Less than four weeks to go and a possible parkrun return

It’s just 26 days now until the Autumn 100.  Another 10 days or so before I start to taper.

I’ve decided on my strategy for race day – a run/walk strategy, something I’ve not purposefully used before, but something I’ve heard and seen nothing but good words about.  I’m planning on starting the race with a 13 minute run, 2 minute walk technique.  Holding onto this as long as possible, then dropping down to a 12/3, 11/4, 10/5 as necessary.  I’ve spoken to lots of people over the past few weeks about how they chose their run/walk distance/times and I think that sticking to a 15 minute block will work well for me – I don’t want to be working out mileage or random minutes when I’m 23 hours into a race, whereas four blocks across the hour should be relatively easy to keep track of.

I’ve practised 13/2 a few times now and have found that it really helps me to keep my focus when running long runs alone.  Hopefully this will remain the case come race day.  I’ve been out for a couple of two hour blocks and my overall pace (including both the running and walking sections) has remained below 11 minute miles, so I will need to be aware of slowing the running sections down slightly come race day!

Testing out a run-walk technique

Dan is going to drive me down the morning of the race and then come back and collect me the following day, keeping an eye on the tracker to work out my rough finishing time.

No crew are allowed at Autumn 100.  This isn’t a Covid-thing, but an event thing.  Apparently no crew were allowed at last year’s event either.  Pacers are also only allowed for the last 25 miles, so from miles 75-100.  I will not be having a pacer this year.  I think I would benefit most from having a pacer during the night – so at mile 50, the point pacers are usually allowed to join on a 100 miler.  But that’s not allowed.  After getting attacked last year I’m not the most keen on running alone in the dark, but I’m just going to have to man up, get my head down and run like crazy until morning!  It’s one night.  I’m sure I’ll be fine.

I managed 51.7 training miles last week, including two complete rest days:
* MON – 3.4 mile buggy run for the nursery pickup (half with a three stone toddler, half without!)
* TUES – 4 mile easy run (AM) and 6.1 mile club run (PM)
* WED – 5.4 mile chatty run with Dan
* THURS – 11.1 miles testing out the run/walk (AM) and 5.5 mile club run (PM) which ended up being a speed session in places as I had to take a much faster group than usual out
* SUN – 5.2 mile chatty run with Dan and Oscar (in the buggy) down to the park for a picnic breakfast, immediately followed by an 11 mile run/walk (13/2)

I’m hoping for similar mileage again this week, although spread out a little more evenly this time!

Oscar is definitely too big for the buggy now – and it’s also incredibly tough going on us having to push him – especially when we reach a hill!

Oscar is too big for the buggy now

We’ve run down to Stanwick Lakes for a pancake breakfast a few times now though and I’ll be sad when we really cannot squeeze him in for the ride anymore!  Parks were just too busy for comfort over the Summer holiday, but completely empty first thing in the morning.  As long as the pancakes were cooked and we managed to get out first thing, then there is plenty of time for a run down to the playpark, to demolish the pancakes and a good couple of hours of playing before things get too busy!

Pancake breakfast Oscar eating pancakes for breakfast

One of the biggest stressors for me this week has been the possible return of parkrun.  On Monday afternoon our team at Irchester Country parkrun received an email stating that parkrun intended to return before the end of October.  I really miss my weekly parkrun – we’ve now actually had more weeks away from parkrun than at our event, since starting up last November – and totally agree that there are a whole host of mental health and physical benefits to those who take part or volunteer.  Personally though, I felt that the timeframe to return was too short, and with restrictions still in place regarding gatherings of people I didn’t understand how parkrun could return;
a) When not everybody brings along a barcode, so not all runners are known (for tracking and tracing purposes).
b) Taking the temperatures of 500+ runners at every event each week would be impossible.
c) By announcing that Wales and Scotland would not be returning in October, adding immense pressure to events bordering the country line.
d) By relying on landowners giving permission for the events to take place.  Again, if a landowner refused, parkrunners from that event would descend on other local events, increasing numbers further.
e) Without a chip timed start, it would be bedlam on the start line with no social distancing – 2 metres apart?  Some events would see the first runners finishing before all had crossed the start line if that was the case, and runners would be adding 10/15 minutes to their overall time!
f) Asking for enough volunteers each week to put themselves forward in roles such as barcode scanning and finish tokens – where they would come into contact with every single runner at the event.

Personally, I still feel uncomfortable walking around a supermarket, never mind being crammed into a starting pen, coughed on and jostling for a place out on the course.

The following day it was announced that Government restrictions were changing – groups of no more than 6 people were to be together, either inside or outside.  I relaxed slightly, assuming that parkrun’s statement would be retracted.  Only it wasn’t.  It was then clarified that this new limit didn’t apply to parkrun – that parkrun would be allowed to go ahead.

And that’s when I began to get abuse.  How was I allowed to start up parkrun again when groups of friends were no longer allowed to meet up together for a run?  Obviously not my decision, but people were clearly feeling frustrated and angry about their time being directed for them by the Government once again.  I went to bed on Thursday evening feeling very sad and unhappy over the amount of angry messages I had received, simply because I volunteer my time as Co-Event Director at a parkrun event.

