More of an 11 hour woodland walk and a one hour dash around a field.
A couple of weeks before the race I picked up an injury at the John Lucas Memorial Relay. It was still bothering me a week later and I had to turn back just half a mile into our Jedburgh recce and revert to vehicular support person. I didn’t run again in the week up to the race but I did do a bit of cycling including 19 miles for Cycle to Work Day on the Thursday before. I went for a massage and I hoped things would come right on race day.
We headed up on Friday, this year I had my mum’s motorhome and no intention of being cold like last year. The Ems would arrive on Saturday morning and my perfect, repeat support crew would be complete. It turns out if you’re a nice runner who minds their P’s and Q’s your support crew is willing to come back for a repeat performance.
I messed about a bit, had a wee shot on the mechanical bull and didn’t make the party until most sensible folk had gone to bed. There is no photographic evidence of my outfit…
On Saturday morning it was lovely to see lots of familiar faces including some of my local training buddies who were having their first taste of an ultra in the relay but I was a bit subdued in the run up to the race – I saw the worried looks on my crew’s faces as they gave me extra hugs before the off. The thing was, I was a bit worried too.
I’d had high hopes for this race, I’d been keen to break 50 miles but so far my year had been somewhat blighted by niggly injuries and training had not been the best.
I was right to worry, within the first two miles said injury was already causing a problem. I tried stretching out my hamstring and calf and Helen Munro asked me if I was OK but answered the question herself with, “no, you’re not OK.”
I decided to walk and see how I got on, but I knew the reality was that a PB was out of reach on this day and with this injury. I walked a while with Helen and Heather, saw Amanda and Gordon at the water stop before continuing to plod up the hill. Amazingly I managed to pick up a jog on the downhill although it was nothing compared to how I flew down it last year. I’d been thinking of pulling out but the thought of how far my crew had travelled to be there for me made me want to push on – sod it, if I had to walk for 12 hours then I had to walk for 12 hours. Amazingly the second lap felt better and I decided I’d be able to keep going a bit longer and whilst I was walking a lot more than the previous year I wasn’t only walking.
I had ups and downs over the day. I had great support from other runners on the course, and once they knew I was having a painful day they were even more encouraging every time they saw me. The official photographer fell into step with me for a bit as I told her of my woes – she never failed to give me encouragement every time I saw her.
I saw the competition at the front of both the 12 and 24 hour races unfolding in front of me as the runners lapped me time and again – without fail everyone that ended up with a podium place passed the time of day with me and gave me encouragement to carry on. My friend James Stewart ultimately won the 24 and utterly demolished the course record but every time I saw him he gave me words of support and sometimes a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder. I couldn’t be more delighted to see him win the race, especially after his own race was cut short last year by injury on the course. It’s a testament to his hard work and determination, and a thoroughly deserved win. I may have been more excited about it than him, somewhat like his recent win and course record at Clydestride. He’s too modest by far, so I’ll big him up for a paragraph or so 🙂
Now, it all sounds really tough and awful but there was a load of good stuff too and plenty of smiling as well as wincing. I had a daft game going on with Lois, my Ukrainian flapjack dealer and ended up singing Star Trekking Across the Universe with Des in the dark in the woods at night. It was going through my head because I had a conversation about keeping moving forwards and backwards being the wrong direction so obviously the lyric about ‘only going forwards, we can’t find reverse’ sprang to mind and led to “clingons on the starboard bow” and “we come in peace, shoot to kill” renditions at something like 10pm – Ian was support running with me at that point and I’m not quite sure what he made of that.
I won’t go into all the laps but when I got to 20 miles I was pleasantly surprised and decided I should bash on to 7 laps and 28 miles so at least I’d have gone ultra, not wasted my crew’s time and would be happy taking a medal. 28 miles came and went and it looked like I could still manage 40+ miles, which had been my target last year. Indeed I completed my 10th lap at about 10.20pm. I was pleased to make it to 40 and whilst I knew I would still be going when the hooter blew I decided I really didn’t want to go another long loop, although it was achievable even at a walk – my feet were hurting like mad, a PB wasn’t on the cards and I decided I’d take a wee rest until the small loops started and then see what I could do in the last hour. My crew didn’t argue with me, which probably tells you something. I snuggled up in a jacket, foil blanket round my legs, drank coffee and snacked. Before long it was time for the wee laps…
I started off with my jacket on and carrying a coffee to keep me warm but both were quickly discarded as I heated up. I don’t know if it was the rest and refuel, the soft grass under my feet or the amazing support of my crew and the mad party tents (Noanie, Sarah, Keziah, Carol were just amazing and I can’t believe I YMCA’d after 40 or so miles) but I started to fly round that field or at least that’s how it felt and according to those watching it was also how it looked. My feet had got so sore that I’d stopped feeling my pre-existing injuries and now the soft turf was like balm to my feet. I reckon I packed in about 3 miles in the last hour, which isn’t really flying but it seemed like it.
The long and the short of it is that I think I’m only about 3 miles behind last year despite thinking the game was a bogey right at the start. I definitely walked more but maybe I’m a wee bit stronger even in spite of being crocked, I don’t really know. My watch says 42.6 miles and I reckon the official result will be about 43 miles.
What I do know is I couldn’t have done it without Tom, Emma and Emily looking after me, Ian coming a couple of laps with me, the PARTY TENTS, and all the lovely runners and marshals that make me feel part of the community and who helped me to find the strength to dig in and keep going.
I have wanged on about James a bit, but it would be very remiss of me not to mention that Neil MacNicol (of RunRecover in Burntisland) who came second in the 24 hour race also comprehensively crushed the previous course record this year. It is amazing to think that James and Neil each ran over 100 miles more than me in only double the time. Astonishing. Wullie Bishop ran a blinder for third place and the ladies were all blooming lovely too – Lorna Maclean, Jenni Rees-Jenkins and Shona Young. As to the winners of the 12 hour, I really should have paid proper attention to the race I took part in but I got a little distracted by the excitement of James’ performance in the 24 but I do know the lovely Gerry Craig won the 12 hour race and I will update with full results when they come out… [Edit: full results here and my official result was 43.25 miles, so my guesstimate of three miles under last year’s result of 46.17 was pretty well bang on. Position 40 of 60].
Next year, I just might give the 24 hour race a bash – as long as I’m not injured!!