The London Marathon ballot reveal

This week the ballot results for the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon (VMLM) have been announced.  Unlucky ballot entrants receive either a rejection magazine…

London Marathon rejection magazine 2018(Here’s mine from last year)

…or a rejection email.  (Becoming more and more likely with the higher numbers of hopeful people applying for a place each year.)

Personally, I received my eighth marathon rejection earlier today, which wasn’t too much of a shock.  Apparently 414,168 people applied for the ballot this year.  The race only has approximately 35,000ish finishers, and that includes elites, championship/GFA entries and those running for charity.  That’s a whole lot of people that are going to end up disappointed this week!

Whilst I know so, so many people will have been disappointed over the past couple of days when they received their rejection message, it is rather frustrating to see many turn to social media to complain about the ballot being an unfair system.

In fact, surely the opposite is true?

Everybody that enters for a place in the London Marathon through the public ballot has an equal shot at being selected for one of the places on offer.

Yeah it might be rather sucky that this is your ninth rejection (No more than nine rejections are possible!), but it’s also probably pretty sucky that you haven’t won the lottery in the past nine years either!

If you don’t win the lottery but are still desperate to become a millionaire, then there is the option to go out and work hard to make it happen.  The same applies when it comes to wanting to run the London Marathon.  If you are desperate to run the event, there are other ways to gain a place.

Applying for a charity place

London Marathon is known for the hoards of charity runners who line the street on race day.  In fact, the official VMLM website states that accounting for everything that was fundraised using their online Virgin Money Giving system for the 2018 race, £24,593,020.00 has been raised to date!
Often, charity places open for applications not long after the main ballot opens.  Some of the more well known charities will not be able to guarantee you a place though and will be asking questions such as how much money you are hoping to raise for them and reasons why you want to run for their charity.  If you are not too choosy about the charity you want to run for though, you will usually still be able to secure a charity marathon place a couple of months out from race day.
Charities tend to ask that you raise a minimum of £1500, with most asking for £2000 or more.  Although this can sound like a lot of money, the charity themselves has to fork out £300 for your entry and as long as you begin fundraising early on and don’t leave it all to the last minute raising the money is probably more of an achievable target than you initially thought.  In fact, if by now, you already know that you are running for a charity, you still have a good couple of months before the main bulk of marathon training needs to begin and you should be able to hopefully put most of your focus into fundraising, and then later on into the training, rather than having to try and juggle everything all at once in the weeks leading up to race day.

Good For Age (GFA)/Championship qualified

The Good For Age requirements have changed from the 2019 race, which you can read about in my blog post here.  If you have run a time deemed as ‘good’ for your age at a previous marathon event as listed by the team at VMLM then you will be offered a place in the race the following year.  Although this used to be a guaranteed way to gain entry to the marathon, this is no longer the case.  There are now a maximum of 3,000 female GFA spots and 3,000 male GFA spots available for the 2019 event.  If more than 6,000 runners applied for a GFA position, then ‘the qualifying time will be reduced evenly across the age group categories listed above until 3,000 runners of that gender are accepted’.  Meaning that you may have worked super hard to achieve a 3:44 qualifying marathon time as a senior female runner, only for the goalposts to be moved after you have submitted your entry, due to high numbers of other runners also applying for a place and you may not actually end up with a race place at all.
It’s too late to enter the 2019 event using this method as places needed to be applied for at the start of the Summer, but it could be something to work towards ready for the 2020 race.  For many people though, it may be necessary to put a lot more time, hard work and dedication into their training in order to achieve the stated times.

Club places

All England Athletic clubs offer a number of VMLM places to their members (dependent upon the size of the club.  The majority of clubs then host their own ballot to determine who runs to represent their club at the marathon the following April.  Clubs may have their own prerequisites when it comes to entering.  For example, to enter the VMLM club ballot for one of two places as held by my running club you have to provide your rejection email/magazine from the main ballot.  You can then gain further entries into the club ballot if you marshaled the club race that Summer or ran a certain number of club-targeted races throughout the year.  I have only run the London marathon once before, in 2014 and this was the way in which I gained my place.

Competitions

This option requires the least work but the most luck!  There are always lots of competitions offering marathon places in the weeks and months following the ballot results.  Keep an eye on the official London Marathon social media accounts and also any of their official sponsors, as they often post about last minute marathon places up for grabs!

