SDW 50, after jettisoning at 80 and 85 miles on two goes at the SDW100 and missing the NDW50 finish cut off by 5 mins last year this was to be my 4th attempt at a Centurion medal. I knew to give myself a chance I had to improve my speed to give myself a cushion at the cut offs. Alas, best laid plans and all that meant a seriously shouty Achilles put a halt to my quality hill sessions in Hove Park with Arena. I struggled at times with my training, the long dark evening runs alone and the slogs over the Downs on a wet cold Sunday needed to be done if I was to get myself to Eastbourne.
I spent the last week visualising that final 400 metres round the track at the finish, punching the air, dancing, sprinting! Wrote myself motivational messages, I want this, I own the Downs, happy music, roar like a lion! I then spent the rest of the time anguishing about the cut offs…but then after the stiff climbs there are some decent down hill sections, time to fly down like a bird.
So finally, here I am at Hillbarn in Worthing, waiting for the start, realising that the world of the ultra is really quite small there are many happy smiling familiar faces. Reminiscing, congratulating for other greatnesses and faffing with kit we prepare for the day ahead. 9am and we are off, straight up the side of the golf course, my calfs are not keen and the hustle and bustle makes it hard to settle into the race. But eventually we start to spread, I feel like it is all a bit of an effort which worries me slightly…combat those negative thoughts, happy songs!
I never think about the whole race, but break it into sections, my first goal was Chanctonbury, once there it was a decent runnable section pass stinky pig farm (who actually weren’t too stinky today). And down to Botox (Botophs) where I knew my Mum was going to be. My stomach was all over the place so I dug into the S!caps in a hope it was an electrolyte lackage. I knew I needed to get some food in to sustain the miles but it all went a bit off balance when I suddenly burst into tears… Not really sure why, but I am a woman after all and maybe reverting to child at the sight of my Mum. She did however pack me off with a bag of grapes and satsuma, but silly me forgot to top up my water…hey ho.
So the steep climb up to Truleigh Hill, cheering and chat with Little Dave and Sarah who were out course clearing and supporting, onto the road section, run 4 fence posts, walk 4, keep on going. The nausea is back coming and going like my mood, come on dig in, get across to the Devils Dyke and then it is the nice down hill to Saddlescombe. Sarah 1 at the Dyke then Sarah 2 on the descent gives me a much needed boost. Into CP 2, a hug and another cry with Michele…manage some melon, chocolate and jelly babies. Quick chat with Carole and it is on wards, towards Clayton windmills and over the ridge to Ditchling Beacon…another cheer from Michele who promised me if I finished this I could stick to half marathons from then on. Ditching and Sarah 1, stop and put an extra layer on…that cheeky North/north easterly wind is cold and forever in my face across to Blackcap, grim…come on happy songs, plug in my music.
Some more decent down hill sections towards Housedean and I start visualising dropping at the CP, nice cosy flat to go home to, no more cold, no more pain, no more nausea. I vocalise that I am going to drop…but then the argument in my head starts….what will you feel like tomorrow, I don’t care, yes you do! Get to CP, eat sandwiches that taste like sawdust and pick around the table, get some fuel in, cup of tea, bliss! Ok…let’s try to get to the next CP at Southease, easier to get picked up from and where I dropped in last years 100. Down the yellow brick road, up to the top of Rodmell then that nasty decent…Southease and Sarah2, I can’t drop here she has made an effort to come out. Lovely CP, they knew what I needed and offered the right amount of support and encouragement plus a cup full of tomatoes and salty nuts to eat on the climb to Firle Beacon and what a bloody bugger that was! Feeling cold again, I did a double hat routine and keep run/walking across the top. This is probably the most bleak section, it goes on and on, the wind was relentless and I felt pants. Come on, what will you feel like tomorrow if you quit, just get to Alfriston, don’t think any further, happy songs…Lalalala!
Into Alfriston, lovely cup of tea, chuck out the junk from my pack and force down another sawdust sandwich….I buckle, I can’t do it…I’ve had enough! Suddenly a voice, yes you can, it’s 4.1 miles to the next CP, one long climb then down, down, keep moving forward with purpose…thank you Nel for that motivational drive that pushed me out of the door…we were off, head torch ready for the fast failing light we starting the climb up Windover hill….I hate this, I am never going to run again, never ever. Anne and Lisa who I am running with disappear from view but wait for me at the top. I’m given a stern warning that I have to keep pushing hard if we are to make it before the cut off. I’m doing the best I can I rant…but I know it was those harsh words that kept me going over the hill to Jevington…last CP, I knew in my heart of hearts I would finish but there was wicked sense in me thought it would be easy to be timed out. It was about here that my head torch started to malfunction…..drat, I couldn’t remember where I had tucked my back-up light ( take note, we have mandatory kit for a reason) I got Anne to rummage to no avail luckily in a group we were like Blackpool illuminations and I borrowed Anne’s back up light to add to the display, within in seconds it slipped down and bashed me on the nose…that made me laugh! In another light bulb moment I remembered where my spare light was…so now I was the lucky holder of two lights. I had about 1hr 25 mins to do 4.5 miles, keep moving forward, push up the hill, even manage some running as I tried to keep up with Blackpool. Very soon I see a bright star at the top of the hill, the star turned out to be Tim Lambert waiting to point us towards the gulley of death. Tim’s words of encouragement and belief filled me with hope, I was going to do the rumba round that track. Pointed down the right gulley by Drew, we started the descent from the Downs, the descent to the finish, victory!
Lisa leading the way, me as two hand torch Luke, super beam Anne and Mr Man who joined us…we kept encouraging him to pass but he seemed to like following us…it was a nice distraction and a change of chat, I was at last taking some control of this party. Keeping a look out for tree roots, slippage here and there, groans and moans from all, finally we are at the end of that sting in the 50 tail, I visualised James wicked sense of humour sticking this at the end of a race. Out into the road, across the road, past the school, yapping dog, shut up! Last push along the main road, ops nearly jumped in front of a car! Cross and down the cycle path, will it ever end, is that the finish, don’t get too excited…yes it ruddy well is, the track, it’s there and we have 20 mins to spare! And so onto that track for a dance and cheer…reality was I struggled to maintain 400 metres of continuous running and could only make old woman grunting noises.
But finally, just finally I crossed that flipping line, medal round neck, hug from Nici, tears , grit in our eyes, laugh, wobbly legs, relief, photos, t-shirt, tea…I am so very pleased.
Seated inside, it’s time to reflect and swap mad moments with other runners. I have met so many true friends on my running journey, I don’t care if I am first or last it’s the challenge of completing and those friends and my family that support me that is the true meaning. The day I don’t feel that will be the day running loses its life. I battle with my self belief nearly every day but today it finally came home to me, just how supported I am. Thank you…and a special thank you to those that kept me in the game.
I can’t recommend Centurion Running enough, I’ve experienced it from every angle, checkpoints volunteer, pacer and runner…seamless organisation, everyone working to the same goal.