Luckily(?!) on Friday, the situation was eased for us when Public Health Northamptonshire issued a statement to all parkrun EDs in the county saying that they would not be sanctioning the return of parkrun at the end of October.  I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders!  I would absolutely love to see parkrun return, but when it is safe to do so.  I feel that setting a date 5 weeks away with the current rise in cases, and with children returning to school was reckless.  As much as I would have loved to have run a parkrun on my birthday at the end of October and for Oscar to start joining in once he turns four in a few weeks time, I believe that we shouldn’t be looking at a return until at least 2021 now, however sad that may be.

Do you intend to run/volunteer at parkrun next month?  How do you feel about parkrun returning at this point?
Have you tried a run/walk technique during a race before?  How did it go?

London Marathon recap – Pt 2 the hunger miles

If you missed the first part of my London Marathon recap, you can find it HERE.

I took five gels with me for the marathon.  My favourites to race road events with are the Salted Caramel GU gels.  I’m pretty sure I could knock those back all day!  In my early days of marathon running I would use just one gel on a marathon, or get by without, using just Lucozade Sport or jelly babies to fuel me round.  A few years back, after failing to achieve a sub 5 once again at Mablethorpe Marathon I was talking to another runner from my club who said she used to be the same; hardly ever took gels on board.  Her long distance running began to improve drastically when she started taking 5-6 gels during a race.  Two weeks later I ran Chelmsford Marathon, and although I didn’t take on board as many gels as she had advised, I did substantially increase the amount I was taking, and really thought through my tactics and timings for nutrition before race day.  That was the race I finally went sub 5 at.  Now I always make sure to take on board plenty during the race.

I prefer to take my gels a half at a time, along with a few swigs of water.  It’s what seems to work for me.  I took my first half a gel at about mile 5-6 and took on four in total during the race.  Water stations were every two miles and I took a half a gel at most stations from this point.

The first Lucozade station was at mile 7 and the road for the following 100 metres was stickier than the floor at Zanzibar, a shoddy nightclub in my uni town.  You could hear your trainers peeling up from the floor with every step.  It was horrible!

Somehow at mile 8 I spotted a member of my running club stood on the pavement alongside the barrier.  I shouted as loud as I could and finally got their attention for them to shout back as I ran past.

My first twelve miles went by what seemed very quickly.  I was so busy reading the backs of people’s vests and scanning the crowds for supporters I knew.  I knew of several members from my running club who had intended on coming down to support runners on the day, and several more who I knew through social media or the blogging world.  Some had told me where they were hoping to be, but by the time I was out on the course I’m afraid I had forgotten most of what people had told me but I was finding it quite exhilarating scanning the crowds anyway.

Mile splits for the first twelve: 10:05, 10:04, 9:52, 9:55, 10:01, 9:56, 10:00, 9:49, 10:01, 10:09, 9:54, 10:10.

All much faster than the 10:18mm pace I had intended, but I still felt good so I wasn’t too concerned.  They say you should be able to run to the halfway point feeling good and like you could do it all over again, and I definitely felt like I could.  I was religiously checking the times on my Pace Band against my watch each time I went underneath a mile marker arch, and by this point I was more than a minute up on a 4:30 finish time.  I think the furthest I had ever run before non-stop, without any walk breaks was 16 miles-ish so I was pretty sure that at some point my pace would drop, but I figured even if I began run-walking from 20 miles, if I was able to hold my current pace until then I would still be on for a new PB.

We turned a corner and all of a sudden the bridge was in front of us.  For some reason – and completely unexpected, I found myself tearing up and a little lump rise in my throat.  I quickly glanced down to recompose myself.  I felt so emotional running onto the bridge.  On both sides were charity supporters, with large banners strewn along the edge.  A camera panned down from up high as I reached the far side and, along with the guy next to me we automatically raised our arms high in the sky and pasted on beaming smiles!  We laughed about it as we turned right off the bridge.  He said that his children had better have been watching the TV at that point!  I’m not sure that our shot made it onto the TV, but I have a lovely set of photos across the bridge in the online photo gallery from the official photographers.

London Marathon official pictures

(I intend on asking for some of the official photos for my birthday, so will post them on the blog properly then.)

On the right as you turn off the bridge is where I usually watch the marathon when I go down as a spectator.  2018 was the first year in a long while when I didn’t head down to support on the day.  Both Kev and Tom, who I had watched with for several years in the past were unable to make the date and so I headed out for a long run with a friend early in the morning followed by pancakes and race tracking on the TV for the rest of the morning.  Sunday mornings done right!
Whenever I’d traveled down in the past I’d always bumped into other runners from our club supporting in a similar area so I really scanned the crowd here, desperately trying not to miss anybody who was out trying to spot me.  It can be almost impossible trying to spot runners sometimes, especially when (like me on the day) they’re not in club colours!  I didn’t see anybody I knew though.  It’s amazing how having only run the course once before I could still remember every turn on the route.

The cheer stations were all great out on route, but especially the Dementia Revolution cheer stations.  Each one went on for so long, and spanned across both sides of the road.  If you found yourself running alongside a Dementia Revolution runner through one of these stations you couldn’t help but be picked up yourself!

