On the one hand I was really looking forward to it. Since my 100th marathon last October a whole group of us that were around similar numbers have hit 100 and joined the club – and for the last few weeks Adam’s been the only one missing. He’d put in a hell of a finish though, running about 20 in March, and had picked the Shindig as his 100th.
On the other hand though, I was dreading it. I’d not run much since London, and not run anything hilly since last year, so figured I was in for a bit of a test. I didn’t know much about the route beforehand other than there was apparently one big hill, and knowing that none of Denzil’s races are easy, I had prepared myself for being out there a while.
The drive down to Shropshire on the morning was uneventful, although it was chucking it down most of the way. I got to the pub where registration was taking place and was directed into a field nearby to park. As soon as I walked into the pub I saw a load of familiar and friendly faces, including Steve Jackson who I hadn’t seen for a while, and Rich Whitaker who I’d not seen since the Canal Canter.
After a quick catch up with everyone and wishing Adam luck, we set off from the pub car park, turned right, and started up the first big hill. Rich and I set off together, trading stories of the last few months since we’d seen each other. This basically meant him telling me about the Hardmoors 110 he smashed a few weeks earlier, and me telling him about all the biscuits I’ve eaten since London, but how I’m definitely going to start taking my training seriously now (again).
Normally Rich and I are pretty evenly matched and find it easy to run together, and I think between him having just run 110 miles (and having another marathon to run the next day) and me being a stone overweight and woefully out of shape, we found a pace we could both run and chat at for the whole thing.
The route itself was a bit bonkers. Apparently it was pretty dry last year, but it had rained a lot overnight, and after a few on-off showers early on, the rain set in for most of the afternoon which really made things interesting. The course was basically two 13.1 mile loops with the start/finish/turnaround point at the pub which I think was the lowest point on the course. Half marathoners do one loop, marathoners do two, coming all the way back down to the pub before setting off on their second loop.
The biggest test was at 14k and 35k, where we had to climb “the bump”. On a dry day it would be tough, a steep 2-3 minute hill, you’d know about it on the way up and not be especially looking forward to having to do it again on the second lap. In the wet though, it was bloody awful. I should probably point out here that I had worn completely inappropriate shoes for this race. My Salomon hybrid/light trail shoes were absolutely rubbish for the level of mud involved, and although I mostly got away with them on the drier/less steep sections, I might as well have tried to climb “the bump” in bowling shoes. First time around it was just about ok, a couple of slips and a couple of branches grabbed, but I got to the top ok. Second time around, after another few hours of rain and a few hundred extra footprints, it was a total scramble. Three times I thought I was going to totally lose it and slide all the way back to the bottom but managed to dig my fingers deep enough into the mud to save myself. By the time I finally made it to the top Rich was just stood there (in his proper trail shoes) wondering what had taken me so long.
We came into the finish together in around 5:07, and joint 7th place which we were pretty happy with. Neither of us had been pushing it, and we’d been chatting all the way around, but that was still a pretty respectable time around that course. I’d never normally feel the need to justify a marathon time, but we’d been talking on the way around about how hung up some people get on them. How some people will scoff at an apparently slow trail marathon time having absolutely no idea what it’s like to cover that distance with mud, rocks and 3,000ft of ascent in the way. Or how some people will belittle the times put in by slower, back-of-the-pack runners. If you do either of those things, you’re a dick.
As a minor aside, the best way to ask someone about their race is “how did it go?” That way, whether someone was running to win, for a PB, as a training run for something else, or just to finish, they can tell you how it went in relation to their own goal. Asking “what time did you get?” just makes you sound like a douche.
Overall it was another great race from Denzil and the gang, top marshalling from the team (including Jogging Jon Aston who was on aid station duty as prep for GUCR the following week), a really well marked course, and top quality jaffa cakes which made all the difference for me!
Anyway, Rich got off sharpish as he was running a Hardmoors race the next day (as you do), and I went into the pub and waited for Adam with Gill Verdin (who is aiming to be the youngest person to run 100 half marathons). After milking his 100th marathon for as long as he could, he came around the corner, and Denzil presented him with his 100 club shirt and some mandatory 9 Bars. It was great to see Adam hit his 100th, and it’s so cool that the Liverpool Rock n Roll next week will be his first outing in the 100 club shirt!