South Downs Way 50 – part 1

My come-back race following pregnancy was a 50 miler.

That may seem daft, but I needed to set myself a real challenge – something that would be achievable if I was determined enough, yet still challenging.

Yeah, I’ve been to parkrun a handful of times since Oscar was born six months ago, and I did run our club trail half marathon back in February.  But running the trail half was just that – a ‘run’, rather than a race and, knowing so many of the other runners and marshals out on the course meant that I didn’t really push myself the way I usually would in a race environment.

I was watching the weather forecast for several days in the build up to Saturday’s 50 miles.  Somehow I always seem to pick marathons and ultras that fall on ridiculously hot days and the 2017 South Downs Way looked like it wasn’t going to be an exception.

I was traveling down with another runner from my club, – Kev – and in order to arrive in time I needed to be out my door and in my car on the way to his house by 4:10am.  I was convinced that Oscar would wake when my alarm rang at 3:40 but he slept soundly through.  Good job actually, as I barely made it round in time as it was.  When I did finally make it into the car, I got 5 minutes up the road before realising that I had forgotten my trainers!  Quick spin of the car and back down the street I went.  Luckily there isn’t too much traffic in our town at 4am on a Saturday morning!

Kev’s sister who lived nearby was going to drop us down to the start and pick us up again at the finish so that we didn’t have to worry about the logistics of returning home from a point-to-point race.  (We all know how well I manage to organise myself for those!)

I’ve run several ultras now but I think this is the only one I have ever been nervous at before the race began.  I wasn’t nervous about the running – more the ‘mumming’ and the fact that I was still breastfeeding, yet spending the best part of a day (ended up being just short of 24 hours!) away from home.  My handheld pump and two large bottles took up a large portion of my ultra bag meaning that there was no room for the leftovers from the standard pre-race takeaway pizza I’d ordered the night before.

Ultimate Direction running bagIt’s taken me several ultras to get my nutrition right (for me) Not being able to take my salty pizza, not having a bag drop on route to leave any chocolate milk, being unable to use any gels (due to breastfeeding) and without a supply of nuun tablets (they no longer stock in the UK) were all factors leaving me in the unknown for Saturday’s event.

We had our kit checked on arrival.  Centurion had opened up registration the night before to ease the load on the registration desks, and it obviously did the trick, as it never felt over-busy at the race HQ.  After carefully packing and repacking my bag numerous times the day before I was dreading have to unpack it all for somebody to check through again, but the lady on registration only wanted to see that I was carrying two headtorches and a base layer in my bag and didn’t look for any of the other kit.  Several of the items I had initially intended on taking with me on the run had ended up getting downgraded to the drop bag which I left for Centurion to transport to the finish once the race had begun.  This included my suncream – after I had coated (or so I thought) my arms, legs and face.

Expressing was done at the last possible moment and took much longer than I initially thought it would, meaning that the majority of other runners had already headed down to the starting field by the time I emerged from the toilet block.  Along with two others from our club, Kev and I listened to the race briefing whilst the sun felt like it burnt through our clothes.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was so warm, – it wasn’t even 9am yet!

South Downs Way 50 start

When the race started I presumed the running field would quickly separate and for runners to be very spaced out as I’ve come to expect from ultras.  This wasn’t the case at all though.  There was a narrow exit to the field, so within minutes we were all walking to avoid bottlenecking, and then the track the exit led out onto was narrow, rutted and stony, – causing runners to stay bunched together.  It was probably a good 18-20 miles before there was ever any stretch of the run where I wasn’t within a couple of minutes of another runner.

As it always does, the first mile went by quickly.  I don’t mean to sound like one of those people, but 50 miles doesn’t sound like a long way now.  Having covered the distance before, I have confidence in being able to complete the distance.  With ultra events it becomes so difficult to compare times as course profiles are so varied, and different weather across different years can play such a big part in how well you do on the day.  It means that I find the pressure is much less than over a fast 5k race.

South Downs Way 50 elevation

I walked the uphills, ran the downhills and ran/walked the flat depending on how technical the track was.  My aim in any ultra is just to keep moving.  Another concern for this time round, as I knew I would need to stop at some point in order to express.