I spotted a couple of the Cancer Research UK cheer stations, and it was nice to be able to raise my arms up towards them as I came through, receiving great support from people I’d never met before.

As I crossed the halfway mark I glanced down to see 2:13:41 on my watch.  A time I would probably have been happy to take for a half marathon at the moment, and also perfect numbers on my watch to still aim for a sub 4:30 marathon!  I had no idea how I was getting away with such consistent, easy running still!

One of the next water stations (I can’t remember which one, maybe mile 14/16?) I struggled to get across to the station before it finished.  Everybody was darting across to grab a bottle and it became a bit chaotic with choppy strides from everyone.  I ducked in to grab a bottle from the last volunteer and shouted out “Sorry!” to the female runner I’d had to cut in front of.  I wasn’t close, I didn’t ‘cut them up’ as such.  They then extended their stride coming out of the station, moved back behind me and forcibly pushed into my back, making me shoot forward.  It really caught me off-guard!  Luckily they disappeared and I didn’t see them again.

Miles 13-20 went as follows: 10:15, 10:01, 9:49, 10:56, 10:07, 10:18, 10:44, 9:40.

(I think the first tunnel is at mile 18, hence the 10:44?)

I knew by now that I would PB.  Even if I ran walk the final few miles, they wouldn’t be slow enough that I would be risking my PB and I could feel the grin spreading across my face.  I was starting to feel hungry by this point.  Really, really hungry, but there wasn’t a lot I could do about it.

By mile 21.5 I knew I needed to try and find some food.  I made my first walk break and raided a bucket of jelly babies that had been thrust towards me, choosing all of the yellow ones to nibble on for the final few miles.  (Yellow is the best flavour by far.)  My stomach was rumbling so loudly I feared that other runners would start turning and looking at me!

At mile 22(ish) I saw Ruth, and then Jenny not long after.  And then a little further up the road I saw a group of guys from my running club and even further up another runner from my club.  (These may all be in totally the wrong order of when I spotted them, but they were all fairly close together and in the perfect location for keeping me going!)  Not that there was any risk in me stopping at any point now, but this is the section of the race that everybody says is the hardest, not much to look at and with everyone now ready for it to be the end!

Going into the tunnel was eerie.  I passed lots of people walking under here.  Of course, it’s the perfect place to fit in a sneaky walk, – I’m almost certain I walked it myself last time – but I made sure to jog through to the end.

For a stats geek like me it was so annoying having the tunnels mess with my Garmin.  Both times my watch continued to add time, but not mileage as I ran the 0.2ish miles through the tunnel.  I really needed to rely on my pace band against the mile markers now to judge roughly where I was time-wise.

Since that first walk, I took a couple more until the end.  My legs were fine, my chest was fine.  I was still breathing well, but I was absolutely starving!  I knew I wouldn’t have much energy left in the tank by the end and that was most likely down to the fact that I hadn’t been able to keep any food in me the night before.  I never hit the wall though.  I probably could have pushed through, but the knowledge that I would PB now was enough for me and I was buzzing!

London Marathon were making a real effort to become more eco-friendly this year.  Lucozade stations were a mix of bottles, compostable cups and also a seaweed edible and biodegradable pouch containing Lucozade at mile 23.  Initially, I hadn’t intended on using one of the pouches.  (Don’t try on race day anything you haven’t had a chance to try in training!)  But my body really fancied some energy drink at that point, and I figured I could always just try biting into the pouch rather than eating the whole thing, or just throw the seaweed part away/spit it out if it really was truly awful.  In the end though I found it really handy to be able to carry the pouch, – much easier than keeping hold of a bottle.  The pouch was very similar in look and feel to a washing capsule pod.  I bit into it and managed to consume the liquid without getting covered, much easier than I thought.

Seven drinks stations were also removed from the course this year, to prevent wastage and all clothes discarded at the start of the race were donated or reused.  You can find a big list of all of the ways London Marathon are trying to become more environmentally friendly HERE.  I think it’s fantastic that even larger races have begun to put so much effort into making running more eco-friendly.

I had a little walk and soaked up the sights before the final few turns, picking my running back up at 25.5 miles again.  It was amazing running past the 600 metre to go sign, where I usually head to watch runners finish.  And then to make that final famous turn towards the finish.  I pulled past several people at this point.  Again, there were charities along each side of The Mall.  One guy just in front of me stopped dead to wave at his charity and take a bow.  I almost crashed straight into him.  I didn’t expect anyone to stop along this part!

Miles 21-26.2: 10:43, 11:43, 10:49, 11:13, 13:50, 11:57, (Nubbin 0.67m): 10:30mm.

As soon as I crossed the finish line I pulled my phone out from my Flipbelt.  I already had a text from the marathon containing my finishing time, and one of my friends had already messaged to congratulate me on my PB.  I’d only been over the line a matter of seconds, so it was lovely to know that people had been tracking me throughout my race from home.

