As we drew closer to Swaledale about 8.30am, the weather was not looking too good. A grey sky was drizzling miserably and low cloud obscuring the high ground filled me with trepidation in case visibility was poor. I knew I was going to have to rely on other runners and markers to get me round the course. The route was described as being partially marked and marshalled at key direction changes, but it looked fairly straight forward on the map. As usual, my insecurities about navigation came to the fore but as a map wasn’t compulsory I felt reassured that it would be OK. We met Elaine Bisson in the car park who had planned to run with John Ayres. Unfortunately at 06.30 that morning John had called to say that he had injured his back and that he couldn’t run. Like me, Elaine had no map and hadn’t had a chance to look at the route as John had planned to show her round.
The event seemed well organised with plenty of drinks and snacks for sale and after a quick cup of tea and a flapjack we set off to the start about 1km away where we met Dave Robson and Mel Hudson who seemed keen to get started. By now the sun was shining and it was pretty warm. The briefing informed us that the route was actually 33k, but we were told with tongue firmly in cheek that since the first 3k was on roads, it technically was still a 30k trail race (not sure how that works!). We were triple counted and suddenly we were off.
Having been warned that the first 5 miles was uphill, it was not as bad as I thought with some bits more runnable than others. However, the fast runners quickly left me for dead and I took up close to the rear with a couple of other ladies. We had been warned to take it easy on the narrow rocky descent after 5 miles or so, but even so, I managed to trip over a rock (or maybe it was my own feet). Momentum took over and I hit the the ground with knee and thigh before inadvertently using my left boob as an airbag against a rock. I think it might possibly have saved me a rib fracture but it hurt (I have a colourful chest as a reminder)! A very caring runner stayed with me for a few moments whilst I got to my feet; I declined her water to drink or to wash my bloodied knee with, and steadily increased from a hobble back to a run. I did keep telling her to run on but she refused, and I felt a brief (very brief) pang of guilt as I ran off and left her behind…!
It was hot and I was pleased that there were 5 drinks stations, having previously thought it was a bit of overkill for 33k. I made a point of drinking at each one but still ended up a bit dehydrated at the end of the day. At roughly the half way point I reached the famous Tan Hill pub where Mel and Dave caught and left me, and I where my husband, Scott, was waiting with camera in one hand and a half pint of ‘Ewe’s Juice’ ale in the other. I could see he was twitching that I stopped at the checkpoint to eat one of my mini cheese and pickle sandwiches (washing it down with water and an excellent flavourless isotonic drink). Although I was pretty quick I expected to have an ear bashing at the finish, which was duly delivered. Yes, I accept that my drinking and eating on longer races could be more efficient but I’ve not got the knack yet so give me a chance, I only started racing 9 months ago!
The route then continued on a grassy/tussocky/boggy descent and very rocky trails. At one point my injured leg disappeared into a black, squidgy, peat bog (though it probably did the grazes some good). Out, up and off again, I was on a roll. Feeling low on energy I had a very quick drink and a gel at the 23K station and was soon feeling pretty good again. It didn’t seem long before I passed the 28K checkpoint and came upon a narrow, rocky steep incline, albeit short with a marshall at the top who directed me to the left saying ‘Only another couple of K to go’. That was a looooooong 2K! There were groups of walkers coming in the opposite direction; the path was intermittently narrow and rocky, up and down, but most of the walkers moved to let me past. I thanked them, one and all (had a Striders vest on and had to at least APPEAR to be nice) and was looking forward to a leisurely flat and grassy finish. Eventually I went through a gate – which closed with a loud clang – and at last could see, in the distance, the finish alongside the river. A few brief seconds later I heard the gate clang again. I knew it was another lady, who had shadowed me for much of the race and I thought that if she overtook me now I was incapable of increasing my pace for that distance so I would just have to accept that she is a better woman than me. But it didn’t happen and with about 50 metres to go I eventually heard her breathing heavily behind me – right on my shoulder. All I could think was (penny in the swear box) “there’s no ******* way she’s taking my place now!”.
I mustered up some energy from somewhere deep down, somewhere that I had never before delved into, and ran hell for leather! It paid off and I beat her by 2 seconds. Although I thought I had 3 or 4 runners behind me, I was chuffed to find that there were actually 10. My jubilation that I’d not let myself nor the Striders down was embellished by finding out that Elaine had finished 3rd lady overall. Now I’m back home nursing my bruises and looking forward to the next challenge…. Anybody know if arnica’s any good?
|27||11||Elaine Bisson||Elvet Striders||FV35||03:08:35|
|98||64||Melanie Hudson||Elvet Striders||FV35||04:14:30|
|99||117||Dave Robson||Elvet Striders||MV60||04:14:31|
|105||146||Diane Watson||Elvet Striders||FV45||04:25:23|