Sunday, 28 March 2010

A successful 32 mile "Battle in the Borders".

I set off from the English/Scottish Border at Carter Bar at 10am on Saturday morning. I'd set myself a target of 07:30:00 to reach the finish line near the Military Road on the A68. Despite the numerous climbs (approx. 3850ft in total) I thought that time was more than achievable. The plan was to do about 25 miles supported only by the water and nutrition in my back pack. I then intended to dump the pack when the support car turned up.

The conditions were a little on the cold side but I wasn't complaining because accompanying that temperature was a nice tail wind. The first mile was done in 00:08:27 and the second in 00:09:30. That was far too quick. Perhaps I was excited about being surrounded by such beautiful scenery! The next 7 miles were far more disciplined!

I had to have full concentration until the 13 mile point due to the constant traffic on the busy A68. The majority of vehicles gave me plenty of room. A few didn't! As per usual I stepped aside for the oncoming HGVs.

I took on quite a bit of water, a gel and an energy bar at 13.1 miles. I was soon on my way again and the route started to get a bit hilly but at least I'd left the busy part of the A68. After looking at my watch and a few quick calculations, I was about 2 miles ahead of the pace that would see me finish within the set time. No problem!

The next 6 miles were a mixture of climbs and descent. Up 200 ft, down 100 ft, up 100 ft, down 300 ft. I reached the 19 mile point at West Woodburn in 03:50:00. The next 3 miles involved a 500 ft climb and due to a pain in my groin were done very slowly. The wind had also changed direction and was right in my face.

By 23 miles I'd ran out of water. At least my back pack was light! The support car wasn't due to arrive for another 2 miles so I ran the next few very thirsty!

I was very relieved to see Katy and Jack in the support car at exactly 25 miles. I stopped for 3 minutes or so to have a good drink and with another quick calculation I figured out that 07:30:00 was still doable. But only just!

The A68 got very tricky after this with lots of blind bends and summits. I was almost knocked over on 28 miles by a car who'd taken a bend far too fast. I stepped out of the way in the nick of time.

I got to the 28.5 mile point and my heart sank when I saw the huge climb ahead. I totally gave up any hope of beating 07:30:00 and I was resigned to just getting to the finish line in 1 piece. When I started climbing at the 29.85 mile point, however, it didn't seem too steep! Or at least that's what I told myself. I later found out that it was actually a 430 ft climb spread over the next 1.5 miles. I ran out of water again after 30 miles but chose to continue running rather than stop and get a drink from the support car.

I screamed at myself to try and release some adrenalin and the last 3 miles were the quickest I'd done since mile 13. As a result of the quickened pace I reached the finish line in 07:27:36. Get in there!!! Without those quicker final 3 miles I wouldn't have got there within 07:30:00. 

My legs were very sore at the end, as was my back through carrying the pack for so long. I'm writing this blog post 24 hours after the event and I've hardly moved since I reached the finish line. My whole body is aching and mobility is not very good. I haven't had much of an appetite all day but I have had a constant thirst.

Beating 07:30:00 for this very difficult 32 mile run was not important in itself. Having a target to distract myself from the fact that I was running 32 miles was important however. Bloody hell! Did I run 32 miles! I'm pleased I didn't realise it at the time!

Distraction from the bigger picture of running 3100 miles across the USA next year will be an important factor. If I ever stop for one moment and think about the run in it's entirety I'll probably never finish it. It will be a case of breaking the run down into as many small parts as possible. After that, I think I'll be breaking down those small parts into even smaller parts. The USA into individual states, individual states into miles, miles into the next lamp post, the next lamp post into the next step. That's the only way I'll be able to do the run. It's all one big distraction exercise!

I've got a few short runs over the coming week before running 7 days of 16 miles a day the week after. I've also got a lot of organising and planning to do for the USA run. Oh and I'm in at Real Radio tomorrow to give an interview that will be broadcast over the Easter weekend. Busy times!

I can't finish writing this post without saying thank you to all of those kind folks who sent messages of support during Saturday's run via Twitter and Facebook. What a difference it made to the final outcome!