Well that was bloody tough. Yesterday saw me run the Spires & Steeples 26 Mile Challenge from Lincoln Castle to Sleaford, through villages, on trails and across rain sodden fields. As the second of my three marathons in 4 weeks it was always going to be tough, but what I got, thanks in no small part to the weather, was the most challenging race of the year so far. The race would only be the first part of my adventure however, as when I crossed the finish line I was then faced with the challenge of getting home.
I always knew that this race would be a tough one and when placed in the middle of two other marathons it would catch me at an awkward position of recovering from the last one and resting for the next. Ideally I had only planned to run the 13 mile variant and then also enter the Mablethorpe Marathon the weekend before, but after I missed the cut off point for registration I was left with no choice but to take on the full.
I mentioned in my post on the Robin Hood Marathon that with each marathon I run this year my preparation beforehand seems to get gradually worse. It seems now to have gotten to the point where I have jinxed myself, as once again I had a far from ideal week. As I was trying to rest as much as possible and not run, I lost a vital method of stress release which allowed it to build to some quite frankly worrying levels throughout the week. This then naturally led to insomnia and a thoroughly miserable week, fortunately I held on to my sanity but it was touch and go at points.
On the Friday evening it felt like it was all building into a crescendo, as I began to experience what I believe to be the symptoms of 'man flu', before this was then confirmed on the Saturday. This prompted Jenny to naively try and persuade me not to run on Sunday, but what I lack in common sense I make up for in stubbornness and it was always a battle she was going to lose. I had ran with colds before, albeit not Marathons, and I had certainly felt worse than I did on Saturday evening and been able to 'run it off' so I put myself up to the task again.
|A new race tradition|
As everyone huddled under some shelter at the beginning of the race I have to admit to feeling a little out of place in the company of, what appeared to be at least, runners with a few ultras under their belts. Fortunately as I walked round the corner and saw two young lads dressed up as Batman & Robin I felt a little more relaxed. The race started off in the grounds of Lincoln Castle before heading down the hill towards the Water Rail Way trail, a route I had ran before but this time it was a slightly more enjoyable experience as there wasn't 6 inches of snow.
|Cold, tired, wet and only halfway|
|Slightly wet underfoot|
Once I reached the second to last checkpoint there was a sign which stated only 3 miles to go, at this stage of the race it felt like a mirage. I checked my watch and the maths added up, but those next three miles would feel like 6. Eventually as I made my way along the river I saw what I realised to be Sleaford Town Centre come into sight, when I saw runner's walking back towards me I knew I was close. As I stumbled towards the finish line the clock showed that I had reached the end in just over 4 1/2 hours, somehow reaching my target time and only 10 minutes slower than my previous slowest time despite the conditions.
|Fuelling for the trip home|
I imagine to many of the cars that drove past the sight of a slightly scruffy looking man, hunched over, stumbling his away along the grass verge with a crumpled up empty bag of McDonald's may have been slightly disturbing. In fact if you would have told me earlier this week that's how I would have been spending my Sunday afternoon I would have been convinced that my impending breakdown had finally happened, but I was (and still am) of sound mind. That didn't put a young couple off though, as they pulled over and waited at a junction for 5 or so minutes until I made it past and they offered me a lift. Their over eagerness (or perhaps niceness) put me off and I declined. If I ever take up the option of hitchhiking it will be when I'm able to run away, which was not today. Fortunately I would only have to wait another 10 minutes or so before Jenny finished work and rang me to find out where I was before then picking me up roughly halfway between Lincoln and Sleaford. So after running 26 miles in 4 and a half hours, then walking another 8 miles in 2 and a half hours I was finally home, just in time to cook a roast dinner and vacuum the entire house before it got too late.
Next up for me is the Yorkshire Marathon and the final of my three Marathons in just 4 weeks, thankfully this one is on road and supposedly flat so it should be a little easier going on the ankles than the last one. I certainly don't expect a staredown with a cow anyway, if I do then I've gone seriously wrong. Last week Jenny's eczema story was featured in one of the women's weekly magazine 'Pick Me Up', only dramaticised in a way that only those type of magazines can.
Distance: 41.84km | 26(ish) miles
Official Time: 04:31:51
Goody Bag: T-Shirt & Bottle of Water