VLM marathon number collection

It hasn’t been very nice to read some nasty comments today on social media about runners who ‘shouldn’t get a place’ as they’ve already run the race or ‘aren’t fast enough to be classed as a runner’.  I’ve seen lots of comments about people criticising current non-runners for entering the ballot and then gaining a place, even though once upon a time they themselves would have been non-runners and potentially in the same situation.  Everybody who enters the ballot knows how incredibly slim the chances of getting a place are.  Don’t make others scared to announce their good fortune because of your jealousy!

London Marathon is what it is.  It’s an incredibly iconic and well supported event, but it’s not a fast course due to the sheer volume of runners out there and it can actually be rather stressful feeling so boxed in along many areas of the course.  I’ve run the race before and I did really enjoy it, but there are so many fantastic other marathons to try out as well!

I wanted to raise money for Cancer Research this year following the death of my Mum , Aunts, Godmother and cousins of my Dad.  We’ve had a lot of cancer related death in our family since the end of last November and I want to help work towards preventing cancer in the future, albeit in a very small way through raising much needed funds.  I applied for a London Marathon place through Cancer Research several months ago now and after initially hearing that I hadn’t been successful, I received an email a fortnight ago offering me a place.

I’m really excited to say that I will be running at London in 2019 and more importantly, raising money for a cause that means a lot to me and my family right now.  I’m really looking forward to being part of the Cancer Research team on the day and in the build up to the day.  There are a couple of large events which I have in mind to hopefully make up the bulk of my fundraising.  (I’m hoping to raise a minimum of £3000) and I’ll share them on the blog when I have more details.

Good luck to all runners preparing for the 2019 event, first timers and 6-time-lucky-ballot-enterers alike!

Do you have a place for London 2019?  Did you enter the ballot this year?
Have you run the race before?
Any successful fundraising suggestions you can share with me?

Changing tactics for attempt number 2

I recapped my South Downs Way 100 mile attempt in my last post.  Frustratingly I didn’t complete the distance but I have already entered another 100 mile race in order to have another shot at it.  I will complete 100 miles!

Interestingly I posted a poll on Twitter at the end of last week.  Results below:

So I’m not alone in not completing 100 miles the first time round.

I recently read a quote from Cat Simpson on the Centurion Running website where she spoke about having the confidence to run the Grand Union Canal Race after knowing her body could continue moving past the length of a day, having completed her first 100 mile event in 25 hours.  (She has since gone on to complete 100 milers in a mere 17 hours.  Insane!)

A couple of points:

1 – I can only ever dream of running that fast

2 – I never want to run the GUCR!

3 – Whilst on the Centurion website just now I spotted Robbie Britton’s 100 mile winning time of 15h 47m at the SDW in 2013.  The pro ultra runners don’t have to deal with sleep deprivation at all!

I have bit the bullet and entered the Robin Hood 100 mile race in September.  (64 days away.)  It has very similar rules to SDW in terms of pacing/crew, the same time limit (30 hours) and is a much flatter course on more runnable terrain.  Dan and I have friends living nearby who have agreed to put Dan and Oscar up for the weekend so that they can come out to support me.  (Although I do fear for their two rabbits who Oscar is currently obsessed with.  Not sure the pair of them could put up with a very excitable toddler in love with ‘hop hop bunnies’ for a whole weekend!)
There will be live tracking at the event and I’ll share the link closer to race day.

I also have an amazing team of friends who have offered their services to pace and crew for the day.  I really would not be able to even think about completing this kind of distance without the help I have been offered and it really means so much to me that friends have such high faith in my abilities.  I promise to do my best not to let anyone down.

It would be silly for me to have run 78 miles of the South Downs Way, decide to pull from the event and then rock up to the next one having not taken anything away from the day, so below I’ve tried to pull everything I could from my first experience and commented realistically as to if it worked or if I could have improved things in that area.

