I had entered this event months ago as part of the positive steps ‘grand slam’. I had completed the first of the three events in January this year – The Peddars Way, 48 miles from Knettisham Heath to Holme next the sea – and this would be the 2nd followed by a little 50k around the kings forest in November.
The timing wasn’t brilliant, just 2 weeks after my attempt at the Grand Union canal race but with a fairly generous cut off of 16 hrs I thought I would give it a go.
The original plan, when I booked it, was to stay overnight at the finish location – Sheringham – and catch the organised bus to the start – Castle Acre – in the morning. But, the decision in the end was to drive up the morning of the race and then drive home after. So alarm set for 3.30am to leave at 4.30am for the 2 hour drive.
Arriving at the start location around 6.30am it was great to see a fair few familiar faces and with only 30 minutes to the start there was just enough time to get registered, collect my t-shirt and have a quick loo stop. Then it was a brief briefing from Kevin, race director, and we were on our way.
I had a loose plan of trying to get half way in about 6 hrs so that I knew I had plenty of time to get finished if I had to slow a lot. My feet had not really healed properly from the GUCR but Geoff had got me some blister powder and twin skin socks and I taped over the worse of the blisters, but resigned myself to the fact that my feet would hurt.
The first 20 odd miles is along the Peddars Way so I was familiar with that. It was cool and even a little drizzly to start with so the first 2 or 3 hours I felt pretty comfortable. The first checkpoint at 9 miles came along fairly quickly and I just had a refill of my bottles and a swig of coke and was on my way.
After another 5 or 6 more miles I started to feel a bit tired. As I’d only had a couple of slices of toast for breakfast about 5 hrs previously I thought I better eat something. I looked in my backpack for my goody stash of cheese, crackers and nuts only to find it wasn’t there!! I tried to think what had happened to it and remembered that when I had come back from the loo Geoff had already put my kit bag away and passed me my bag pack….so, it must have been in my kit bag still. As Geoff was out in the van following the race I tried to call him to see if he could meet me to give me it…but I couldn’t get through – probably a good thing as I guess I would have been a bit grumpy. The next checkpoint was about 22 miles so I’d just have to wait until then. Luckily, however, Geoff was waiting around 20 miles in …. so I managed to grab my cheese and crackers which gave me a boost.
Arriving at CP 2 around 11.15am my 6 hr plan for the first half was looking hopeful. From Holme you then joined the Norfolk Coastal path. I had been looking forward to reaching the coast and there were some nice wooden board walks to run on which were pretty easy on the legs…and sore feet.
After the long slog of 13 miles between cp1 and 2 there was only around 6 miles to cp3 at Titchwell. It was on this stretch that I got chatting to a guy from Southend Flyers called Chris – who was to become one-third of the orange amigos….the other third was to be Trev, a fellow jogger, who had got a little lost when we caught him up. The three of us pretty much stuck together for the rest of the day.
Coming into cp3, I was greeted with a ‘hello gin’ from the volunteer who turned out to be a fellow runner I had met doing the heritage coast marathon a few weeks ago. It’s always nice to see a familiar and friendly face, and he told me he would see me again at the cp at Cley – 53 miles. I sincerely hoped that would be the case.
The sun had now come out and the temperature was rising. It looked like it was going to turn into a hot day.
I hadn’t put any sun cream on at the start, nor had I put my visor on so would make sure I took care of that as soon as possible. As luck would have it, Sarah – the tonic of ‘Gin and Tonic’ and Geoff were on the route around mile 29 so I managed to get some sun cream from Sarah as i couldn’t find mine nor locate my visor. Thinking about it i concluded that they were both still on the bed at home along with my gaiters which I hadn’t been able to locate earlier. Note to self….don’t forget important things!!!!
The next cp was around the 36 mile mark and with a cutoff of 3pm. But I didn’t see that would be too much of an issue. I have covered the first 30 miles in around 5hrs 50 so my loose plan was a little tighter….
After a couple of miles, coming into Brancaster Staithe there was an ice cream van on the quay….luckily I carry some money so was able to enjoy an ice lolly. I was so interested on the lolly that I preceded to wander aimlessly around the quay side….closely followed by Chris and Trev…
Finally we managed to work out where we had gone wrong and get back on the path. Again there were some nice wooden board walks along this section so I was able to trot along for a bit.
