Sunday, April 17, 2016

Marathon 72 of 100

Well actually it was what's known as an ultra-marathon of 50 miles. But who's counting - me!

It wasn't my first outing at this distance but this time the cut-off time for finishing was a strict 12 hours rather than the previous one which was 15 hours and I had been worrying about that for months. I found the cut-off time more scary than the distance and so had been pushing the pace in several of my marathons beforehand to get myself into the right frame of mind. I was physically and mentally prepared for this event so whatever happened I knew I'd done everything I could for it to be successful.

There were 2 events running simultaneously - the 50 miles challenge and the Fowlmead challenge, both with a 12 hour cut-off. This meant if you were struggling with the 50 miler you could drop down to the 12 hour event and still get a medal, although not as magnificent as the 50 mile medal. Plus, some people would be experimenting with increasing the distance they ran either as a build-up to marathon distance or perhaps going that little bit further into ultra territory.

There was to be a special celebration too - lovely Lisa was celebrating her 100th marathon. Now I've seen Lisa at lots of events and each time she has been wearing a flamingo hat. (you'll see it later!). She had asked that people wear pink, black or white for her theme and so a new hat was required!

But it looked far too boring for my liking and so the day before I got out my crochet hook to embellish it.

I started with a central motif and then added squares either side

Mike suggested I should finish it with a couple of triangles at each end which really finished it off nicely

A feather boa completed my look along with black long-sleeved top, Quest for the vest tee shirt and black leggings. I also added a couple of black beads to 2 of the squares to look like Flamingo eyes.

The weather forecast looked quite promising and I was relieved that the rain, which had been torrential for a few days beforehand, had abated when I left home at silly o'clock to drive the 1.5 hours to Betteshanger Country Park where the event was being held. Several of Traviss and Rachel's events are held there so I know the route quite well now which takes the stress out of searching for the venue. I arrived safely and pulled into the car park behind Kat and Jools and we trotted off to collect our numbers together.

They've got  a new barrier-less parking system in place called Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology  so there's no barrier to go through and you don't get a ticket. You can pay at the beginning of your visit, if you know how long you're going to be there, and so we did just that as I was worried that I'd forget to pay on the way out or the next day! All you had to do was enter your vehicle registration number, then select the length of your visit and then pay the fee. I wondered how this system would be administered if someone didn't pay? Do they have some sort of arrangement with the DVLA whereby they can obtain the details of the registered owner of a vehicle in order to contact them for payment?

I was a bit nervous and so went into hyper-active mode snapping photos of people at the start to distract myself.

Liz and Somei in the pink

Maryanne and Scotty. Although this was Maryanne's first time at the distance but she had only recently completed 7 marathons in 7 days so I knew she'd be fine (but in the end she was much better than "fine"!)

Lisa battling the breeze to set-up her gazebo

Becky (James's mum) and helpers getting the aid station ready

Kat's outfits are always this jolly and colourful

We were running on the cycle track, going round and round in circles of 2 miles so that meant 25 laps for the 50 miles. When Traviss did the briefing beforehand he told us to follow the line to get the correct distance but of course that wasn't always possible and me being me (and a bit of a Nature Nerd) I deviating a bit to look at pretty flowers and fauna. More details later.

These 2 photos pretty much sum up the track. Not glamorous, so you needed to adopt the right mindset, buckle down and just grind out the miles making sure you just keep moving forwards.

Here's Lisa in all her sparkly flamingo-pinkness! She had to run slightly more than marathon distance to claim her 100th marathon and then there was a presentation and celebration after the event. She had lots of friends and supporters to share the day with her and they seemed to have a fun time.

Before the run.......

.......and after (I love her flamingo hat!)

Lisa is an author and has just published her latest book entitled Your pace or mine and she'd generously brought some copies with her for us to buy at a reduced rate. She also signed everyone's copy with a personal message; here's mine:

The chocolate smear, from Lisa's fair hand, is proof that there was cake to celebrate even though it had all gone by the time I'd finished. 

Now for the running part. I mentioned earlier that I was worried about the cut-off and my training had been geared towards finishing in 11 hours although I hadn't shared this with anyone in case I jinxed it (yes, I know that's silly but that's how it was!). I was aiming to get to 25 mile mark in 5 hours or less as I would be slower in the second half.

We all had a card with 24 numbers on and each time we did  a lap it was punched through to show that we'd completed that lap. It looked quite daunting at the start but became easier when you'd got a few holes punched.

It was rather cool when we set off and I had my feather boa wrapped around my neck to keep me warm. However, I seemed to be losing quite a few feathers leaving a trail  behind me and I kept seeing fluorescent pink feathers blowing away! There were several people wearing them and so more and more feathers escaped into the wild so after 5 laps I took it off and stuffed it into my bag. I tried to pick up as many as I could on my last lap but I'm sure some must have escaped into the wild.

There was plenty of banter en-route but people were mostly in their own personal zone as you really needed to focus on getting the job done without too many distractions. Mike phoned me after 4.5 hours to see how I was getting on and he was amazed and delighted that I was  feeling strong and  approaching the halfway point. I reached halfway in 4:45 and marathon distance in just over 5 hours. My Garmin at this point was showing and extra mile and Traviss told me off for deviating from the line. In my defence I had spotted a grass snake taking advantage of a bit of sunshine and there had been a couple of interesting flowers to investigate and I was powerless to resist.

James was on a roll and was knocking out the laps at an amazing rate. His target was to finish in 7.5 hours and he was so far ahead of schedule, and well in the lead, that he jogged alongside me and we chatted for a while. As we we were heading up the slope at the end of his last lap there was a shout from behind and the runner in second place was catching us up so James put on a sprint finish and beat him by 8 seconds. Phew. His time was a stonking 7:20:39. That boy's on fire at the moment! He's such a lovely person and has some fantastic personal challenges going on this year and I feel privileged to share some miles with him.

Mike phoned me again mid-afternoon and was very pleased at my progress. We didn't chat for long as I didn't want to lose momentum but it was lovely to hear his voice and it gave me a nice boost.

The weather was mostly kind to us, overcast with bursts of sunshine but with a slight breeze. In the later stages the wind got a bit stronger and on one section, before the end of each lap, we were running into it. I noticed that my breathing was getting a bit laboured and I developed that stupid dry cough that fellow asthmatics know only too well. I decided to walk that section on the remaining 5 laps which didn't really make much difference to my time as I'd slowed down by then anyway. There was a short rain shower at one point which had me reaching for my jacket but it didn't last long. Overall we were very lucky with the weather.

On my last lap I decided to walk more just to soak up the atmosphere. My Garmin beeped at 50 miles and when I looked it was showing 10:17. Oh my goodness, I was so excited I forgot to take a photo of it but managed this shot at 50.50:


My final time was 10:39:53 and my Garmin told me I'd completed 51.37 miles. Oh my goodness, that was a pb by 2 hours 40 minutes. Not only had a smashed my previous time but I was comfortably under 11 hours. I never expected to do quite so well and I'm absolutely over the moon.

There were many outstanding performances on the day but inevitably some people didn't achieve their goals and were disappointed which is always a shame. It's wonderful to see everyone pushing themselves to do better and forcing themselves to carry on even when they're nursing an injury which would have most people sitting at home resting (Philip!!!).

This fabulous medal has been given pride of place in my ever-growing collection of medals. Thank you to everyone for sharing some of my journey to 100 marathons.

How's that for an awesome chunk of metal!

Now I've got a few days rest until my next marathon.

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