Why would you want to run 31 miles on a morning that started with frost and ice and finished in rain ? The answer is because we love a challenge and we love to run. This photo of my running buddies Paul and Nikki sums up the buzz that trail running can give you. Someone once sung “Money makes the world go round” but they were wrong, it’s people and especially long distance runners 🙂
The Portsmouth based Believe & Achieve running company host a number of events through the year but they are probably best known for their pre Christmas marathon and 50K ultra.
With an 8am start for the ultra and 8.30 for the marathon we were all up “bright and early”. Nikki’s photo below shows the view from behind the Pyramids leisure centre, our race HQ, and out towards the pier, #inspirational !!
Inside the Pyramids main hall we talked with runners from Fareham Crusaders, Gosport Road Runners (GRR) and Pompey Joggers. I also chatted to Spencer from Centurion Running and the Runr chaps who were there manning their running kit stall. As we made our way out for the start it soon became clear that the seafront was quite slippy underfoot and that caution would be needed.
There were lots of familiar faces on the start line by now and we were all marvelling at the blood red sky and the early morning sun. I spotted Dean, Nikki, Paul, James, Simon, Matt, Dave, Thom, Dwayne, Del, Cat and Richard from our local clubs running the ultra as well as Shaun saying goodbye to Susie Chan who was running the marathon half an hour later.
This map from my Strava download shows what lay ahead of us. Two miles along the seafront, a section of harbour mud, compacted trail around the harbour with a small amount of tarmac and then down to the Hayling ferry for the 15 .5 mile half way point. All that remained after that was to retrace our steps !!
The curious thing about ultra’s are that by definition you run slower. As a consequence you rarely see people warming up !! So the hurly burly of a 5K is replaced with lots of chat and banter, both as runners stand on the start line and for a good mile into the run.
Fleet brothers Dave and Matt disappeared into the distance first, they were then followed by most of the other people we knew but Richard Law and Dwayne stayed at mine and Pauls pace. We’d decided to start conservatively. Me, because frankly I hadn’t done enough training and Paul because he’d run Bovington marathon the previous day !! I think he’s up to 61 marathons now.
The harbour mud wasn’t too bad at 2 miles and as we weaved our way along the harbour path the field started to thin out. The temptation to pop into the Harvester pub for breakfast at about 4 miles was avoided and by 5 we were into our rhythm of just under 10 min miles.
The beauty of the course is that it’s fairly easy to spectate at as well as drive ahead and appear again. Gosport Road Runners were very well represented including my friend Hayley with her vocal support and tambourine. The aid stations were well stocked but we ran through the initial ones as we were carrying supplies. Thanks to Mike Harper who also gave us a shout.
The first shingle section passed without any issues but as we made our way around the coastline the wind off the sea had started to slightly pick up as well as the sun disappearing so I decided my egloves were staying on !! Paul dropped behind me slightly but we both know each other well enough that I was confident he’d catch me up later.
Once across Hayling bridge the 10 mile bleeper went on my watch, a third of the way !! By now a number of the marathon whippets had overtaken us and with the nature of the out and back course runners were heading towards us.
The 13 mile half way mark was quite congested with supporters and then, all of a sudden, it because really quiet with only the ultra runners carrying on. Now at this stage I was on my 3rd gel and had drunk well so I felt reasonably in charge. However, I was rudely awakened by the next shingle section !! My god that hurt. It was like running in toffee. Once again, however, seeing friends running in the opposite direction was inspiring.
The half way aid station had the ever lively Kiernan from On the Whistle to encourage us so I set off with renewed vigour. It’s also worth pointing out that at this point we were only a few hundred metres from the 29 mile point, it’s just that it was tantalisingly on the other side of the water. After a couple of motivational hellos with Cat, Ian and Del this then meant I’d left the shingle and was heading back towards the marathon runners. I have to say meeting familiar faces on a long run really does lift your spirits. Some banter with Allie and Crusaders men’s captain Paul Pickord certainly helped as they were taking drinks at their 13 and my 18 mile point.
With 20 miles approaching I’d got to the point were my lack of training miles was starting to show and I had to accept that dropping my pace was needed, however, there were a number of marathon entrants walking now, so this kept me going.
Once over the Hayling bridge I was counting down the single figure miles. With a large group of GRR supporters, including Terry, Nick & Kim from Absolute Running and Hayley with her tambourine cheering us on near Havant this helped over the next couple of miles. Paul caught me up and another host of marathon Crusaders did too. Ladies Crusaders captain Mel, Paula, Trevor and Rachel all appeared along with a gingerbread man 🙂 (Thanks for the photo Mel) This was at around the marathon point for me and it’s always great to know you are moving into ultra territory !!
Mel and Paula (to the right of the GB man) had also run Bovington marathon the previous day. By now steady rain had set in but luckily it wasn’t too heavy and it certainly didn’t dampen my spirits. We exchanged banter and as always Paul was leading the way. The final miles were a bit of a struggle for me but I insisted I was fine, when Mel asked. I ran / walked for a while and crossed the line in 5 & 3/4 hours.
As ever I was greeted by lots of the people mentioned above and if the car park ticket hadn’t for been imminent we’d have stayed later. This is what’s great about our running community, it doesn’t matter what position you have finished in, you are part of the community. I had a fantastic day with so many great running friends. Thanks to all the runners and supporters. Running maybe an individual sport but we are all part of one big happy family.
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Many thanks to Rob Piggott and his Believe & Achieve team for a great race.
P.S. Here’s a facebook message from a potential future winner !!