As I get older time seems to go by in a flash so I try and make the most of each and every opportunity given to me as you never know what’s round the corner!
2015 began with my first race Run the Ran held on the “island” of Khadir Bet in the Gujurat Province of western India, very close to the Pakistan boarder, as you can imagine I jumped at the chance to run somewhere new and what an adventure it turned out to be! The location was stunning with a mixture of sand, rocks, thorns, thorns and more thorns and the awesome salt flats.
Competitors had to navigate the 160km route using GPS which was great once I got the hang of how to use the device. There were occasions when the GPS unit lost it’s connection, this always happened to me when I was on my own literally in the middle of nowhere so I had to tell myself not to panic, turn the unit off then back on and keep my fingers crossed it worked!!
The race took me much longer than I had anticipated. Firstly it was harder than I thought it would be, I took a wrong turn adding km’s to the route, couldn’t work out which way to go on a couple of occasions, got rescued by the Boarder Patrol (who I think found it difficult to understand why a woman was running such a long way) and got shredded by the thorn bushes. Sometimes I literally had to crawl through thick hedges of thorns as there was no way round! BUT with everything that was thrown at me I finished, a good start to the year.
A few weeks after returning home I was still finding thorns stuck in the soles of my trainers and found a lump on the front of my leg that had gone septic – guess what? it was a thorn!
Training now started in earnest for the TP100 the first of the Centurion running events for the year. The race didn’t go according to plan at all, everything seemed to be a massive effort and my legs were really taking the strain but I had an amazing crew looking after me so I kept plodding away determined to finish and not let them down.
Seeing the finish line was a glorious sight, Nici was there to greet me and hand me my buckle, poor girl got a very smelly hug from me but thankfully didn’t faint! I came in 2nd Female which I was happy with as I couldn’t have done any better but very disappointed with myself and my performance – perhaps I’m getting too old!
Becky, Paul, me & HWMBO
Roll on 3 weeks later and I found myself standing on the start line of the Grand Union Canal Race. Sadly Becky and Paul had to return home as Becky’s mum had been in an accident and was badly injured. My thoughts were with Becky’s mum for the whole race keeping my fingers crossed that she was OK (thankfully she made a full recovery which was marvellous).
HWMBO was now crewing on his own which was fine for the first part of the race but my concern was him meeting me every 10ish miles for 145 miles and not getting enough sleep. My marvellous friends Gavin and Maria saw a post on FB that HWMBO was on his own and came down to help crew through the night and the next day – they were amazing.
My aim for this race was to try and break the female course record (massive failure) but if that failed to be 1st lady as it was Dick Kearn’s last year of being RD and he has been part of my running life since 2004 when I first ran the GUCR – one very special man.
The GUCR holds a very special place in my heart, it’s such a great event, no fuss just a good classic race supported by amazing people and being able to run it again was fantastic.
I stuck to my plan and at the beginning everything appeared to be working well, pace was good and seeing HWMBO on a fairly regular basis was marvellous. He would have a plate of food for me to choose from and wouldn’t let me continue until I had eaten something!
From about the 100 mile point I began to struggle and as in the TP100 my legs felt heavy and running was quite painful but there was no way I was giving up – we all know that 145 miles is a long way and its gonna hurt so I had to zip up my man suit and keep moving forward.
Seeing Dick and my crew and the finish line was quite fantastic, I hadn’t achieved my first goal but I had come in as first female so 2nd goal achieved! Happy with that.
Dick and I at the finish – blubbing as usual!
Having done two big events in the space of three weeks I took a couple of weeks off to recovery properly before picking up my training again ready for my “A” race of the year.
Part of my training was to go to Morzine for a week in July with my crew for a team building week – what a fantastic time we had hiking in the mountains, doing a bit of running and of course tasting the French wine!
In 2013 I had tried to become the first female to complete the Double Spartathlon but sadly wasn’t able to finish the race for various reasons. I had always said that I would go back in 2015 and finish the job. The entry criteria had changed for 2015 but luckily I had qualified and was given a place. Roll on September.
