Race Review: The Saxon Viking Norman Punk Run 6 Hour Ultra

Time to put the Stones demons to rest with the next race. I have said it before to many people who have had bad races. Your last race does not define you, your next race does. And so I really hope this one makes me feel happier and more proud than the last.

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This will be my second Saxon Shore race and I really enjoyed the last one, the Alice and Wonderland Caucus race at Samphire Hoe in Kent. Remember that one? I was on the way back from post Manchester Marathon injury and suffering from ankle, had the Run with Strava in the evening in London and then the Running Awards to get to so could only run 3 laps or 11 miles… dressed as the White Rabbit.

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When I first heard about SVN (Saxon-shore.com) from Marty Ewers what I knew from the off was that there was 1. Awesome bling, 2. They were lap races, and 3. Had a great goody bag. Of all the medals, and they are amazing, the one I focused on was the Alice in Wonderland Caucus race medal (although the medal does not show the Walrus and Carpenter or the caucus race). The races fill up quickly as have quite a small field and you often have to put your name down on a waiting list. I put my name down late last year for the Caucus race and lo and behold! There was a cancellation and I got to run the race in March. Now, the only downside was how short a distance I ran (11 miles) but still, I got the much coveted bling.

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Bling a ling ling

What it did was open my eyes to lap races, and timed races rather than distance. In 6 hours I should always run a marathon, if not more. And so I booked the Punk Run, Cakeathon and Bowieathon with the idea of padding out the marathon medals.

The Punk Run was to be my 5th of 7 marathons this year, but in a new venue AND in costume – my costume including very thick and heavy tartan shorts. The Caucus race in Dover was around the seawall, so mostly concrete with a little jaunt into the nature reserve and its loose stone paths. The Punk Run was in the Cyclopark in Gravesend. I had never been to Gravesend, or a Cyclopark, so this was a first. Also, the route was chopped due to a BMX event the same day. We were running 3.28 mile loops, so 8 would be a marathon, and 9 an ultra.

This would be a day of high and lows, although to manage expectations, the highs are not particularly high and the lows were never heart rendering. So here goes.

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The Costume

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Avoiding where possible looking too much like Gizzard Puke, or worse still the Scottish punk monstrosity created by Russ Abbott, I got a vest (Ramones) and a tee (CBGBs), but will likely go with the original vest, although am not wearing the braces up, am instead wearing them hanging around my ass, have lost the wrist band, and have shaved.

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The Route

But first and a couple of bits of luck on the transport front. One, as I was booking Trainline.com for the tickets I discovered that there is now a high speed route going from Saint Pancras international, along the same route as the Eurostar, before splitting and going through north Kent. Tick. Then, two, our Kent racing comrades Lisa (@dleiasna84), James (@DiamondLitefoot) and Teresa () were driving to the venue together, so I was kindly picked up at the station to save me the 40 min walk. And then, even better, as I tapped out early, I still managed to get a lift back to the station and was actually home and with my feet in a foot spa before the last runners had finished. And all from the arse end of Gravesend. Remarkable.

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Attempted attitude

And seeing those guys, and the camaraderie is great. The SVN races have a great sense of community. There are a lot of volunteers and Traviss the RD is very approachable. He is an ambassador for the Berlin 100 Miler I plan to do next year. Everyone is chatty. And with local running clubs taking part, and taking part for a 6 hour stint, it really is an event. You can’t help but get to know people when you pass them half a dozen times. I even saw the lady who gave me a lift back to the station from Caucus.

The Course

The course was a mixture of downhills on comfy asphalt and winding, painful, stony tracks. Due to the BMX event we ended up looping around a winding, single person wide, mountain bike track that really beat up my feet as the laps added up, before running on road, then a dirt road, then grass, then up and onto narrow paths either side of blackberry hedges next to the motorway, a few stony inclines then onto a long asphalt run back (probably half the lap) to the start to get your lap card punched.

How I did?

It was hot, very hot, and it only got hotter. And as the mercury rose it was obvious we had no refrigeration. The amply stocked single CP (M&Ms, pink and yellow wafers, carrot cake, crisps, peanuts, sweets, anything you can think of – basically a tuck shop) was warming up. After the first lap the water and squash was less refreshing, by lap 5 it was warm. I was drinking more to get me through and spending more time chatting and eating before the foot punishment of the mountain bike route.

It’s getting hot in here… so take off… no please don’t

Around lap 3 my underarms were inflamed. The thick seams of the Ramones vest, not a running vest at all, more of a gig vest, was rubbing me raw. Chafing there and on the nips. It was a white vest too and my paranoia of a blood stained vest started to weigh on my mind as I ticked off the lap and changed into a sleeved CBGB t-shirt after seeing Lisa and before continuing on my less paranoid way.

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My fingers were swelling too. It was hot and the sweat was dripping. Did I mention it was hot? I was running without a hydration pack or backpack so didn’t have any ReHydrate with me so I had to rely on a half handful of salted peanuts at the CP washed down by warm squash every 40 mins or so.

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It was obvious, as the heat took its toll, (did I mention it was hot? That I was flagging. My feet were beaten up in my Ons and it hurt to walk, let alone run. My head was down and I was having flashbacks to Stones. My aim was to run for all 6 hours, probably run 9 or 10 laps and bam! Two ultras in four weeks. But after lap three when I was still on for 9 laps in the time I felt my strength drain with each painful step. The maths was starting to get fugly. My roughly calculated 33 mile run was cut to 30, and then 27 as I worked out that I could still keep going and run a marathon.

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But then I had a realisation and one I am still coming to terms with as I write this. What was the point? I had run 20 miles, had two laps to go and I was 4:15 into a 6 hour endurance race. Lisa, who has been injured, tapped out earlier. I know James was aiming for a marathon, as he always does, but Theresa was injured, her arm in a sling and therefore marshalling. As I started my 6th lap I knew I could finish a marathon if I wanted, but did I need to? I was already beaten up, this was not a distance event. You can run/walk a single 5K lap and still get the same awesome medal as those running ultras. The only difference is a badge on the ribbon stating you had gone the extra mile. (No pun intended). And remember, I still had to get back to the station, then take a train back to London, AND (not that I need an excuse) was racing four days later at a fast BBC Running Club 10K in my local Regent’s Park. At the moment I am wrestling with the concept that this was a DNF. I did get the medal. I only ran 11 miles at the Caucus race. There is  no distance limit. But I didn’t complete the 6 hours, or a marathon, or the planned ultra. So there is a hollowness when I think about it.

The Bling and Goody Bag

Is epic. Hold on, let me capitalise that. IT IS EPIC! All the SVN medals are amazing. As are the goody bags. Do it for that. This is basically a weapon. I would use it for hand to hand combat.

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And the goody bag

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Swag

In Summary

I did see a guy cheat. As I was coming off the horrible winding stony mountain bike part of the course to the point it joined the road again he was walking down the path, meaning he missed all the painful bends and loops. I saw him a lot and he knew I saw him cheat. But whatever. You only cheat yourself.

This was tough. There is definitely a Stones and King hangover I am suffering from. And now it is a King, Stones and Punk hangover. Disappointed with all three. But hey! I have seven races including two marathons this year and I will be damned if this will beat me. It is just a dip. What do I say?

“Your last race does not define you, your next race does”

So, the Punk Run – Would I recommend it? Out of the two SVN venues I preferred the Dover Caucus venue. I would not run another at the Gravesend Cyclopark. Would I recommend it? Not if it is there.

And, ending on a positive note, my Stones farmer tan is now a rather lovely vest tan. And it all about the positives.

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