The sun was out for the 358 marathon runners taking part in the Three Forts Challenge yesterday which made for a stunning views on the already epic South Downs Way.
Weather conditions were ideal, not too hot and not at all chilly (apart from when it got a bit breezy on the exposed ridge near the half way mark). However, my sleeves did double up as a headband to stem the sweat getting into my eyes so I kitted well thankfully.
The race took us straight up from the start line and the narrow path meant it was a single pace with limited opportunities to overtake which I was grateful for as it held back any temptation to kick on a bit.
The strategy is always negative split. Always, always, always. Despite legs feeling heavy still from the 35 mile run last weekend, I was feeling good after 10 miles and was considering taking it up a few BPM.
However, experience told me to hold those thoughts until at least 18-20 and take a view. The field had, on the whole, dispersed into it’s natural order by the time we’d got to the turn but there were still a handful of runners whose strategies had me baffled. They’d come past me on downhills then walk the hills or fly by me on the way out yet were lagging on the return leg.
This only hits home how important it is the regulate your pace. I often reminded myself it was a training run and to avoid the temptation to latch on to other’s pace. ‘Run your own race’. A cliché, but so true.
Having overheard the numbers being called out at the turning point, I was pretty surprised to hear I was somewhere between 30th and 35th. Determined not to push too hard, I decided to allow myself one competitive goal; sub 4. Racing the course AND other runners is a one way ticket to bonking so once I’d worked out that I was on course for sub 4 at my existing pace, I knew what I had to do.
Despite the well stocked and very friendly Aid Stations, I resisted (again, drawing on experience) the temptation to over fuel and just listened to my body. I had one gel at about 18 miles and then banana and water at every other station.
With my pace being checked through my earphones every mile, I knew I was running within myself but legs were getting heavier nearer the 20 mile point. Then my left quad picked up a niggle that, at first, felt like cramp but pretty soon it was clear that it was a minor strain.
With the final Aid Station ticked off, the last climb was upon me. I told myself I wouldn’t walk any climbs and paced up this one without any drama then began the 2 mile descent to the finish.
To The Finish
By this point my feet were killing me. The rocky terrain smashed my feet and my trail shoes were not up to it, feeling like I’d run barefoot for the last half of the race. The final descent down the steep, rocky path (with a gully carved down the middle) made for a pretty challenging finish. With half a mile to go I had the usual kick of adrenaline and spotted a chap in front of me that I chose to try and reel in.
I picked up the pace and probably finished looking stronger than I actually was. I headed straight for St John’s Ambulance tent to get an ice pack for my quad and reflected on a successful but very challenging race.
The first of three fundraising events has been ticked and I’m nearly at my target amount. Thanks to all who have sponsored me. Plus, it’s a good start towards my 100 Miles in May O2e Challenge! Get involved.
Official Chip Time – 3:53:45