I’m not usually one to warm up before a race. I’ve always considered the first mile as my warm up, the time for my legs to go ‘Oh, ok, this is what we’re doing now’. However yesterday I inadvertently gave myself a really good warm up! I tried to arrive nice and early, knowing that I always get lost and unsure of parking. My early, however, was everyone else’s standard arrival time, and parking was already at bursting point. I found a side street I could park down long enough to go register, and then went to find a car park by the seafront. I dropped into the first one I came across. I had a good hour before kick off, plenty of time to get up there and sorted….or so I thought. First snag, the pay machine didn’t seem to be taking money….and I only had enough change for a couple of hours tops. Another machine had the same issue, but I saw a driver had a note on his dash saying the machine wasn’t working, chancer I thought, worth a try. I wrote the note out and started changing my shoes and getting my stuff together. But then a lady was at the first machine and now it seemed to be working, bugger. I popped in the minimum and then went in search of a cash machine. This seemed to take forever! I asked about cash back in a few little shops but no joy, time was ticking. I jogged into town, found a cash point and ran back to the shop for change. For some reason I only put in enough for 6 hours, not thinking how early I was. So I had given myself a deadline of 5 and a half hours….shit. I had been saying to everyone I would be happy with 6 hours, guess I might be getting a ticket.
I grabbed my bag and marched up the hill to the start. At registration I asked a marshal where the bag drop was, and he pointed to the start line further up the hill. They were calling runners to the start line, 12 minutes to go. I squeezed through the crowd of runners and spectators up to the start and followed signs for the bag drop. It again seemed bloody miles away! I stripped down to my shorts and running vest, pinned my number on and bagged up my bag. Jogged back up to the start, with a minute to spare!
I ended up in the pack hoping for under 5 hours. I figured I didn’t mind being overtaken by hundreds of people. This was a much bigger event than the North downs last year. I looked up at the start line, and the hill that kicks it all off, ‘Fuck’. I had been warned, but the reality was something else. I had a plan however, and I would stick to it. Walk the hills, run the flats, and let gravity take me on the down hills. We were off and as I walked that hill with everyone else, I knew this race was going to be all about my will power as my training had not been the usual marathon standard.
After doing The Wall ultra back in June you could say I had been tapering! I gave myself a good break and when I got back on it I ended up hurting my knee. I decided things needed to change. I’ve been training with a heart monitor which has ment slow running, nothing pushing me too hard, and nothing over 8 miles. Hardly marathon training. I’ve also taken up playing Ice Hockey, so try to train for that at least twice a week which is great stamina and speed training. And I’ve had a few coaching guinea pigs, which has ment regular short, slow runs to. Those of you that have trained for marathons however, will know this isn’t standard practice. So I had decided I would just see Beachy as a nice day out, and a training run for all the silly shit I’ve got planned for next year.
I stuck to my guns. Walked the hills, as fast as I could. Ran the flats, at a nice steady pace, which allowed me to enjoy the spectacular views. Blasted the down hills to make up as much time as I could. As I pounded down one of the down hills through the woods, I was called a spring chicken, bouncing off the edges to get past people. Gravity was most definitely my friend. There were so many amazing views, but one that will stick with me was a sweeping valley, that curved away in front and all along the top heading down were tiny dots of runners.
As I went along I slowly fell in with a group, always seeing the same faces, socks, shorts. Sometimes up ahead, sometimes being overtaken again. I had my watch for about 20 miles before it died, and I was amazed I was hitting 6 miles an hour consistently for the first three hours. I couldn’t explain it, but I also knew the seven sisters were yet to come, and that was the true test. It’s a shame my watch died before the sisters, I would’ve loved to see the graph on those hills on my strava. Again I stuck to the plan and let gravity lead the downs, and stretched my calf’s out on the ups. I saw the up hills as a chance to rest my legs, and let people trot past me. I have to say though, the advice continued to ring true. I would be passed by people jogging up the hills, but when I hit the top and started off again myself I was passing those people. It just isn’t worth the energy.
I wasn’t feeling too bad. I was tired, but no aches, and I didn’t feel blasted. About three miles from the end one of my group caught me up. A lady who had always been ahead and I was surprised to see her now behind. I was on a hill walk section, not massively steep, but i was happy to be at resting pace. As she got me she said ‘oh no lady, you can’t be walking, I need you to be running’ I laughed, and said ‘come on then’. We trotted up the last section of it, speeding up on the flat and downhill. She said we were on for getting under 5 hours and I was gob smacked. I hadn’t set out with that in mind, and had really just been there to enjoy the race, which I had done. Another couple of lads with us said they could be on for 4:45 and I thought, fuck it, let’s get this done. The last mile and a half is down hill, but my legs were not happy anymore. They were screaming at me, and anyone who saw my face in that last push would’ve seen pain on it. You finish on the hill you start on, which is bloody steep. But it ment I could get enough momentum for a sprint finish. Maria had crossed ahead of me and me we thanked eachother for that final push together. 4:45, I couldn’t believe it. I said a quick goodbye to Maria and limped off to get my bag and get back to the car before my ticket expired. I had 12 minuets to spare when I finally fell into it.
What an epic day. The weather had been perfect. The views spectacular. The supporters amazing. And a time I never thought possible. I’m still buzzing today and not hurting as much as I had expected. I have to say this is proving to me that what I’ve been reading about and doing is the right direction for me. My friends didn’t seem that surprised with my time, but I was and still am blown away by it. It just makes me wonder what I can achieve next year.