Sunday, November 20, 2016

Hoe, Hoe, Hoe

The Somme Centenary Challenge

On Friday 18th November I was back at Samphire Hoe for a special event to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Somme which was one of the costliest battles (in loss of life) in British history. In my mind it was a way of remembering all those brave souls who gave their lives for us and it was especially poignant to be held there as we had sight of France across the Channel.

I wore my poppy and chose not to wear either my charity vest or my 100 club vest as a mark of respect.

Traviss made the usual announcements but there was an extra special one too. Philip had just completed his 200th marathon. Now when you move in the marathon circuit you can become blase about the massive number of marathons your fellow runners have completed but Philip is an extra special case - he has completed his 200 marathon in a record-breaking 710 days. That is going from 0 to 200 marathons!

Dee had this lovely blue plaque made for him (blue plaques are installed in public places throughout the UK to mark the homes of famous people).

We were joined by several active and ex-servicemen one of whom was Sgt Alan Urwin, whose great grandfather lost his life in the battle. He gave a very moving speech at the start, we heard the Reveille followed by the Last Post then we held a one minute's silence to remember the fallen before heading off to the sound of whistles just as our troops had done all those years ago.

The weather forecast was varied and it was quite cold at the start. Then it warmed up before turning very cold again until the sky went dark grey over France before heading over to us and giving us a soaking. There was a strong wind on the return of each lap just for good measure.

When the sky turned to this colour we were all hoping it would stay over in France - sadly it didn't!

As an aside, that photo above has helped me decide to use the beautiful dark blue yarn I bought at Ally Pally for the main body of my shawl (although I've already started another one before I start that, as you do!).

As we set off I had no finish time in mind and decided to run however I felt. For a marathon I had to complete 7 laps and for the first 5 laps my pace was metronomic as I finished them all in bang on 45 minutes even during the 2 laps with horrid rain.

I was fascinated by the way the sea changed colour in different weather conditions (the sky looked a bit better by then)

Snapped by a fellow runner as I checked one of my photos whilst running

However, as I set out on lap 6 my concentration just went out of the window for some reason and I lost all my focus as the brain gremlins made an appearance. That really annoyed me as I'd been good and not stopped to take loads of photos (OK, there were a couple) so what did I do? I took loads of photos to make up for it. By that time the weather had perked up and the sky was a beautiful blue so that perked me up but for some reason I just couldn't be bothered to push - lazy girl!

There's only 1 main incline on the route

The obligatory shot of the seawall (it was sparkly and beautiful)

The active servicemen of the 1st battalion of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment (known as The Tigers) and had travelled over from Paderborn in Germany especially for the event.

I exchanged good wishes with this couple on each lap - they were running for the charity 'Help for Heroes'

This sign made me chuckle

I congratulated all the servicemen and on my last lap Alan was heading out to do an extra lap so I stopped and had a chat with him and shook his hand and thanked him and his colleagues for everything they do for us.

Considering how naughty I'd been with my photos and chatting I was quite pleased to finish in 5:43:25 - maybe next time I'm there I'll put a bit more effort into it and keep the brain gremlins in check!

This is definitely one of my favourite medals

Next I shall be entering 12 days of intense marathoning; 6 marathons to be precise starting next Wednesday, 2 days off, Saturday & Sunday, 2 days off, Wednesday & Thursday, 2 days off then Sunday. Oh crikey. Never mind, my friend has promised to make a generous donation to my fund-raising for ARUK when I've completed my 52 marathons in 52 weeks so it will be worth the pain!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

3 more

As I've got lots of marathons (oh my goodness my schedule looks crazy for the next couple of weeks!), I've decided to lump them together in batches for ease of updates so this is a rather long and photo-heavy post!

Beachy Head Marathon (41 of 52), 29th October

Marathon 101, or 41 of 52 for 2016 at my favourite trail marathon - Beachy Head, in Eastbourne. It has appeared on my blog many times now and I love the whole experience even though it is one very tough marathon.

It was extra special this time as I would be wearing my new 100 Marathon Club vest for the first time and there would be loads of people I knew there. I was especially delighted to see Paul who was one of the 2 people who gave me the confidence to commit to completing 100 marathons. His encouragement was very special but he also put his money where his mouth is and made a very generous donation to my fund-raising page when I completed my 100th. Thanks Paul.

