Race Reports - September 2020

27/09/20 - 4 Castles Challenge Half Marathon

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Race report by Carla Carter

I was excited to be running in a real race and ready to embrace the changes that made it a covid secure event, which meant that we were given our race numbers along with our medal and finishers t shirt before we started, yes the temptation was strong to get back in the car and go home.

The weather was atrocious with rain and gale force winds whipping along the Deal seafront. Starting at 9:30 from Deal pier the marshals had it organised with runners going in small groups/waves every ten minutes. I followed the route along the seafront promenade towards the ruins of Sandown Castle, back past Deal pier and onto Deal castle.

I was feeling positive, the course so far was flat, even if the weather was against me. Onto Walmer, I couldn’t see much of the castle and headed up the first incline up along the outside wall of Walmer Castle, at the top of the incline we turned left into an open field, this is where I began to get Muddy On the way to St Margarets at Cliffe there was more fields, mud and hills. I ran past some cows who were mooing in the rain. I was still smiling.

Running through the streets of St Margaret’s it was nice to see the views. With the constant rain and the up and down hills I began to realise why it was called a Challenge and not a race… There were lots of stairs going down and I had a little slip going down on the mud. I had to laugh as I hoped it would show a quicker time on my strava. 7/8 miles in my mood had begun to slip, it was hard even though I was talking to other runners ( I am a sociable runner – I like to talk). I focussed on moving forward. Then I hit it. Not the wall. But a freshly ploughed muddy field that appeared to go on for miles, initially going down into a dip and then heading up the other side, with a cross wind and constant rain. It was then that I saw a flash of orange and blue coming towards me through the field. A coastal strider to the rescue!

Darren, having finished the course had come back to check on me. I would have preferred a piggyback but settled for blindly following our coastie captain through the field of nightmares, and onto the endless roads that headed towards the white cliffs of Dover and then twisted and turned us away and back again towards the finish line at Dover castle.

Darren talked me through the rest of the route so there would be no nasty surprises but the 100 or so stairs leading up through the castle grounds were steep and mean. And still having to run a bit further to finish on a hill was hell. But I felt like I’d achieved my medal and the relief of finishing was immense.

Thank you to the friends and family who stood in the rain to support me, to the marshals and organisers who directed us and kept us safe, thank you to Darren for getting me to the end.

Would I run it again? No thanks. But I would recommend it to anyone who likes a castle and wants a challenge! A Big Well done to Dave Pettman & Elvis Cooper who also completed the gruelling Course.

Thames Path 100 mile

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Centurion TP100 - If at first you do not succeed then try and try again.

This was my 3rd attempt at the 100mile distance. My previous 2 attempts were cut short due to medical issues on my first and severe dehydration on my second. Remember that hottest day of the year on the 8th Aug this year when temp rose above 34 degrees?? On that day I was out trying to run from Farnham to Ashford. I got just over half-way when my body started to complain bitterly, enough for me to withdraw at the 55mile point. I was very disappointed as I had trained hard but on reflection, I learnt a lot that day. At shorter distances you can make mistakes with fuel and hydration and get away with it but get this wrong on longer events and you’ll unlikely get to the end. I do not see withdrawing as a failure I see it as a learning exercise. A failure would be wanting to do it but not trying for fear of not getting to the end. Better to have tried and not succeeded than to have never tried at all. Our bodies are amazing machines and will cope with far more than our brains think it can take. If you read nothing else in this report then please take this message away with you. You can do more than you think you can and you can achieve more than you thought possible. Believe…train.. achieve!!

So, after my last DNF at the NDW100, up I popped 4 weeks later at another Centurion event, the TP100. Due to Covid and the rescheduling these races were the wrong way round. I was supposed to do a nice flat 100 first and then the killer North Down Way afterwards but it wasn’t to be. The TP100 course was from Richmond in London to Oxford following the Thames Path. The weather was fortunately much cooler and the course much flatter. This however didn’t stop those feelings of doubts creeping in every now and again at the start. But there I was on the start line ready to go. My goal for the day was to finish. That was it, plain and simple…. Get to the end!!! This is the strange bit I really wanted this to be me, on my own against the race. Having had crew at the last 2 failed attempts I had a determination that I was going to do this, and it was down to me to get it done. A personal challenge if you like … I wanted to do it on my own.

