Another Gower marathon weekend away

Every year my running club go to Wales for a long weekend in three beautiful cottages along the Gower coast with the intention of running the EnduranceLife Coastal Trail Series races held in November.

The trip has been taking place for the last seven years.  I made my first appearance with the group back in 2014.  You can read about my previous Gower adventures in these recaps… >> 2014 recap * 2015 recap * (Oscar was only a few weeks old in 2016 so I didn’t go that year) * 2017 recap

The trip spans from the Friday afternoon through until Monday lunchtime, with car loads of runners arriving throughout the Friday and leaving across Sunday and Monday.  As Oscar attends nursery on Fridays and Dan was able to take Monday off from work I was able to spend the whole four days hanging out with friends and as much as I missed Oscar and Dan whilst I was away, it was so lovely to get away and just have a complete break with a bunch of like-minded people.

The trip down was fairly fast this year.  It had started to rain as we reached the border to Wales (standard Welsh weather!) and was absolutely tipping it down by the time we were headed off to the pub for our Friday night meal and so, so windy.  We could barely hear each other talk on the walk down and I instantly regretted bothering to straighten my hair when it became a knotty mess by the time I reached the pub!

Drinking in the pub at GowerNobody stayed up too late on the Friday night.  This year the course for the race had changed.  Essentially, it was the same route for us marathoners, but starting and finishing at a different point in the course (about where mile 20 would usually fall, along the final beach).  I’ve never run the half marathon route before but I’m told that this had totally changed this year.  The half marathoners had to register at the finish the same as us, but were then bussed back to start in a different location.
We’ve been used to our cottages being within walking distance of the finish line in previous years and all the runners stumbling back at different times at the end of their races.  We thought that perhaps this year, with us all having to hang on to the end and then fighting out for hot showers at the same time might prove rather tricky but luckily it didn’t end up too bad.

What I didn’t plan on was waking up at 4:30am on race day with incredibly bad period cramps and a killer headache.  Oh great, thanks for that body!

I jumped into the van with a bunch of others from our club and we set off to the start line, about 10 miles away.

Gower marathon start beachThe sun was only just beginning to surface and there were deep puddles across the car park from the rain the previous day.  The beach itself was tough to move across and my back was killing already!  I’m sure I was a delight to be around!

Gower marathon start beachI was livid to discover there was no Clif bar in my starter pack!  The price of the race had gone up by £10 this year (to £60) and we didn’t even get a Clif bar at the start, just a Tribe bar.  I was gutted.  It was really turning out to not be my day!Tribe bar at EnduranceLife Gower marathonThere was even a Clif banner just outside the registration tent to rub it in a little more!

Clif Bar banner at EnduranceLife Gower marathonAfter taking a quick photo by the starting flags we raced back to the van for half an hour as the rain began to come again, and hard!

Gower marathon start beachLuckily it had slowed somewhat by the time we needed to emerge from our cars and so we sheltered in the tent until we were summoned for the start.

Gower marathon start beachFull wet weather gear required!

Five of us set off as a group at the back.  A few miles in we saw a teenager come off a quad bike out on the track.  He spun to a stop and flipped right off the top.  Seemed OK though.  Got up and sped back off again.  We started chatting to another runner, who I later came across on Instagram when scrolling the #gowermarathon hashtag.


View this post on Instagram

Gower marathon report part 2 – After getting through the dunes it was a climb up onto the hills and a wonderful walk along the ridge. These wonderful people kept me going up as we played cat and mouse all the way up although eventually 2 of them did over take, never to be seen again. Once i got to the top and was running to the top I realised I was actually really enjoying myself, i did not think this would happen. We finally made it to check point one. The first of 4 to be ticked off. My timing was a bit slow but it was down hill from here to check point 2. The sun was shinning what could possibly go wrong 💪💪💪 . . #marathon #marathontraining #trustthetraining #trusttheprocess #womenwhorun #runningcommunity #runningclub #racereport #thisgirlcan #thisgirlcanrun #thisisstrong #youmatter #selflove #strongisnotasize #believe #rainyraceday #imasurvivor

A post shared by Eleanor 🇬🇧 (@iron_woman98) on

Not long after that first checkpoint I carried on along with Guy (who went on to sped off up ahead), leaving the others to run at their pace, knowing that I would get cold if I didn’t continue to move a little faster.

It wasn’t long before I came across another runner who I fell instep with for several miles.  We ran across the long beach together, overshooting the cut through as the marshals had left up the half marathon route directions for further along the beach.

EnduranceLife Gower marathon beach

I always find beach running hard.  Not only is it tough going underfoot, but it’s mentally tough for the scenery to be exactly the same stretching off into the distance.  It did feel much easier going round the course in this direction on the beaches though for some reason, despite the wind being against us for most of the way.

