Friday, 18 March 2011

Day 1 of the Mark Beaumont Castle to Keep Challenge

It was a gloriously sunny start to the day in Edinburgh and the Mark Beaumont Castle to Keep Challenge got underway at 9am on the dot. After Newcastle (of course) Edinburgh is my next favourite city. I love the architecture, the people and the many eating places of course. It's just a pity that my last two visits to this fair city have been to start a long run to Newcastle.

I was only 2 miles into the run when I decided it was time to put on my warm headgear. The sun may have been shining but it was still quite chilly.

The view at the 13 mile point looking back towards Edinburgh from the A7 was quite something. I was able to see the castle quite easily and it really put into perspective just how far I'd ran. There aren't many half marathon distances where you can see the start from the very end of the route.

The first 14 miles flew by and thankfully I was lucky enough to run this section on a path at the roadside. Thereafter, however, it road all the way to Melrose. Miles 15 - 25 on the A7 were particularly tricky with the usual HGVs, vans and cars to look out for. I reached Stow by mid afternoon after 25.25 miles of running. There is a nice little cafe here and the soup and ham sandwich went down a treat. I refilled my hydration back pack in the toilets (needs must!) and was on my way again with the sun still shining in the sky. This was stark contrast to the last time I set off from this cafe, last November, in dark and misty conditions.

The climb out of Stow was really long and steep but not too different to what I'd been climbing in the North Pennines of late. Once at the summit, it was time to take in the amazing views again. They were absolutely breathtaking and, in the distance, I could easily make out the 2 hills that tower over Melrose.

I arrived at a point on the road that had caused Support Man Carlton and I some confusion last time we did this run. It was a road with a dead end sign. The confusion being that Google Maps on my iPhone clearly shows a road without any obvious obstruction or end. It was decision time! Would I take the normal road that Carlton and I had back in November or would I risk this slightly shorter way with the possibility of having to turn back?

I started off down the road with the dead end sign and almost straight away, with the other road in view, I could see that it was going to save about half a mile. That is, if I didn't have to turn back at some point. 2 miles down the road I was greeted with a locked fence that stretched from one side of the road to the other. "Brilliant", I thought, "this is obviously the so called dead end". I easily managed to run around the fence and make my way on to Melrose.

With a weak mobile phone signal not helping matters, my support driver, Mrs Run Geordie Run, was unable to find me. I asked her to wait for me in Melrose and I'd meet her there with my change of kit for tomorrow. Fortunately, I had some water left and more importantly, a huge bar of Cadbury's Whole nut!

Miles 30 - 35.5 were arguably the best of the whole run. Not the fastest though! I managed to keep a nice rhythm and, thanks probably to the  bar of Whole Nut, energy levels were very good indeed.

I reached the hotel at 19:30 and the time taken today was a whole 27 minutes quicker than the last time I ran this route. The dream of a PB is, therefore, still very much alive.

I'm fully aware of just how difficult day 2 of this run is. Melrose to Carter Bar along the A68 is about 23 miles. I hope to reach there by 17:00 at the latest. The remaining 16 miles will be so tough. I lost the mental battle the last time I ran that route. Somehow, I'm going to be looking for a much stronger frame of mind this time around. I expect to finish at about 22:00 tomorrow night. 

I had originally thought that the clocks go froward this weekend. This would have meant 1 less hour of recovery between days 2 and 3. Fortunately for me, BST starts next weekend! Brilliant!

Thanks to everyone who sent me a message via Twitter or the Run Geordie Run Facebook page. This kind of support really helps. Please keep the messages coming.

Thanks also to those kind folk who made a donation today also. The fund is progressing nicely towards the £26,000 mark.

And so to sleep now and to dream of a tough yet victorious day 2 on the Mark Beaumont Castle to Keep Challenge.