A lack of recent training, mild jet lag, a stinking cold and massive apprehension before race day. All bring doubt on whether you can complete a 50 mile race. This was my first race at this distance, I had been training and looking forward to this all summer. Getting a cold the day before really does put a dampener on the excitement, instead disappointment on thoughts of not even being at the start line.
I got up on race day, took a load of drugs and set off at 7am on a 3+hour journey to Shrewsbury. Feeling somewhat nauseous I arrived in glorious weather and parked and went about the formalities of registering and getting my kit checked by the marshalls. My bag felt heavy but I couldn't discard anything. Apart from drinks and a few sweets etc nothing would be provided. So all food and gear had to be carried (there was no drop bags either). So what did I have : Waterproofs top and bottom, 2 thermal tops, spare socks, gloves, 3 buffs, torch , spare batteries, comprehensive first aid kit, lots of food inc. 5 ham and cheese rolls, 3 packs of biscuits, 5 brekkie bars, jaffa cakes, sweets, 5 caffeine gels, phone, 2 litres of water and what i had on for running.
1pm came and it began. 100's ran, 100's walked. I got in mid pack and was happy with the pace especially as the start included 2 of the toughest hills, a 750ft ascent of Caer Caradoc closely followed by a 550ft steep ascent of The Lawley.
This spread out the field a little but I was happy just to keep sticking to groups and following so that I didn't have to rely on my map skills. Plenty of undulating terrain followed which I stuck to my plan of walking up the hills and running the flats and downs. more tough long hills down and the CPs were ticking off nicely and the hills of The Longmynd, The Stipperstones and Earls Hill, all painstakingly conquered. The day was perfect the views stunning. Sun out but cool, the only problem was the mud. Every turn brought more squelching unavoidable mud turning your footwear into a wet sodden mess.
After an eternal road walk we got to the Shelve CP as it got dark, so roughly 27miles and 6 hours in. Here we had to change into night wear. I put on some leggings, changed my top for a long sleeve thermal and best of all put on my fresh pair of socks. Felt real good. As well as a change we had to group up. I had for a lot of the race been leapfrogging a couple of guys, Andy and Craig so we decided to join forces with 2 others. And set of into the night.
Within minutes I had plunged myself into ankle deep bogs and so had ruined my dry socks. Still, there was more on my mind. We had to get up the next big hill of Corndon Hill. Painful and at the top you could feel the temperature drop and wind pick up so we made sure we got a move on to keep on. This was a little too pacey for the other 2 so they decided to let us go ahead at the next CP. I haven't particularly done any night running but the was very enjoyable especially with the others around. The night running brings pluses and minuses, the good side is that you cannot see how big the hills are you have to climb but, in the dark you have to be a lot more clued up on the navigation. And following a footpath through woodlands soon showed us how easy it is to get disorientated and unsure of your surroundings, only through pushing on and finally hearing the sound of the occasional car brought us out onto the road. From here it's mandatory sections to take us up the next peak of Black Rhadley.
With 2 other groups following us we crossed some heath land we took a sheep track and went a little out the way. Lucky through good judgement from Andy he took us over the heath to the CP. So only 10+minutes lost plus extra wet feet from jumping poorly over a pond. Tip - don't follow unless you are certain of the way.
By this point we were over 40miles down and the mind is in a good state as the finish seems so close we were passing people/groups at regular intervals which is always a little pleasing (at mile 20 I was told I was in 75th place). The body though is in a different state. We all have problems, cramps, pains, soreness. My thighs were solid hurt but I felt ok to keep moving. The worst was the underside of my left foot, I expect I had trench foot. There was just searing pain on each foot strike (later looking at it there were 2 massive groves that had been made and just extremely sensitive to the touch, still are).
With the finish in sight there was just a few more obstacles to overcome. The first being a thigh bashing 700ft descent into Minton which pretty much finished us off. I was actually thinking at the top that I was still enjoying this, this proved short lived. Soon after the descent pretty much came my one and only lowpoint. These are hard to shake off, but chatting to the guys, eating, drinking, more ibuprofen and things became bearable again. Only Ragleth Hill to crawl up and then descend into town and then run, jog, shuffle to the finish.
Through all the doubts at the start to actually finish and finish well. Well I cannot say just how happy I was. The body racked with tiredness and pain all I could do for the next hour before going to bed was to have a beaming smile. A great run and 2 great running companions in Andy and Craig. Plus all the other good natured runners along route, who all had time for a quick chat etc.
Finally, the organisation. What can you say about the support, truly amazing, we just do the race these guys are out from start to finish helping, cheering, motivating, looking after us for all hours in all conditions and just making us all feel better. Thanks to each and everyone of you.
Stats: 51 miles, circa 9,500 ft of ascent and descent in just over 12 hours (placed 42nd).
Note : Finished with too much food 1 roll, 4 gels, jaffas, a few biscuits and bars and the bag feeling just as heavy as the start.