Nothing like a bit of inspiration!
Last weekend I took part in Hope24. A 5 mile trail relay event. Organised by a friend of mine as part of Team Hope. He had organised the event to help raise funds towards the target of £45k the team needed to raise to compete in the Marathon des Sables. As if this wasn’t inspiration enough.
Leading up to the event I had obviously been running a lot more, but had traditionally been a walker, (more of this later). I didn’t really like running that much and had to force myself to get up and do it. But the more I got out there the more I was enjoying it. I was a little nervous before the event as no matter what route I planned it never seemed to work out much more than 5km, around 3.5 miles, so was very much aware I would have to run further than I ever had. Repeatedly. I was very much a fair weather runner too. The forecast was for torrential rain and gale force winds pretty much for the duration of the event, so another bit of uncharted territory for me.
Luckily we finished setting up camp in the dry, and as the camp site grew, the festival atmosphere became apparent as the organisers tested out the sound system that the excellently jovial DJ would be running throughout. The campsite area was organised in such a way that part of the course would go around it which would be great for supporters and runners alike. The rains and wind steadily increased and it turned into a rather crazy night of weather.
The morning brought better weather than expected. My team of 5 was called Scrambled Legs and it was decided that I would go 3rd, and when it came to my first run I waited slightly nervously in the transition area. As my team member came through I grabbed the wrist band we had to wear, said a quick well done and set off. The first part of the course looped around the camping area and I was met with clapping and encouragement as I ran round. I was running and it felt good.
Heading away from the “arena” the course headed over a small bridge, and I was snapped by the amazing Kevin, one of many friends marshalling the event. Now I was out alone seeing the other runners ahead and met the first of 2 big climbs. After a little while I decided to ease back and power walk up. I have completed 3 100km treks so I was used to hill walking which went in my favour. I ran every time it levelled off and made good progress. The course then looped around a field full of horse jumps and confused looking sheep with a plateau with the wind in your face. After an off camber decent and over a second bridge it was back past the camping area 2.5 miles down. The course then headed into some woods, over another bridge where the river was flowing faster, and then started climbing again. Even steeper this time, and became known as the mountain. After zig zagging to the summit the sight of a carpet of blue bells brought another dimension. Then a technically challenging very steep and uneven hill back down into muddy paths and a welcome sight of the 4 mile marker. After a final bridge with a steep bank which somehow seemed like the hardest bit of all it was not long before the final run back round the other side of the camp site to the the finish line. This arena area really spurred me on as there was no way I was walking around that part. I was very pleased to finish my first lap in around 56 minutes and was very happy with that.
It was then about 3 to 4 hours till my next run, which was both easier and harder in some ways as you knew what to expect. I did this in 57 minutes which felt good to be consistent. Next would be my first night run at midnight. Donning my head torch it was very exciting. I ran up most of the first hill as my mind couldn’t see it, it seemed easier. I soon fell into a rhythm and completed this lap in 1 hour 4 minutes. Which was pleasing as I expected it to be longer but it wasn’t as much as I imagined. I was due to run again at 4 but as soon as I was in my tent I seemed to pass out.
Feeling refreshed in the morning, I caught up with team, some of whom had run a lap or 2 in the night. It felt great to be out again and my legs weren’t as stiff as I expected and did another 57 minute lap. The organisers said that teams could do a final lap together, so we decided to walk around and take in the views and take a few photos. We had been lucky with weather and it was an awesome feeling to run over the finish with the team and get our medals.
But the most amazing thing was seeing the more experienced runners. True inspiration as the top runners ran over 100 miles! The top male ran 130 miles! Once I never thought I could run, so this event was a big confidence boost in my own fitness and abilities and I think I may have ambitions of being an ultra runner.
Next weekend I am walking The London to Brighton 100km challenge for the second time. This is also an ultra event that people do run or jog and the temptation is there but I think it would be a jump too soon. I am keen to get a good time and may jog a bit. But in August I have a place in the round the Isle of Wight 106km challenge. With more time to train and invest in a race vest I am looking to train to jog/walk this one. Never would have thought I would say that! It’s great sometimes to throw yourself into the unknown as you just don’t know where it may lead.
For my first real running event it was an amazing experience. Everyone was very open and friendly, and it felt like a festival of running. Well done to Danny and all the team, can’t wait to come back stronger next year! And after all this is for charity so if your feeling kind here’s my page:
Also, here are some great blog posts from some of the more experienced runners: