Thursday, 10 December 2015

Hugin challenge, 26.2 miles running on empty!

26.2 MILES

Foggy haze
Travelling down to my next marathon at Pegwell bay was fairly traumatic, a thick fog blanketed most of the Kent Coast and visibility was limited.
A feeling of dread came over me as I knew my pre race preparations had not gone to plan the day before.
I generally stick to the same food and drink intake before a race but the evening before was Halloween and whilst at a friend’s party I had been tempted by all sorts of spooky themed treats. During the small hours of the morning I had paid for that mistake 10 times over with numerous trips to the toilet and a sicky feeling that would not pass. Lack of sleep and an empty growling stomach were not ideal and as much as I wanted to pull the duvet over my head and stay in bed, the thought of not getting a medal ( or a chocolate orange) was unbearable! So, I got showered, dressed and left the house clutching a hot water bottle to my stomach.
Despite my unease about running in my current state, arriving at HQ with it’s relaxed atmosphere and friendly organisers gave me a little more confidence, I pinned my number on and soon I was lined up to start.
The out and back course weaved through the beautiful Pegwell bay reserve for 1.85 miles but unfortunately the eerie fog kept the scenery well hidden, with a further 1.9 miles heading out onto the road past the Viking ship Hugin, which lurked behind the fog just after a small hill, then it looped back round and down to HQ.
The looped course was just under 4 miles which meant I would need to run 7 laps to achieve marathon distance and knowing I would be running on empty,  I needed to fuel and hydrate on the go. I decided that I would take one lap at a time and see how I felt.

Eat, drink, run, repeat.
Thankfully the first lap was easy enough, I was unsure of my pace but it felt comfortable, so I kept going and every time I passed a runner coming back the other way we said well done to each other, nodded or gave the thumbs up sign.
 I have found distance runners to be a friendly bunch and lot of the them belong to the 100 marathon club. I've had some great conversations with a runner who was finishing his 1200 marathon on that day! Immense achievements and all very down to earth people.  I always feel lucky to have met them and be a part of this slightly crazy yet addictive pastime!
After 3 laps,  I needed to zone out so I put my music on and grabbed some more food from the well stocked “Runner's buffet” which is always spectacular and I trotted off back round the course.
For the next 3 laps I ate, I drank, I plodded, I sang to myself and nodded to other runners.
The view of the coastline was still shrouded in fog but the odd glimpse of the sea and the Viking ship was a welcome treat.
On my 6th lap I was flagging, tired legs and  fatigue were setting in and mentally I was giving up. I didn’t think I was going to make 26.2  and so I shuffled back to HQ with my head hanging low.

Arriving at HQ after 6 laps (22.2 miles) I was exhausted, my girlfriend who had been cheering on all the runners up at the Viking ship had already noticed I was tiring and had made her way back to base to find me. In a desperate bid to get me round the last lap she had put my spare trainers on and was ready to run the final lap with me.
That was just what I needed, she paced me, encouraged me and even pushed me up the small hill (which now seemed like climbing Mount Everest). She got my legs turning over faster and soon my mind and body realised it would soon be over!
I was so close to HQ I could smell the cake! She encouraged me to sprint and somehow my legs gave a final kick and I crashed through the finish line!
Unable to breathe or stand I slumped to the ground thinking out loud I said “Thank fuck for that!” and I really meant it!
Traviss rushed over with the most amazing goody bag, clearly I checked to make sure the chocolate orange was in it and then he put the medal of all medals around my neck. A replica of The Viking ship Hugin, it was the size of my face! I was chuffed, high as a kite and ever so slightly broken.
The Hugin.

After a bath and a mountain of food, I sat with my medal on and relived the final lap, ever so grateful to my girlfriend who is not only the best supporter but a bloody good pacer too. I viewed the race results and was slightly bewildered, in my post race state was I reading it wrong? Maybe not... 2nd woman in for marathon distance and I had knocked 2 mins off my London time! A new personal best! Fantastic!!
Pleased with my new PB.

I am a determined and stubborn runner and even though I felt unwell I do like a challenge, but thinking about what could’ve happened to my body when running on empty or whilst feeling ill is no laughing matter. Putting your body through 26.2 miles is hard enough without adding in extra strains. Lessons were definitely learnt that day.
I will listen to my body, I will ensure I rest and rebuild my stores before and after endurance races, as maybe next time I might not get away with it.
Finally, a thought that myself and my peers may share that indeed running is perceived to be individual pursuit, a personal journey,  but what I learnt that day is it doesn't hurt to have someone who will “walk” the same line with you once in awhile.

Thank you for reading, next blog to follow will be Dymchurch marathon.

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