There was another checkpoint just after the beach.  I didn’t need to take anything on board so just checked in and carried on, losing the runner I had spent the last few miles with as he topped up on fluids and snacks here.

The hill after this was the toughest of all.  It used to fall about 6 miles into the original marathon course (in the other direction) and was always the trickiest part to navigate down.  There is a spring which appears in the middle of this hill, making the going underfoot very slippy as a lot of the ground is covered in small rocks which I struggle to get any grip on.  One of our runners has been down on his bum every year he’s entered this race and I’ve been very close each time!

EnduranceLife Gower marathonThis year though, we were to make our way up the hill instead, along the already-worn muddy track.

EnduranceLife Gower marathonIt’s really quite steep in places and it was raining again by now.

EnduranceLife Gower marathonIt’s always worse if you stop – it makes it so hard to get going again afterwards!

After the tough hill came the slippery mud.  Glad I was wearing an old pair of trail shoes!

Mud at Every year my running club go to Gower for a long weekend in three beautiful cottages along the Gower coast with the intention of running the EnduranceLife Coastal Trail Series races held each November.  One of the runners from our club has been organising the trip to Wales for the last seven years now.  I made my first appearance with the group back in 2014.  You can read about my previous Gower adventures in these recaps... >> 2014 recap * 2015 recap * (Oscar was only a few weeks old in 2016 so I didn't go that year) * 2017 recap  The trip spans from the Friday afternoon through until Monday lunchtime, with car loads of runners arriving throughout the Friday and leaving across Sunday and Monday.  As Oscar attends nursery on Fridays and Dan was able to take Monday off from work I was able to spend the whole four days hanging out with my friends and as much as I missed Oscar and Dan whilst I was away, it was so lovely to get away and just have a complete break with a bunch of like-minded people.  It had started to rain as we reached the border to Wales (standard Welsh weather!) and was absolutely tipping it down by the time we were headed off to the pub for our Friday night meal and so, so windy.  We could barely hear each other talk on the walk down and I instantly regretted bothering to straighten my hair when it became a knotty mess on arrival at the pub!  Drinking in the pub at GowerNobody stayed up too late on the Friday night.  This year the course had changed.  Essentially, it was the same route for us marathoners, but starting and finishing at a different point in the course (about where mile 20 would usually fall, on the final beach).  I've never run the half marathon route before but I'm told this had totally changed this year.  The half marathoners had to register at the finish, but were then bussed back to start in a different location.  We've been used to our cottages being within walking distance of the finish line in previous years and everybody stumbling back at different times at the end of their races.  We thought that perhaps this year, with us all having to hang on to the end and then fighting out for hot showers at the same time might prove rather tricky!  What I didn't plan on was waking up at 4:30am on race day with incredibly bad period cramps and a killer headache.  Oh great, thanks for that body!  I jumped into the van with a bunch of others from our club and we set off to the start line, about 10 miles away.  Gower marathon start beachThe sun was only just beginning to surface and there were deep puddles across the car park from the rain the previous day.  The beach itself was tough moving on and my back was killing already!  Gower marathon start beachI was livid to discover there was no Clif bar in my starter pack!  The price of the race had gone up by £10 this year (to £60) and we didn't even get a Clif bar at the start, just a Tribe bar.  I was gutted.  It was really turning out to not be my day!Tribe bar at EnduranceLife Gower marathonThey even had a Clif banner just outside to rub it in a little more!  Clif Bar banner at EnduranceLife Gower marathonAfter taking a quick photo by the starting flags we raced back to the van for half an hour as the rain began to come again, and hard!  Gower marathon start beachLuckily it had slowed somewhat by the time we emerged for the end of the briefing and to shelter in the tent until we were summoned for the start.  Gower marathon start beachFull wet weather gear required!  We set off as a group from the back - five of us.  A few miles in we saw a teenager come off a quad bike out on the track.  He spun to a stop and flipped right off the top.  Seemed OK though.  Got up and sped back off again.  We started chatting to another runner, who I later came across on Instagram when scrolling the #gowermarathon hashtag.         View this post on Instagram  Gower marathon report part 2 - After getting through the dunes it was a climb up onto the hills and a wonderful walk along the ridge. These wonderful people kept me going up as we played cat and mouse all the way up although eventually 2 of them did over take, never to be seen again. Once i got to the top and was running to the top I realised I was actually really enjoying myself, i did not think this would happen. We finally made it to check point one. The first of 4 to be ticked off. My timing was a bit slow but it was down hill from here to check point 2. The sun was shinning what could possibly go wrong 💪💪💪 . . #marathon #marathontraining #trustthetraining #trusttheprocess #womenwhorun #runningcommunity #runningclub #racereport #thisgirlcan #thisgirlcanrun #thisisstrong #youmatter #selflove #strongisnotasize #believe #rainyraceday #imasurvivor  A post shared by Eleanor 🇬🇧 (@iron_woman98) on Nov 11, 2018 at 5:03am PST  Not long after that first checkpoint I carried on along with Guy, leaving the others to run at their pace, knowing that I would get cold if I didn't continue to move.  It wasn't long before I came across another runner who I fell instep with for several miles.  We ran across the long beach together, overshooting the cut through as the marshals had left up the half marathon route directions further along the beach.  EnduranceLife Gower marathon beach  I always find beach running hard.  Not only is it tough going underfoot, but it's mentally tough for the scenery to be exactly the same stretching off into the distance.  It did feel much easier going round the course in this direction on the beaches though for some reason, despite the wind being against us for most of the way.  There was another checkpoint just after the beach.  I didn't need to take anything on board so just checked in and carried on, losing the runner I had spent the last few miles with as he topped up on fluids and snacks here.  The next hill was the toughest of all.  It used to fall about 6 miles into the original marathon course (in the other direction) and was always the trickiest part to navigate down.  There is a spring which appears in the middle of this hill, making the going underfoot very slippy as a lot of the ground is covered in small rocks with little to get any grip on.  One of our runners has been down on his bum every year he's entered this race and I've been very close each time!  EnduranceLife Gower marathonThis year though, we were to make our way up the hill instead, along the already-worn muddy track.  EnduranceLife Gower marathonIt's really quite steep in places and it was raining again by now.  EnduranceLife Gower marathon