Sleep:

This has to come first on my list because I feel like it was my biggest downfall in the build up to the race.  So often sleep or diet are the forgotten ingredients when training and this has very much been the case with me this year.  My sleep has been shocking and I genuinely do not know how I have existed most weeks.  In the build up to race day I was working three night shifts a week – 10pm-7am, followed by one hour of sleep before acting as sole parent in charge of an active and needy toddler the following day.  The only exception to this has been on Sundays when I would usually manage three hours of sleep followed by shared parental responsibility for the day.  Some evenings I would also manage to cram an extra hour of sleep in before my night shift began and towards the end I discovered that I could also fit in a 35 minute nap in the back of my car during my 1am ‘lunchbreak’ on a shift.  But it’s been far from ideal.
Going forward I have since handed my notice in at my night shift job (although have also now retracted it to work just one night a week when Dan and I weighed up the benefits.  One night a week should hopefully be sustainable going forward whilst also providing us some extra money to add to our savings pot.

The night before my first attempt at the distance I had planned on getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep, but a late meal out and early bird call resulted in not getting to bed until 11am and waking by 4am the day of the race.  Again, far from ideal.

Food:

I didn’t take enough food with me in my bag for the start of the race so, other than a nakd bar after a couple of miles, and a couple of grabbed sandwiches at the 10 mile checkpoint I had no other food with me until I met with my crew at mile 22.  I need to sit down and properly study the crewpoints for the next race and work out how much food I need to be taking on board between each checkpoint and ensure my bag always remains topped up.

When I first started working nightshifts I struggled with my appetite and eating.  Most of the other people I work with have a cooked meal during our lunchbreak (1am).  I decided against this as I love breakfast too much, and I like Oscar to have somebody to eat his lunch and dinner with each day, rather than have him eat on his own when he is still so young.  However, it would often result in me grabbing a large bar of chocolate/slice of cake midshift to perk me up and get me through when I was feeling exhausted.  I realised that I wasn’t doing myself any favours and having toyed with the idea for a while I switched to a more vegetarian/vegan lifestyle which is suiting me much better.  I’ll write more about my choices and decisions in another post at some point, but basically I’m not strictly vegan, I never choose meat dishes and have substituted a lot of dairy products with alternatives in recent months.  I don’t like the idea of consuming so much processed food.  If I wouldn’t be happy with Oscar consuming it, then I shouldn’t be either.  I’m much happier with my results since the change and have discovered so many great alternative meals as a result.

However, on race day, I knew that chocolate milk works for me and so kept this in as part of my plan.

Chocolate milk and an apple

Pacing:

I actually think that I paced SDW fairly well.  The going was much easier in the first half than I knew it would be in the second half, and in terms of when to run/walk, this is very much dictated for you with the hills and rough terrain.  I think I will have more problems when it comes to pacing when it comes to the Robin Hood event as it is a much, much flatter course.  I think I may need to stick to some kind of regular run/walk method in order to prevent running too hard too early on in the race.  When I ran the Grim 70m a few years ago I tried to stick to running no faster than 12 minute miles and no walking slower than 15 minute miles and that worked well for me, but it was a very different event – 10 mile loops.  The Robin Hood is three loops.  Two of 30 miles and one of 40 miles.

Darkness:

I have no concerns about running in the dark as I’ve always run trail through the night during the Winter months and so this wasn’t an issue on the SDW.  However, there were only 7 hours and 31 minutes of darkness in June compared to the 11 hours and 11 minutes I will have in September.  Although again, this could help prevent me from travelling too fast during the later miles and burning out before the end.

Core:

I worked religiously on my core at the start of the year but as life took over it was something that I neglected.  However, my core was still fairly strong due to the manual nature of my part time job.  Lugging full supermarket cages around a massive store is not for the faint-hearted and for several weeks I was placed on the juice aisle – one of the heaviest sets of cages of all and often working 8-10 cages in a night.  I ensure I walk a minimum of 10,000 steps each day, including a daily walk with Oscar, who I carry when he gets too tired.  We weighed him the other week and he’s two stone now!  I vividly remember my arms aching from carrying him at just a few weeks old when he was less than 7lbs!

Dan, Oscar and I(When Dan carries him, he takes the easy option of carrying him on his shoulders!)