Just before mile 10 I felt my sock rubbing on the heel of my right foot.  At the very last minute, I had decided to run the race in an old pair of road shoes rather than my usual trail shoes.  The thinking behind this was that it hadn’t rained for weeks, so the ground would be hard, and my feet were likely to swell in the heat – with my road shoes offering more comfort and flexibility than the trails do.  I’ve never had an issue with any of my Asics trainers (road or trail) rubbing before, and I think on Saturday the rubbing was probably due to the steep climbs combined with the heat of the day.  When I paused to readjust my sock (initially thinking it had just slipped down below the trainer line) I realised that it had rubbed right through!  The socks I was wearing were fairly thin (so that my feet didn’t sweat too much) and luckily also fairly long, so I folded down the top of the sock over the now-missing sock heel and hoped for the best.  At this point, just over 40 miles still to go did sound like a lot!

In actual fact, the left heel ended up rubbing through entirely as well.  Although I didn’t actually realise this until I made it back to the changing rooms at the end of the race.Holey socks

Kev caught up with me at this point and we ran together for perhaps a mile here before he ran on ahead.  I saw him again leaving the first checkpoint as I arrived but then not again until the finish.

The first checkpoint was at mile 11.  Those first 11 miles flew by, and felt so, so easy.  I knew the first major hill was coming up after that checkpoint.  Initially I had considered stopping to express here, but it was so manic and busy that there was no opportunity for that to happen.  There were people coming in to the checkpoint constantly and it was a flurry of activity.  I snatched a couple of slices of watermelon (so satisfying) and a handful of ready salted crisps to get my salt fix and continued on my way, having to stop for what felt like forever before I was told it was safe enough to cross over the busy main road.  I pulled out the sole mini carton of chocolate milk I’d stashed away in my bag.  I figured it would probably taste pretty horrid later on in the day by the time it had warmed up and so what better time to enjoy it than now?!  I’d already munched through two nakd bars on my way to the first checkpoint.South Downs Way 50 mile 12

There was a photographer nearing the top of the first big climb.

South Downs Way 50 mile 12It was a pretty steep climb – I couldn’t see anyone attempting to run up it although I’m sure some of the front runners must have done!

South Downs Way 50 mile 12

Along the top of this ridge was the only point which I pulled out my phone to take pictures, although I wish I’d taken more on the day.

South Downs Way 50 mile 12You can see how bright the day really was in this photo.  There is literally not a single cloud anywhere in the sky!  I could already feel the tops of my legs starting to burn by now, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  The following day it was easy to spot areas I had missed when applying the suncream!

As I hadn’t expressed at checkpoint one, I intended on expressing at checkpoint two (16 miles), and then again later on in the race, but when I reached checkpoint two, it was a very small area with nowhere to get out of the way and go unseen, so I just grabbed a couple of scotch eggs and ran on, thinking that surely there would be a wooded area or secluded spot I could stop at before the next checkpoint at mile 26.

Turns out the South Downs are the most open area of land I have ever come across.  There was nothing but track, grass and the odd gorse bush for miles and miles.  Apart from dozens of families out for a day in the sun that is.  Families who probably wouldn’t appreciate if I sat on the side of the track with a breast pump in hand!

I chatted to several other runners along the way – something I love about the more relaxed nature of trail/ultra running that you just don’t get in road races.  At one point I shouted a runner back from up ahead as he had sped off down the wrong track.  Probably saved him a few miles!

Mile 27 ticked over on my watch before I turned in for checkpoint number three.  This one was held in a barn, and I think I rather surprised the sole female marshal I could find when I stated that I was still breastfeeding, and would really appreciate if I could nip behind the combine harvester in the barn out of the way to express!  Luckily this was fine, and so I grabbed a couple of ham wraps and my recently filled water bottles and lowered myself to the dusty ground behind the machinery.  I quickly called Dan here whilst I expressed to see how he had been getting on with Oscar and to let him know that I was doing fine – much better than expected in fact and I still felt super strong.  Dan told me that he had dressed Oscar suitably for the day and sent a picture.

Oscar in his Ultra runner in training vestWith expressing and repacking my bag again afterwards I was in the back of the barn for a total of 25 minutes.  It felt like forever, and my legs agreed when I tried to get up.  I never sit down in races, especially not for that long!  One leg began to cramp, and then the other one joined in as I writhed to the opposite side.  Not an enjoyable experience!  I lay back down and fully stretched before using the combine harvester to pull myself up.  Oh, so classy!

