So you know last week when I asked the question, “Should I count my ultra-marathon miles towards my 1000 mile challenge, knowing that I’m not going to run it all”? Sod it, I’m bloody well counting them!!
I am an ULTRA-RUNNER!!!!!!
Yesterday I took part in Day 2 of the XNRG Cotswolds Way Challenge. The full event, which my friend Chris completed, is a 57-mile ultra marathon trail run spread over two days. Having never run further than a half marathon before, and not being the biggest fan of off-road running (until now!!!) I didn’t think it would be wise to attempt both days, but each day could be booked individually, so me, Tom, and Chris’ girlfriend Amy all did Day 2. It should have only been about 31.5 miles, but I took a couple of, erm, unintentional detours, shall we say!
I’d been really nervous about this event for a little while – 30+ miles is a scary distance for someone who has never run more than 13.1, let alone being off road and VERY hilly! But I read a blog post yesterday in which the author described her first ultra marathon as “a 50k buffet with a bit of jogging in between”, which put a rather more positive spin on it! So, despite the early start – the alarm went off at 5.20am for a quick bowl of porridge I wasn’t hungry for – I was a ball of excited energy, which didn’t leave me all day!
We arrived in Bishop’s Cleeve just before 6.30am and met up with Chris and Amy at the start point, Cleeve Sports Centre. After pinning on our race numbers and grabbing a quick final drink, it was soon time for the briefing, and then, at 7am, the start! Chris waved us off at the start line – he went in the hardcore group starting an hour later.
And then we were off! Leaving the sports centre, we followed a short bit of road before turning onto the Cotswolds Way footpath, which we followed all the way until a few miles before the end. It’s all kind of blurred together in my mind a bit now, but the route was absolutely stunning with breathtaking views, lovely forest trails and a mixture of terrains to keep it interesting. It was incredibly hilly, but you don’t get to see amazing views like the one in the photo without a bit of a hill climb! I didn’t run the whole way of course, but I did run as much of it as I could, and was pleased with how much I managed! I finished the course in a time of 8 hours 45 minutes and 26 seconds, which I didn’t think was too bad at all really!
What really made the event special was the support of all the other runners/walkers and the organisers. Everyone was so friendly, welcoming and encouraging – it was like being part of a crazy little family! The helpers at each of the four checkpoints clapped and cheered as you arrived, topped up your water bottles for you, provided plenty of food and drink to keep you going, and sent you off with a cheer (and in some cases a hug!) towards the next phase. Likewise, all the other runners were happy and smiley, congratulated you and wished you well for the rest of the run. It was absolutely brilliant. The most amazing thing is – and I promise this is not just the runner’s high talking – I literally enjoyed every single minute of the event. There just wasn’t a time when I ever thought “I’m not enjoying this” or “I can’t do this”!
Tom sprained his ankle a couple of weeks ago, and although it now feels fine, he decided to walk the whole way instead of attempting any running. Still, he finished only half an hour after me – he’s like a flippin’ mountain goat, my hubby! Chris crossed the line a few minutes after Tom, which is bloody brilliant seeing as he started an hour later than us AND had run 27 miles the day before!! My friend Charis, who I used to work with and now lives in Stroud, came to see us at the finish line, which was lovely, and she bought us a very well-received pint in the pub as we waited for Amy to finish (we sat in the beer garden right at the end of the route so we could see her coming).
We’d decided to stay the night in Stroud to spend time with Chris and Amy before they headed back to London, so Charis kindly drove us to the pub/B&B we’d booked. We passed a very lovely evening drinking a few more beers and – since the pub kitchen was closed on Sunday evenings – eating the biggest and quite possibly best take-away pizza ever, completely guilt free: Fat Toni of Stroud, you rock!
Finally, that’s another 100 mile barrier broken on my 1000 mile challenge (smashed I think you could say, actually!), so I’ll be putting another £10 in my fundraising pot at https://www.justgiving.com/LisarunningforCALM. When I can walk properly again (ow, my quads!!), I will be resuming the challenge in earnest – and I don’t think I have any excuses not to book a road marathon now!! 😀