Training:

I ran around 50ish miles a week in the months leading up to SDW100, although often didn’t record all of my treadmill runs on Strava.  I’m planning to run all of my runs outside in the build up to Robin Hood so as to remain accountable and analyse my pace/training a little better.  I took a full week off from training after SDW, and had a couple of easy training weeks before jumping back in with training again but I’m hoping to get back on it again now.  I’ve been out running with others a fair bit over the last couple of weeks and that always makes me feel more enthusiastic about getting out there for extra miles.
I have to be very organised with when I’m planning on running as I have Oscar at home all week.  I have to get up at 5:15am or run late at night around bedtime/Dan’s work or other activities.  I’ll be honest, on the days when I was super exhausted and struggled to get out of bed in the morning I did roll over and go back to sleep.  It’s something I rarely do as I’m such a morning person, but with so little opportunity to sleep this year I’ve really had to grab any chance I could get.  I need to ensure I slot any missed miles back in later in the day/week though as I want to ensure I give myself the absolute best chance of making it round on race day.
I didn’t complete as many speedwork sessions as I would have liked this year, and feel that I could increase my speed further, therefore completing the race sooner and helping to prevent tiredness setting in too early into the race.

My weakness will definitely be my tiredness on race day.  I thought that I would sail through on no sleep with all the experience I have of sleepless nights, but even though my work is very manual it is NOT the same as covering 100 miles on no sleep at all.

What are your stumbling blocks when it comes to training?
Do you analyse events after you have run them?

Summer has finally arrived and changes to my race plans

The hundred miler I entered last year is now seven weeks away…Seven weeks!

But first, how absolutely lovely is it to finally have full on sunshine after so many weeks of doom and gloom and all that heavy snow in March?!

Oscar and I had a day out planned at a sand and water outdoor area a few miles away today but my car wouldn’t start this morning so I had to check it in at the garage – crushing our plans for the morning.  Although we couldn’t make it to the water park we did still make time to get outside in the garden this morning where Oscar happily held my hand for a good twenty minutes whilst stirring various sticks through the weed in our garden pond!

Oscar by the pondOscar by the pondWe have big plans for our garden this year.  When we bought our house three years ago we didn’t have a child, but our garden is definitely not one I would describe as child friendly at the moment.  (See picture below.)

New house garden(Picture taken just before we moved in to the house – long before the garden became overgrown with weeds and the bushes grew out of control!)

Our pond definitely needs a cover on it now that Oscar is toddling around and we hope to remove the monkey puzzle tree which has grown out of control at the back of the garden, putting everything to the right of the path to grass for Oscar to play on.  Wish me luck.  It’s going to be a big job over the next few months whilst trying to keep a very active toddler busy!

Bella joined us outside earlier and rolled around in the sunny patches on the brickwork most of the morning!

Bella in the garden

I can’t wait to get some sunshine trail miles in and Dan has promised that when he gets home from work this evening the three of us can head out on a family run with Oscar in the running buggy.

Dan, Oscar and I on a buggy run togetherDan said that he would like to get some more running in the other week and now that the nights are lighter again as long as we head straight out as soon as he returns home from work (6:20pm-ish) we can fit 5-6 miles in before getting Oscar ready for bed.  We went for our first family evening run together the week before I ran SDW50 and it was so nice to spend time together as a family whilst I was getting some miles in my legs.  Oscar loves being out in the buggy with both of us and you can hear him constantly singing away and pointing things out that he can see along his ride!

I did have my alarm set for another 5am wakeup call this morning, but a late night last night and backlog of lack of sleep over the past six months meant that my miles this morning needed to be replaced by an extra hour of sleep, so snoozed my alarm and rolled over for another hour instead.

I have arranged to meet up with a few other ladies from the Run Mummy Run Facebook group for some early morning runs over the coming weeks and I’m hoping this will help to encourage me to get out for some of my miles first thing in the day.  I much prefer running in the mornings and feel so much better for it for the rest of the day then.  The poor weather and dark nights has meant that my early morning runs have been mainly on the treadmill this Winter, and there’s nothing more depressing than a solo treadmill run in a silent, dark house when you’re feeling tired!  I’m looking forward to being able to chat running once more!

Dan has also promised that he will ask at work if he can adjust his hours for a Thursday – meaning that he will start and finish earlier, giving him time to get home and take over Oscar from me, allowing me to get out on a club run in time.  I’ve really missed running with other club runners since Dan has been at this job and I would love to be able to get back out there again.

So, back at the end of last year when I sat down with my race calendar for 2018, achieving a marathon PB and completing a 100 mile ultra were the two big goals right at the very top of my list.

Fast forward a few months and I am now less than three weeks away from running the Milton Keynes Marathon and less than eight weeks away from the South Downs Way 100.

