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Sunday, 16 February 2014

Race report - Midnight Challenge

When the Race Director starts his spiel with "I'm not prepared to take my Land Rover down that track" and "The mud is calf deep" and also "There is significant flooding on the course" got the juices flowing from the start. I've been a bit under the weather lately and have not been running at my best. Phill on the other hand, has been running like a warrior. Blasting down the M2 into the Hinterland/Banjoland of the North Kent marshes filled me with dread. Upon arrival and a car park underwater and mud, just getting out of the car was a chore. We had to go through the boot as the water we parked in was so deep!

Race briefing was a sanguine affair. There were about 100 hardy souls and with forecast of high winds and heavy rain, the field resembled the start of the Yukon ultra. Phill and I hatched a plan. Travel light, spend little time at the CPs and motor on.

The course was mainly 1m above sea level and around some large drainage ditches so water, after the heaviest rainfall in Jan/Feb in 300 years was everywhere. I opted to go maximum lite with Xtalon 212s, lightweight clothing and just a handheld with a gel in the pocket. Potentially I was feeling the 5.5kg I had lost since Xmas....nearly a stone lighter.  We hit the front of the pack in the first mile. A couple of cowboys darted to the front and as soon as the mudslider section hit, they peeled off, mainly with a tail betwen the legs as Phill and I ploughed an early clip in the front 5/6 runners. The course was a 6.6 mile figure of 8. The only section that was not underwater was the 1.4 mile road section past a pub full of cheering ever unwaivering supporters.

I felt that if we ground out a 1 hour loop, we would probably top 10. How wrong I was! After the first lap, we were 3rd/4th which we maintained.  One part of the run was a road section past a pub.....plenty of support from boozed up locals! We blasted the first muddy lap in 57 mins, the second in 50 mins, the third we were stamping our authority on the podium but the wheels started to come off in the 4th lap. The mud was taking its toll. Sliding around struggling to get grip in spikes was an issue. We were almost at walking pace through the wet, deep clay. Lap 3 was a grinder for Phill, I would not give him the key to sit in the lap 4 was a real push. having said that, we had lapped at least 30 runners.

With the marathon finish plan concocted at the finale of lap 3, Phill showed some relief that we were not going the full monty with 5. I was happy as the 90 min drive back home would be at least an hour earlier. We had kentish Ale in the car and we were determined to have a bottle at the finish. 2.5 miles to go and with no headtorches on the horizon for the last 8 miles, i thought a cruise into a podium would be the order of the day. All of a sudden, a plethora of lights were on us. Lap 3 or 4? I did not know whether they were in our race or a lap behind? Would I stop to ask? Phill had stated that I should blast it to the finish.....cameo show....but I wanted us to run in together. I turned around. Phill's light was amongst the crowd. I pulled up the anchor, downed my juice and 7.30s through every puddle for the last 2.5 miles lapping even more runners. I hooned it past the pub and did not look back. No lights were even near as I came into the finish of the marathon in 3rd place. Phill came in about 15 mins later although I think the organisers have fucked up as they timed him 6 mins quicker than me??!!

Beer. Change of clothes. Car heaters on full. Job done. This is the first time I have run with Phill where he has been on the money for a run. Well done fella! Awesome, based on me having v little sleep with new little Audrey. She can play with my shiny new medal.

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