With Paul before the start

I'd already arranged to run with Carolyn and her wonderful dog Bonnie as we'd hadn't seen eachother for ages and had a lot to catch up with. There are lots of photos here, some taken by me, some by other runners but mostly by Ant from Sussex Sport Photography who's been mentioned on my blog many times before as he and his team are real stars and spend hours out on various courses, in all sorts of adverse weather conditions, making sure that we runners get many mementos of our running journey.

I was shocked to find many out that people just take photos off the website without paying and then share them far and wide (that's someone's livelihood they're stealing for goodness sake!). Thankfully Ant tags all their photos so can track down the culprits but it's sad that he has to do that. I can confirm that all my photos have been paid for!

I love this event for so many reasons; it's one heck of a challenge, it has a really friendly atmosphere with a mix of speedy trail runners, club runners, joggers (the only time it's acceptable to refer to us slower runners as "joggers" is in an event such as this where your start position is determined by your expected finish time) and walkers, doggies are allowed (kept on a lead of course), the support from the marshalls is amazing and the feed stations are excellent too. They give you a cooked meal at the finish if you want it but I always head off home as I like to share my celebratory meal with Mike.

It was the first outing for my new 100 Club vest and it was lovely to see lots of fellow 100 clubbers there. What I hadn't anticipated was fellow participants commenting on it and congratulating me!

This next photo, taken by Dee, gives an idea of the first hill we have to scramble up. It looks as if Dee was standing about 1/3rd of the way up. It is a bit of a beast! Just look at all of us runners waiting for the start. Traditionally the field comprised 500 runners, 500 joggers and 500 walkers but now there are nearer 2000 entrants with fewer speedy runners.

As I knew I had another event just a few days later I'd decided to take my walking poles with me and Carolyn and I had made a pact to just trot around at a gentle pace and have a jolly good natter.


After the first hill there is always a piper and he gets loads of attention. As you can see, Carolyn was sporting her trademark kilt so I asked her and Bonnie to pose for a photo.

Now I have been known to trip on the loose flints on this course and once we set out I was really glad I'd taken the poles as the ground was rock hard and there were lots of flints sticking up on which you could easily trip - 5 running chums fell, one had to withdraw as he turned his ankle at 9 miles, one went flat on her face and the others were OK but rather bruised. We saw one man who'd got his arm in a sling following a tumble and he was being monitored at each aid station and another man tripped and fell behind us on a steep downhill section. Thankfully he was OK, just a bit shocked, and managed to continue. That made me even more cautious as I can trip on my own shadow!

It was really hazy for the first 15 miles or so which was a shame as we missed some wonderful views. Thankfully it cleared later on and we had some lovely far-reaching views.

This was the first time we saw Ant who was busy trying to pull his hood up as it had just started to rain!

We chatted away happily and were joined by many different people which was lovely. It's quite liberating to not worry about your time and just enjoy it as a grand day out. After several miles we were joined by Mary who stayed with us throughout. Fellow runners are always friendly too - I think it's the magic of the hills which loosens everyones tongues!

Bonnie was having a ball and was raring to go throughout. Each time we went past a pool or stream Carolyn sent her to have a drink but she preferred the really muddy puddles which obviously had a more characterful tang!  Just before we attacked the Seven Sisters ( a series of uPdulations aka HILLS not for the faint-hearted!) she spotted a water trough and Bonnie was straight in there without hesitation.

Doggie bliss!

How's that for an action shot - it did take a few attempts though!

As we reached the halfway point, where there is traditionally a band played outside the pub, I had a chat with this lady (sorry, I can't remember your name) who was running her first marathon. What a great choice for your first marathon!

There were hot and cold drinks, sausage rolls, hot cross buns, biscuits and choccy to sustain ius for what lay ahead
Then there was a an UPhill, a downhill then another climb up lots of steps (which always seem a lot until you encounter the next set of steps.......), and more HILLS followed by more steps (227!!!), then the Seven Sisters.

Bonnie's still raring to go at about 18 miles - still a bit hazy over the sea

After we passed Cuckmere Haven we were into the hilliest stretch of the marathon.

The White Horse at Litlington

As we approached Birling Gap we paused for a group selfie, trying to get a shot with the Belle Tout Lighthouse in the background.

Can you see that speck in the distance? Well, that's it!