I did fall on one steep downhill that was covered in mud like this.  I didn’t fall hard – more just slipped onto my knee on one side.  It didn’t bother me at the time.  I was just glad that nobody had seen me!

The steps on the course were much tougher going in this direction and they were at 26.5 miles rather than at mile 20!

The steps at EnduranceLife Gower marathonBecause so many runners had already been over them they were slippy and muddy.  The leaves on top made them even worse.

One mile to go sign at the EnduranceLife Gower MarathonAlways the best sign in a race!

One mile to go sign at the EnduranceLife Gower Marathon

Heading back down the steps on the other side was just a mudslide!  Somehow I made it without injury.  A couple of our club members went down on the steep steps though.IMG_20181110_161109The finish was a little confusing.  I ran along the seafront past all my club mates who had already finished and were stood waiting to organise lifts back, then turned up and had to run up the bank of sand through the finish, over really choppy footprints that had been left by all the other runners.  It was really hard to stay upright!

Upon finishing another guy from our club pointed out that my knee looked really swollen and collared the paramedic on duty to take a look.  I hopped up onto the massage table and luckily he said that it would just result in some bruising by the look of it, I hadn’t done any serious damage.  He sent me off with an ice pack, still annoyed that not only had there been no Clif bar at the start, but there was also no Builder’s bar at the end!  Those two bars are by far my favourites and I really was gutted that neither of them were at the race!

The finish at EnduranceLife Gower marathon

Total distance: 27.8 miles
Official time: 7h 18m 57s
Position: 104/119
Gender position: 19/26

Our last runners came through just in time, – the heavens opened as we leapt into the waiting cars to head back to the cottages.

Once showered and changed, we headed back to the pub for dinner, and then returned to the cottages to celebrate with an alcoholic beverage or two!

EnduranceLife Gower marathon medalThe next morning we made our usual walk down to the beach as a group.  There was a rainbow so close we thought we’d be able to stand at the bottom underneath it.  It looked like it touched down on the beach right in front of us!

Rainbow at Gower beachSarah ran to try and stand in the colours, but it had disappeared by the time she got there.  :(

After a quick milkshake in the cafe, those people working the next day had to head off and so the remaining few of us decided to walk across the land to Worm’s Head – an island for all but a few hours of each day.

Worm's Head adventureI walked across with a friend in 2015 but the others I was with this year had never been.

Worm's Head adventureLast time I went I somehow managed to make it all the way across in Converse, but I made sure to take an old pair of trainers this time!

There were loads of seals out sunbathing along one part of the rocks.

Seals at Worm's HeadWe ended up only going part way across, with some of the guys not wanting to tackle the tricky terrain further up.  But it was still a really lovely morning.  Then, back to the pub once more for lunch!

It was much quieter on the third night, with most runners having left during the day.  I stayed up late to finish watching The Haunting of Hill House.  Sooooo good.  I really want to watch it again and try and pick up on all the little titbits throughout the story now that I know how it ends.

I’m always sad to leave Gower.  For a few days it’s nice to get away from reality and feel like I can take a proper break from everything.  The signal isn’t great over there, so it is like living in a little mini bubble for the weekend.

