DJ’s words sounded in my head as I sloshed up the hill through a stream of flowing (cold) mud. ‘No emotion, there’s no need’. We have had more in-depth conversations over the past few months since we started working together, but with hailstones whipping across my face and my forearms aching from the cold, his parting words just floated across my mind and I smiled (possibly just looked like a grimace to any onlooking wildlife).
In fact, through the entire 28.5miles of the cold, wet, blustery, muddy, hilly run through the South Devon countryside I just kept going in a general state of mental wellbeing. I told myself stories, thought about a book I’m reading (my brilliant friend, the first in the Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante), about a talk by Will Self about Heart of Darkness that I went to last week (the horror, the horror) and all the familial and literary links to Gravesend that had been unearthed since then. I chatted to others as I went along (endlessly amazed by how awesome people are), and made myself follow the thinly sketched fuel plan that I was testing in preparation for longer runs later in the year. From the driving wind and rain, and constant mud and rivers I was so cold that I couldn’t use my phone to text my dad to say how much longer I’d be. The final 3,5 miles were straight into the wind and rain along the coast to Beesands (with a couple of hills thrown in the mix just for fun). I got blown sideways and knocked off my feet a couple of times, but just put my head down and pushed through.
It was not the fastest I’ve ever run (possibly going backwards at times, and the mud meant it felt like a 6 hour core workout) but that wasn’t really why I was there. My main hope had been to see the Devon-based family (hadn’t seen my uncle in decades!) and that my dad and step mum would come along as they could see them too and wouldn’t have to go to London.
I also wanted to remind myself that I could do it. A recent injury was playing on my mind, and I wanted to test that out before pushing on with training (either making me take a break, or removing any excuses). In addition, usually when I run longer distances I have terrible stomach problems and feel sick if I try gels or anything sweet. I came prepared to tackle that as I was thoroughly tired of it.
In the end I got to see loads of family, pushed through the back and ankle pain (which has now mostly disappeared), smashed the fuel plan (little boiled-salted potatoes and puréed fruit) and didn’t have gastro problems or really much extra hunger at the end of the race. Once I’d warmed up I felt physically fantastic and did a hilly 10km recovery run two days later in 50 mins.
This bit may sound a little silly as I am a grown up already, but my dad was waiting at the finish line (in wellies and a big camouflage hunting jacket) and he gave me a hug and bought me a coffee while I was looking for my dry clothes. I had to get changed as I was shaking with cold, but then we walked out to the car and everyone was lovely. And impressed! They packed me off to have a shower and get warm, fixed me a hot toddy and we watched the rugby all together before dinner. I think it was there first time anyone in my family has ever come to a race (or game) that I’ve done, and it was really nice feeling. My uncle even said that he was proud to be my uncle, but I hope that’s more because I’m such a thoroughly lovely person😏
So race was fabulous, but weather and running conditions were atrocious. People who run endurance life events all seem to be friendlier than average, and the organisers are great. Maybe they could mix up the colours of the ladies small tees as I now definitely have too many.
Goals and learning points:
In a very early season race being treated as a long training run I learned a lot. I have a better idea of how much and what food I should take, and will definitely stick with the potatoes and fruit purée. I had a couple of extra things just in case that didn’t work and ended up giving them away.
I need some waterproof gloves and possibly arm warmers as that is where I most suffered.
If I want to do something, my body probably can.
I need to do some speed work and build up a faster pace for endurance distances before the June and September long races but if I build upon where I am now, I should be able to improve quite a lot.