As I took this photo from the summit of one of the Seven Sisters I noticed a crack in the chalk cliff-face so zoomed in a bit........ that looks like another chunk about to fall off! There have been more and more reports of large rock falls yet people still insist on going right to the edge, despite many warning signs.

As we neared the end of the last mound we spotted Ant who'd changed his position and of course we had to have a bit of fun and frolics to show off my new vest as he's been snapping me in all states of disarray throughout my marathoning years. He stayed out to watch the very last of the runners come through, what a star. Thanks Ant.

Look Ant, I did it!

Who'd have thought it!

Then we were on the home straight with just a few miles to go.

I was delighted to spot some of the herd of Exmoor ponies who were brought in as part of a conservation project. They are a very hardy breed and were brought in to manage the 'tor' grass which most other animals won't eat. If left unchecked it can smother the other precious chalkland species so they are doing an important job.

I came down that hill very, very slowly and carefully then we did a short sprint towards the finish. We'd taken 7:27:31 which is my slowest time for Beachy by nearly 1.5 hours! It was certainly one of the most fun ones though.

So that was marathon 101, the first outing for my special new vest and my 41st marathon of the year. I then had 2 days rest before my next marathon. By the way, did you notice my number - 949? I love a palindrome so that made my day!

It may not be the biggest medal but it's very dear to me. This year it's even got some colour.

World Vegan Day Challenge (42 of 52), 1st November

This was another of Traviss and Rachel's fab events, this time at the beautiful Ranscombe Nature Reserve, in the Kent Downs, which I've visited a few times before but never in the autumn. They had already held 2 events there on the day before and the weather had been beautiful but on WVD it was foggy and overcast so I've pinched 3 photos Dee took the day before to show off the glorious autumn colours:

This is my favourite!

Now for the reality of the day I ran, overcast and foggy!

Traviss coming back with some supplies

The begnnings of the aid station. I'd tried to veganise my special banana cake I always bake for their events. It tasted lovely but I felt the texture needed more work as it was more like a pudding than a cake. Still went down well anyway.

It was a much smaller field than usual with about 44 runners in total of which about 12 from the Vegan Runners club

Eddie was feeling very sorry for himself, poor love, as he had a toothache and only did one lap before heading off to the dentist

The obligatory 'bunny ears' shot

At the start someone commented that I didn't have my new 100 club vest on and was instead wearing my ARUK vest as usual. I explained that this will still be my default vest and my new club vest will be reserved for events where lots of club members will be taking part.

The route took us along paths through cultivated land and woodland. As it had been so dry the tracks were very hard, made harder by the flints. I'd taken the precaution of putting my walking poles in the car boot in case my legs were a bit wobbly after Beachy. Some bits were tricky because the ground was very rutted with vehicle tracks (you'll see why I mention that later!).

For the marathon distance we had to complete 7 laps and I spent the first 5 in the company of Neil who is just at the beginning of his marathon journey. There were lots of other people to chat with and at one point on lap 4 whilst chatting with Neil, Theresa, Liz and another lady we didn't know I decided to face plant in the most innocuous-looking place ever with no obvious things to trip over. Flat on my face, full-body jobby. As I was very relaxed I felt fine even though I did fall heavily and was able to get up and  trot off again without any ill effects (although the bruising which came out several days later explained why my tummy and quads were quite sore afterwards). Silly old biddy!

The remainder of the photos were taken on my last lap when I took a walking break after an incident (details below!) on lap 6.

My favourite tree of the day

What amazing, twisted bark

As I was 3/4 way through lap 6 Mike phoned to see how things were going and I took a walk break to chat with him, allowing Neil to go on ahead. I confessed I'd taken a tumble but was OK and after we'd ascertained that I was really OK I got a lecture about being careful etc etc.

Then off I trotted, enjoying the woodland views, until I came to a rutted and overgrown track (get ready) alongside the railway line. I was just plodding along happily when my right foot got caught in a bramble (the pesky things creep through the grass at this time of year and are tricky to spot). Everything went into slow-motion as I fell awkwardly onto my right side, my hip elbow, forearm and hand taking most of the impact. 