Mile splits (up to mile 27): 12:38, 14:06, 11:03, 11:18, 12:16, 15:11, 10:48, 11:06, 10:47, 12:09, 10:29, 15:35, 17:49, 12:46, 12:38, 14:46, 10:32, 18:57, 13:18, 16:44, 14:40, 14:22, 13:59, 14:31, 13:05, 11:05, 15:23

…I had intended on writing this recap in just one post, but as I’m at a 2000 word count already, with still so much to say, why break a tradition?!  I’ll split this post into two!…

Two parkruns and some big news

Firstly, the parkruns.
Both at Northampton, both with the buggy.

Last week I headed over to run with Laura and Steph, who has been out with an injury for almost a year now.  Every runner’s worst nightmare.  Steph was hoping to run the whole parkrun and then intended on rewarding herself with a new pair of trainers if she succeeded in doing so.  Spoiler alert: a new pair of trainers were purchased!

We started at the back and kept things super slow so that we could catch up on the gossip.  I can’t remember the last time I ran properly without chatting at parkrun to be honest.  I’m due a proper hard run soon I’m sure!
Northampton parkrun with the running buggy

We used to regularly have a photographer at Northampton parkrun but it’s been a bit hit and miss for the last year or so and it was nice to see one out and about last weekend.  He was literally everywhere as well.  Popped up so many times out on the course!  According to a post he shared on the parkrun Facebook page, he took more than 2000 images during the run!

Garmin time: 35:37
Official time: 35:42
Position: 449/539
Gender position: 173/234
Age category position: 22/27

We obviously headed to The Good Loaf for cake afterwards, although for some reason I forgot to take any pictures.  Very unlike me!

As I was loading up the buggy back at my car again, a tiny little mouse came running out from underneath my car and just pottered around on the pavement.  He kept stopping and looking at me, but really wasn’t scared at all.

Mouse in Northampton

This past weekend, Oscar and I headed to Northampton parkrun again with Laura and this time Dan joined us too, although ran his own ‘race’.  Now that Dan has decided to give up football on a Saturday morning he thought it would be a good idea to get back out to parkrun for as many events as he can make, starting with the one at the weekend.

Dan, Me and Oscar on the way to parkrun

On the drive over Dan asked if I would like him to head back and collect Oscar from me once he had crossed the finish line.  I said that he could do if he wanted, although we may not be too far behind, depending on how busy it was that day.

Laura, Oscar and I at Northampton parkrunIt was pretty busy.

We got very stuck behind other runners at the beginning.  I’ve naturally got a very long stride and it’s very hard to keep clipping it continuously.  The paths are very narrow at Northampton and so I kept whizzing Oscar out on the grassy verges and over the bumpy bits where I was able, so that I could overtake runners who stopped or slowed as we went along.  Oscar didn’t seem to care though.  I get the impression (from all the fab smiling he does as everyone runs by) that he adores being in the buggy!

Garmin time: 31:40
Official time: 31:43
Position: 361/523
Gender position: 105/217
Age category position: 17/31

I was really surprised to see 31m 40s on my Garmin as I crossed the line, as once again I’d chatted the whole way round and we really had been going so very slowly (for us) at the beginning of the run.  Dan finished in just under 31 minutes and didn’t make it back to relieve me of the buggy!

We had a busy weekend actually as Dan, Oscar and I met friends, along with their 11-month-old baby at Beckworth Emporium for lunch.  Well, we met them at 2pm, and were seated a little after 3.  The queuing was insane!  Luckily, the babies behaved.

Beckworth Emporium queueI definitely deserved burger and cake for my lunch/tea by the time we were seated!

Burger from Beckworth EmporiumThat fudge cake was a killer though…I wolfed it down as Oscar needed feeding by that point, but by the time I got up I could barely move I was so full!

Chocolate fudge cake from Beckworth Emporium

On Sunday morning Dan managed a lay in, and then I got him breakfast in bed.  (I thought it was supposed to be Mother’s Day?!  Haha!)  We had planned to go swimming so that Dan could see Oscar in the pool, as, other than his first swimming lesson back at the start of January, Dan hasn’t seen Oscar in the water.