Coming into cp4 I had about 50 minutes on the cutoff so felt comfortable knowing I had more than 8 hours to complete a marathon distance. After a pit stop for mostly fruit – I was on my way ready for the beach section. Kevin had told us about a diversion on the beach at Holkham to avoid the coastal path but I think I was on the beach a lot longer than I needed to be, however it meant I missed out the sand dunes…
Some of the sand was packed and easy to jog along but there was also a lot of fine stuff. Without my gaiters and with a hole in my shoe there was soon a lot of sand rubbing my already sore toes. There seemed little point, until getting off the beach, in emptying my shoes so it was just a case of ‘keeping good humour’….this was helped by seeing what I thought was a naked man walking towards me. Turned out he was…!!!!! Not the prettiest sight as most nudists tend to be old and wrinkly….as was this one.
Finally, after what felt like an age, we got off the beach and into Wells. I had phoned Geoff to ask where he was so knew he was going to meet me with fresh socks and shoes. I did throw a ‘small’ diva moment when he suggested I walk over to the van – which was all of 200 metres away – but I plonked my arse down and told him to go get them…..sorry Geoff and the other excellent supporters for having to witness my stroppiness. Sarah applied more suncream to my arms and face but I had already told her not to worry about my legs – what a Muppet!!!
Chris and Trev patiently waited whilst I got my feet washed and re-powered. Then on with fresh socks and bigger shoes which helped a lot.
It was busy with tourists through Wells, crabbing, eating fish and chips and ice creams and sitting enjoying the sun. What they thought of our motley crew I chuckle to think.
Heading back out onto the coastal path I was really starting to feel the heat. I wet my buff and drapped it round the back of my neck but there wasn’t a lot I could do about the backs of my legs which were becoming increasingly salmon pink – if only I’d let Sarah put a bit of cream on them. It was just a case of head down and get to the next checkpoint at 46 miles. By the time I got there, I was seriously over heating but thankfully a lovely supporter gave me an extra buff which Geoff doused in water and I placed on my head. That helped a bit and with some strawberries and coke it was onwards to the final checkpoint at Cley.
For a fair while you could see Blakeney in the distance but it seemed an age before finally getting there. I’ve been to Blakeney many a time and have walked the path from there to Cley so I knew it well. It was very runnable and Chris and I did our best to shuffle along a bit. If it seemed to take a long time to get to Blakeney it took an eternity to reach Cley but reach it we did eventually. Luckily, as I was familiar with this bit I knew exactly where the path went, Chris being with me was ok but Trev had dropped back a little and he didn’t appear to be following us…we could see that even if he carried on the road he would rejoin the path so we carried on. Chris’ wife had been out meeting him on the course and we saw her here again – he had been telling me about the plan for her to run her first marathon at Snowdon this year so I had a little chat with her about that.
Arriving at the cp, there was some comments that the cut off was 7.45pm which with only around 10 miles to go and deadline 11pm seemed a little harsh. I arrived at 7.37pm so was ok and was told by Peter all was fine to go on. Geoff had got some more fresh fruit and I stuffed my face full of it. Due to the heat, other than drinking that was all I was managed to eat but thankfully I didn’t appear to be having any ill effects from it.
The next 3 or 4 miles were the most brutal and arduous of the entire day. With very sore feet, having to tackle miles of pebble beach is definitely a mental test. Geoff walked along with me for about a mile which was nice, but then I had to stop to get the stones out of my shoes and the other two orange amigos started to vanish into the distance. Luckily we hit a bit of grassy stuff and I could trot to catch them up. Back together again.
It was really just a case of walking now, willing the end of the pebbles to arrive. It did eventually with a nice couple of hills into Sheringham and the sounds of a Saturday night. People in the pubs and music playing. We jogged along the prom, looking forward to the final climb up Beeston Hill (Bump). It was just starting to get dark now, and the moon looked fantastic from up on the hill. Coming down the other side we were met by the race director Kevin, who preceded to run us into the finish. Asking how far it was he replied only 1/2 a mile….but when we started to go ‘up’ I did mutter a bit…perhaps…but was promptly told to stop complaining….!!!
And, finally, the finish was in sight…just a jog across the cricket field and over the timing mat. 15hrs 17mins….not a very impressive time but well within the cut off of 16 hrs. More important was the fact that I finished…after my DNF at the GUCR I was just very relieved to do that….
Chris had completed his further distance ever and Trev was not too far behind to complete his grand slam.
It was a very tough day at the office. Of the 62 starters 15 dropped out which is 24% drop out and given the heat and terrain I was proud to get that medal.
And now just the matter of a 2 hour drive home…not sure how I managed to stay awake, just glad I wasn’t driving.
Arriving home, a nice shower and getting a bowl of soup down, we finally got into bed around 2am – a mere 22.5 hrs after getting up…
Oh…and did I mention the sunburnt legs??? No? – well I have very sore sunburnt legs.
Another lesson learned…