Due to Covid protocols, gone is the mass start. Instead this has been replaced by a staggered rolling start from 07:30 to 09:30 depending on your predicted finish time. This is to try and spread out the field and give some distance between runners. I made my way to the start area and headed out onto the course at 08:00.

Early on I focussed on not running any faster than 10 min miles and this I largely did. The new aid station Covid protocols were fun. Runners could only enter the aid stations 1 at a time and only 1 person to a food station. It took some skill to master opening water bottles with hands fully of slippery hand sanitiser and then filling them up yourself and trying to put the lids back on. Then there were the individually wrapped portions of food to grab before another dose of hand sanitiser before finally heading out again. Normally Centurion Aid Station Crew resemble that of a well-oiled F1 pit crew. You approach said aid station… you get stripped of water bottles etc… you get stuffed with a smorgasbord of food before getting your water bottle crammed back into your pockets and shoved out again with oodles of encouragement. Sadly, due to Covid Protocols, they can only do the encouragement bit, which was amazing I might add. They all had to wear masks and gloves and wipe down each and every surface/water container you touched.

From a running aspect the first half was largely uneventful aside from me kicking a tree root and going down lack a sack of spuds. I didn’t even have an audience to give me a score out of 10 J. Fortunately, no damage was done. I’ve never been along the river Thames in this part of London before, so I saw some great scenery, even caught a glimpse Hampton Court Palace albeit through the iron gates.

I didn’t realise just how many times during the course of the race we’d cross the Thames (18 times I think) some were a bit more eventful than others, like the car crash on the Bridge at Winsor…. Car 0 Bridge 1 :). I saw lots of people, boats of all types, paddle boarders, dog walkers, pot smokers, fishermen (lots and lots of them), Vodka drinkers, more pot smokers. But once I got past Maidenhead it was mostly me on my own enjoying the scenery.

I got to the halfway point (drop bag 1 aid station) in good time still feeling great. This is where I brought out the big guns. This consisted of a litre of Lactose free long-life milk and some pre-prepared empty water bottles with Nesquik Banana Milk powder in them. A few shakes later and I had milkshakes. Oh boy they were great. I drank the whole litre as well as trying to stuff my face full of food. I tendered to 1 blister on my big toe, changed sockets and top and off I went.

I had a few tech issues during the race. In an effort to elongate my battery life on my Suunto I’d reduced the GPS tracking from 1 per sec to 1 per 10 sec which worked great but did reduce the accuracy. If you look at my track on strava it’s a bit wavy. So much so that in places it looks like I went for a swim in the Thames. Apparently, I also nailed a Crown segment in Cookham while running through a Church yard and a wedding party having their pictures taken…. I hit 3:58 per mile don’t you know… :).  I also somehow paused my watch for a few miles just outside of Marlow and it took me a few miles to realise. I also had a bit of an issue when I went off track in Reading. I’d not long since left the aid station in the dark (by this time I’d been running for approx. 13 hrs) and I missed a sign. I ended up in Reading Town Centre as I’ve gone off course by about a mile and had been following the River Kennet and not the Thames…. Muppet. I had not been using the navigation feature on my watch up until then in and effort to save battery life but in navigating the menus to enable it I again paused my watch and because the navigation screen does not show any timing information only a breadcrumb display I didn’t realise for another 3 miles. 🙁 I did however find my way back on course albeit running an extra mile or so in the process. That wasn’t my only time getting lost but fortunately the others were not as far a detour and I quickly realised due to the people behind me shouting out “You’re going the wrong Way!!!”

The next drop bag location was Goring (drop bag 2 approx. mile 71) here I repeated the Nesquik Banana Milkshake drinks and sorted out some clothing, my feet were still ok and no more blisters. I was still wearing a T-Shirt with some arm sleeves and shorts but as soon as i got outside ready to go again I felt cold, so I donned a warmer top. It does get cold along the river and I did have to contend with some mist in the early hours. My head torch, much like car lights, just lit up the mist and not the road ahead. I did have to stop at one point to ditch some food I’d been carrying and not eating as my right knee ached a little. I did take some paracetamol with caffeine and this did the job.

I’d now been running for 16 hours and was entering new territory having never run more than 64 miles in one go before. And here’s where the run got interesting. I was expecting to feel extremely fatigued and thought I’d be mainly walking to the end, but I just kept going and going. I’d occasionally see the light of another runner in the distance and would just keep running until I caught them. Then I’d make sure I kept running past them until I couldn’t hear them anymore and if I needed to walk for a while then I would. I seemed to get into a rhythm and just keep going and going. I completely amazed myself… at Reading (58m) I was placed 136th, then 110th at Goring(71m) and 87th by Clifton Hampden(85m) then 79th in Lower Radley(95m) and finishing 68th. I even managed an average of 08:54 min/miles for the final 5 miles OMG.