Following my performance at the SDW50 a fortnight ago I feel fully prepared for the 100.  It was a real confidence boost that I achieved a time I hadn’t thought I was capable of, even though I didn’t actually ‘race’ the 50 event, slowing in places as I was concerned my calf injury might reappear.  Touch wood, all being well, I am feeling fairly confident of completing the 100 at the start of June, provided no outsider issues ruin the day – heat, nutritional, etc.  I’ve been talking tactics and times with some of the guys from my club who have finished the SDW100 in the past and every time it’s mentioned I can feel my excitement about the event continue to grow!

The marathon is a different ball game though.
Ultramarathons are all about tactics – getting your nutrition right and keeping moving, knowing which sections to walk and where to pick up the pace.  Road marathons are a more pressured environment and can be time-driven.  My continuous runs haven’t been very continuous and I haven’t completed as many longer runs as I would have liked throughout this training cycle.  The plan I roughly put together for this training cycle was based very loosely on the Hanson’s Marathon Method and I am certain that this is a plan I would do well using when training solely for a marathon, – I just haven’t had the full opportunity to do so yet!  Last year I ended up traveling back to Norfolk to visit my Mum several times during each week and this time round the plan could never have my full focus as the bigger goal has always been about running 100 miles.

I want a sub 4h 30m marathon this year, but I don’t think I will achieve that at Milton Keynes next month, and I don’t want to break myself by trying.  I no longer plan on tapering for the marathon and instead plan to treat it as a long training run (with other people, and a shiny new medal!).  I have been running strongly on my runs, and so, (with a current marathon PB I am aware doesn’t do my running justice) know that a new PB is perhaps possible even if I don’t ‘race’ the event as such.  But if not, that’s OK too.  My new target for the sub 4h 30m marathon is going to be a marathon at the end of September/start of October (still to decide which one) meaning I will be able to focus on solid training purely for the marathon over the Summer months when I won’t be persuaded to run other races (as it will be out of race season) and when I will be able to run outside rather than on the treadmill for the majority of my runs as it is already light by 6am in the mornings.

Have you changed your goal races for the season before?
Do you prefer Summer or Winter running?
How is your garden currently looking after such a rough Winter?

Falling back in love with ultra running

Over the past few months there have been times where I think I’m starting to fall out of love with running.  In the early days, running was such an easy thing to do…throw on some running clothes, lace up my trainers, strap my watch to my wrist and just get out there.  I really never appreciated just how easy running was back then.  Now getting out on a run can become a military operation, planned weeks in advance for a run which might end up being cut short due to lack of sleep (Me) or the spotting of a park on route (Oscar) !

This Saturday, running the South Downs Way 50 reminded me of everything I love about running though, and everything I love about running ultra distances in particular.

I was always going to sign up for the SDW50 this year.  The event had been my main running goal for 2017 – my comeback race from having a baby, booking the race was incentive to return to running and to hopefully feel more like ‘Me’ again once the baby had arrived, rather than just a ‘Mum’.  It worked.  I had a great race last year and, despite having to stop for 25 minutes on route to express(!) I continued to book races into my calendar, including the South Downs Way 100 for this year.

Knowing that the SDW100 was firmly booked in for June, it only made sense to enter the SDW50 again.  Those 50 miles (give or take a couple) are the last 50 miles of the 100 mile race – and miles which I’ll likely be running in darkness next time round.  Having refreshed my memory of the route this weekend I feel confident that I can navigate the miles again in nine weeks time in the dark along with the help of a strong headtorch!

I haven’t really been focusing on the SDW50 this year to be honest.  I’ve actually been a little blase about it all, with my main focus as the 100, closely followed by Milton Keynes Marathon at the start of May where I hope to PB.  I’ve run the 50 before, and know that I can complete the distance.  However, I was a little on edge going in to this event as so many runners from my club of a similar speed to me would also be running the race, with six of them going for the Grand Slam of four Centurion 50 mile events across the year.  Last year I didn’t feel pressured to run at anybody’s pace or to perform a certain way, but this year I worried that I would end up running with one of the other runners from my club or would stress myself into trying to keep up with them.  I’m much slower over road races than all of the others who were there.  Don’t get me wrong – I love chatting to other runners when out on the course, but I hate feeling like I need to keep up with somebody’s pace, or hang back with them when actually that section suits me really well and I can run easily along it.  I race much better when I’m running on my own, even though I always find other runners to chat to along the way.

