1) I very very rarely run trail; when I say rarely, I mean unless I accidentally stumble across some mud during a road run, I just don't do it.
2) The weather has been so bad that the underfoot conditions were guaranteed to be horrific; injury leading to DNF is my biggest fear this year, one mis-placed step and I could be out for good.
3) I was about to break the biggest rule in the runners handbook: I was going to run in brand new trainers.
Somehow I made it round the course, smiling and laughing, storming through puddles and finished with blister-free feet. A miracle. More so a miracle as we got completely lost, three times en route, and ended up running 30 miles.
Success: Always Earned Never Given
As a seasoned marathoner, Brian has been a fantastic support and we've become great friends on our 56.2 mile journey. I'm not afraid to admit that if Brian hadn't been with me for this race, I would have probably gotten so lost I'd have been unable to finish.
IF running a marathon was easy, everyone would do it.
As we got to mile three a marshal appeared and told us we'd run roughly one mile too far - a sign of things to come... Getting back to our support troop at the start line, I attempted to take my jumper off as quickly as possible, tearing a corner of my race number and throwing one of the five layers I was wearing at Emily. Mark and Meg frantically tried to dress me again, with Mark joking that this was the second race in a row he'd started with his hand up my top (cheeky).
Puddles are DECEIVING
Racing through an open field, we were battered by 35 mph wind, the rain was so harsh and cold that it hurt as it hit your skin, at times the mud was ankle deep, this was NOT going to be easy. As we ran up a narrow hill around 12km I started to wonder if I had this in me, could I really get through this? Thankfully, this was the only time this crossed my mind during the entire race and I started to actually enjoy the challenge - at least I wasn't running in circles this time.
By this point I'd given up on avoiding puddles and instead ploughed directly through them. "I'VE GOT MUD IN MY MOUTH" I shouted to Brian after slightly underestimating the knee deep puddle I'd just charged through, his response was to throw me a jelly baby.
Don't stop when you're tired, Stop when you're done.
As we started to recognise where we were, and realised the 'finish line' was approaching, Brian put his arms around me shoulders and congratulated me. I don't know why he was congratulating me, he'd just run 30 miles too.
Can I call myself an ultra-marathoner now?
As the finish line came in to sight, I could see everyone waiting for us, we were walking at this point as my IT band was so tight it was impossible to move with any speed, 'lets do this' I said to Brian, it took all of my energy but I sped up, and up and up, and some how managed to cross the line, at what felt like the fastest pace I'd managed all day.
The overwhelming emotion as my friends and family hugged me will carry me through many races to come. There is a reason I do this, a very personal reason, it gives me strength and belief that anything is possible if you work hard enough. All the pain is so worth that 'finish line feeling'.
I have had a lot of self doubt in recent weeks. That has all been erased in just five hours.
2 down, 10 to go.
You know you're loved when people drive for three hours to stand in the rain all day for you...
Thank you to Brian for being an incredible mentor and running partner; and for losing the feeling in your fingers completely to be with me. "The Sparrow".
Thank you to Chris Seeney from Broadmeadow Runs and the marshals who stood in the rain for us, offered words of motivation and provided jelly babies!
With special thanks to Thoosa and Sweaty Betty for providing my running kit. As always, endless gratitude to Luke Jenner for making sure I made it to the start line.