I read on someone’s blog once that most people read race reports to see how long it took.
If that was all you came for, then job done. But just in case anyone came for more detail I’m going to plough on with things.
To begin with, I got lucky number 7! I’ve lived in a few houses that were number 7, never on purpose, but it does seem to follow me around a bit. It was’t number 1, which is good – I had number 1 at the very first Trail Outlaws event, the Pieces of Eight at Penshaw Monument, and it felt like a lot to live up to*.
I got my t-shirt, which was pretty exciting – if you read my last post then you know that I doodled the doodle on the front, and to see it in actual real life on actual people was fantastic.
It really was ‘a dark and stormy night’. That much is true. Storm Kate kicked off about half an hour before the race started and tried new and interesting combinations of ‘wet’, ‘extra wet’, ‘windy’ and ‘chilly’ all the way round.
Last year’s Dark Skies was lovely and clear, with sunset, stars and all the stuff you’d have come to a dark skies park for. No so last night. I could have stood in the shower with the lights off in my running gear to fairly accurately experience it**.
I managed to impress myself by running the first half or thereabouts without resorting to a sneaky walk – good going for me at Kielder, where the only bits that aren’t uphill or downhill are the bits that separate one from the other.
I’ve got a decent idea of the route as far as the dam in my head now, so I kind of knew where I was, I was’t caught out by the hidden one-mile-inlet where you can see the route to the dam in front of you, turn a corner and realise there’s another two miles to go before you get there.
The bit from the dam back to Hawkhirst was a hurt-fest of tired legs, tired brain and cold winds – it’s the second time I’ve ever thought I might be getting hypothermia while out running. I think it was because I walked a little to long on one bit, and my core must have cooled down – breaking into a shuffle-trot seemed to do the trick.
I had gone a bit tech-crazy, and as well as my Fitbit heart monitor I also had my Garmin on the other wrist, but I resisted the urge to look at either. I started playing ‘how many miles is this’ and irritated myself at my inability to figure it out. My phone alarm went off at 9pm, and I apologised to the people around me at that point – no-one wants to be shocked by Big Ben when they’re part way round a reservoir in Northumberland.
I made it through to Leaplish and then the final mile and a bit to Hawkhirst saw me summon up a slightly swifter*** stumble along to the finish line. I could hear someone behind me trying for a sprint finish, and briefly wished they’d explode in flames – after 26.5 miles it’s a bit rich to try and pick up a position or two in the final straight**** – they never quite caught up and I doddered into the finish hut, had my picture taken (I think) just as my glasses steamed up and I lost all vision. I found the finish desk, then a cup of coffee and then a bit of a sit down*****.
All in all a fabulous run – the marshals should get an award for standing around in the rain. The organisation was grand, the people were cool. The medal was a cracking black number with the Plough picked out in tiny crystals – they go right through, so I reckon you can shine a light through. Genius.
To top it all off, five minutes after I got in the car and started heading home the rain stopped, the clouds cleared and the moon came out. Really beautiful, and a few hours later than would have been nice.
I GOT MY PICTURE ON A RACE T-SHIRT – DID I MENTION THAT?
*I managed to fight that urge and come nowhere near the front.
**I would have also needed someone pointing a wind machine in through the door, but that would be silly, right?
***It’s relative, OK, I think I was clocking 14 minute miles just before and got a 13 minute final mile.
****Other views on sprint finishes at the end of trail marathons in storms are available. But they are wrong.
*****An inherently dangerous thing to do after a long run – there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to get back up.