I got to the start in Lightmoor, Telford, which was in someone’s house, met a few familiar faces including the race organiser Denzil, and put on my compulsory fancy dress costume – a blood stained apron with loads of knives attached. There were only about 40 or so people there, so without much of ado, we were off and running.
Both races were on the same route, a loop, just under a mile long, that we were to run 31 and a bit times. The lap counting was suitably low-tech, we were given 31 elastic bands to wear on our wrists, and were to drop one in a bucket after each loop until we had none left. The going was mostly tarmac, but muddy, and through the woods, so despite the potential for it to be mind-numbingly boring, it wasn’t too bad a course with a bit of variation in the terrain to keep things interesting. The profile was way more up and down than I was expecting though, with a biggish climb at the start
and end of each loop.
The first couple of laps were a pain in the arse, my knives kept falling out of my apron, and the apron itself was doing my head in. Despite having pinned it to shorten it and keep it off my knees it was still really annoying, so I ditched it after two laps. Then I settled into a bit of rhythm, got chatting to a few guys I recognised from other races, reintroduced myself and then immediately forgot their names again, and the first half of the race had passed before I knew it.
Now I’d sort of planned to aim for both races in somewhere around 8 hours, although I had also, somehow, assumed it was a nice flat course, which it definitely wasn’t. Not long after halfway the main hill just after the start of each loop was starting to take its toll, and I could feel all the climbing
of the previous week at Beachy Head flooding back into my legs. This is the point where anyone with a brain would have eased off, thrown in some walking breaks, and paced themselves for the second marathon. Not me though. Something about the regular passing of people (and being passed) made me dig in rather than ease up, and instead of coasting the last 10k or so, I found myself really struggling.
I’m not really sure which came first, the pain in my left foot, or the pain in my left hip, or whether one was causing the other, but soon the pain in my foot was pretty bad. With five loops to go I was in real pain, and could feel that the pain in my foot was making me run funny and putting all sorts of weird pressure on my calf, hamstring and lower back. So again, instead of easing off, I dug in a bit harder, kept running, and probably made it all a lot worse.
The finish stretch was actually pretty cool. Once you’d done your 31 loops you had to turn around and run 500m or so back the way you came, turn around again, and run back to the finish. What that meant was, if you were coming down that home stretch you got to see and congratulate the people who you knew were nearly done, and others on the course could do the same for you when you were finishing – a really nice touch with such a small number of runners.
So I finished, got my medal, and shuffled back to my car. It was nearly a mile away, so I had some good time to assess the damage to my foot, and debate seriously whether I was going to make it to the start line of the second race, which was only four hours away. I called Sandy, told her I was thinking of dropping and coming home, and she was great, but she couldn’t decide for me. I sat in the car for 10 minutes, and then decided it wasn’t worth causing any further damage just for the sake of what was not even a “C” race, so off I set. I got 20 miles towards home when I changed my mind, decided I’d give it a go, and then turned around. As I neared Telford I stopped at the services to get some food, got out of the car, and promptly fell on the ground. My foot was still screwed. I spent 20 minutes in the car park stretching, hobbling, walking, and trying to find a way of moving forward without my foot hurting, but there was no way, so I re-decided that was it, got back in the car and drove home.
I felt pretty bad most of the evening, but more frustrated about having injured myself than for the DNS. I was way more gutted at the prospect of not being able to run until my foot was better than I was at missing out on the double, so I know I made the right call. As it was, the pain had mostly subsided by Sunday night, and I reckon I’ll be running again by Wednesday. Once the generic pain had died down, the specific pain was right under the arch of my left foot which made me wonder if the slightly knackered old trail shoes I ran in could have played a part. I’m currently rotating two pairs of Alvords, and had planned to wear the more worn ones for the first marathon, saving the newer more supportive ones for the second one, but that lack of support might be what messed things up.
Next up is the Hell of a Hill 5 in 5 which I’m seriously considering DNSing for lots of reasons, not least family, work, recovery time, different goals and a growing hatred of hills. I’ll see how quick I get back up to speed after this one.