Oscar absolutely adores swimming.  Over the past three months his confidence has grown so much in the pool and he is now perfectly happy to dive in from the side of the pool, go underwater, and he kicks his legs and doggy-paddles with his arms.  He’s pretty easy to spot in the pool as he’s the one that will be shrieking with excitement each lesson!

We stopped in at Asda to pick up some coloured plastic balls and a plastic watering can for him to play with in the pool and although he was quite distracted by all of the other children in the public swimming pool, Dan still got to see him enjoying the water which was nice.

We followed our swim up with a picnic at Irchester Country Park, where we were going to give Oscar his first experience of the swings, but it was so incredibly busy as it was such a lovely, sunny weekend that we decided to give it a miss and headed out on a little walk instead.

Dan, Oscar and I out for a walk on Mother's Day

On Sunday I also handed in my notice at work.  I’ve been at the same school for the last two and a half years, although it feels like much longer.  Despite having been on maternity leave since the end of September, I still find myself logging in to the system every couple of days to work on resources for Year 11 (my subject responsibility), and I check my email daily.  I just can’t switch off as a teacher, despite not being in the classroom!

It was a huge decision for Dan and I to make, but ultimately I know that we have made the best decision for our little family.  I will still be returning to school at the end of May to work my notice until the end of the school year, during which time Oscar will attend nursery, but after that I will become a full-time stay-at-home/work-odd-jobs-from-home Mum.

I was so worried about sending the email with my resignation that it took me more than two hours to write the message, and then nearly another 30 minutes before I felt able to hit the send button!  The response from my Head of Department summed up how I was feeling though, and I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing this paragraph…
“I know that you won’t have made this decision lightly.  I also know that you couldn’t possibly be just an ‘OK’ teacher and just an ‘OK’ Mum, so it’s about priorities.  It’s so important to be happy in life Mary.”

I want to be the very best Mum that I can be to Oscar, and I don’t feel like I would be able to do that with 60+ hour working weeks and without any down-time to run or write.  I don’t know quite how things will work out come-September, but I do know that we will adjust just fine and our new way of life will become the new normal.  I’m looking forward to the next chapter!

Just recently there have been several things that I have wanted to write about that I feel don’t really ‘fit’ this blog.  AHM has always been a) very run-focused and b) written more like a diary.  I feel like at the moment there are quite a few ‘topics’ I want to write about.  Some of them baby, some of them just life-things, and they don’t really fit here.  I hurriedly set up a new baby blog back when I first announced my pregnancy online, although decided to continue writing on AHM as my pregnancy journey often had a running-focus.  I think I’m now ready to start running the two blogs alongside each other though, so if you would like to read about a slightly different side of my life, then please visit me over at From Teacher to Mum.  It’s very new, I haven’t played with the design yet and I’m not sure how often I’ll post at the moment.  Getting long blocks of time in front of the computer with a six month old is pretty tough!  I still intend on writing about Oscar-things here when it is running related though.

How did you spend Mother’s Day at the weekend?
Did you learn to swim as a child?
When did you last hand your notice in at a job?

The buggy has arrived!

The running buggy arriving has been a complete game changer for me.  No more having to get up at 4:15am to fit runs in, or running solo in the dark from home during time that I should actually be spending with my family.

Having a running buggy and Oscar now being big enough and sturdy enough to fit and come out for a run with me is fantastic.  It means I can get my runs in during daylight hours (although that wouldn’t have been an issue for too much longer now that the evenings are getting lighter anyway) and combine my daily outside time with Oscar along with my runs.  Does it bother me that I’m not able to run at my regular training paces?  Not really.  I’m pretty sure that running up hills and off-road whilst pushing a buggy and a 15 pound baby will see an improved pace for me on days that I don’t run with it!

Oscar in the running buggy

I will get round to writing a proper post about the buggy and how I’m getting on with at some point.  I’ve kind of become a once-a-week blogger over the past couple of months as I’ve struggled to find the time during the week to sit down and write.  Dan and I are trialing something slightly different with Oscar’s bedtime at the moment though and the past few nights have seen us baby-free from 8:30pm rather than our usual 11pm (or even later!) so fingers crossed for some more free time heading my way over the coming weeks!

Oscar’s new buggy was ordered on the Saturday, arrived on the Tuesday and immediately unboxed and put together!

