23rd March 2013
Birling Gap, Sussex
27.2 miles, 4218ft ascent/descent
A year ago I ran my second ever trail marathon at this event. The weather was amazing and despite a bit of an injury, I had a really good day. I had been looking forward to running here again, although this time I had entered the 34 mile ultra. Falling so many times in Gran Canaria had shaken my confidence a bit so I decided to go really steady and just enjoy the day.
We got to the race HQ for 7.30am and it couldn’t of looked any different to the previous year; it was cold (-2c with the wind chill) wet and windy. Most people were armed with gloves, wooly hats and rain jackets and still looked freezing, not exactly the stuff dream runs are made of! At 8.40am we were off. I ran the first few miles with Kris and a friend of ours Pete, before they sped up and pulled away. Despite the grim weather, thanks to my double gloves and bobble beanie combo, I was pretty toasty. I put on my music and settled into a easy pace. At the first checkpoint I grabbed some obligatory jelly babies from the very cheerful crew and moved on. It got pretty muddy as we ran back to the coast through Friston Forest but I actually managed to stay upright. At checkpoint 2- 13 miles- I felt fine and tucked into a gel, having had a 9Bar on one of the previous hills. Then I realised I didn’t have any more food. I hadn’t eaten breakfast either. This was not good.
A few miles later we looped back past the race HQ and picked up the coastal path towards Eastbourne. The headwind was super strong and at this point I suddenly felt incredibly tired and dizzy; I was having a proper, textbook bonk. Grimly I put on my beanie, pulled my buff up ninja style, got my head down and started walking. A Gran Canaria repeat, how had I not learnt my lesson?!
I walked pretty much all of the way to the next checkpoint and decided that I would pull out here. I definitely couldn’t finish the ultra and doubted I could make it around the marathon course in this state. Unfortunately, the crew had all but run out of food. There was one pack of bourbon biscuits left with five biscuits. I actually stood in front of the little plastic table staring at those biscuits for a full minute. The lad manning the checkpoint probably thought I was bonkers. I felt bad doing it but in the end I decided to take them all (Endurance Life, please make sure the checkpoints have more food!!) and keep going. It worked, after about 10 minutes I started slowly running again. I eventually finished in 5.09, nearly 30 minutes slower than the previous year. From now on my pack will be adorned with a big sign – TAKE FOOD. My next race is the 52 mile Maxi Race in the Alps. I plan on taking a full picnic 🙂