Finishing the London Marathon

I grabbed an official to get him to tell me who had won the race and was told Kipchoge, but not in a world record time.  He couldn’t tell me about any of the brits though.  Last time I’d run at London, there was a board at the finish displaying the top 5 male and female runners for everyone else out running that day, which I thought was a nice touch.

Finishing the London Marathon

It’s always nice looking back at stats after you’ve run a race you’re happy with.  Running a marathon should be like the tides in the sea…you let all the runners go out at the beginning, making sure to run a nice and steady start.  Then, during the second half you should let the tide come back towards you, passing everyone as you go!

Runners passed at London

I had my photo taken by the official photographer and moved along to collect my bag from bag drop.  Obviously my bag ended up being right at the very end of the enormous bag collection area.  I munched away on my race finisher apple along the way.  I made my way out to the tree where WDAC usually meet after London, only I must have been too slow, because I couldn’t spot anyone around.  I sat for maybe ten minutes in case anybody came by, but then decided to make my way to the Cancer Research UK after party.  I’ll write about that in a separate blog post though.

Finishing the London Marathon

I was running this marathon in memory of my Mum, raising money for Cancer Research UK.  My fundraising page is still open for anyone who wishes to donate.

Official time: 4:39:03 (** New PB by 15m 5s**)
Finishing position: 25006/42438
Gender position: 8079/17737
Age category position: 4235/9373

Runner stats at London Marathon

Ultimately I was so chuffed with how well my race had gone.  I had run so consistently up until mile 21.5 when I’d taken my first walk.  I never hit ‘the wall’.  I felt good throughout (other than super hungry!)  When speaking to Dan that evening he told me that he thought the tracker had broken for a while when my predicted times never altered each time I crossed over another timing mat.  Apparently the prediction had shown 4:27ish for the longest time!

Splits at the London Marathon

I trained using the Hanson’s Marathon Method, a book I researched and read numerous recaps on before deciding to purchase myself.  I do intend on writing a full recap of my own about how I found the training, but essentially – I loved it and it worked for me!  I’d definitely recommend it if you like the idea of running 5-6 days each week and capping your longest run at 16 miles.

What was your favourite PB moment?
Have you ever been so hungry in a race you’ve struggled?
Have you tried the Lucozade seaweed pouches? What did you think?

I ran 100 miles! (Part 3)

(You can find the first two parts of my Robin Hood 100 mile recap here… Part one * Part two)

Knowing that I had arrived at mile 84.28 (every point 2-8 counted after 24 hours of running!) was a nice boost.

Seeing Dan and Oscar and knowing that they would be following me round the course until the end now was nice to know, and by now I had heard word that Kev and Amanda who had run 50 miles at the Centurion Chiltern Wonderland race (160 miles South!) on Saturday were at the finish line, grabbing a quick sleep before coming out on the course to see me finish.

Hitting the canal path on the return leg of the route was hard going.  I’d forgotten how rough the terrain had been.  Tufts of grass sticking up everywhere and really uneven ground underneath on such a narrow path at times.  I was glad that I wasn’t one of the faster runners who would have had to complete this section at nighttime in the dark.  Although it was bad enough running it after 12 minutes sleep in the past 26 hours or so.  I felt rather bad for Guy here as so much of this section I had to walk.  My feet were in tatters by now.  The small stones I had accumulated in my trainers earlier on had rubbed slightly and the bottoms of my feet were very tender.  Every footfall that wasn’t on flat ground was agony and at times I couldn’t stop a whimper from sneaking out of my mouth.

We had a brief panic as we headed up over a bridge that crossed the road and could no longer see reflective tape marking the way back down and along the canal the other side.  I knew that I had come following the canal, and was sure that the route followed the path in reverse until we nearly reached the finish, but I doubted myself on such little sleep.  Guy jogged up the road to see if he could see any tape in either direction but there was none, so nervously we agreed to follow the canal path in reverse of the way I had run out.  I texted Gary to see if he could check on the tracker that we were still on course and after a few minutes, he confirmed that we were.  A kilometre or so up the track we came across some reflective tape and I could relax again!

When I had last seen Gary and Dan they had both told me that they would be at the next checkpoint.  They both misspoke.  For a good two miles before the aid station I was eagerly coming round every turn expecting to see Gary with pasta pot in hand and Oscar running up to me.  What felt like hours later Guy and I turned the corner to come across the checkpoint, only for nobody to be there waiting for us.  I slumped down into a deckchair shouting really dejectedly “Gary! Gary! Where are you?!”  Apparently one of the marshals at the checkpoint was called Gary, but he wasn’t the Gary I was after!  Another volunteer told me that he hadn’t seen my toddler at this checkpoint…my crew weren’t here.  I spent a good minute or so feeling sorry for myself before shovelling in some ready salted crisps and announcing to Guy that we had to get going again.  I needed to find where Gary and my pasta were…I wasn’t stopping!  Afterwards we worked out my crew had meant to say that they would be at the next CREW station, not checkpoint.  This checkpoint was one of two where crews could not attend due to the lack of parking in the surrounding area.

We traipsed on and a brief glimmer of hope began to grow as I remembered that I had seen Helen, Grant and Val somewhere near to this point on the way out at the start of the race.  Perhaps everybody would be at this point on the return instead?  The race course is twenty miles out, two thirty mile loops and then twenty miles back again to the start/finish, so each section of the course is run twice which is reassuring as you cover the same paths twice.  Although, on that towpath I swear every turn looked the same!