I took a moment to assess the situation. "OUCH", sums it up nicely! There was blood on my hand with a large chunk of skin hanging off, my right arm was badly grazed with a big lump on the bone coming up as I watched. Out came my hanky and water bottle to wash away any dirt, I bound my hand and set off again taking a walk break for a couple of hundred yards to get back my equilibrium before trotting off again. I should mention that as I was getting up I looked behind to see someone else had also taken a tumble at the same time - I called out to check he was OK and he was, just a bit shaken.

When I got back to the start checkpoint I got some hugs from the support team which made me feel better and I picked up my walking poles for the last lap which ended up only about 5 minutes slower than the rest of them. My target time was 6:15ish and my actual finish time was 6:20:40 so I was happy with that. 

Nice medal too as you'd expect from Traviss and Rachel.

When I got home I had a lovely long soak in the bath with some Epsom salts and then assessed the damage. Hmmm, my arm needed dressings as the wounds were raw, same with my hand and my forearm had a large and painful lump which has gone down now but is still a bit tender. The next day the bruises started to appear. Oh my goodness, there was a massive one on my right hip and all up the outside of my right leg and after another day or so one also appeared on my tummy from fall number one.

I'm all healed now thank goodness but I was glad that I didn't have another marathon that week!

A20 Path 'n' Downs Marathon, (43 of 52) 13th November

This was an event I hadn't planned on doing but needed it to make up for the ones I had to miss a short while ago. I'd done part of the route many years ago when they used to have a 20 mile event running alongside the marathon and I remembered that I wasn't keen on the route, not because of the hills but because large sections of the course are alongside a busy road. Anyway needs must and it wasn't too far from home for a change.

Although I knew that some members of the 100 club would be there I was unsure whether to wear my club vest and it was on/off/on/off until Mike stepped in and told me to stop faffing around and wear it! As it happened there were loads of people I knew there and there was lots of catching up to do. Even better, I got a lovely surprise when I spotted James and his mum Becky there as I hadn't seen them for a while. Plus I got some more cards and even more presents for my 100th from lovely people I hadn't seen for a while - what a lucky girl I am!

Race HQ was in a hotel, where we collected our numbers, and we had a short walk to the start.

I'd worn a poppy as it was Remembrance Day and we held a 1 minute silence at the start. I was disappointed that some people didn't respect it though and just talked throughout.

Now given that the name of this event mentions the 'Downs' you could be forgiven for expecting some fantastic views but you would be sadly disappointed!

The event starts on an uneven tarmac track alongside the busy A20 with cars whizzing past. This lasts for about 4 miles and then you turn left up towards the hills on a narrow lane which seemed to have an awful lot of vehicles going along it.  I set off with James and we chatted all the way through. The only reason I could keep up with him was that he's injured and so we walked all the uphills and just jogged the rest whilst catching up on our news.

I thought we'd get some good views when we reached the top of the first hill but the hedges were too high and we couldn't see a thing. This was repeated along most of the lanes; we'd have to squash into the hedge to let traffic past and didn't get to see any countryside! We did manage to spot some buzzards and a kestrel though and the weather conditions were near perfect.

There really wasn't anything eventful to report about the race; it was just about getting the job done but at least I had nice company. We were joined by several other people we knew throughout and they either went ahead or dropped behind.

Robert on the left was still nursing an injury to his ankle but he still managed to sneak in ahead of us!

Ironically, the best views we got were when we ran alongside the busy road and looked across the fields towards the Downs:

The cross on the hill commemorates the dead of two world wars

What a boring race report, or rather a non-report - sorry about that.

When we got back to the finish we discovered they'd run out of medals and there was nothing at the aid station other than plain water and a few manky biscuits. They promised to mail out our medals but frankly they weren't that nice anyway. Apparently the same thing had happened the previous year as they allow entries on the day but didn't put aside enough medals. Wouldn't you have thought they'd learn from that?!!!

Would I do this marathon again? No, not unless I was just making up the numbers as I prefer nice countryside and peace rather than running alongside a noisy main road. Some people go back and do it each year - each to their own.

When I got home I had a message from Kirsty to say she'd got something for me - I'd won a trophy. 1st place in my age category. That really made me laugh as it's far from a good time but a trophy is a trophy and it made up for the missing medal. A bottle of Prosecco was opened in celebration.

I had 4 days rest before the next one............I'm using the term "rest" loosely here as I spent most of the time out in the garden and sorting out the horses' field shelters ready for the colder weather.