Monday, 14 July 2014

Marathon #2 - The Ranscombe Challenge

Trust me, I'm still just as surprised as you are when your brain has just computed that yes, I did indeed complete my second ever marathon last weekend.

Where the hell did that come from you ask?  I've got no idea.

When I signed up for the Ranscombe Challenge about three months ago, just before Paris, I was intending to run it as a marathon.  However, what with how my fitness had totally dropped off the scale over the last couple of months, the race arrived and I was in no fit state to even comtemplate running the full 26.2 miles.  Or so I thought.

A double helping of dinner on Friday night and I was carb-loaded.  Earlyish night followed by a 5:45am alarm call, I was up and out the door by 6:50am to arrive at Ranscombe Farm nature reserve at just after 7:10am.

Fueled on a bowl of porridge and a cup of tea, I was all immodiumed up for a minimum of 13.1 miles and anything else was going to be a huge bonus.  In my running belt I had 4-5 gels and a pack of jelly babies and I was carrying 2 x 500ml bottles of High 5 4:1, my drink of choice on events like this.

Other than running, the main reason for signing up to the Ranscombe Challenge was that I knew my old mate Kelsey was running with her nutty mates from Ashford's Run England club.  I had only seen Kelsey once in the last 8 years since she left Kings College London and we both went our separate ways (she was my boss at the time!)

I'd parked in the car park, walked up the slope to the start area and I could hear her booming northern Hartlepoole accent over everybody's.  Somethings never change...

Kelsey and I before the start of the Ranscombe Challenge...
Open arms, bear hugs, it was like the good old days at King's all over again.  Had a quick chat, had our photo taken together, got in the queue for the cleanest portaloo in history (and I'm not joking either!) and then we were off.

The Ranscombe Challenge is a multiple lap race with an 8hr time limit.  The rules were simple.  Do as many as the 3.8 mile laps as you fancied, making sure you can in to basecamp to refuel etc.  I sort of misheard that part as I didnt come back until I'd completed 5 laps and about 17.5 miles which had organisers Traviss and Rachel pulling their hair out with worry (sorry guys!)

From the elevation profile, I knew I was in for a reasonably tough time but I was determined to take it all in my stride.  Take it easy, run a nice easy pace, take some photos and try to enjoy the day as much as I can.  It certainly wasnt going to be the day or terrain to set any PBs so it was all about the experience.  Now that elevation profile.  Hmmm, mostly up for 2 miles then down for 1.5 miles before a little kick up again.  Brutal doesnt even cover it.

The Ranscombe Challenge elevation profile - approx 850 (2,800ft) of climbing in total for 26.2 miles

So off we went.  Within the first 500 yards, I'd rerranged my ears buds and hung the loose cable around the back of my neck.  I'd just settled into a rhythmn and silence.  The wire had got caught in the branches of an overhanging bush and the ear buds had been ripped frm my ears.  One of the ear moulds had gone so that was pretty much the end of the music for the duration, so I screwed them up and dropped them in my waist pouch.

That first lap was brutal.  It suddenly dawned on my how much climbing was involved...

Stunning scenery with the poppies out in bloom...

Brain set, I got down to concentrating on my running.  The hills were out of my comfort zone but as I could see, everyone around me was pretty much walking the hills then running the flat and downhill parts.  That made a lot of sense.  It kept the HR down to a manageable level and maximised the energy stores.  After all, a lot of the guys were not here to run a marathon, they were here to run ultra marathons and beyond.

The first lap was good.  Some challenging parts but I got it down.  Traviss stood at the top of the first climb and directed us back to base camp but I didnt get the hint that was what I was supposed to do and carried onwards.

At the end of lap 3, I'd pretty much made up my mind that lap 4 would be my last.  I was feeling ok but I thought it would be diabolically mad to attempt further.


Now halfway around the 4th lap, I caught up with a group that was going a little bit slower than me but not by too much but they were keen for me to pass them ASAP.  When I said it was ok and I was glad of a rest, they realised I was Kelsey's mate and started giving me some stick when I said I was only aiming for 4 laps.  "Oh, Kelsey would be ashamed of you, you know that dont you?"  Ha.  That was like a red rag to a bull.  So off I went on lap 5.  500 yards into lap 5 I could see a blue running top in the distance and I knew it was my old running mate Mel.  Perhaps I could catch her.  I did at the top of the the big climb and ran with her back to base camp.

It was only down to Mel that I learnt that I had to go back to base camp at the end of each lap.  What a donut.  We had a nice catch up about everything possible and thanks to Mel's encouragement and knowing I only had another 2 laps to do to complete the marathon, I went and did it.

26.2 miles in 5:20:18.  No where near my Paris time but I couldnt care less.  This had 25 times more climbing involved (minimum), it was off road and I wasnt as fit as I was then but I still bloody did it, only on the back of two 10 mile runs since Paris.  Remarkable considering.

Traviss giving me my well earned marathon bling...

Shattered doesnt even cover it.  Marathon #2 = done

So.  To start the race with only completing 3 laps to get my first half marathon distance race done since Paris to turn it into my second ever marathon with faltering fitness, no long runs behind me or any dedicated training, was nothing short of a miracle for me.

A huge thanks for Kelsey's friends for egging me on to do one more lap...which then turned into another two laps when I finally caught up with Mel who was bloody brilliant completing her 60th marathon.  I can only look on at her with complete envy and admiration.  A top lass, a bundle of laughs and a huge dollop of the grit and determination every marathon runner needs.  Mel, thanks for getting me to the end honey as without you, there's no way I would have managed laps 6 and 7 :)

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