Eventually, at 93 miles I heard shouts of my name and I looked to see Kev and Dan with Oscar all shouting at me in the distance.  That got me to pick up my pace and as I got closer I also spotted Amanda.  Kev hurriedly rushed off to heat up a Pot Noodle for me, which I demolished, absolutely starving by now!  Gary had set off for home, as his son had a football match later that afternoon, but he had passed over my bag to Kev and Amanda who were going to crew me for the final ten miles of the race.

The Pot Noodle went down easily, although I decided I needed to get moving again so took the remainder with me as I headed off in the direction of the finish along the towpath.  Seeing everybody here had given me the big boost I needed to get going and after dropping my empty Pot Noodle cup in a nearby bin and passing my fork to Guy I managed to get some more running in again in short bursts.

The last aid station and crew point was at 97 miles and those four miles went on for what felt like forever.  The sun had really picked up by now and I was regretting not packing my running cap – feeling the sun burning down on the top of my head.  With nearly a mile still to go to the aid station, Amanda came walking along back along the path declaring that there were only three bridges left for me to walk under before coming across the checkpoint.  I really needed to get another sleep by now.  All I could think about was sleeping.  Although Amanda was carrying a plastic pint cup and when she mentioned that her and Kev had been waiting in the pub for me to arrive, my thoughts changed to what lovely beer garden weather it was that day and how much I would like a nice cool cider…why hadn’t they brought me a cider?!

Turns out Amanda lied (although she swears she just miscounted!) but there were actually four bridges.  I may have had a minor melt down when I realised that the third bridge I counted wasn’t in fact where the aid station was!  Finally though we did arrive and I ran over to Kev to say I really needed to sleep in his van for just 10 minutes.  Kev took me by the shoulders and very matter-of-fact told me that I could sleep for five minutes – no longer – on the floor of the aid station.  Then they would be moving me on.  I agreed and quickly clambered down onto the floor for a brief sleep.  The last thing I remember was the heat of the sun on my bare legs sticking out from under the aid tent and worrying that I had no suncream on them!

I don’t remember anybody waking me, but I do remember leaving the checkpoint and checking repeatedly with the marshal that it was no more than three miles now until the finish.  (Another lie which I was told!)

We had a steepish climb up from this checkpoint but I knew the finish would soon be in sight now.  With just over an hour to go I knew all I had to do was to keep moving until the end and I would finish it.  In the bag!

My watch battery had grown low around mile 60 the night before.  Following the battery death of my watch at the South Downs Way in June I had been told that I could continue to run whilst charging my watch from a battery pack, so had come prepared this time.  On leaving the aid station at mile 62 I had attached the battery pack to my watch and hooked this into my bag.  I realised after about a mile that the display on my watch was now blank though.  Had the battery died completely?  James had suggested turning it on again and my watch flashed something on the display and beeped.  I realised later though, that by pressing the on/off button I had actually been turning my watch OFF and stopping the recording annoyingly!  I removed the battery pack at mile 77 and turned the now fully-charged watch back on to record the final section of my race, but have no watch data from those middle miles unfortunately.

As my watch now showed mileage that was really out with how many miles I had actually run I made a mental note of the mileage it showed as I left the final checkpoint the moment the marshal confirmed with me for the second time that it was no further than three miles until the end.  Perfect.  Three miles.  I can cover three miles in that time.  Easy!

Guy and I passed two runners sat on the floor at mile 98.  Guy had a few words and reported back to me that they had decided to pull at mile 98 of the race.  How gutted would you be?!  Things must be bad though if there isn’t enough in you to walk the final two miles of a 100 mile race.

We crossed back over the horrible, horrible ploughed field.  It thought it was bad at mile 5…it was a million times worse at mile 98.  I couldn’t stop the whimpers of pain escaping with almost every footfall now.  My feet were so sore and every time they fell on the really uneven ground I was in agony!

Finally we made it out on the other side though and it wasn’t long before in the far, far distance I could see the building which I was sure we had come from!  The end was in sight!  Only, my watch said that there was only a mile to go.  That building was still much further than a mile away.  I suddenly began to panic.  Time was ticking down to the finish and I realised that the ‘three miles to the finish’ had been incorrect.  It was clearly further.  I started to pick the pace up again, panic creeping into my voice as I told Guy ‘We have to make it to the finish.  I can’t finish in over 30 hours.  I can’t run the distance and not be given a time because I didn’t make cut-off!’  I began to jog.  I could see Kev and Amanda again.  They had run back along the course to meet me.  Were they running to me because I was going to miss the cut-off?  My jog turned into a run, momentarily forgetting about the pain in my feet and allowing me to pass a number of other runners who had all been reduced to a walk for the final few miles.  Kev told me that I needed to run.  Not to panic, but to carry on running.  They wouldn’t let me miss the cut-off.  I would get there in time.  It was so hard not to look at my watch, although I knew it wouldn’t do any good.  The numbers made no sense anymore anyway.  I had no idea how many miles I’d run now or how far there was to go.  Kev’s declaration that it wasn’t far meant nothing and to tell the truth I didn’t trust anyone by this point now anyway!

