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Sunday, 14 October 2012

You've not won a marathon until you win it crossing the finish line!

16th Founders Marathon race report........ ('s not over until the fat lady sings......or........don't tempt fate!)

Driving down to Peaslake memorial Hall in the Surrey Hills, the temperature gauge dropped to just 1 degree. It had been colder as the local cars left outside the pub no doubt from the previous evening had a good frost on. pulling in I bumped into Helen, whom I had run the SDW100 with. Her and her group were going off earlier than the advertised start time, for a bit of a bimble.

By the time I had got my gear on and signed in, sorted out my drinks and food (only 3 checkpoints on this course) it was 955am, so i thought I would go a little early, just to warm up.

I ran alone for the first 5 miles, the first 1.5 miles a brutal climb out of the valley to 700ft along the trail. Mile 2-3 the directions were open to interpretation with the light trails crossing the path and no doubt I took a wrong turn and dropped back into the valley, only to spot the windmill which was a marking point on the route. If you are not a regular reader; LDWA events are non-marshaled, non-mapped written directions. They can be a little confusing at the best of times. I've snapped an example below!

 But it won't turn round the right way!

Anyway, I caught up with Anna who I ran with for about 3 miles. She was on marathon 43 and in good form. She said she couldn't keep up with my pace so we duly departed and I whizzed off on my way up to St. Martha's Hill, up a route I had not taken before to CP1. Spending just a couple of mins at CP1, I thanked the marshals and got on my way, and soon caught up with Helen and Anna Finn. Anna is a legend in ultra running circles....she has just come back from injury to the Plantar and Groin. We ran together for about 4 miles but after some confusion at mile 9-10 about a gravel path, we were on our way. I'm not even sure how we became separated, but we did, such is this business of XC marathons. Getting slightly lost as I accidentally turned over 2 pages of instructions and found myself in a stately home driveway. Quickly realising my mistake I about turned and up to the 900m climb and to the highest point of the course at 840ft above sea level. I was caught and overtaken by a group of 6 chaps who were running at a fair clip. I decided not to join but to go at my own pace which after joining the NDW and less of a need to follow the instructions.

I caught up with this group of 6, who then became 7 with me, then dropped to 6 as one chap fell off the back. Small talk and direction reading for the next 7 miles until CP2 was the name of the game.

The only real way to run these events is to keep a check on the directions and TRUST NO ONE! I say this in a positive way. Not 2 miles from CP2, but one of the group was followed without question and a mistake was made. I then took over and as we passed a few runners who were confused, I took the lead of the group. I felt good and realised that a couple of the chaps were struggling. Approaching CP2, we passed more runners, picked up hydration and some peanut butter sarnies and went off again. I was 9th through the CP

CP3 was 23 miles into the event. Within a mile there were 3 more runners passed and our group had dropped to 3. The next few miles were of that running ENDORPHIN that I love and crave. I felt smooth and checked my hydration, food and feet and all were great. I was on a roll! The chaps were now struggling a little and I pulled a few mins ahead, navigating my way. CP3 came up in no time. There were 2 guys there......both had started 30 mins before the official start time. We were now in the lead!

Ok, technically, these chaps were in the lead as I started 5 mins before. Could I take 5 mins out of them in the last 3.2 miles? Well I felt strong! Another mile went by and I took a 300m lead. I could hear the guys following me and I took a little walk break up a big hill. They caught me and then the DECISION.

We were at a 5 pointed trail divide. I had my eye on a path but the compass came out from one of the guys (Phil) and we chose a path. It is one of those defining moments when people (including me) try to make the directions fit the terrain. Scarily, we crossed 2 roads and followed fencing etc which was pretty damned close to what it should have been! It didn't pull off. I went one way further on. BIG MISTAKE! I ran on up the hill for what felt like forever. I found a walker with a map and realised I had gone wrong big time. I had no clue where I was and had made a mistake of not going back to the point that I was unsure. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, no map and a set of redundant directions, my first place slipped through my fingers like the Greensand I had just traversed!

Garmin compass engaged, I had a 5 mile run to the finish instead of 1.5! I legged it, hard and fast down country lanes. Nothing was taking me in the right direction, so I decided to take the law into my own hands......a back garden, a hand grabbing bramble shocking scramble up the steepest part of Hombury Hill, bracken above head height, a knee high stream, leg punctured twice by unseen barbed wire, a country estate and a fair few fences.

My first place was now in the realms of my dreams........Don't ever utter the words......."one of us is going to win" to anybody........

So I rationed my drink and sauntered over the finish line, powered by compass alone, 6 miles over the distance.....probably in some crap placing........but still felt that I had something in the tank. I'd prepped for a 26 and ended up doing 32 miles. It's not a problem. Thats what LDWA events are about.

So. The moral of this story is that it is not over until the fat lady sings. I had this event in the palm of my hands. I never have listened to others for directions......who know why I did this time. The thing was, it was such a good day for running, I have a small amount of frustration, but a huge amount of buzzing for such a good event!

Next time!

1 comment:

  1. Well done Rob, I was going to run that route as a training run a few months back. I looked at the GPX file from the LDWA site and it really is brutal at the start.

    Fancy a flat one next week? :-)