The start wasn’t too bad, uphill to a ridge with some lovely views over the Bristol Channel, and I was ticking along ok. It was a bit crowded but not too bad, but then we hit the first of two out and back stretches of single-track which were a bit chaotic, with runners heading in both directions, and with half marathoners catching up with the marathon runners and coming through from behind. Most people were cool and slowed or moved to the very edge of the track to let people pass, but there were a few divs just ploughing through and forcing people off the track.
Just after that pretty slow stretch the track opened up ahead of me with a nice looking downhill, so I took the opportunity to make up a bit of ground. Next thing I knew I was lying on the floor with my mouth, elbows and knees full of gravel. I spent a few minutes swearing and spitting out dirt, and fortunately I hadn’t done any serious damage, just a few cuts and knocks, but I took the next few km REALLY slowly. Partly because I was a bit stunned and worried about wiping out again, but also because it was time for the second congested out and back stretch.
I washed out my cuts at the next aid station and felt ok, so trudged on, up a pretty steep set of steps which brought me back to the start/finish area. I was feeling pretty goosed at that point, with all the falling over I’d not really eaten or drunk much, so I shovelled in a couple of gels and steeled myself for the biggest climb of the route.
Just past the start area we had to go down parallel to the hill we’d climbed to get to the start (rocky and rooty and really slow), and then drag our arses back up the main path which was just horrible. The worst bit was it was the main route for the half-marathon runners to head back to their cars having finished, although a couple of us had some fun with them trying to convince them to come for another lap (they weren’t having any of it). The climb was steep and long, and I was starting to feel pretty tired. The 1040 start time meant it was nearly 6 hours since breakfast and I think I probably should have factored that in a bit and eaten way more than I did.
At the top of the hill I set off for my second lap, although it took me a good few minutes to feel good enough to run again after the climb. After a brief exchange with an overhanging branch that nearly took my head off I walked a short stretch with a guy called Tim and we chatted about all sorts, running the next 5km or so together. I ate more and had a couple of cups of Coke at the next aid station and started to feel much better, and the out and back stretches were much less congested second time around. With around 10k to go I fell into pace with a girl called Dawn who was training for CCC and we ran the last section together just gabbing about races we’d done and our various exchanges with cows (during races) which made the last few miles fly by. The second time up the steps didn’t feel quite so bad knowing we were nearly done, and eventually we crossed the line together in around 5:20.
I grabbed my medal and an Ice-pop, relieved that at least two-thirds of the day’s exertions were out of the way, and steeled myself for the descent back down to the car park and the four hour drive home. Apparently I didn’t get the same memo everyone else on the M5 got about driving 60mph in all three lanes, but apart from that (and an emergency pasty at halfway), the drive home was mercifully uneventful and I got home just before 2100.