it’s been a while since the last entry…. Part 1
So what have you missed I hear you say? Well… Not a great deal to be honest lol
Ok, that’s a tiny fib as of course I’ve done a little bit of running and entered a couple of races.
Punchbowl 30, a few XC’s, St Peter’s Way 45, Essex 20, Colchester and Brentwood Half Marathons…
My training for my main race of the year (SDW100) had to date gone pretty much to plan and I was slowly starting to get faster which was my main goal. Well then things change don’t they! Things at work were starting to get quite busy and at home we’d decided to move house and that was meaning DIY during every spare moment.
The above combined with a few minor injuries stopped the progress I was making like hitting the wall during a race! I ran the LWDA Punchbowl 30 with Darren Coates and although we didn’t go mad, He’s a lot faster than me and I struggled but still scrapped a 30 mile race PB. The problem was that I also picked up a repeat of an old ankle/shin issue from over use. This meant running proved more than a little painful.
A couple of low key XC events mixed things up a little and as the distance was relatively short I didn’t feel too bad although I did run to/from these events and that probably was “taking the mick” a tad?
St Peter’s Way ultra
Next up was Challenge Running’s St Peter’s Way ultra. Starting in Ongar Essex, this 45 mile route takes you through some decent rolling Essex countryside all the way to the coast. This was an event I’d supported before and I was looking forward to experiencing one of the county’s main path systems.
Darren Coates and myself had volunteered to be tail runners for the whole distance and I have to admit I didn’t truly know what to expect as I’d not done this before. These event are gear of all levels of experience from the elite to the beginner.
The year before I’d helped at an aid station and everyone was well inside this cut off time so I did think it wouldn’t be that long a day? We signed in at the start and after the briefings the main pack were off. We gave it a few minutes then decided to jog slowly keeping just behind the back of the pack.
We soon realised that we might have given the pack a little too much space as we could barely see the runners on the horizon as little yellow dots cutting along field edges. They all disappeared again and we decided to floor it for a while and try and catch them up. The going was still a little moist in places so as well as the GPS route, written description AND maps, we could actually follow the footprints of the main group but suddenly….. NOTHING!
We were standing in the middle of a field and could probably see a couple of miles but nothing!, no runners and also no footprints, how can you lose nearly 200 runners? We were on the St Peters Way as we stood next to a marker post and the GPS was even bang on so what had happened? Darren had the written instructions (this isn’t meant to indicate blame, honestly) and reread them “follow path then at junction ignore marker past and turn left” oops!
Anyone that’s ever taken part in narrative trail races has probably done the same and skipped a paragraph or missed the section as it was covered by your thumb? Oh well, with a little investigation we’d realised where we’d gone wrong and also worked out that we’d end up back on track if we continued where we were heading so we set off once again.
Within a few minutes normal service was resumed and we could see the footprints once more. We still didn’t have eye contact with anyone so we once again increased the speed and followed the description until there they were! We’d covered only 5 or 6 miles and weren’t even at the first aid station when we could see a couple of people about 400 metres in front standing still looking at their instructions. We quickly ducked down behind some trees. We weren’t sure if these guys were even actually in the event but we took our duties seriously and took no chances.
This game of cat and mouse continued for the first half of the race and we entered each aid station safely knowing we hadn’t been seen! On the subject of aid… I must say the efforts of Karen Webber, Sue and the rest of Lindley’s team stepped up again delivering so much food I didn’t know I could eat so much!
Well our plan was going well until the guys in front were suddenly gone and from what we could see they couldn’t have lost us by increasing the pace as we could see quite a way in front? We stood scratching our heads for a second then decided there was nothing to do but carry on. All seemed well until from our flank we were greeted by our friends! They explained that they had made a wrong turn and that they were trying to get back on course. We tried to play it cool but they guessed we were the sweepers but we told them they had time to spare as we decided to stop for a little admin time, this gave them a chance to pull away again. It transpires that one of the guys was new to ultras and this was way beyond what he’d tried before. In some event’s he’d been “cut off” but the events are very user friendly and we explained that if they just kept going, they be ok!
Well fast forward along the rolling countryside eventually to the first sea wall at Mayland and everyone seemed happy. The team in front were keeping pretty good pace well within the times needed and we were casually following. I have to say I’m in awe for these guys as they dug so deep and were well out of their comfort zones but wouldn’t give up even when we approached the final section of seawall in Bradwall within a couple of miles of the finish in the dark.
They strode into the chapel beaming and we follow shortly behind. I was honoured to shake their hands and it was a nice touch for me and Darren to get a medal, shirt and a finish time and it was the end of a hard day’s work. I started the event thinking this would be a piece of cake but finished with a respect for sweepers / tail runners as the amount of time on feet certainly takes it out of you!
Next up… Back on the road again…