Have you watched The Haunting of Hill House?
Have you seen seals at the beach before?
Does your club organise an annual race away?

My love of parkrun

I ran my first parkrun back in 2013…Saturday of last week was my 120th parkrun!

I’ve fallen behind with blogging rather just lately.  I’ve been busy running, working (I’ve somehow now also added ‘paper-round’ to my list of never ending jobs that I take on), visiting my Dad, making house improvements, Mumming, overpaying the mortgage and trying to fit in seeing Dan at some point too.  It’s a hard battle with all of these balls up in the air and I feel like blogging has slipped somewhat whilst I try to keep everything else afloat.  I did say to Dan the other night that I feel like I’m just mashing my way through everything I have to do at the moment apart from Mumming.  I feel like I’m Mumming exactly the way I wanted and needed to with Oscar, and really, that is what matters most.

It bugs me that I haven’t kept up to date with tracking my parkruns on my blog over the past few months though, as I’d tracked the best part of 100 runs before that!  So I’ll try to just jot down a few words about the Saturday mornings I’ve missed posting about and then hopefully stay on top of my log once more.

Parkrun has become a lovely family event for Dan, Oscar and I each weekend.  Dan and I take it in turns to run with the buggy, and Oscar has loved visiting all the playparks afterwards as well!

Event: Sixfields Upton
Number: 
108
Date: 
2nd June 2018
Official time: 31:41
Position: 157/232
Gender position: 46/90
Age category position: 7/12

Oscar, Laura and I at Sixfields parkrun

This was my first parkrun wearing my 100 top, as delivery of the parkrun milestones t-shirts had been delayed for so long.  I jogged round pushing Oscar in the buggy and chatting to Laura.  We stopped to pose for photos at the finish and as Dan was taking our picture, he got a phone call from John.  We were due to visit our friends John and Lynn the following day so assumed he was just checking in with arrangements.  However, we weren’t due to visit them the following day…we were supposed to be visiting them THAT day and both Dan and I had read the WhatsApp message wrong!  Cue a mad dash back home to shower, pack a bag for Oscar and drive over to Nottingham!  One hour later…!

Dan, Oscar and I in the car

Event: Sixfields Upton
Number: 
109
Date: 
30th June 2018
Official time: 28:09
Position: 103/257
Gender position: 22/145
Age category position: 4/17

Dan offered to run with the buggy so for the first time I was able to run the Sixfields Upton course child free!
Three weeks out from my 100 mile attempt I had no idea how to pace for a 5k and so set off too hard, with my first mile in 8:27 (almost PB pace). Miles two and three were much slower, and I finished with an 8:58mm average pace. It felt good to try and inject a bit of speed back into my legs after the previous few weeks though.

Dan, Oscar and I at Sixfields Upton parkrunIt was lovely to hang out with these guys in the sun too!

Event: Sixfields Upton
Number: 
110
Date: 
28th July 2018
Official time: 31:45
Position: 139/223
Gender position: 39/92
Age category position: 8/14

This one was super windy!  (Just check out our hair in the picture we took at the end!

Dan, Oscar, Laura and I at Sixfields Upton parkrun

This was peak Summer heatwave time, and it was the first proper breeze we’d had in weeks.  I took the opportunity to run 5k from home before Dan, Oscar and I headed over to Northampton where we met Laura for the parkrun.  I ran the first half pushing Oscar in the buggy and then Laura took over running the second half.  The ‘Glory Lap’ as another parkrunner told her at the finish!

Event: Sixfields Upton
Number: 
111
Date: 
11th August 2018
Official time: 30:56
Position: 162/280
Gender position: 47/124
Age category position: 13/19

Back to being super sunny again this week.

Dan, Oscar and I at Sixfields Upton parkrunAlso, I spotted this sign displaying the parkrun course at the end.  What a great idea!  I’ve not seen this anywhere else before.

Sixfields Upton parkrun course sign

Event: Sixfields Upton
Number: 112
Date: 
18th August 2018
Official time: 28:34
Position: 102/251
Gender position: 19/110
Age category position: 7/16

Dan’s birthday was on the 17th August, the day before, and we were having a few people round for lunch and drinks, so he stayed home with Oscar to finish tidying the house and make sure we got round in time.  I then went off to Sixfields where I met up with Laura and we jogged round parkrun having a chat!  No pictures this week.

Event: Kettering
Number: 
113
Date: 
25th August 2018
Official time: 32:08
Position: 235/338
Gender position: 68/134
Age category position: 8/15

Another jog round parkrun.  This time I had Oscar in the buggy and decided to go for a sprint finish for the last quarter of a mile.  Kettering is a great course in that you have a really long hill to finish on!