I ran and ran and ran.  A few cries came from my mouth when I hit particularly hard stones with my now very-blistered feet but I was getting to that finish!  As I ran down into the village hall car park I couldn’t spot a finisher gantry and realised that I had no idea where I needed to go!  I shouted to Kev who told me that I needed to run inside the building.  I threw a wave to Dan who was getting Oscar out of the car, and to John and Lynn who stood near the entrance to the building and pushed on through the doorway.  Now where?!  It wasn’t obvious!  Somebody shouted that I needed to run through the door to the right and so I continued, bursting into a small room to instant applause.  I could see rows of chairs around the room where those who had finished before me now sat, drinking hot drinks and relaxing with family.  Somebody appeared from nowhere to hand me my finisher t-shirt, engraved medal (such a nice touch!) and to pass Dan a bottle of beer.

100 mile Hobo Pace Robin Hood 100 medal

They asked if I would like a hot drink and I started to make my way to a seat, although for some reason I no longer had the urge to sit down.  More runners burst into the room and I joined everyone in clapping.  It was several minutes later before a woman came up and asked if I had handed in my timing chip and given my name to a guy with a board.  I hadn’t and hadn’t realised I needed to do so, so I think my official time is probably a few minutes out.  The provisional results show that I finished at the same time as two other runners (which I didn’t) in 77th place with 29:48:11 for my time.  I would imagine that my time was actually closer to 29:45, but what is three minutes when I know that I made it before cut-off?!  And besides, it will just make it easier to beat my time when it comes to running my next 100 mile race, right?!  😉

100 mile finisher face! (Robin Hood 100)

113 runners started the race, and 79 runners made the finish within cut-off, with a further two runners completing the distance 52 minutes past the 30 allowed hours.

My race absolutely wouldn’t have been the success that it was if it wasn’t for the following people though…
* John and Lynn for agreeing to house Oscar and Dan for the weekend and for filling my belly with pizza the night before the race and cider at the end!
* James for coming out on early morning training runs with me during the few months leading up to the race and then running the dark scary miles from 52-82 with me during the race.  For putting up with my panicking when I totally miscalculated the amount of time I had left at 1am on Sunday morning and for letting me have a little kip on his space blanket when I got tired.
* Guy for crewing me up to mile 82 where he took over from James as pacer and put up with all my shrieks as the stones destroyed the blisters on my feet!
* Helen for organising a superb team of support and for popping up at several of the crew points along the way.
* Grant for his support out on the course.
* Gary for crewing the majority of my race, taking my sock and shoe off to shake the stones out and heading out to buy a much needed Pot Noodle for me mid race. Hopefully I didn’t make too much of a mess in his car!
* Laura for helping crew a large section of the race and for sharing the buggy pushing with Dan at Clumber Park parkrun!
* Kevin and Amanda for running me into the finish despite having run their own 50 mile race on the Saturday, then driving 160 miles up to Nottingham on Saturday night to see me run mine!  For putting up with me when I sobbed that I just wanted to nap and when I had a melt down because Amanda had miscounted the number of bridges to the next checkpoint!
* Dan for putting up with months and months of 5am alarms and numerous evenings when I was out running instead of staying home.  Also for chasing me round the course with Oscar over the weekend.
* Everybody that wished me good luck or gave me advice in the build up to race day. I felt so supported and honoured to have such lovely friends and family who were willing to do so much to help me achieve my goal.  I still cannot get over the fact that so many people went out of their way on so many levels to help ensure I completed my 100 miles.  I am so grateful to all of my friends for their support.

I took nine days off completely after the Robin Hood 100, and did feel a little lost with what to aim for next, although I have started to construct a plan for 2019 this week.  More to follow soon…!

I ran 100 miles! (Part 2)

(You can find part one of my Robin Hood 100 mile recap here.)

As I left the aid station at mile 30 Dan told me that he planned on heading back to John and Lynn’s house and would be back out in the morning with Oscar to find me on the course.  The trackers during the event were superb I’m told.  All the runners had been given small pager-sized devices on a strong velcro strap and told to attach them to our bags in a place that we could easily reach.  On the front of the device was a small button which, when held for several seconds would alert the Race Director that I was in danger.  Vital I imagine for those runners running on their own, especially those that made it to the canal path whilst it was still dark.  The tracking was real time, and friends and family (as well as those involved in the race organisation) could check that you were still following the correct path or that your tracking dot hadn’t remained still for too long, signalling that perhaps you had had an accident somewhere.  I was told that if either of those cases were to happen I would receive a phone call to check that I was in fact still alright, which was rather reassuring.  The tracker must have been fairly straight forward to use, as even my Dad followed my progress during the race.  Afterwards he told me how he had been concerned that my dot had stopped for too long at the final checkpoint and that I might not make it in time!

At mile 32 I arrived to a crew of Gary and Guy along with Laura.  I stopped for a few minutes here to take some food on and it was nice to have a chat with everyone.  One of the guys noticed that my shoulder looked a little sore from where my bag had been rubbing so pulled out some Glide to rub on.  It didn’t feel sore, but I did still have another 68 miles to go, so best be on the safe side!

