I’ve never done a blog before or anything really recording my own personal thoughts. In my job I spend lots of time writing reports for others, often ‘ghost’ writing with other people’s views, so I’ll have to try and remember how to think for myself and be honest…
Yesterday, I took part in my first ultra-the Chiltern Challenge 50km. I was apprehensive it was fair to say. I was techy all week in the lead-up and worried about the heat. Dave & I arrived a bit later than expected at the start. The vibe was very different to a road race – smaller group all dressed like proper hard core runners – and everyone seemed to know each other. Luckily I spotted Frances (a friend from work) and Glenn from late group which made me feel better as even I knew people! We then all gathered in the school hall to listen to the official ‘briefing’ from the organiser. Can’t really remember anything he said but he seemed like he knew what he was doing which was reassuring. One woman asked if she could give someone special bags of provisions for each checkpoint, at which point a bit of laughter from everyone else as we were all carrying our kit (or so I thought until 5 mins into the race when I realised I had no food, no shotblocks as left these all in the car!).
It was hot, I was sweating buckets right from the start. What was great though was that there was no complaining from anyone, everyone was so positive, happy to be there. Had to make a mental effort to try and avoid saying anything slightly negative like ‘its really hot isn’t it?’.
Made it to checkpoint 1 and was unlike anything I’d experienced before. The first one was in an idyllic Bucks village with ducks wandering around and food options from sweets to sausage rolls. So civilized.
Running and walking in the blazing hot sun through field after field was amazing and tough. At one point I remember feeling so elated as I ran with soft wheat stalks rubbing against my legs. Later at mile 26 a simliar field left me shattered and I gave in, stopped and sat down. Very stupid I know. After about a minute I realised that there were runners approaching and it would be embarrassing if they saw me as there wasn’t actually anything wrong with me, I was just being pathetic, so I had better continue. I then started retching. Very unpleasant and unexpected but carried on and made it to the last checkpoint.
Thank you to the very nice photographer and checkpoint man who gave me his seat. I really wasn’t thinking straight, and when I told him I’d been sick I then panicked in my head at the thought of being taken off the course for not being well! This immediately made me stand back up again and attempt to look positive (not sure I succeeded entirely).
The last leg was actually fun in a weird way. I did some running as well as walking, and very grateful to my fellow runners for shouting at me when I went the wrong way. The countryside was stunning, the sun relentless (forecast was for thunderstorms but they never arrived), the comradery excellent.
I made the effort to run the last 1 km and finished just under 7h 30 for 32 miles. Finishing was brilliant but so unlike what I was expecting. I’d used up all my emotion on the course when I felt sorry for myself at mile 26 and sat down. I was simply happy, content and so grateful for being able to lie down on a patch of grass with a can of coke. Then my phone rang. It was Dave, my husband, he sounded seriously miserable. He had got lost, ran an extra 6 miles and was back at the last checkpoint with another 6 miles to go.
I put the phone down and weighed up if I should (a) continue to sit on the soft cool grass and relax (b) go back for him in the relentless heat. I decided the latter as it was our wedding anniversary weekend afterall and I felt slightly guilty that I’d gone ahead. I slowly jogged back, having to explain to each runner i passed that no I was not injured or insane for going the wrong way just going to meet someone. We eventually met half way through a field and walked back together.
It was an emotional experience in a way uncompariable to any road marathon. It felt odd to be walking sections and my time was incredibly slow to my road marathon pace, but I finished and very happy I did it. Will I do another ultra? Definitely!