For months I have been readying myself for my next big trip - a 100 mile, 4 day traverse of a frozen lake in Mongolia. I was due to set off on 28 February, and just a few days prior received an email from Ratrace informing me that the trip had been postponed for 12 months due to the Coronavirus.
Whilst an understandable decision, I was pretty devastated. For months now I have been training in the cold, dealing with the British storms and telling myself I have to learn to battle the elements. Therefore “do nothing” as an alternative just wasn’t going to happen.
I emailed around a bit. Fortunately the lovely people at GB Ultras allowed me to enter the upcoming Chester 50 Mile ultra with less than 10 days to go. Before I could think much about it, I was all signed up. Only issue was I have never run more than 35 miles in a day. How on earth was I suddenly going to manage 50?
Issue of distance was partly solved for me a few days before the event. Because of flooding in the area, the race needed to be rerouted - one checkpoint was literally under water. The course was therefore reduced to 45 miles.
So up I headed to Chester last Friday night with gear and support crew of one (eldest daughter, Caitlin). After a pub dinner and early night I rose at 5am the next morning to be on the start line for 6am. This is why I admire ultra runners - the dedication it takes to get up at that time in the middle of winter, darkness surrounding, takes real dedication. And on top of that, everyone (except me!) was really perky!
At 6am, 300 of us set off into the darkness...
The first 15 miles of the run was very pleasant. Running along the canal as the dawn broke and Chester slept was wonderful. The path, whilst narrow, was solid so I quickly relaxed into the run and enjoyed myself.
”No problem with this ultra running stuff“ I thought. “Just put one foot in front of the other, overindulge myself on sweets every 10 or so miles and enjoy the day out”!
But then the mud came....
Followed by hills, snow, rain and wind....
At checkpoint 3, about 30 miles into the run, I was really starting to feel it. I was cold and wet - not a good combination. Fortunately, Caitlin was there waiting with hot pot noodles and a cuppa. So sitting in the back of the car, I took a moment to get myself together before heading out again. Caitlin Also joined me for the next 9 mile leg of the run which made it more pleasant (for me, not her!)
The remaining 10 miles were tough. One downside to being a fair way down the pack is that the ground gets pretty chewed up from the 200 runners before me.. So walking, rather than running was a far better option. I also was cold and low on energy. Every mile took sheer willpower to get through.
Walking back along the canal to the finish, I was greeted with astounding beauty. The sun was setting and even though I physically felt pretty grim, I couldn’t help thinking how fortunate I am that my body can carry me so far to experience the sights of a beautiful part of the county.
At 5.24pm - more than 11 hours after I started, I crossed the finish line. Grabbing my complimentary panini and tea, cold and covered in mud, I couldn’t feel happier.