The guys told me that Mike (the other runner from our club) was having a great race and currently sitting in 6th position which was lovely news to hear.

The next section was a bit of a low point for me.  It was 7 miles between the crew station at mile 32 and the next one at mile 39, with no aid stations in between.  I didn’t really see many runners during this section for several miles as everyone had started to spread themselves out a bit by this point.  I needed the toilet just as I came across a sign for public toilets and so ducked off the road to find them, although then had to queue along with the public.  One of the few negatives about this event was that these were the only actual toilets on route and the second time I passed them they had been locked up, so all other wees were wild ones – which always becomes progressively more of a challenge as the race goes on!

Gary, Guy and Laura had walked the half mile through the woodland to meet me at mile 39 where I sat with them on the floor for a few minutes and knocked back a chocolate milk.  I really fancied a little sit down when I met them, but I did feel a little stiff as I got going again.

All through the race I never thought of it being 100 miles.  The first big milestone for me to reach was mile 52, when I knew that James would be joining me on my run to pace me for 30 miles to mile 82.

I got a little confused as I left the aid station at mile 41.  This was an aid station at four points on the course due to the way the course was laid out.  (Miles 31, 41, 60 and 70.)  So there were people coming in and leaving in all directions and I started to follow somebody heading out on the loop I had already completed!  Luckily the marshals were on the ball and quickly called me back, sending me off in the correct direction.  That could have been a painful mistake to make!

I came across a horse and rider heading in my direction along the next tarmacked section.  They approached rather quickly but were walking as I passed.  The rider smiled at me and then without any sudden movements, the horse bolted off towards the next runner a way back behind me along the road.

Mile 47 was the next aid station and crew spot.  There was a steep descent on the way into the checkpoint which included climbing over a stile on a rocky step.  When I arrived at Gary’s car I asked if I could have one of the pasta pots I had brought along made up ready for me to have when I reached the next crew stop a little later on.  They told me that James had arrived at the crew point where he would be pacing me from and was just going to grab a quick nap before I arrived.  It was almost dusk as I went to leave the aid station and so I pulled out my headtorch ready for the next section.  It was less than a mile before I needed to turn the light on.  It seemed to turn from day to night really quickly and once again I found myself running on my own with nobody else around.  This section was a really eerie one.  I found myself running alone through thick woodland in the dark, guided only by flashes of reflective tape blowing in the wind as my headtorch caught the edges with it’s beam.  There were a lot of noises in the woods.  I could hear owls and rustling and I did feel rather vulnerable – very grateful of the fact that James would soon be running alongside me from the next aid station.  I had really freaked myself out by mile 50 and the last two miles before the aid station were run at pace just to shorten the time I would be spending running alone!  My Garmin tells me that I was running at 8:40mm pace for a little while there!

I had estimated that it would take me somewhere around 12 hours – 12 hours 30 mins to reach mile 50 and I glanced at my watch to see that it had taken about 12 hours and 15 minutes, although somehow it felt like I had only been out running for a couple of hours.

I sped into the aid station at mile 52 to see Laura and James waiting for me to arrive.  A volunteer told me that chips had just arrived at the aid station and so I sent Laura to grab me a handful.  Up until this point I had just been knocking back picnic type foods, so I was very grateful for the piping hot chips and was glad that I had requested my pasta pot to be ready by the time I reached the next crew station so that I could have a real meal.

I said goodbye to Laura who was returning home from here to continue tracking me on the website.  I grabbed a cup of sugary tea here too and I definitely noticed the boost it gave me.  I left still carrying my tea and James and I walked half a mile or so whilst I finished my drink.  I explained to James that I was still running large sections but that I was also now speed walking parts of every mile, – taking each section as it came.  The only real pressure in the back of my mind being that I needed to cover the ground at 18 minute mile pace on average (including all stops).  Up until this point I had only had one mile which had come over this pace, which had included a stop to see my crew at mile 41.  My walking pace is naturally fairly fast at 15-16 minute miles so it would be the need to stop at aid stations and lack of sleep which would let me down if anything.  I wasn’t too concerned with timings at this point.  I had been a long way off from cut-offs at the South Downs Way 100 in June, and although I had purposefully slowed myself down significantly at this race I still felt in control and like I would be able to speed up if needed.

Running with James was great.  It was lovely to have company after the last 52 miles of solo running.  James had taken part in running an 11 mile leg at the Round Norfolk Relay race for our club team in Norfolk that morning and then driven over to Clumber Park to pace me round 30 miles in the dark.  He filled me in on how our club team had been getting on before he left and we discussed different races we’d run or wanted to run later in the year.

Before running SDW in June I really underestimated just how much help a pacer could be in an event like this.  In future any other races over 50 miles in distance I will absolutely be planning to incorporate pacers and a crew as the people filling these two key roles made such a massive difference to my spirits and desire to achieve at the Robin Hood 100 last weekend.

