Lightning 12hr

Over the years, many a great runner has added his or her quote to the running history books; such as;
“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon” Emil Zatopek. “Get Going, get up and walk if you have to but finish the goddam race” Ron Hill and finally, “There’s too many women in the club” Terry O’Gara (Wallsend Harriers).
I’m not a great runner by any means; but I’m adding my quote, “Think before you sign up for a race!!”

The Lightning 12hr race took place in Eastnor Deer Park in Herefordshire on Sunday 20th March and is open to soloists, pairs or teams of five with the aim to complete as many 10k laps as possible within 12 hours.  As someone who spends most of their time plodding around the streets of Wallsend with the odd excursion into the Rising Sun Country Park, going off road had a distinct appeal and something a little bit different.  However, it wasn’t until around 10 days before the start date, that an e-mail from the race organisers mentioned over 1000ft of ascent per lap!  Oh dear….

I hate being late for anything,  so I was only the second person to turn up, shortly after 1 pm on the Saturday.  Half way through pitching up my tent Kelvin (Mr.K, RW and Fetchie forums) arrived and we helped each other set up.  Half an hour later and we picked up our race pack and goody bag which was mainly Sis gel’s drink and a couple of drinks bottles.  The catering tent was open for business so it would have been rude not to try a bacon butty and a cup of tea.

It wasn’t long before the field was filling up nicely and the spot I picked turned out to be ideal, being close to the start/finish area.
I hit the sleeping bag around 9pm after getting my running kit sorted.  It was bloody freezing that night, so I put my running clothes at the bottom of my sleeping bag so they were nice and warm in the morning.
Obviously I was walking up every 90 minutes to check the time!  Why couldn’t I just stay asleep!

As the race was due to start at 6am on the Sunday, the majority of runners turned up the day before and camped over night.  The banter was good with my fellow runners but it was chatting to the other soloists that made be realise how tough this was going to be.  It seemed that all the soloists had previously either ran marathons or ultra-marathons and had done something that I hadn’t done; trained.

I quietly compared this to my current training regime and past experience of distance running and concluded that my last long run was 10 miles, six weeks prior, no running for almost three weeks due to a back niggle and my recent longest run over half marathon distance was 16 miles in March 2010.
As we all know, before any major race, a good meal the night before is a must to top those carbs up; so I had a nice cup of tea and a beef and onion baguette from the catering tent.  Not ideal, but it tasted fine.
I woke up at 4:45, changed into my running gear and made my way to the catering tent for some tea and toast and listen to the safety brief.

I always start races way too fast, getting carried along with the excitement, however since I was going to be running for a very long time, I started extremely slowly.  After 300 yards the first of many hills appeared.  The only people I could see running (flying!!!) up the first hill were those in teams or the extreme soloists, others were taking it far more easily.
The hills were immense, far tougher than the Thunder Run.  There were many hills I couldn’t possibly run up, even walking with some kind of purpose was tough going.
My first lap took 1:07 minutes, which I was extremely pleased with but I realised that there was absolutely no way I could maintain that kind of running.
After lap one, I popped into my tent, knocked back a gel, gulp of water and set off again for lap two.  This lap was a lot tougher on my legs and walked up pretty much every hill running the flat and downhill.  My half marathon PB is 2:07, but on this course 13.1 miles somewhere in the region of 2:45.  I say somewhere because I didn’t pay any attention to my Garmin for most of the race as maintaining any kind of pace was impossible due to the nature of the course.
After my third lap I took another gel and a quick shirt change.
Lap 4 was the toughest of the lot. Somewhere around mile 19 or 20 I was totally knackered, I’ve never felt so drained. I was into unknown territory.  This was my longest run ever and I could easily have packed it in but I knew that one more lap would see me run my first ever marathon.
I was running on empty on my final lap but I did find the energy to shout “get in!!” when my Garmin showed 26.2 miles.  (luckily no one was around)
I completed lap five almost broken;  having completed just under 30 miles.

I had plenty of time to do more laps but I had achieved my target of five laps and to have carried on would have seen me walking for 95% of the lap and so far my previous injuries were behaving so I took the sensible route and declared myself out.

After a shower, bacon baguette and a cup of tea from the superb catering tent and a massage from the sports masseuse I felt almost back to normal.  Don’t get me wrong, I was moving like a man of 95 after a hip replacement but all in all,  I wasn’t anywhere near as broken as I should have been.
The majority of runners packed up and left that evening, leaving only handful of tents.  
The evening was spent having a couple of beers with Kelvin, sitting outside in the freezing cold!

I have never, ever done anything as tough in my life and I am so chuffed with myself. I questioned myself why I was doing this somewhere on lap 4, and I still don’t know the answer.
I pretty much wrote the idea off of attempting a marathon last year after withdrawing from the Edinburgh Marathon (twice in a row).  So to bag my first marathon and complete an ultra-marathon a year later is something I’ll never forget.

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