Castle Ashby Trail Half Marathon
I swore I wouldn’t run another half marathon.
I felt that distance wasn’t really for me, I didn’t enjoy the pressures of training and I just wanted to run happy.
Then I received a message that changed all of that ‘Check your e-mail, I’ve entered us into Castle Ashby Half Marathon’. My. Heart. Sunk.
So, I put my big girl pants on and decided to just go for it!
This time was different, I didn’t have the time to spend hours meticulously following a plan and I didn’t set myself a time goal. Whilst many people will be critical of my choice, I felt like it was the right choice for me, I wanted to run for the joy of running, not to set a PB.
I slowly increased my mileage, we met up for weighted run’s at 6am, I aimed for one ‘fast’ run each one and one very slow, relaxed pace run. Before I knew it, running was feeling enjoyable again and I was ready for whatever race day would bring.
Well, like the hugely irresponsible runner I am, I didn’t actually look at the course map until 48 hours before the race. Why does this matter? Because the route wasn’t actually 13.1 miles. No, it was displaying 14.3 miles.
After tentatively tweeting Mary and trying to act all nonchalant, I asked her if that was correct or a mistype. It was correct. Awesome.
I had one choice; eat all the carbs, get a good night’s sleep and give it my very best shot. In the worst case scenario, I’d come last, have to walk or pull out. The reality was, I wasn’t actually fearful of any of those situations coming true, I was determined to finish.
On the morning of the race, Lorraine and I collected our race numbers, loaded her rucksack with snack bars, and got ourselves mentally prepared for the run. Naturally, we started at the wrong point, this is becoming something of a frequency for us. You see, it’s not ideal to start in the dog’s race when you don’t actually have a dog, let alone a dog to run a half marathon with.
The race is set in countryside and farmland of the ‘Castle Ashby’ Estate. Which boasts a dramatically beautiful building with perfectly kept gardens, a selection of farm animals and a little tea shop. I’d say that 10 or 15 percent of the course was on a road/country track, the rest was primarily on grass, muddy fields, bumpy tracks, sections of bog for good measure and the odd village section to break it up.
I’m not going to lie, it was tough going and If I’d known that the terrain was going to be more rugged I would have certainly adjusted my training accordingly. The first 7 miles passed by very comfortably, we were deep in conversation and enjoying each other’s company whilst allowing the miles (and other runners) to pass us by.
From miles 7-10 all I could think about is how dehydrated I felt, there were only two water stations and the day ended up being a little warmer than I’d expected. The good thing was, we felt comfortable and happy, despite being slightly caught out by the course.
When my Garmin clicked over to 13 miles, this is when everything started to become really, really tough. Emotions clicked in, I was tired, I wanted to finish the race, despite Lorraine’s incredible personality which enables her to be endlessly upbeat, suddenly we were starting to feel broken.
At 13.7 miles I wasn’t sure if I was going to poo myself, cry or call a taxi.
At 14 miles we started laughing about the prospect of me actually pooing myself (I didn’t) and how I’d face people after the race. We were fantasising about what we’d eat after and digging deep for positive thoughts.
At 14.5 miles I couldn’t care less about my medal. My trainers were soaked, I was pretty much walking solidly, for the first time I felt disappointed in myself and I’d fallen out with running BIG TIME.
Finally, at 14.85 we slowly crossed the finish line with the rewarding sound of cheers and claps, devoured the ice cold water and happily accepted our medals. There was only one option, head to the grassy bank nearby and lay down for 5 minutes, this is completely factual and having a lay down was wonderful.
Reflecting on the event I started to feel emotional and proud, sure it was tougher than I expected but I’ve never actually raced that kind of distance. Actually, I’ve not run that kind of distance in over 5 years! It was the toughest terrain I’ve ever taken on, whilst it’s an absolute personal worst time wise (for both of us) that doesn’t change a single thing.
What it does prove that with a bit of determination, grit, a good sense of humour, regular breaks and snacks then anything is possible. I returned home and laid in a scolding hot bath with a cheese toasty (yes, really..) and a huge smile whilst reflecting on 14.85 miles in 3 hours and 13 minutes, plodding through the mud.
To Lorraine for ‘treating’ me to this race, keeping me strong, always smiling and bringing snacks.
All the wonderful women who ran the 10km (which was 11km) and the half marathon to raise money for ‘The Lewis Foundation’ – You are truly fantastic people. X
Talk to me, have you ever entered a trail race before? Or found that a race is much further than you expected?