I headed out on a test run with it the following afternoon and Oscar slept through almost the entire run.  This was a good job as it allowed me to practice running whilst pushing without the extra worry of him no longer being able to see me when heading out.  I probably should have practiced heading out with him facing away from me in his regular buggy first, but it didn’t seem to faze him too much.

Thursdays and Fridays I spend in Norfolk at my parents’ so the next time I ran with the buggy was when I went to Northampton parkrun at the weekend.  As the park has been so crowded during recent weeks I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to navigate the paths whilst pushing a buggy.  During my test run on the Wednesday I had repeatedly stopped to alter features of the buggy, check on Oscar and even picked up Dan’s lunch for the following day from the Co-op on the way back home again!  Ignoring my stops I ran somewhere in the region of an 11 minute mile pace and running with the buggy was much, much easier than I had anticipated it would be.

I ran with Laura at parkrun again and the aim was just to keep running and chatting as I went round.  This I did!

I still need to learn the boundaries of the buggy.  A couple of times Laura pointed out that the buggy wheels were very close to the runner in front!  I hate getting stuck behind another runner when I’m running on my own and am dreadful at clipping the heels of other runners with my own feet.  It’s going to be 1000 times worse now that I’ve also got to maneuver the buggy!

Garmin time: 32:41
Official time: 32:41
Position: 402/547
Gender position: 122/221
Age category position: 19/34

I didn’t expect to finish in 32 minutes, and feel that if there had been clear pathways and I hadn’t been chatting as much as I was, I probably could have finished around the 30-31 minute mark instead.  I hadn’t really thought properly beforehand about the sort of finishing time I would come in at, but thinking about it now, I would have assumed I would be closer to 35 minutes whilst pushing the buggy.  Apparently not the case!

Northampton parkrun is having a real problem with parking at the moment.  With nearly 550 runners descending on it each week and somewhere in the region of 40-50 car parking spaces, which now also have to be shared with Saturday morning footballers, there isn’t a hope of me parking on the car park unless I leave before 8am.  I have friends that live in Northampton who leave at that time to get a space!  This week there was added drama when a van with a flat tyre was blocking several spaces in the already small car park.  Lindsay, among others ended up helping to push the van across the car park so that cars were still able to park.  Nightmare!

Van blocking the car parking spaces at Northampton parkrun(Lindsay’s pic)

Oscar got to have another ride in the buggy that afternoon when Laura offered to take him so that Dan and I were able to head over to Harlestone Firs and have our photograph taken.

A while back I saw a competition on Facebook for a ‘Day in the Life’ free photoshoot.  Maxine, from Do You Realise? photography had some new photography gear and wanted to update her portfolio so was offering a session where she would follow your family for the day and take shots of all the little things you took for granted but had never thought to capture.  I loved the concept, but I didn’t win that competition.  Rather luckily, Dan said, as it would have meant an incredibly quick tidy and finish up of our ongoing building site!  I followed the Do You Realise? Facebook page and when another competition came up for a couple photoshoot, I entered that too.  This time, winning!

Do You Realise photography couple shoot at Harlestone FirsMaxine was fab.  Really friendly and down to earth and made us feel super relaxed.  It was literally just like we had headed out on a walk through the woods with friends.  Although we had professional photos taken for our wedding back in 2014 I’m not really a big fan of any of the photos of just Dan and Me.  I love the day shots and the shots of our guests, and the photos of us with our guests.  The photos of just us were just too posed and felt awkward though.  Something I never felt when out in the woods on Saturday.  This is the only photo I’ve seen of the shoot so far, but I am confident that the rest will be just as fab!

Are there any parking problems at your parkrun?
Have you ever had professional photos taken before?

Three events in one weekend

This weekend was a busy one. For the first time since the start of the year I didn’t spend my Thursday and Friday in Norfolk with Oscar at my parents’ house. Instead, Dan joined Oscar and I for Saturday and Sunday so that we could celebrate my Mum’s 70th birthday back in Norfolk with my family.
We met up with my Mum, along with my Dad and brother at Saturday lunchtime for a lovely meal at The Hare Arms in Stow Bardolph.

I had a gorgeous vegetarian halloumi burger with fudge cake for dessert.

