Dark Star Marathon 1/12
“Well that WAS all going so well” words I uttered to myself and fellow runners far too frequently on Sunday. It was of course Marathon Number 1 of 2017, Dark Star. I’d heard the ‘horror’ stories, of the mud and the toughness, but I’d signed up anyway because I really want that shiny medal collection, HA!
I turned up on the morning to a room full of slightly more familiar faces. This was my 2nd of the River Series and my second trail marathon, so I felt a little more like I fit in to the crowd of incredibly talented/insane runners. I was still a pint sized nervous wreck though waiting for the race briefing and wondering as I always do why I do this to myself.
Before I knew it we were outside, it was cold, and we were off. The 28.2 mile Trail Marathon starts from the Shoreham by Sea Scout Hut and takes you up one side of the River Adur for a little over 10 miles. You then pick up the Downslink for a further 4ish miles, turning at west Grinstead station and heading back down the opposite side of the river.
The first 14 miles can only be described as a delight. My legs took a little longer than usual to settle in to the terrain, I hadn’t run much off road in recent weeks and my mileage had been a little on the low side. My friend Martine braved the cold and found a spot early on to cheer and this gave my legs the boost they needed, by the first aid station at 5 miles I’d nicely settled in to my stride. The horrific mud that I had been warned about was not really an issue, the weather conditions this year had been much more favourable and although there were a few stretches of cloggy mud, it wasn’t over the full 10 miles like I had feared!
At the half way point I was super happy I’d made it in a little over 2 hours and 15 minutes. Feeling pleased and a little surprised (my pipe dream goal was to finish under 5), I stopped for probably longer than advised at the world’s best aid station. No joke if you want to experience aid stations like no other then enter an STE race. The food ranged from fresh watermelon to roast potatoes, Jelly babies, popcorn, cubes of cheese and pretzels!! It’s not just the food though everyone who helps out at the stations or anywhere on the course for that matter are seriously the friendliest bunch of people you will ever meet. I’m pretty sure I lose a fair bit of time at every race just having a good old chat, but isn’t that just the beauty!
Feeling rather chipper, and proud of myself I turned around and was hit by the cold air almost instantly, bollocks! It got real cold real quick and I layered back up and pushed on in to the wind. The downslink was fairly covered and I managed to keep my pace around the 10 minute mile for the most part. I skipped the next aid station as I was cold and didn’t want to cool down even more. My friend Helen, was out on the bike and I was so happy to see her! Her and her husband followed me on the downslink for a little while, and gave me a much needed distraction from my slowing pace and tired limbs.
Climbing over 1 of what I can only assume was 100 stiles I was back on the river bank and no joke the wind hit me like a ton of bricks. The wind was super fierce and every mile it seemed to get stronger, or maybe I just got weaker. It was bleak and grey and my pace dropped and never recovered. The mud was also much more churned up now and there were a few ‘shoe please stay on my foot moments’! You should also not underestimate the amount of additional weight you carry on your feet when you have a solid block of mud attached to your shoes.
At mile 20 I had absolutely nothing in my legs and was cursing myself for being a fool and thinking I could run this thing. Luckily my friend (and awesome PT) Kev hopped a fence in a random field and talked some sense in to me. It’s crazy how seeing your people gives you a mega boost. He could tell I was struggling a bit so we had an Instagram photo shoot, which in training always makes me work harder haha! As you can see as always I was taking it totally seriously.
He left and I was on my own again, in smaller races you often find yourself feeling like there is no one else running, like they’ve all finished had their beer and are now home in the bath having a cuddle with the dog! I zig zagged with another runner or two for a few miles to the upper beeding aid station. I saw shelley my run club leader and gave her the biggest hug. I knew this meant I was nearly there! Kev was there again too with added support from Molly and Jesse, I gave them all delightful sweaty rainy hugs (I’m sure they loved it)! I chatted some more about how horrible I felt and then ran on. 5 Miles that was it, just 5 miles I kept saying and I was going to do it!
PAHAHAHAHA. 5 Miles of pure horrendousness followed, the wind was horrific the rain started to fall harder and my body was just not in any way shape or form enjoying the terrain. I made a deal with myself which was if I could run to the next gate or stile then I could walk for a minute, and I played this game the whole way back.
As soon as I saw the footbridge at Shoreham I knew I was nearly home, my legs found the extra pace they needed to run the whole last leg back at 10 minute pace, and seeing my family at the end gave me the extra push to sprint finish!
Thanks to STE for all their incredible hard work of putting on amazing events, which really do test you in all the mental and physical ways possible. For the people who I met and got to run with, you guys are superb, my friends and family for showing up for me like they always do and for the mega photos!
If you’re looking for a fantastically organised but rather challenging event then for sure add this to your race diary for 2018! I for one am glad I’ve got the medal and can check it off the list.
#clareruns12in12 January Charity
So the weather conditions were just horrid, I was literally miserable in the icy wind and driving rain. When I got back to the scout hut I was incredibly happy to have a warm shower and some hot food! We are so incredibly fortunate to have such simple pleasures and so this month my Charity of choice is Worthing Churches Homeless Project. I will be donating the equivalent of my race entry, race gear and fuel costs to them. This was a local run and they are a local charity; working tirelessly to help people in our community who are homeless or insecurely housed. They are not only, feeding, clothing and housing people form our community but they are also providing specialist support needed to ensure they recover.
I still haven’t figured out how to set up a charity page that will let me split donations over 12 charities, so for January whilst I sort out my life admin if you’d like to donate then please Text WCHP01 £5/£10/£20 to 70070.
If you don’t feel like you can donate but want to get involved with volunteering then check their website http://www.wchp.org.uk. Or when you’re out and about where ever in the country or world, engage with the people in your community who might need your support; buy someone a coffee or a hot meal, or just stop for a chat!