Friends Kev and Gary were crewing us all and so Kev arrived in his van outside my house to collect me a little before 4:30am on Saturday morning.  I’d set my alarm for 3:30am that morning but definitely hit the snooze button after Oscar decided to wake for a (very unlike him) two hour party at 12:30am.  Tip number one if you’re thinking about running an ultra…don’t live with a toddler!

After picking up another three runners along the way we arrived with the perfect amount of time before the start.  Kit check, numbers on, loo trip, drink, snack, bags on and a walk to the start.

South Downs Way 50 startline

It was lovely to finally meet Lauren properly after having cheering her on at Milton Keynes Marathon a few years back and also to bump into Ally as well, who I also saw at the finish for a chat.  Both ran amazing races in super fast times.  Lauren is also running the 100 later on this year like me and Ally is running the next Centurion 50 mile event in a few week’s time – the North Downs Way.

South Downs Way 50 startline

There was time for a quick photo of our club runners before the off and then followed a gentle jog to the gap in the field, with a bottleneck!South Downs Way 50 WDAC lineup

I felt good from the get go and having started right at the back, the pace was easy.  I didn’t rush to get past anyone, although I saw plenty of others jostling for positions.

South Downs Way 50 starting at the back

(Screenshot of the bottleneck taken from a video shared on the Centurion Facebook group)

About a mile in I started to regret having a peanut butter smothered bagel as a snack less than an hour before the race start.  I had eaten a bowl of porridge with blueberries when I first woke but knew I would need a top-up snack before the run, as I had already been up for so long that morning.  Turns out, a bagel was not the snack I required and I needed a loo stop from early on, on a course when I knew there was barely any course coverage!

Other than the first couple of miles (when everyone was stuck behind other runners along narrow sections anyway), it is fairly easy going until the first checkpoint at mile 11.  My strategy at checkpoints is to grab what food I need, have the lid of my water bottle unscrewed ready for topping up if needed and get in and out as quickly as possible.  Why hang around when you could be moving?!  It wastes time and means you end up getting stiff.  At this first checkpoint I grabbed a couple of grapes and some cheese sandwiches before moving on.  Fruit and cheese sandwiches are always winners for me during an event!  I’d already eaten half of a cocoa orange nakd bar on the way to this checkpoint, and grabbed a carton of chocolate milk out of my bag as I made my way up the hill along the other side of the road.

South Downs Way 50 the first big hillI’m aware that these pictures don’t make the hill look too ‘hilly’, but trust me, it was!  And, just like last year, the photographer was perched up at the top taking photographs!South Downs Way 50 the first big hillAnother runner struck up conversation when he spotted I was wearing the event t-shirt from last year and I ran with him for a few miles until he told me he needed to slow down.
Mile 15 was our first crew ‘checkpoint’ and I felt slightly guilty for not stopping as I waved at Kev and Gary as they stood cheering me by.  I passed two of the runners from my club here as they had stopped to top up on supplies from our crew.  There was just one from my club ahead now, which really surprised me and I knew wouldn’t last.  (Although I later surprised myself by coming in as 3rd runner of our 7).

Not long after this we headed slightly downhill through a small wooded section and I almost ran into the back of another runner who had squatted down on the path to pee!

Checkpoint two at mile 16 was in a slightly different location this year and I walked in, got some Tailwind, watermelon, more cheese sandwiches and made my way back out again in less than 30 seconds.  Smooth going!  I still felt good.

There were a couple of rather steep hills between checkpoints two and three at 26 miles.  There were also several runnable sections too which I made sure to take advantage of.  The course really suits me as it has rolling hills – dictating which sections to walk.  I usually really struggle mentally and also with my consistency over long flat sections, but had no problems with these this time round, which I’m putting down to the large number of miles logged on my treadmill this Winter!

South Downs Way 50

The third checkpoint was where I had stopped to express last year and this year, where I finally spotted a portaloo to use!  I grabbed some chocolate chip cookies, MORE cheese sandwiches and watermelon, Tailwind and topped up my water.  All in all I think I stopped for about 5 minutes here, but it was 5 minutes well spent.