Halloumi burger from The Hare Arms(Best picture I could manage whilst trying to stop a five month old pulling the lettuce from my burger bun!)

The pub part of the building was fairly busy, but we were placed in the back room with just one other young family. It had a more restauranty feel in this room and Oscar really found his voice chatting and squealing with his Nanny, Grandad and Uncle Mark. There were several peacocks in the grounds of the pub and Oscar enjoyed watching them shake their feathers through the giant windows on either side of the room we were in.

Before we headed over for the meal on Saturday lunchtime I made it over to the Racecourse in Northampton for my 74th parkrun. My friend Lindsay had a baby last July. I’d helped her get into running a couple of years ago and it was great to see her progress from somebody who struggled to get round the 5k at all, to somebody who ran 10k non-stop and who achieved her first sub 30 minute 5k parkrun! She had initially been signed up to run the Milton Keynes half marathon last Autumn before finding out that she was pregnant and deciding not to continue her training through her pregnancy. Since Stanley has arrived though she has once again begun the couch to 5k program and has begun to fit in jogging with him in a buggy on the school run now that he is a little older.
So when Lindsay said that she was able to make parkrun at the weekend I offered to run with her. Initially she told me she aimed to achieve a sub 38 minute parkrun, but when I arrived she had changed her mind and said that she would be happy with anything under 40 minutes.

She smashed that time goal. AND she chatted the whole way round, so I know she’s capable of much more now!
I knew that we would roughly have to stick to 12ish minute miles to achieve Lindsay’s initial goal of under 38 minutes, and was prepared for her to walk large sections of the course, but she didn’t take a walk break until we came to the hill for the second time (at 2.2 miles) and only took three small walk breaks in total, with her pacing staying so consistent!
Mile 1: 10:51
Mile 2: 10:43
Mile 3: 10:54
Nubbin: 9:54 pace
She was pretty chuffed to finish with an official time of 33:25!  (And rightly so!)  You can read her recap on her blog.

Garmin time: 33:37
Official time: 33:30
Position: 408/542 (Just seven short of the attendance record and Northampton had problems with lots of people ducking out before the finish this week, so I’m sure they would have smashed it otherwise!)
Gender position: 134/228
Age category position: 19/29

Busy at Northampton parkrunThis is me trying to show how busy it was at parkrun, but it’s not a very good shot.  It was pretty rammed out there again this week though!

I had planned on going fairly easy at the parkrun so that I could run the Magic Mile afterwards. One of my aims this year is to run Magic Mile on the first Saturday of each month as often as possible so that I can see how my speed returns post pregnancy. I ran my first MM back in December, and annoyingly had to miss February’s event as Dan and I were away, so this was the third time of running it.
December (Month 1): 8:57
January (Month 2): 8:26
March (Month 3): 8:09

48 seconds off my mile time over three months! :)

Unfortunately there were a few problems with the timing at the event this month – I believe somebody called through to the timer’s phone mid-run! So we had to submit any Garmin times we had along with our names and positions at the finish. I submitted 8:09 before remembering that I had fumbled with my watch and not been able to stop it immediately after crossing the line, so I was probably a few seconds faster than that in reality.
It was a little frustrating as I had secretly hoped that my mile time would start with a 7, but it wasn’t meant to be obviously! Although I was so close. Fingers crossed for a 7:xx time in April!
There was still the tree across the path from Storm Doris which we had to avoid (although the majority of the smaller branches had been removed since the previous week by this point). My Garmin actually reads that I ran 1.03 miles (every 0.01 of a mile counts on a mile distance!) at an average pace of 7:55, so according to my Garmin I ran a sub 8 minute mile! :)
It’s weird, because you expect running fast to hurt but in actual fact I found it very easy to distract myself for those eight minutes and just concentrate on continuing to turn my legs over as fast as I could. It never actually ‘hurt’ as such and I felt that my legs were going at their top speed on the day which was rather satisfying!

I was exhausted on Saturday evening and left Oscar with Dan to put to bed after he had finishing watching Match of the Day.  Oscar had other ideas though.  Having been rather excited at seeing family all day, he was now overtired and not ready for bed!  I took over from Dan and got him down a little after midnight, before being woken not long after 4am the following morning!  Luckily, my Dad was up and offered to take over from me.  I gratefully accepted the offer and quickly headed back to bed for another hour or so before he could change his mind!