Event: Kettering
Number: 
114
Date: 
1st September 2018
Official time: 31:48
Position: 216/370
Gender position: 54/150
Age category position: 8/17

I ran Kettering with Oscar in the buggy again.  I offered to let Dan run buggy-free as I was going to head out on a trail run with friends that afternoon, so wanted my legs to stay fairly fresh.  Oscar insisted on singing approximately 78 verses of The Wheels on the Bus as we went round, which amused a number of people around us, and hopefully didn’t drive them too mad!

Event: Sixfields Upton
Number: 
115
Date: 
8th September 2018
Official time: 35:01
Position: 253/311
Gender position: 96/141
Age category position: 17/22

Oscar was loaned ‘Charlie Bear’ from his nursery for the week. Charlie arrived with a book filled with photos and details of the adventures he’d already been on before arriving at the Pearson household. Charlie joined us at Sixfields Upton parkrun, then for a walk around Rushden Lakes to see the animals.  He even came back to Norfolk to stay with Oscar’s Granddad for a few days! Dan, Oscar and I at Sixfields Upton parkrunLaura ran the first little bit of the course with the buggy, but then we switched when we saw there was a photographer, as I thought they might produce some good shots of me and Oscar to use in his Charlie Bear book!  Here’s the switch!…

Oscar, Laura and I at Sixfields parkrunOscar, Laura and I at Sixfields parkrun

Event: Great Denham
Number: 
116
Date: 
29th September 2018
Official time: 30:05
Position: 115/154
Gender position: 35/63
Age category position: 7/10

Great Denham was the first new course I’d run in ages.  It’s great that I can run parkrun with Dan and Oscar each Saturday morning, but Dan doesn’t feel the need to get up super early to partake in parkrun tourism, so I need to get my tourism fix on the weekends when Dan is away now!  Great Denham is a fairly new course which started up a few months ago in Bedford, so only about 30 minutes from us…close enough to convince Dan that we could go!  We met Laura and Steph there.  Steph sped off into the distance, and Dan was a fair way ahead too.  I started out running with the buggy but then Laura took over not far into the run and it was nice to be able to run at chatty pace and not worry about avoiding clipping the feet of other runners!

Great Denham is going to be a good course to aim for a PB this Winter.  It was a little congested at the start with narrow-ish paths but soon spread out and the course is so very flat with limited turns.

Forgot to get any pictures this week.

Event: Kettering
Number: 
117
Date: 
6th October 2018
Official time: 31:26
Position: 205/330
Gender position: 55/137
Age category position: 11/19

This was the Run Mummy Run takeover week at Kettering parkrun.  We picked a great week to take over…it absolutely tipped it down the entire time we were there!  I was soaked and freezing by the end!  I had volunteered to help with the pre-event set up and also the post-race close down.  This meant that I could be fairly useful on the day and still run the event!

Run Mummy Run takeover at Kettering parkrunI got so confused with where I was meant to place some of the tape though, and I’m sure I got it in the wrong place, despite having run Kettering on numerous occasions!

It was lovely to meet so many other running Mums in the area and also help out my local parkrun at the same time.

Laura came to Kettering to run the event, although she probably regretted it afterwards, as we got SOAKED!

Kettering parkrun with Laura

I now regularly run a 5k on a Tuesday night from the town I live in with a handful of the local RMR ladies and it’s nice to not have to travel far (I can jog down to the meeting point) to get some miles in with like-minded people.

Run Mummy Run parkrun takeover in Kettering(I’m towards the right with a blue cap on)

Event: Bedford
Number: 
118
Date: 
13th October 2018
Official time: 29:28
Position: 230/414
Gender position: 41/157
Age category position: 4/13

This parkrun was a bit of a wake up call!
My parkrun PB is 26:35, set last Winter. I usually use parkrun as either a chance to catch up with friends or push Oscar round in his buggy. Today though, Dan offered to have Oscar so that I could run parkrun hard and set a benchmark to improve on as I try and regain a bit of speed following a long year of ultra training ready to go into marathon training at the start of next year.

I woke up not feeling 100%. I felt weak and a little lightheaded. It had only been four weeks since I ran the Robin Hood 100 and I’d run a limited amount since. With these factors in mind I intended on bringing along my heart rate monitor to try and pace myself properly. Only I forgot it, went out too hard, and ended up walking a couple of times during the 5k.

Oscar and I at Bedford parkrun

29:28. Ugh! Lots of work to be done to try and retrain my body and mind to work in sync again. At least it gave me lots of scope to improve over the next few months!
Oscar in the buggy at Bedford parkrunOscar thoroughly enjoyed his buggy nap though!

