Would I run it again? Abso-fucking-lutely not!
Yup, that was what I said back in 2016 after 19 hours of baking sunshine, the wrong shoes, darkness, glowsticks and cow shit, spread over 100KM of the Ridgeway. But COVID has made me reassess a lot of things, including going back to races I’d run before, something that I was loathed to do, as there are so many out there. COVID has meant there aren’t so many out there now, and so I have been relying on Freedom Racing, Ultra Violet Running and now, of all people, Threshold Events, to get me to my 21 marathons and ultras in 2021.
The plans they are a-changin’, but they are changing to the familiar. After running Race to the King and then Serpent Trail, two I’d run before, and binning Cotswold 100 , swapping it for the South Coast Challenge, another race I’d done before, I dropped from two days of Stones down to a comfy, and simple one day 50K. So, to quote P!NK let’s get the party started.
The Race to the Stones still is the single longest distance I have run in one go. 100KM, 62 miles or so. Sure, I have had 5 years since then, but I have never wanted to go through that again, or go further. No, that’s a lie, I have toyed with the idea of the Barkley, and the Spine, and the Iditarod. The Wall was 70 miles, but that was over 2 days. Fire and Ice was 73 but that was over 3. With the wear and tear of 7 ultras in 11 weeks tiring me in a cumulative manner, and a 21 in 2021 target, dropping it down was the most sensible thing to do. And, knowing I was effectively going to stop at half way, jump in a cab to Didcot Parkway and would be home in an hour, I felt the pressure was off.
JK and Clare, Rachel and Geoff and host of online running peeps were there too but none made my happy throng of half a dozen racers as we made our way through country lanes and single person woodland paths, fields and bridges.
The race was effectively that John Travolta looking confused in Pump Fiction meme. Whilst some of it was new to me, as I was lost in the moment back in 2016, suddenly we hit that same wheat field, with the same down then up and photographers in the same place. I even wore a new version of the same t-shirt I wore back then, the Adidas Climacool tee with the spooky Rorschach pattern on it.
I hid my belly behind my number, and this is a relatively simple tactic. The florescent yellow of Serpent Trail left me a bit mortified. I know race photos aren’t traditionally flattering, unless you are faking it for social media, but come on people. That was not attractive in any way and so, after much deliberation I am going, to quote Amy Winehouse, Back to Black, will grow out the beard, and always pin my bib on the belly.
Any why not? Having run a double marathon and 6 50Ks this year already this was gravy. Sure, I did make the mistake (prompted by JK and Rachel) of wearing road shoes again. It is annoying as traditionally the ground at this time of year is rock hard, and the trail races are in glorious sunshine. But no, 2021 is continuing to suck, and not in a good way. I wore the same roads as Serpent Trail, my trusted Nike Flex RN 2016s, but after getting soaked, muddy and causing blisters last time out, they did the same thing here, and I decided that this would be their last outing.
Which is fine. I did have my Scott trail shoes with me, they are comfy, and at home I have another pair of Nikes, Altras and Hokas. I won’t be joining the barefoot running community any time soon. And god, who would? I know runners go on and on about being runners, but barefoot runners? Sheesh! They really like to tell you about it. If they are vegan too then it is the trifecta of personal soap boxing.
As the KMs ticked over I saw Allie Maybury (twice) and Spencer (twice) and it was lovely to see them both. The camaraderie has been missed over the last 18 months of the pandemic.
And before I knew it, I was done. 19 minutes faster than 2016 for the first half, same time exactly as the Serpent Trail last time out, and a blister under my big toe in the exact same place as Serpent Trail too. And so the poor muddy, soggy Nike Flex RN 2016’s were binned. Well, I actually just left them in a portaloo before grabbing a coffee, a cab and then was home via M&S Simply Food before a chunk of the field finished.
Dropping it down to my favoured distance was key. A 50K with generous cut offs is my bread and butter. I am not going to win any prizes, step up onto a podium or break any land speed records, and so I love to plod, enjoy the race, the route, and the people and just get it done. As long as you have long enough to do it, you can do anything. And this is why I chose the event. It was comfortable, and more so, it was 100 Marathon Club #58 in 70 months of the quest and 7th of the year, a third of my way through my 21 in 21 challenge after just 12 weeks of racing. I am back on it, like a car bonnet. In there like swimwear. You get my meaning.
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