Dad and OscarDad apparently introduced Oscar to Peppa Pig and when I came down for the second time that morning they were both drifting in and out of sleep on the chair in the lounge!

Part of the reason I had been so eager to hand Oscar over and return to bed was that I was due to run the Hunny Bell cross-country that morning – only a few miles from where my parents live.  I’d seen the race advertised the previous year but had been a few months pregnant at the time, so decided not to enter.  I was really looking forward to it this year though, and it promised to be a muddy one!

Crazy hair on the way to the Hunny Bell cross-country #hbxc17I’m so looking forward to getting my club vest out for a few more events this year!

It was a lovely morning as I arrived at Hunworth village hall.  I’d arrived rather early (9:30ish for a 10:30am start).  I’m used to knowing loads of people at local events, and it felt rather bizarre to be stood alone sheltering under the overhang of the hall roof as the wind started to pick up.  I found somebody in the same situation as me though and we soon struck up a conversation, as I find is so easy to do with other runners.  A little later on we added two others to our loner-crowd too!

In actual fact I did end up knowing three others at the event – all people I knew through my Mum – and I happened to bump into them all before the race began.

Not knowing many people at the event has it’s good and bad points and I was looking forward to a pressure-free run without having to worry about where I placed in comparison to others.  I’d roughly estimated that it would take me about 50 minutes to finish the hilly 5ish mile course (Somewhere I read it was 4.7 miles, somewhere else said 5 and another place said 5.1, so I wasn’t really sure how far we’d be running in total!)  Both my parents, Dan and Oscar were hoping to come and see me finish.

I was a little concerned that the ground would be rough going, as the car park field at the event had been rutty with large tufts of long grass which overhung the tufts and made it difficult to judge where to place your feet.  Luckily though, the ground was very good out on the course.Hunny Bell cross-country race(Picture from the Hunny Bell XC Facebook page)

We started with a steep grassy uphill which soon wound round back down and through into woodland.  It was narrow in places but I think there was only one real point where there was a bottleneck on the course.  Coming out of the far end of the woodland involved a climb down some steep, uneven steps, which those infront of me chose to walk.  I imagine that the front runners had ran down them and I was glad that the decision had been made for me that I was to walk, as there was no getting past the runners ahead anyway.

Hunny Bell cross-country race

(Picture from the Hunny Bell XC Facebook page)

The course was one small lap and one large lap.  As we returned towards the end of the mini lap we had to climb high to the top of a hill where there was a water station before running right back down again to the bottom and starting lap number two.

The second lap headed out on a narrow track where I did get stuck behind one lady for a little while before the path widened and I was able to overtake.  There was a also a long, steep hill which seemed to go on forever alongside the edge of a field.  There ended up only being one really muddy section out on the course and this was at this point.  I could see runners up ahead tiptoeing around a large muddy section but I just splashed straight through the middle when I reached it! 😉

The end of the second lap was the same as the first.  Although I couldn’t see the finish as I ran up the hill, I could definitely hear it and there was a woman not too far in front me.

Hunny Bell XC finishI opened up my stride and aimed to pass her, before realising that there was a really sharp and muddy corner about 100 metres before the finish!  I scaled back my stride slightly as I’d taken the corner too tight to continue at the pace I was running at.  The woman just pipped me over the line, but we had a good sprint finish for it!

Hunny Bell XC finish

It started raining literally as I crossed the finish line.  Dan had stayed in the car with Oscar but both my parents had come to see me finish which was nice as they don’t often get to see me race.

Hunny Bell XC finish

My official time was 47:54 and I came 202/310.  55/114 Senior Female.

We were chip timed for the race (hence why my left shoe is untied in these two photos!)  I’m not entirely sure there was a need for chip timing though, as the race ended up being 4.65 miles so not a ‘real’ distance and it appears to only be a gun to chip time anyway, rather than chip to chip time, so it would still have made a difference how long it took me to get over the start line.Hunny Bell XC finishIt was a great race though.  Beautiful course, friendly marshals and superb organisation.  Already penciled in for next year! 😉

What do you call your Grandparents? Do you call both sets by the same name?
Have you witnessed runners ducking out of the funnel at the finish before?
Do you make conversation with runners you don’t know at events?
Do your parents watch you race?