A day late but still worth a read today…. Lots of things went on and it meant a fantastic day all round.
Started off with an early trip to Hell Up North at Delamere Forest – the Toughest Half Marathon …. which I definitely would not argue about. Edgie and I had been training for this event for a few months, along with every other event that we had completed during it – but this was the one we look forward to doing every year.
On arrival at the event we showed our ‘Club Colours’ and a bit of free publicity at the same time ….
That big ‘Dude’ fella was impressed too ….
Then it was time to have a little look around the ‘Free-bies’ on offer – noodles, gels, bloks etc …. and a fair choice too. Despite already having a few gels with us, we raided the bloks and I had about 4 before our wave started – hyper wasn’t the word!! We met up with Vicky Ferguson and her group of fellow runners – she was a little apprehensive I would say… As Edgie & I had already completed this event over the last few years, we knew where the difficulties could be – mainly the first loop of running up the hill at the start – that’s why we started at the very back of our Wave of runners.
Now this event has increased in distance from my last efforts – 2yrs ago, so I was wondering where the extra distance was going to be … I didn’t have to worry for too long, as it became evident in the first series of hills – repeatedly running up a shear wall of mud to get to the top, only to run back down and do it again several times more. Now I thought that my previous experiences and the amount of training I do would at least stand me in good stead to complete this challenge fairly comfortably – that was a mistake too!!
The running on flat(ish) pathways was fine, if rare at times, the hills I could cope with for the majority of the first 10miles – coupled with the little trip through the middle of ‘THAT LAKE’ I felt would be interesting. However, the piece of worldly advice given to us on entering the lake was very telling .. ‘It is deeper than usual this year for some reason – about 7feet or so!!’ This instantly put a psychological fear into your head, as no matter how deep the lake was, you still struggled to get through it … Plus the water temperature was extremely chilly. It was around this obstacle that we met our new friend for the day – Amy. She was running on her own and was about the same pace as us – so she tagged along. Her experience of the lake was not too pleasurable for her – she was only about 5feet 4inches tall and couldn’t reach the bottom of the lake. At 6feet+ tall neither could I to be honest.
Credit to her though, she did it and was so impressed with herself when she reached the other side – freezing cold, soaking wet and shivering like mad. (She also muttered a few choice words too.)
Once the lake had been overcome, it was a few more miles of trail running to nowhere in particular – you could hear the crowd in the near by field – so tantilisingly close to the end of the course – but not quite yet. I realised that the additional distance must be next and that would mean more hills of mud being traversed up and down several more times before we got to the last obstacle – the ‘Bog of Doom!!’
Now this is just pure evil at the end of the event – especially as you have used up the majority of your energy and stamina just to get to this point.
The crowds where all around this last obstacle and it was just hilarious seeing their faces – looks of dismay and astonishment at what all the runners had to put themselves through. I knew it was almost the end now and I could feel the energy sapping from out of my body – the ‘Monsters’ in my head had started to mess with me … I wasn’t going to let them beat me this close to the end.
Up the last muddy slope and onto the dry flat pathway …. I could see the finish line about 200m ahead of us – it was so close and my heart began to race, my legs felt full of energy again and I could feel a smile starting to brim across my face – Edgie & Amy where just feet away from me too. A few more strides and we could relax and celebrate our achievement. But then out of the crowd we saw her – the evil last twisting marshal pointing us away from the finish line ….. up towards the original hill that we started climbing several hours again. The course was now extended into a small wooded area that went around the back of the start/finish line and came back to end the event crossing the finish line again … It may have only been about 800m or so more but right at the end of the event it almost finished me off mentally. All three of us crossed the line together, celebrating what had been in our own words ‘the Hardest event’ any of us had competed in. I don’t mind admitting I felt such a release of emotion at finishing that I could have cried – had it not been for the 100’s of spectators applauding every finisher. (Instead I gave Edgie a ‘Man-Hug’ and Amy a massive ‘Hi 5’ and a ‘Hug’ – we had all helped each other through the event as some point or other. We had completed it in a little over 3 & 1/2hours.
Was it worth it I asked myself several times during the battles we had – and the only answer I can truthfully same it this:
I am already looking forward to start training for next year’s event – aiming to beat our time and hopefully get some others involved with us too.
NB: One negative point of doing this type of event – not the cuts & bruises, not the dirty clothing that you just have to throw away, not the freezing cold temperature in the water, not event the continuous muddy hill climbs …. just one simple thing …. The amount of time you spend showering/bathing to get yourself clean & the dirty finger/toe nails you spend hours trying to remove the muck.