Event: Kettering
Number: 
119
Date: 
3rd November 2018
Official time: 34:25
Position: 371/482
Gender position: 132/209
Age category position: 12/18

Mandy, Oscar and I at Kettering parkrun(Photo by Adrian Howes)

I bumped into a club runner I hadn’t seen for a while so we fell in step and ran together, having a big catch up over the 5k.  The parkrun course had changed slightly – rather than going up the hill on hard-standing ground at the far end of the course twice, because everything was being set up for Bonfire Night celebrations that evening, we had to cross onto a zigzag hill over the grass both times instead.  The path was very narrow, slippy to run on and so tight to turn with the buggy!

Mandy, Oscar and I at Kettering parkrun

(Photo by Adrian Howes)

It was another manic Saturday for us…we parkran in Kettering, drove home to shower, make lunch and then drove over to Norfolk for my Aunt’s 83rd birthday.  We stayed for a few hours, then we headed back home to Northamptonshire.  Oscar and I returned home and Dan continued driving through to Wolverhampton for the football.  Our life!

Event: Kettering
Number: 
120
Date: 
17th November 2018
Official time: 33:10
Position: 316/464
Gender position: 112/201
Age category position: 16/25

Dan had been on a ‘health kick’ for the previous few weeks.  He’d been eating better, getting out for walks and a few runs during his lunch breaks, and his parkrun times had been starting to drop as a result.  He announced on the drive over that morning that he was going to go all out and aim for a PB that day.  As I glanced across the field around the 28 minute mark, I couldn’t see Dan anywhere near the finish.  I thought perhaps he’d missed his target.  But nope, he had only gone and absolutely smashed it!  His parkrun PB had been 27:29, which he set back in October 2016.  But on Saturday he went and ran a 26:36!  Just one second slower than my PB which I set on a faster course!  I really need to get my 5k game on this Winter now!

Dan ringing the parkrun PB bellAlso, how great are these 100 parkrun cookies to celebrate a runner hitting their 100 parkrun milestone?!

100 parkrun cookies

The course was still the zigzag hill over the grass this week, as there was an event on at Wickstead park but luckily it had been widened from the previous time we went so there was a bit more space for turning the buggy!  It still got pretty muddy out there though!

Muddy buggy wheels

Oscar had a great time too.  We came past the station at the park just as they were bringing the train in to connect to the carriages.  Oscar was mesmerised for ages as the driver happily tooted and performed for his audience!

Oscar watching the train at Wickstead parkDoes your local parkrun have a PB bell or course map?
Did you do anything special for your 100th parkrun?
If your partner also runs, who is faster?!

 

Dusk ’til Dawn marathon

My intention for the Dusk ’til Dawn event this year was to have another crack at the ultra distance (50 miles). I’ve been on the start line for this event three times already. First in 2013 when I won a place through Operation Ultra in Women’s Running Magazine. Next in 2014 when I returned with friends Kev, Tracey and Tom. Finally in 2015 when Tom and I returned to attempt the distance (with friends also running ahead). The 2016 event fell a few weeks after I first came home from hospital after having Oscar, then the event didn’t take place last year and here we are, already in 2018…

Although I knew that a half marathon and marathon event were now also on offer alongside the ultra distance, I really wanted to prove that I was able to complete the 50 mile ultra event within the time allowance.  The race is called ‘Dusk ’til Dawn’ due to it’s start time coinciding with nightfall on the Saturday night and the cut-off for the event at the point the sun rises the following morning.  As Richard, the Race Director’s Father had sadly passed away this year, the race began one hour before dusk, to be known as ‘Eddie’s hour’.  The extra hour was another reason I felt like I was meant to enter the ultra distance this year.

However, when I first entered the event months ago, Tom had also signed up for the ultra and we had planned to run it together.  I had fully intended on completing my 100 mile ultra journey at the South Downs Way 100 in June earlier in the year.  I hadn’t planned on stopping at mile 78 of the SDW, continuing to train and then eventually completing my 100 mile event three months later in the middle of September, just six weeks before the 50 mile Dusk ’til Dawn ultramarathon.

My feet hadn’t fully recovered from the 100 by the time the week of Dusk ’til Dawn arrived, and Tom also informed me that he would be pulling from the event due to injury/lack of training/a house move.  With five other runners from my club running the marathon event I decided to make the switch down to the marathon distance and knew that this was the sensible choice, although one day I will be back to prove myself at the 50 miles!

