Kielder Dark Skies Run 2016, Kielder, Saturday, March 26, 2016

26.5M

Catherine Smith

My First Marathon…. Or ultra depending on your stance on the ‘anything over 26.2 miles….’

all in it together.

So having ran a few half marathons I, like many, thought that the next natural progression would be to go for the full marathon distance, but not just any old marathon, no no, I decided that it would be a good idea to do half of it at night & I chose Kielder, renowned for being flat! Not!

I was very impressed by Trail Outlaws when I marshalled for them at my local Washington trail race so I asked if I could have a place in their Dark Skies run in return & they confirmed there were spaces – just like that I was in! Eeeek! I then learnt it wasn’t just a marathon – it was at least 26.5 miles! Double Eeek!

I invested in some ‘long run’ kit & started upping the mileage – usually incorporating a coffee shop refuel half way!

As part of my pre race prep it seemed I managed to ‘encourage’ other purplies to either run it (some of them marathon Virgins like me) or marshal it so we could make an adventure out of the whole experience. One of them being Gareth, a fast lad who had never been on his feet longer than 3hrs! Not sure who had the biggest challenge ahead – what I do know is I would never have entered or completed this race without becoming part of the purple family!

Tell Katie to shut the door! Finally the big day arrived as did storm Katie! The forecast was for rain, rain and more rain, plus some wind! Great! Not only would we be unlikely to see any Dark Skies or Northern lights we were also probably going to be rained on heavily for most of the race! I felt bad for all those people I had roped into the crazy plan in one guise or another!

We arrived at the scout hut/HQ and got our numbers, passing the kit check easily, mine weighed 6lbs! I can assure you I had what we needed and then some!

We saw our purple support crew in action and welcomed the other purple posse runners as they arrived, the weather wasn’t too bad at this point and we were all hopeful it might not be as predicted, until about 4.30pm, 30 mins before the start of the race when the heavens opened and pretty much didn’t stop until about 10.30pm!

At around 5ish we were off! Wishing everyone good luck Gareth & I settled into our pace and the miles were ticking off nicely, despite the awful conditions I was enjoying the views & seeing the marshals and other runners along the way. Soon enough we were at the first checkpoint and it was lovely to see our purple support crew, they seemed a little surprised to see me / us so early, I took that as a compliment and with a spring in my step off we went again!

Keeping Dry.

Soon it was dark enough to need our head torches – it was fab seeing all the lights moving through the trees and up and down the MANY hills!

We kept hydrated & filled up on the various (some soggy) treats at each of the checkpoints and all things considered we were doing great, on pace, running all the way (even up THOSE hills) and we even got to see some stars!! Wahooo!

I had only ever ran 20 miles max before however so it wasn’t surprising that at about 22 miles I hit the wall, I was tired, my light was dimming and Gareth had said ‘just a park run left’ by accident – we were nearly one strider fast lad down at this point as I could have killed him when I realised it wasn’t right! He was trying to distract me with chatter about Teresa Archer’s lush chocolate cakes waiting for us with all our purple crew at the last checkpoint and I just wanted him to shut up! The thought of cake made me feel sick! I knew I needed to rally and regroup so I slammed the brakes on and explained I wanted to change my batteries (well the torch ones not mine! If only!!) I also had a gel and some trail mix and a little word with myself. We set off again with me and the light much brighter…

It wasn’t long until it really was only a parkrun left and I knew in half that distance I would get my hugs from Kerry & co & Gareth would get his cake hit from Teresa! (These cakes are delicious and got us through Hardmoors half and Dark skies & should be available after every XC race! Might even help Gareth get round in the fast pack next season!!)

I practically fell into Kerry and Denise when we saw them, Flip was on a rescue mission and didn’t even recognise us as we passed him! Kerry said ‘you are doing great, only 2.5 miles to go’ I think I practically screamed back at her ‘1.5, surely?!?! Please!’ We were on 25+ miles by then – I showed her on my watch! She said ‘oooops! Yes 1.5 then I’ve been telling everyone 2.5!’ I was so relieved after my early distance confusion I couldn’t face another!

After hugs all round and being pointed in the right direction for ‘home’ by ET Archer (aka Matthew) we set off on the last 1.5 miles, I felt emotional by this point, I knew then I was going to finish a tough first marathon in horrid conditions & I was suddenly a bit overwhelmed.

There were fairy lights guiding us back to race HQ where we fell through the door way and collected our fab medals – official times 5.10.05 for me – first and only time I’ll beat Gareth at 5.10.06 – my watch gave the distance of 26.82 miles – Gareth’s had 27+ from his toilet detours (race bag / bladder pressure situation going on there!)

I had done it! I was over the moon! 22nd lady and 14th in my age category! I was also so so proud of Mr P who helped me round and had achieved the longest time on his feet ever!!!!

Anita Clementson was in ahead of us with a new marathon PB and soon after us was Jane Ives.

Well deserved medals.We had a hot drink & freshened up & then waited for the rest of the gang to get back. Dave Toth & then Helen Allen were next, then Kathleen & her partner, followed by Sophie, Lyndsey, Julie and Emma who like me had never done a marathon before, they were followed by Sue (a week after her 55!!) and Rachel Toth – another marathon virgin – it was really emotional – I was so proud of us all completing a really challenging race. The marshals were back not long after so we all headed to the scout hut to celebrate and refuel / hydrate (on party tea and alcohol obvs!)

Jury is still out as to whether I will run another marathon or more distance wise but I would like to thank all those involved in making it an awesome first marathon (ultra) experience and I would highly recommend Trail Outlaws races to anyone fancying a new / different challenge – either to Marshal or Race or both!

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