South Downs Way 50

I knew I was having a good race and used the climb following this aid station to check in with Dan.  He hadn’t realised that he could track me online and so I let him know how to do this.  He also let me know that ‘Oscar’ had sent me a good luck video earlier that morning.  I had turned my internet off in order to save battery but after hanging up with Dan I quickly checked WhatsApp to find a lovely little video where Oscar waved madly at me, said “Sit down Mumma!” and then gave the camera a kiss!  It definitely made me smile.

South Downs Way 50

For the next aid station you have to cross over a set of railway tracks.  Oh how I’m going to love all those steps at mile 84 of the 100 mile version of the race(!)  I knew I needed more Tailwind here but couldn’t see any on display so asked one of the volunteers for some.  She told me that I was lucky, and they had just a little left.  Taking a few gulps from my bottle after being topped up I spluttered out that she could definitely make it go further by watering it down more…it was super strong!

I nicknamed the next section ‘Australia’ last year as the views, with the sun disappearing behind the hills reminded me of scenes I’ve only seen in programs about Australia.  This year though, the sun was still high in the sky (albeit hidden behind clouds!)

South Downs Way 50 It also definitely looked less Australia-like this year!South Downs Way 50The last two checkpoints follow in quick succession; starting with a lovely little pitstop in Alfriston at 41.6 miles with indoor seats to perch on for a few minutes.  This checkpoint is quickly followed by the final checkpoint at Jevington just four miles later.  It’s perched high up some steps alongside the road and I felt rather bad that I just called up the hill to thank the volunteers, continuing on my way rather than stopping in, but I didn’t need anything with only four miles to go and thought it better to keep moving at this point.

I strongly made the final climb up to the Trig point and started to make my way along the narrow, slippy path back down towards Eastbourne.  The clouds were threatening to rain at this point, and we’d been very lucky with the weather until now.  I had twice put on my jacket for the odd spitting shower but the temperature was fairly warm, and the rain never really stuck around.  It had made the rocks on this section rather slippery though.  This being the most technical section on the whole course.  My hamstrings had a few spasms along this section and out loud I told my legs they needed to co-operate for just a little longer…pretty please!

In my head I had secretly hoped to run 25 minutes faster than my time last year (12h 06m).  25 minutes was the amount of time I had stopped to express so I thought it was probably fairly achievable for me to gain back those minutes in my finishing time this year.  As I reached the bottom of the hill though and broke into a faster run I realised I would most likely go sub 11h 30m.

Running and maths never work and despite being just two miles from the finish now and having been out on the course for 10h 40m I was convinced I would have to run really fast to go sub 11h 30m.  Mile 48 ticked by starting with a 12:xx and I realised that actually, I should probably be targeting 11:15 instead.

I still felt really good.  No pains, no aches, I’d fuelled well, I was still running!  In fact, other than road crossings and twice when I walked a handful of steps, I ran pretty much the whole of the last two miles, passing several other runners along the way and changing my target at the last minute to 11:10 – coming into the stadium to the most glorious sunset.  It was honestly the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen and I really regret not asking somebody to take a photo of me in front of it after crossing the finish line.  Unfortunately my official finisher photo, despite showing colour, definitely does not do the sky justice as the photographer was using a flash so that I was the focus of the photo.

I could not stop beaming as I ran around the track!  I’d picked the pace up for the track finish, although definitely not enough to be considered a sprint finish!

As I turned the corner at the bottom of the stadium I noticed that opposite the gorgeous sunset, was a gigantic rainbow.  What a lovely finish arch!

South Downs Way 50 finish archI took this shot a few minutes after I finished but I wish I had taken more pictures, and actually of something, rather than just randomly pointing in the direction of the sun!

Looking on the Centurion Running Community Facebook page yesterday, I found these two images which another runner had taken which give a much better impression of the view we finished to…

SDW50 sky pictures

South Downs Way 50 sunset

It tipped it down not long after I finished and I was glad to bump into Nic, who had finished about ten minutes ahead of me and who had the keys to Kev’s van so that I could grab some warm clothes.  I took a quick picture with my medal in the fading light and queued up for my free sausage bap and hot drink, unsure of how long the other 4 runners from my club would take to come in.

South Downs Way 50 medalOfficial time: 11h 7m 22s
Position: 277/353
Gender position: 52/81
Category (senior female) position: 21/35

Turns out I took quite a lot of steps that day(!)

South Downs Way 50 Garmin step count