I hadn’t had the best week leading up to the marathon.  That Wednesday afternoon Oscar had been incredibly grouchy and tearful when we returned from the baby group in town.  He refused most of his tea, asked for a glass of warm milk and disappeared to bed very early in the evening.  I put it down to being overtired, but he was back up and crying for me by 9pm with bright red cheeks and a very high fever.  He wanted to do nothing but lay on my chest and cuddle.  He had a hacking cough which developed further over the next few days and despite maximum doses of Calpol that evening his temperature never stayed down for long.  Needless to say, the next few days were spent with Oscar laying across me feeling rather sorry for himself on the sofa downstairs.  By Friday afternoon I was still relying on Calpol to get his temperature down.  The bottle states that a child shouldn’t be taking maximum doses of Calpol for more than 3 days in a row, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to get a doctor appointment for him over the weekend if his temperature remained high by the following day.  So I booked him a last minute appointment at the doctors in town for Friday afternoon.  Once seen by our doctor, he was referred straight to Kettering hospital with suspected pneumonia.  A quick google on my way to hospital revealed some alarming pneumonia facts, but also cleared up for me that he had most likely caught it from another child, rather than just gotten cold because I had let him run around in the garden without his coat on.  Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been and after being observed in hospital Oscar was sent home with a course of antibiotics to take which cleared things up really quickly.  It was rather worrying when we were first referred though.

Dan was home all day on the Saturday so could take over from me as head rest and medicine-giver for Oscar.  I needed to get out of the house after spending the last two and a half days cooped up on the sofa.  Packing for the race was done last minute and I was rather blase about the whole thing.  Meh, it’s just a marathon, right?…Turns out I ended up missing the printed instructions from the list of race essential equipment, so had to borrow a set from a friend when we arrived.

The weather was pretty rubbish the whole journey over.  The windscreen wipers were on most of the time and we knew it was due to be pretty cold that night.  Lots of layers were absolutely necessary!

The race is known for the ‘Grim Sweeper’ who runs at the back of the pack, picking off runners who don’t make the cut-offs in time.  I’ve met the sweeper once before, back in 2013 when I ran with Charlie Sharpe, the sweeper for that race, having won the event the year before.  Rather fitting that the sweeper head was covering the defibrillator as we lined up for our race briefing before setting off!

Dusk 'til Dawn Grim Sweeper head

I was in two minds whether to run alone or as part of the group, but in the end the six of us from Wellingborough ran together and I realised how much I missed being out there running long distances with friends!  Having not run the marathon course before (or read the directions for the marathon distance beforehand, initially thinking that I would be running the ultra) it was probably for the best that I stayed part of the group anyway to be honest!

Dusk 'til Dawn starting photo

We nearly missed the start, leaving it to the last possible minute to sneak back to our cars to change out of jeans, boots and oversized hoodies and into our running gear for the night.  The six of us were casually waltzing over to the start line, my phone in hand – getting ready for a pre-race club photo when we realised that the countdown to the start had already begun!  As everybody crossed the line for the start of the race I was still busy trying to zip away my phone and pull the headtorch from my bag for the run!

Even then, we had gone more than half a mile when Gary turned back, declaring that he thought he had probably left his headtorch in the boot of his car as he had just realised it wasn’t on his head!  What an organised bunch we were!

The first few miles of the course were the same as the start of the ultra route and I recognised long sections of the trail.  There are some tough, technical climbs (and descents) on the course.  I am fairly confident at picking my way up steep, rocky ascents.  I don’t have quite so much confidence with my downhill running but I have definitely improved since the first year I headed over to the Peak District for the race.

Because we had the extra hour this year, it meant we were running in daylight for the first few climbs and got a chance to appreciate our view.  As I waited for others in our little group to navigate to the top of the climbs I pulled out my camera for a few photos.

Dusk 'til Dawn hills

Dusk 'til Dawn hills

Dusk 'til Dawn hillsYou can see the extent of the climbs we were making.  The above photo is the majority of the way up the first big hill.  You can see the drop in the distance to the left of the photo.

IMG_20181027_172632Some sections were more technical than others.  This first climb wasn’t too bad, but later climbs involved more careful placing of feet on the rocks that were jutting out.  I worried that the rocks would be slippy from the rain we’d had earlier in the day but they ended up not being too bad.

Dusk 'til Dawn hillsThe sunset was a really pretty one from so high up.

Dusk 'til Dawn sunsetAfter that we just trotted around the remaining miles.  Strava tells me I ran 26.56 miles in total, so fairly accurate for a trail marathon distance!

I recognised the point where my parents and Dan had sat on the side of the road in a car at the first checkpoint (now several miles into the course) back in 2013.  I had been the last person to come into that checkpoint then, but not the last to leave and I started picking other runners off from that point back then.  It felt like so long ago!

Navigation was fairly straight forward this year.  Gary had run some of the ultra course in 2015 and Kev had run some of the ultra course back in 2014, so between us we barely needed to check directions for which way to go, although took along paper instructions with us just in case.  Gary had run the marathon course with Tom back at the 2016 event, which was held just a few weeks after I had Oscar, so Gary was fairly confident in how to navigate the marathon course once we turned off for the shorter distance.

