Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Another one bites the dust

Marathon 35 done and dusted. I still chuckle when I think about it; little old me running all that way so many times is surreal! Technically, this event is classed as an ultra-marathon as it is over 27 miles as opposed to the usual 26.2 marathon distance. My GPS watch measured the route as 27.26 miles at the finish.

Proceeds from the event go to local Rotary Clubs for local charities and they supply all the marshals who man the aid stations with water, cake, biccies etc. 

These tough trail events are male dominated as was evidenced by the changing tents - 4 tents for the men but just 1 for us women! It was chilly first thing so I had a lightweight long-sleeved top on underneath my vest. As it got hotter later in the day I did a very good demonstration of how to remove it without taking my vest off.

A melee of runners
Queueing for the portaloos
The race started at 10am and I positioned myself right at the back as always. I soon settled into a comfortable pace when we hit the trail. To get a feel for how tough the route is take a look at the course profile. It's certainly not for the fainthearted! The first steep hill comes after about 1.5- 2 miles and everyone around me started to walk. I didn't though as I prefer to just shorten my stride and run really slowly up that hill - there are plenty of tougher hills to walk up later on!!!

Shortly after that a lady caught me up and asked my advice on how to approach the hills as it was her first attempt at this and she'd seen me running up it. My advice was to slow down, take shorter strides, use your arms to push yourself onwards and don't look more than about 10 feet ahead on tough ascents like that one. For the really steep ones, of which there were many, you don't gain anything by trying to run up them and it's more sensible to conserve your energy by walking them.

Ant was busy snapping at his usual position after the first steep hill. It's always nice to see him and his crew and I was glad that the weather was kinder to them this year as they stick around right until the very end in all sorts of atrocious conditions.

Not looking very glamourous as I shout "hello" to Ant
That's a bit better!
Note the hanky in my hand. My nose was streaming almost all the time as the pollen count was really high. At least it didn't affect my asthma. You'll also see that I've left the crocheted granny squares and heart on my cap as I really like them and they make me smile. I think they've given my tired old marathon cap a new lease of like.

The next photos were all taken right on the top of the hills to try and capture the expansive views. I love wide open spaces as I grew up in rural Lancashire near the Pennines and my heart is still in the hills.

That's the sea in the distance

Oh no, the dreaded oil-seed rape!

I'd never seen pigs  up on the South Downs before. I spotted their huts from the other side of the valley and was delighted to find that we ran past them in the second half. They were really sweet but did smell a bit though!

I think this is the approach to the Steyning Bowl where I saw 2 hang-gliders taking off a bit further on.

I've never seen anyone run up this steep hill at mile 18 - I expect the faster runners did but anyone over 4 hours will have walked up it to conserve energy. At least it was grassy so much easier on the legs.

Striding out on one of the many UPdulations (the long-sleeved top is now tied round my waist)
In the next photo you can see one of the rare flat bits on compressed chalk. You have to really watch your step all the way as most of the tracks are rutted by farm vehicles and have lots of loose flints on top and you can easily trip on them. Also, the chalk gets really slippery as I know to my cost from 2010 (link below). The other thing to watch out for in the wooded sections is tree roots which can be an issue when your legs are tired and you don't lift your feet high enough off the ground (there speaks the voice of experience!).

You can just make out the aid station in front of the trees.  One year their tent was blown away 'cos it was so windy!

Although there is a 6 hour finishing time limit you are allowed to continue provided you get to the 13.8 mile marker at the River Adur within 3.5 hours which I have always managed. This time I got there in 3:05 so had plenty of time to spare. Having said that, I was actually faster in the next section (referred to as a "negative split").

The winning time was 2:57:52, a man, whilst the wining female time was 3:42:44 which gives an indication of how tough the course is.

I felt really strong at the bottom of the final hill and managed a 400m sprint finish with a big smile on my face as usual. 

My ponytail proves I was sprinting!
Crossing the finish line
I was delighted to be presented with my medal by the local Mayor - he's usually given up and gone home by the time I finish!

I crossed the finish line in 5:41:27, 10th place in my age group (50-59) and 307th place out of 342 finishers (I'm usually in the last 10). This is a fantastic improvement on my previous outings at the event (2008, 2010 (when I had a nasty fall) & 2012 - I hadn't realised it was a biennial event for me) as I'd never got below 6 hours before and this was 26 minutes faster than when I ran it in 2012 (admittedly the weather was atrocious that year).

The first thing I did was to phone Mike who was amazed and delighted that I'd finished much sooner than I'd anticipated. After a quick hug and a catch-up with Ant from Sussex Sport Photography I had a few cups of water & a piece of cake then headed for home. 

The medal is always the same and I find this image rather weird as the person in the foreground looks like a Cyberman from Dr Who!

In the evening we celebrated with a glass or two of wine and the next day I was out for a 4 mile run with no adverse effects other than some interesting sunburn stripes!

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