Why? (I’m still not sure...)
So it turns out, that running a long way is quite tiring.
It has taken me two weeks to feel like I’ve nearly recovered from the 63km ultramarathon. It was only meant to be 60km, but I think we must have taken a few wrong turns along the way. The route was from Otley to Pately Bridge and back again, all off road, across fields, up hills and generally running around the glorious countryside. It was one from the Punk Panther series called “A bridge too far”.
The golden rule for any race is “don’t try anything new on race day”, and the last thing I wanted was to wear something new that rubbed or hurt after a few miles. So as well as preparing by training hard, I made sure I was using kit that I had tried and tested. My SKINS long tights and shorts both worked well, and as I knew the run was going to be out running for most of the day I wanted as many of my muscles to feel the compression support as possible so went for the long tights. I was pleased I did, my muscles felt good and didn’t seize up and the whole race took me over 10 hours – although maybe I’ll choose a flat race next time... :D
I was running it with a running buddy who is always great company. This combined with amazing scenery and weather made for a really fun first 15km, and had the race stopped then I would have signed up for another one straight away! Unfortunately, I then started to feel queasy. At the same time I realised we had been running for over 2 hours and we were only a quarter of the way there...but also..that there was no way I was going to give up. The next few kilometres felt like they took forever. I knew there were going to be mentally tough parts along the way, but I had hoped they would come later on. I had been warned about this by experienced ultra runners, so I had some mind games ready to play, but the only one that worked was slowly counting my breaths. I got to over 600 before I was ready to enjoy the scenery again.
The marshals at each checkpoint were all very encouraging and supportive. Some even let me sit on their chairs – temporarily, before sending me on my way again. :D I had taken food in my bag, but I was already sick of it. So at each checkpoint I filled up on jaffa cakes, marshmallows and - I hate to admit this next part – cola, which turned out to do the trick and spurred me on. By half way I think I was enjoying it again, although I might be looking back at it with rose tinted glasses.
Finally, my watch said 60km, which was bitter sweet. We had completed the distance, but we had not yet reached the finish! Not knowing how far was actually left was possibly the worst part. We were exhausted, and shuffling - you couldn’t call what we were doing at this point “running”. Shuffling one step in front of the other. That’s all we could do. But there was no way we were giving up. This last section was along a long grey road. A far cry from the gorgeous scenery that had kept us going throughout the race. I have never been so pleased and relived to see the word “Finish” written on a sign, I didn’t even have the energy to cry. I stopped my watch. 63km (39miles). I have officially run an ultra marathon, and I have the t-shirt and medal to prove it. :D
But...as with all races, it doesn’t take long before you forget just how hard it was, and you’re already thinking about the next one...