In what felt like such a bizarre situation, 2016 so far had not featured any competitive events for me. I’d covered a lot of mileage, plus I did run at the Manchester Marathon in April, BUT, so far none of this mileage was at competitive pace; I’d not yet had the chance to test my top speed against anybody except myself. It was time to get back on the horse!
Unfortunately, my horse was a bit lame.
I’d been suffering with a partially hurty foot (I think that’s the technical term) for the last few weeks, so training had taken a bit of a hit and I was carrying a bit of extra injury weight as a direct result. So this would also be my first official return to running to see if things were okay again. It’s like that well known, old expression that everybody uses – there’s nothing better than a full, off-road marathon to really test the water, when it comes to recovering from a hurty foot.
A Little Bit About The Event
I had run in this event before back in 2013 and was lucky enough to finish 2nd despite a lot of navigational errors in a time of 4:03. So essentially, I knew what to expect. This is a very friendly, low-key trail event, with minimal course markings, but plenty of walkers who set off an hour earlier, which helped us guide ourselves along and stay on course for the most part.
I also remembered that although not the hilliest of marathons I’ve ever done; this was far from flat, with a good 3,000ft+ of elevation in the profile.
Off We Went
It was swelteringly hot, which I don’t really mind, as I’m usually pretty good in the heat. I set off at a tentative pace; thinking mostly about my foot. However, as the miles progressed, so did my confidence and it became clear that my foot was now fully fixed.
Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for my fitness up the hills. I’m sure they weren’t this steep last time around!
Nevertheless, I soldiered on like a hero… As long as by ‘hero’, you mean bewildered, laboured and needing to ask for directions a lot from nearby runners. It was safe to say, I didn’t remember much from running the course three years ago.
All jokes aside, I wasn’t too disappointed with my fitness. It was my first competitive race back for almost a year, and I was dragging a additional half a stone around the course that I wouldn’t normally have on me. Plus it wasn’t really until mile 24 that any proper exhaustion really kicked in, as I left the final checkpoint and joined alongside the river to follow back into Hartington for the finish.
The finish came at around 27.4 miles according to my Garmin, but the last mile was all downhill so it felt like I got that one for free. I had finished in a time of 4:24, which was 20 minutes slower than my PB, but a respectable enough time given the circumstances and 3rd place overall, which is always a nice surprise.
This is a great event, albeit not for the faint-hearted in terms of navigation and hills, but like all of these events, it’s the people that make it what it is.
It was a friendly atmosphere, not overly competitive and all of the volunteers were top rate in their encouragement for the runners and walkers on the 15 or 26 (lol) routes. Plus I got chance to catch up with a few runners I had met before at previous events, and met a few others along the route who I’ll no doubt see again.
This properly served as a reminder as to why I got into this sport in the first place. It’s like running, but without the obsession with splits, times and extreme competitiveness you sometimes find. Just running with all the fun bits and no drama.
Nice to be back!