I felt a little weak by the time we arrived at mile 62 so had a little lay down in the back of Gary’s car whilst Gary and Guy got my pasta pot ready.  Initially I felt like I would struggle to get the pasta down, although knew I would have to force it if that was the case.  I got no more than 7-8 pasta shells down me at mile 54 of SDW and I suffered because of it.  After a few minutes of laying in the back of the car and after eating a couple of shells I started to feel a bit better though and surprised myself by managing to finish the whole pot.  I reminded myself of a character on an old-style video game where they would eat and their health would instantly increase.  When I had arrived at the crew station I was worn down and not very perky but by the time I left I was buzzing again and back into a jog as soon as we got round the corner.  I made sure to put in an order for the second pasta pot later on that morning.

I had a dark patch at 1am on Sunday morning.  All night I tried to calculate times in my head as I ran.  For some reason I counted 1am – 2pm as 11 hours remaining instead of the 13 hours that it actually was.  I can’t remember how many miles I had left by this point, but by selling myself two hours short I knew that I would be fighting the clock the whole way.  I was so confused as I knew I had been so far ahead of the cut-offs for the first half of the race.  I didn’t understand how I could now be cutting it so fine that I might not make it.  I voiced my concerns to James (who didn’t spot my mistake either) and then grew quiet, filled with worry that something which I had not originally been concerned with at all may now pose a threat to the success of my race.  I can’t have been much fun to run with along this section!  It must have been 20-30 minutes before I finally worked out my mistake and felt instantly relieved.  Two hours is a lot of time to lose!

When James and I arrived at the aid station at mile 69 one of the marshals overheard me talking about my mix-up in sums.  He reassured me that the unofficial cut-off time at that aid station was 5:30am, and it wasn’t quite 3:10am when we arrived.  We still had plenty of time!

I stopped for quite a while at mile 76 with my crew, sat in the back of Gary’s car.  I had had what felt like a small stone rubbing in the bottom of my right trainer for the last 8-9 miles, but on removal of my sock and shoe Gary confirmed that this was now where the ridge of my sock was rubbing on the base of my foot.  It didn’t hurt, it was just irritating at this point so I got him to put my trainer back on and decided to deal with the repercussions after the race.  I enjoyed my second pasta pot – I had needed it perhaps two miles sooner than we had arrived annoyingly so once again I felt rather weak on arrival but perked up as more of the pasta disappeared.

It wasn’t long after leaving this checkpoint that my words began to slur into each other as I spoke.  I felt completely drained and knew that a five minute nap would pick me back up again.  I begged James to let me lie down on the floor and take a quick nap but instead he tried to convince me to make it to the next aid station where I would be able to sleep in the back of a car rather than the cold, hard floor.  I knew that with nearly five miles still to go before we hit the next aid station I would never make it though and eventually, as my speech got more and more indistinguishable he decided to pull out his space blanket for me to curl up on for a five minute nap.  I tried to wait patiently by the side of the path as he pulled his blanket out but he seemed to take forever and the blanket kept sticking back on itself, getting more and more tangled up.  Finally it was on the floor and then I didn’t waste any time in laying down on it for a sleep.  I can remember being amazed that I didn’t feel stiff at all getting down to the floor.  My muscles were doing really well!  I must have fallen asleep instantly and awoke what I was told was 12 minutes later to James clapping loudly next to my head to wake me up.  Dawn was starting to break by the time I woke and it was nice to be able to tuck my headtorch back away into my bag.

I was buzzing after that nap and could run long sections of the next track again.  Initially I had been concerned for taking so long out of the race to sleep, but the pay off was definitely worth those few minutes of no movement along the course.

On the approach of the next crew point I snuck off for a wild wee and James jogged ahead to meet up with Gary, Guy and also Helen who had now joined my crew again for this checkpoint following crewing Mike.  I was eager to find out how Mike was doing and was instantly concerned when the guys reluctantly told me that he was still out on the course, – that he hadn’t finished the race yet.  For someone who had planned on running 11 minute miling for the race and who had been holding 6th place when I checked at the halfway point I really hoped that something hadn’t happened to him, but I couldn’t get any more information out of my crew, who stuck to their story that he ‘hadn’t had a good time of it’.

This was the checkpoint where James left and Guy joined me for the remaining twenty miles.  I thanked James, (who was then driving back to Northamptonshire to run a half marathon later that morning!) and then filled Guy in on how my running had gone since I had seen him last.

It was only a couple of miles until the next aid station and as I ran down the hill I could see Oscar and Dan waiting for us at the bottom!

Oscar and I near the end of Robin Hood 100(Picture shared on the Hobo Facebook page)

Oscar was really excited to see me and chatted away to me about his morning.

Oscar and I near the end of Robin Hood 100(Picture shared on the Hobo Facebook page)

Oscar and I near the end of Robin Hood 100(Picture shared on the Hobo Facebook page)

I sat for a few minutes in a chair at the aid station with Dan and Oscar.  The marshals were great with Oscar and he was offered all the watermelon and sweets he could ever eat whilst I spent a few minutes getting myself together ready for the last sixteen miles.

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I thought I might get all of my recap written in two posts this time, but it’s late now and I still have so much to write.  Part three to follow over the next couple of days…