January 14th saw my first event of the year, the Winter Cakeathon run by SVN events (visit their site at http://www.saxon-shore.com - wonderfully relaxed events, friendly team, awesome medals and the best goody bags ever!). It was a 6-hour challenge event in Betteshanger Country Park in Kent: each lap 4.4 miles, punctuated by cakes and other delicious offerings at the end of each one (made by both the organisers and the runners). Run as far as you want / can in the time.
After a heavy year in 2016 I had had a rest in December - much needed, but not the best planning for a year that starts with 6 hours of running...! I'd kept the running going but slow pace and shorter distances of 10-13 miles for long runs. The plan - to take it easy and see what happened; run / walk if necessary and aim for marathon distance if possible.
So, on a bitterly cold but sunny January Saturday morning I shivered along with a couple of hundred others, including my wonderful running buddy Julie and a few others from Run MND, hoping that the rest had done my legs some good and they could keep me going for 6 hours.
Betteshanger Country Park is a lovely place and is fairly flat - but not completely flat. A
couple of short grinds were hard work, and I looked forward to them less and less as each lap went by. On the positive side though, there were gentle downhills to compensate. Really going to have to get used to some hills somewhere. A mixture of trail and path, an icy start at 9.30 turned into a far more muddy affair once tens of dozens of people had run over them a few times, and we felt sorry for those who would be taking part in the Chocathon the next day once we had really churned the route up!
So, how did it go? The first 4 laps were pretty good, though slow as predicted, then I started to really struggle with a glutes / hamstring problem I've been carrying for a while. Yes, I stretch and get a regular massage but just when I thought it had improved it reared (no pun intended) its head again. Boo. Note to self: get a recommendation for a physio
and make a bloomin' appointment!! Some of the route doubled back on itself so each lap we'd see lots of others coming in the opposite direction and could offer each other supportive grins or grimaces, thumbs up or hugs (for those we knew, not random strangers...) which was a lovely aspect of the event. As it's a 6-hour challenge, most people aren't in a hurry and have time to chat to fellow runners and hear stories or just pass a bit of time, which certainly helps take your mind off any niggles you might be starting to feel.
Julie was on great form and helped keep me going when I found it hard. We walked a bit towards the end but achieved our goal of 6 laps and marathon distance in a time of 6 hours and 5 minutes (27 miles to be precise, though I'd forgotten to start my Garmin at the beginning of the race so lost a bit) - good start to the year!
Back to the hotel in Deal for a warm-up, clean-up and well deserved tipple!!
Weather: sunny, even warm at times, cold wind. Gloves weather...
Route: varied, pretty. 3 small inclines ('mountains' by the end of the day!).
Other runners: encouraging and friendly - even the lad who must have lapped us at least 4 times, and was practically sprinting in our eyes, had time to give us a 'well done' as he sped past...
Feed station: yummy! Drinks, crisps, Jelly Babies, homemade fudge, cookies, brownies and a huge array of cakes. Catered for vegans and gluten free too.
Medal: HUGE. Heavy!
Goody bag: wow - crisps, chocolate, lager, sweeties...
Hopefully the blue and orange was noticed and some awareness was raised of the disease we're running to find a cure for. This challenge also kick-started our fundraising for 2017, with over £100 (including Gift Aid) donated to our Virgin Money Giving page - thank you!
A long way to go, and lots more cold runs coming up to practise for this mammoth Everest challenge - but every step worth it.