Thanks to a good stretch and a helping of CherryActive last night, I didn't have the slightest hint of an ache or pain going into day 2 of the Mark Beaumont Castle to Keep Challenge. This lack of pain in my legs was just plain weird! There's no way I should have felt this good after yesterday's 35.5 miles. It goes to prove that last week's good experience with CheeryActive was no fluke.
I set off from Melrose at 09:00 and the aim for this leg was to better November's time of 12:32:00. I had a nightmare that day and completely lost the mental battle on the A68 between Carter Bar and Otterburn.
The traffic was quite busy during the first 13 miles to Jedburgh but I was given plenty of room. I was quite alarmed to see signs stating that the A68 was closed just south of Jedburgh. The final sign in yellow is pictured above. "I don't think so!" I thought. Thankfully, the friendly road workers let me through. One of them asked me where I was running to. They'd had a guess amongst themselves that it would be London. They looked disappointed when I told them that I was running to Otterburn. I quickly won them over by telling them that I would be running across the USA in 6 weeks time.
The next 5 miles were just plain surreal. Due to the road closure, there wasn't a single car to be seen. I tweeted at the time that it was just like "Post apocalyptic Jedburgh". It was so eerily quiet!
Mrs Run Geordie Run and Run Geordie Run jr met me at the 17 mile point with some fresh water and a cold pasta salad. It wasn't too long before I was on my way again and I left the Support Team to go and pick up my bag from the B&B in Melrose. Their job after this was to drop the bag off at the B&B in Otterburn and bring me the room key. It's a glamourous job being on the Support Team!
The climb up to the England/Scotland Border at Carter Bar was the usual euphoric experience. The first time I ran up that climb was in 2007 on my way from John O'Groats to Lands End. This time around, the experience didn't disappoint and, looking back, I found it difficult to take my eyes off the 2 hills that tower over Melrose. To the east and some 20 or so miles away I could see the Cheviot. Another conquest of mine on the 2009 Chevy Chase fell race. I went up and over Carter Bar and met the support team at the 26 mile point to get my room key and more fresh water.
As was the case yesterday, I settled into a nice groove after the 30 mile point and started to feel stronger not weaker. Also, like yesterday, I paused for thought at the 31 mile point. This is the average distance I need to run in the USA. It's a distance that seems a lot more manageable once you run 35, 36, 37 or 39 miles like I have during this training campaign.
Mile 30 to the finish line at 38.6 was done in complete darkness with only the moon for company. I'm glad to report that I had a the much stronger frame of mind that I'd been looking for compared to the last time I ran this route in November 2010. Hitting the 30 mile point knowing that there are another 9 miles to run is tough to take. You have 2 choices; give it your best shot and get on with it or simply complain about the situation. I chose the former and managed to beat November's time by a whopping 01:45:00.
Today's leg was 38.6 miles and was done in 10:47:12. I'm now 02:07:00 ahead of November's time overall. It's going to take something pretty drastic to stop me from achieving a PB now. Tomorrow's route is from Otterburn to the Keep in Newcastle. It's only 32 miles! Luxury compared to the 2 days done so far. I'm aiming to leave Otterburn by 10am and finish the Mark Beaumont Castle to Keep Challenge in style. So far, this run has certainly boosted my confidence. The icing on the cake will be a PB.