happen to me when I start to tire. I have finally got my nutrition and hydration sorted for these events, and although I seemed to eat much more than the others, I know that's what I need to do and I really did stick to it and felt good all through the day. The run through Steeple village always seems to go on forever but on reaching CP4 you know there is only 8 miles left and you are going to make the finish. Although Len didn't say as much I could see he was having to dig deep and was in some discomfort and we spent a few minutes at the CP getting prepared for the final push to the end.
The temperature dropped quite substantially and we all donned our waterproof jackets and I added a hat when we hit the see wall and the final two miles. I love and hate those final two miles along the coast in equal amounts, you know you have it in the bag but that Chapel never seems to get any closer!! 
During the final leg there was some talk of me pushing on ahead and trying for a new PB and I did consider it briefly, but it wasn't about the PB. This journey with Len, Rich and John had started a year ago and being with them to cross the finish line meant so much more than any PB. I can honestly say it was one of my happiest and proudest running moments.

Reaching the finish line
We finished in 10 hours and 22 minutes which was a great time. Len, John and Rich you were the best running buddies to share the day with. I thoroughly enjoyed every step and hope you did too. I will keep saying this but I am immensely proud of you all and honoured to have shared your journey into ultra running.

Proud and happy medal picture
Thank you to Lindley and Maxine at Challenge Running for another brilliant event (though you need to get the mud back next year!!) and thanks to all the checkpoint staff who gave up their day to keep us runners fed, watered and motivated. You were all amazing and we can't do it without your support.
Again thanks to Dan, Paula, Vanessa, Holly, James and Becky for supporting us throughout the day.

I did say this would probably be my last St Peters Way Ultra but I know there is a sub 10 in me so I will be back again next year!!

Happy running xx

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