I felt as though my training had gone well and felt confident that I could get the job done. Unfortunately 2 weeks before heading out to Greece I picked up a chest infection which meant going on a course of Steroids (I’m an asthmatic so need to be careful), these didn’t clear up the infection and I was still struggling to breath so my doctor put me on a course of antibiotics (I still had two days to go when the race started) But feeling confident that I had done everything possible to clear up my chest myself and my crew (Becky, Paul and HWMBO) headed out to Greece for the Start of my 306 mile run from Athens to Sparta and back!
As I always have an issue with eating I had got an eating plan from a friend of mine in SA who is qualified in everything sports, what a difference it made not only to me but to my crew.
There was a great British contingent taking part in the Spartathlon this year and I was proud to be one of them. On Friday 25th September at 7am 374 runners left the Acropolis and only 174 were to finish.
For me the first 81km was always going to be tough as they had to be completed in under 9.30 hrs (sounds easy but remember from there you still have 103 miles to go!!) When I arrived at the marathon point I downed a 500ml bottle of fizzy water, felt so good; ate some food and headed off to the 81km point. Once there I changed my socks (something I never usually do) had something to eat and off I went again.
Getting to the Mountain at 100 miles was a lovely feeling, only 53 miles to go now! I had broken the race up into three parts, 81km, mountain and finish. Getting up the mountain wasn’t too bad and for someone who hates rocks I did it in a decent time. However coming down the other side I was pathetic and slowed right up.
Coming into Sparta was a HUGELY emotional moment, I knew then I could turn round and run back but most importantly I had finished the first leg and not let me crew down. Inside I was smiling but outside I looked miserable!
But I didn’t care – After 35 hrs 7mins of running I got to kiss that foot!
Becky and Paul took it in turns to run with me which was wonderful (even HWMBO ran 4.5 miles!). It seemed very odd running in reverse as it looks so different – roads that you would naturally know to be the right way on the race don’t seem to make sense on the return leg.
I was incredibly lucky to have people stop, ask what I was doing and see if they could help and others who came and gave me their support, it really was wonderful.
During the night I had a bad patch where I literally fell asleep on my feet, poor Paul had to hold me up until we reached the car where I was allowed a 20 minute sleep (as did Paul!)
With about 30 miles to go I was reduced to fast walking, this really frustrated me as the time was ticking by and reaching the finish line seemed further and further away – something clicked inside me, I was cross and angry with myself and I picked up the pace again (to the relief of my crew!)
Running the last 10k to the finish was the most glorious feeling, now we could all run with a smile on our faces knowing that we were going to finish – finally after 30 mins of faffing around trying to find the way up to the “start” we got to the place we had started a few days before, I even kissed the floor as this time there was no foot.
WE HAD DONE IT! I have the worlds most marvellous, amazing and fantastic crew.
As I get older I know I can’t compete again the youngsters, that’s fine I really don’t have any problems with that as long as I can keep running. I love our sport and love the fact that more women are coming into it and showing the world how good they are, it makes me proud to be female!
This year I was honoured to become involved with an amazing NGO called Free to Run they aim to use the power of sport to change lives and communities in areas of greatest need, particularly to empower and educate females in conflict-affected communities. Running or hiking can help them to overcome their past giving them confidence for their futures. Next time you go out for a run remember how lucky you are to be able to put on a pair of trainers and just head out of the door – these girls can’t.
Tomorrow is another year, so I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to my outstanding crew for all their support, to everyone who has sent me messages of support and have been there when I needed a good old kick up the backside – you are all marvellous.
To my wonderful family who always support me however nutty they think I am. 2016 is going to be a big year for me, I’m really excited and can’t wait. The training is going to be tough but if I manage to achieve my goal then it will be worth every step.
See you all in 2016 – HAPPY NEW YEAR.