Race Review – Saxon Viking Norman Gothic Challenge

How many Goths does it take to change a lightbulb? None, they like to embrace the darkness.

Maybe it will become a bit of a thing. Last year, to set the mental pace for the year’s running I took in the “delights” of Deal and completed the Saxon Viking Norman Cakeathon as my first marathon of 2017. And it really did help ticking it off so early. This year, the calendar of races really didn’t start until Transgrancanaria at the end of February and so, with just a couple of 10ks (albeit including a PB), and a beery half under my belt, I decided on ticking the box once more and so booked the SVN Gothic Challenge, one of their races during Valentines week. It was to be held in Gravesend at the same Cyclopark as the Punk Run in the autumn of 2016 and the Music Legends Bowie race in 2017, neither of which ended at 26.2.

So sad…

The Punk Run was my first race after the 100KM of Race to the Stones, and was too soon. It included the mountain bike paths with their stones and pebbles and I ended up with a nasty case of Plantar Fasciitis that took the best part of a year for the symptoms to fully subside. I did have fun with the lovely Lisa Freeman, and the Surname’s. The Ramones vest did rub my underarms raw. The medal is epic. But I only managed 20 miles and sunburn.

Please note the farmer tan from Stones on me, not Lisa

At Bowieathon, as it was dubbed (by me), I only made half way. It was cold. We were dressed as Bowie, Helen had already tapped out, and, although Jen was happy to keep going, I didn’t fancy it and called it quits at a disappointing 14KM. Disappointing inasmuch as it could have been one of the 3 or 4 chances I had to complete another marathon for the 12 in 12.

Bowie would have been so disappointed in me. I can’t even look

And so with all that said signing up for this race would mean ticking off Marathon 19 2 weeks earlier than planned, and a comfy lap race I had run before, in a location I knew well. What could possibly go wrong, I was just going back to the scene of the crime(s)? And I really needed closure on this course, just so I never need to go back to Gravesend ever again.

How I have been

To be honest I have started feeling a bit down. My maranoia has been off the fricking charts for a week and a half. I made the mistake of attempting some serious sprints on the dreadmill a week ago on Thursday. This was not a brilliant idea, despite it being easy to set the interval time and pace. It left my legs heavy, with my quads solid. That weekend I ran the Hampstead Heath parkrun, only 30 seconds slower than normal, but it left my feet in tatters because my right knee was hurting. The next day and a cold, muddy, hilly Craft Beer half in Wimbledon and everything else started to hurt, and hurt so much it has taken a week to even start to shift some of the pain, and lessen the maranoia.

Today, as a psychological crutch, I taped both knees, and I took some ibuprofen on the way to Gravesend, buying a bottle of water and a small tube of Biofreeze to loosed up the ITB, adductor, Achilles, calves and foot ligaments. This was applied in the toilets of the Cyclopark centre as I changed. Lesson here for everyone, after applying a menthol and camphor based medical rub, please avoid repositioning your junk in your running leggings. It is not effective at pain relieving,  but the unpleasant tingling sensation is indeed long lasting.

How many Goths does it take to change a lightbulb? None, they like to sit in the dark and cry about it.

The Blurb – The Gothic Challenge…

On the day before Valentines, the 13th February, what better than to mark the dark side of our characters and souls. Not everyone enjoys pink and hearts, some love black and skulls! We encourage folk to come along in their darkest attire, black is never out of fashion, anything dark… we will of course have suitably gothic themed bling!

As close to Goth as I am going to get

Torq Bakeoff

As a further aside my favourite Gel company TORQ, purveyors of Apple crumble, and raspberry ripple gels, have brought out two new cake flavoured energy gels, lemon drizzle and cherry bakewell. I did take them today with the intention of using them, but in the end I didn’t. The marmite straws were just too good, as was the bread and butter pudding.

How I did

Okay, so the route is a there and back, and then a there and back going the other way, then back to the start. Each lap is 5.25 miles and you need to have your lap card punched by the marshals for it to count. For a half today would be 2 1/2 laps, for a full it would be 5, anything over 5 would be an ultra. I have now run my fair share of these and the tactic of going straight out after lap 3, or after lap 4 are the only considerations. Starting the next lap to get it over with rather than stopping and eating cake and losing momentum is the concern here. Race started at 930. The forecast was for it start raining an hour later, and for it to continue raining until the end of time. When we stopped being pelted with hail or freezing rain we ran into headwinds.

The first lap seemed to fine, but my watch was not buzzing at each KM. This was annoying, as rain started to fall and freeze me. I stopped and checked the watch, only to discover that, rather than selecting the exercise “Running”, I had started “Outdoor Other.” A schoolboy error and so I stopped it and restarted it again with the correct settings.

every now and then I get a little bit lonely. And you’re never coming round.

Between laps I enjoyed some bread pudding and some squash, then the marmite straws. OMG they were good. I wanted more, but forced myself out on the second lap. Let’s call this one the windy lap, where the wind was, much like so much nowadays, in your face!

It was so cold my hands were going numb, and an odd shade of purple that can be best likened to jam which, in turn, prompted me to put on both my puma hoodie and my gloves at the end of the lap and keep them on for the rest of the race.

If the freezing rain of lap one was bad, and the freezing wind of lap two was, well, making jam, then the actual sleet/hail that made me feel all Samwise in the snow.

Fuck off Gravesend.

I did consider calling it quits at this time. I was 15 miles into the marathon, cold, wet and miserable.

every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears

The field was thinning out with people quitting but after seeing the stalwart Gary Wayman pushing through on his way back from injury I kept going, and ended up back at the Race HQ getting my third lap marked. From here, I thought, it was simple. Mouthful of squash, and a marmite straw and straight out for the 4th lap, then repeat for the fifth and final lap. Simple? Well, not really, as within 400 yards of the start of the next lap both calves went ping!

But the odd thing, was that this set me straight for the rest of the race. I slowed my pace, and changed my gait to have smaller strides, akin to a wind up toy on speed, and kept going until I felt either calf tug, and then I walked it off for a few minutes and would run again. This really worked and miraculously as the rain came down I completed my 4th lap and went straight out on my 5th and final lap happy that I was way below the cutoff, not really suffering from any of the ailments my maranoid brain created for me over the last 10 days, and stuck two royal fingers up at the elements to finish what would be my 19th marathon in 29 months (the aim is 27 by the 3 year anniversary of my 1st).


The eye sockets do, as Gary quite rightly pointed out, glow in the dark. It is, as with all the SVN race medals, epic. I am picking up a very envious vibe from people who see it. And why not? It is great.

How many Goths does it take to change a lightbulb?  A million. They really need to lighten up.

In Summary

Hey. It is a SVN race. You know what you are getting. I know I certainly did. It was a course I have raced thrice now, but finally I completed a marathon on it. It was unexpected seeing the lovely Lisa Freeman and family on lap 4, as the weather was terrible. It was nice also to have another runner ask me if I was RunnersKnees and that she follows me on Instagram. It was great to see one of the Phoenix runners too, who completed 52 marathons in 52 weeks last year. It was a mental slog at times, and physically, with the weather and the cramp, I was happy to get through.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE GOTHIC CHALLENGE? If you want the medal, you really only need to run a single 5 mile lap.

WOULD I RUN THE GOTHIC CHALLENGE AGAIN? You know, I am done with the Gravesend Cyclopark. I can tick that venue off the list.

Scores on the Doors


Oh, and no one came dressed up in goth attire at all, not a single one.

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