My finish time was 22 hours 46 min and 36 sec which was beyond my wildest expectation. I feel proud to have achieved what I set out to do even if it did take 3 attempts.

Just want to say a big thank you to all of you who were following on FB etc. On the day it did make me feel a little warm inside know that you were all there supporting.

12/09/2020 - Runbelievable - Black Hugin Challenge

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Race Report by Craig and Donna Sharp

So after all the months and months of planning the inaugural Runbelievable event was upon us.

Etch Saturday 12th September 2020 down in your cerebrum as an ‘I was there’ moment – if you were there of course!

What made us pick the Black Hugin event I here you ask? Well running around the iconic Hugin Viking ship at night with a bunch of like minded loons pretty much pushed all of our buttons especially after we had missed it last year as we were away on holiday.

Alas, the ‘C’ word put paid to the hard worked plans of Simon and Kim as it has done to many plans we had all made in 2020.

Not to be downhearted, Simon and Kim conjured up an alternative location and adjusted start time so the Black Hugin could go ahead….out went the head torch and in came the sun glasses!

Donna and I have been members of Coastal Striders for around 1 and half years but this is the first time we have entered such an event and not really knowing what to pack to ensure we lasted the potential 6 hours of running time, the local supermarket was pillaged late Friday evening  in true Viking fashion and we rocked up to Betteshanger with 2 cool boxes full of food and drink to provide sustenance for the day.

Little did we appreciate that the ‘goody’ bag would be so plentiful and make the Tesco plunder a waste of time. All I can say is if the Easter bunny requires restocking he needs to visit Simon and Kim’s place for supplies!

Once everyone had checked in with the fantastic registrars Amy and Sophie it was a very chilled out start to an event with everyone socialising….at a distance of course!

None of the ‘Go on my whistle’ or to the sound of a starting pistol which is all I had ever known from running in my plimsoles at school through to running Brighton marathon a couple of years ago.

One by one we all took our place at the sword start and when we were ready to go, the 6 hour timer started.

As both Donna and I had never run one of these events before we decided to take different strategies. Somewhat fortuitously, this event coincided with my 100th half marathon of 2020 and I planned to go out hard to get that distance out of the way ( about 3 laps of the course) before a quick stop to refuel and then go back out again at a steady plod.

Donna’s plan was to get her furthest distance at a comfortable pace. Now Donna’s furthest distance prior to the Black Hugin was 14 miles so her goal was going to be seriously under threat, little did we know how much she would smash it by!

So onto the course…4.7 mile laps featuring a varied terrain and surfaces including what were described as slopes by the race directors but in essence were small mountains in my eyes especially after doing them a number of times! I even managed to extend one or two of the laps by getting lost, trust me!

There were runners of all abilities and due to the nature of the laps, we were able to say ‘Hi’ and ‘Keep going’ and issue words of encouragement to each other all the way around which was definitely a highlight for us.

The Striders orange shirts were out in force and each and every one of them hit their goals or completely smashed them on a very hot day with some truly inspirational achievements.

Donna completed 5 laps reaching 23.5 miles and was determined to complete her first ever marathon distance so started out to add the 2.7 miles on only to be ‘encouraged’ by Darren to do a full lap and become an ‘Ultra’. It was fantastic to go back out onto the course and run the last few hundred metres with her.

As for me, the 100th half was in the bag and I topped it up to 29 miles my furthest distance I’d ever run too.

The usual ‘I’m never running that far again’ comments could be heard amongst some of the finishers including ourselves but on the drive home the inevitable ‘It was fun though wasn’t it, we should do it again’ words were whispered and so we find ourselves all ready to go again in December for another of the Runbelieveable events!!

So, rounding up, brilliantly organised event, great company, massive goody bag and a super medal.

I would like to thank Simon, Kim, Amy and Sophie for putting on a great event that each and every participant appreciated and enjoyed.

I’d also like to thank the David Baileys’ we had on course that gave up their time to take some brilliant photos of our pain…Sophia Joy, Austin Bourlet and David Gethin.

Well done to everyone who took part, we hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did!

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