I didn’t enjoy the race as much from the point we split off from the ultra route.  The majority of the marathon route was run along roads, whereas the ultra had been almost entirely on the trails.  The roads on the marathon course were fairly flat and long and runnable and not what I had expected having run the majority of the ultra route before. I like the challenge of technical terrain!

There was a really eerie section along an old railway line where we ran through a couple of large tunnels.  I ran in the middle of the pack here, with some runners from our group speeding off ahead and some falling behind.  Everybody’s voices were echoing all around the tunnel as we ran and it made it really hard to locate whether someone was ahead of you or behind.  I was glad to be running with the others as we ran through this section, and I was very glad when we turned off and began our next climb!

There was another really eerie section where we ran alongside a field of sheep…or the field of red eyes, as the sheep all clustered into the corner nearest to the path.  As our headtorches reflected on their eyes they glowed red like demons.

I didn’t really eat much out on the course, choosing just to pick at a couple of bits on offer at the checkpoints.  We weren’t moving particularly fast and I didn’t feel like my body needed any more to keep it going so I kept my snacks in my bag for the race.

The last mile or so was run all on road.  Gary ran ahead to beat us to the finish, but the rest of us all trotted over the line together and headed into the hall for hot drinks and pasties.  That cheese and onion pasty and hot tea at the finish were the best things I’ve been handed at a finish line for a long while!  It had been super cold out there on the hills, and at any point we had stopped we all really began to feel the chill.  We were all ready for something warm at the end!

I changed back into my boots, jeans and a hoodie fairly quickly afterwards, babywiping as much mud from my legs as I could spot in the toilets!  The medal is a nice one.

Dusk 'til Dawn marathon medal

Official time: 7h 18m 57s
Position: 13/20
Gender position: 4/7

I traveled back from the race with Gary, who has heated seats in his car.  I had those seats heated to the max for the whole journey home to warm up!

Have you run a race at night before?
What was the nicest food you received at the finish of a race?

 

Squeaky Bone Relay race

The Squeaky Bone Relay is an event really well attended by members of my running club every year.

Hosted by Olney Runners, the event is a four-person off-road relay with each legs of either 3.5 or 2.3miles and usually falls in October, having always clashed with other things in my calendar, so I’ve never been able to attend before.

This year though for whatever reason, the race fell at the end of September and I was so excited to be running on a team with Tom, Steph and Laura.

Squeaky Bone relay race

It was my first hard run back after running the Robin Hood 100 two weeks earlier, and only my fourth run since I’d finished the ultra.  I wasn’t too hopeful of winning any prizes and made sure the others weren’t expecting miracles too!

Although I was the Team Captain for our group, having signed us up for the 3.5 mile option online, I hadn’t realised the order I put us onto the system when signing up was the order we would be required to run in on the day, otherwise I would never have put myself first!  The running order went Me, Tom, Steph and then Laura last.  At least my leg would be over and done with and then I would be able to enjoy a hot drink when I finished while I waited for the others to run their section!

We arrived fairly early in order to collect our race numbers and baton, complete with squeaky dog toy attached!  It was rather chilly hanging around in the shade at the start, although I was glad that I’d chosen to wear a t-shirt when we did begin running as the sun out on the course made it really warm out there.

We started with a bang, and my first mile came in at 8m 47s.  The elevation was fairly flat for the majority of the course, with just a small rutted section at the beginning alongside the car parking area.  The route was a nice one though – around the edges of fields and through a small wood.  Other than that first small section, the rest of the ground was fairly solid without any uneven bits which made for easy going.

My second mile remained under 9mm pace, but I started to slow down after that.  Although physically I seemed to have recovered from the ultra I had found during my runs since that my body wouldn’t maintain the same pace for as long as it had been doing prior to running the 100 and I would tire as a run went on.

At the end of each leg, the course ran onto the edge of the field where the handover took place and up to the top of the field before turning, running underneath the finish gantry and towards the next member of your team for handover.  I did have a small panic when I couldn’t spot Tom on my approach but as I crossed the line ready for handover, he seemed to step across from nowhere to grab the baton (with squeaky bone attached!) from me and continue the relay for leg number two.

Squeaky Bone relay race

(Photo shared on the Squeaky Bone Relay Facebook page).

We were the Wellingborough Warriors and ended up coming 65th out of 122 teams running the 3.5 mile distance.  (Which we all clocked at around 3.6 miles(!) )

Our splits were as follows:
Me – 33m 18s (65th pos)
Tom – 30m 13s (66th pos)
Steph – 29m 41s (59th pos)
Laura – 30m 42s (65th pos)

Which gave us a total time of 2h 3m 54s.  We’d estimated that we would probably take about 2 hours to complete the event, so we weren’t far off our estimation!

Squeaky Bone relay race

I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the event and will definitely be looking to give it another go again next year!

Have you run any relay events before?