Conditions couldn’t really have been much better. As I packed my kit on Saturday morning I was confident to set off in T-Shirt and shorts as I stowed my waterproof in my backpack. I was hoping this was where it would stay.
Cloud cover was unrelenting, and the temperature was far lower than we might have hoped for September, but ideal for a day of running. The threat of rain seemed to hang in the air for most of the day, but for some reason I was confident we’d remain largely dry.
Under grey skies Lyndsey dropped me at Shere Village hall where I bumped into my local ultra-running postie Matt Pannell and fellow Robbie Britton protege Rob Wayne. We had a good chat about the race, the weather, the hilarity of a black and white map with a black route line drawn on it, and the up coming Caesars Camp Race we are both entered for (I think Rob will finish a fair way in front of me).
At the sound of the klaxon off we went, and from the confines of the village playing fields we were off up hill to join the North Downs Way. This was quite an introduction to the day as we were soon slowed to a walk and not before long I found myself in a group of one, powering my way up the climb. Once on the NDW I broke into a jog and gave a little assessment to each of my limbs as I sought to decide how I thought they had warmed up and, more importantly, whether I thought they were going to give me any complaints. Everything was feeling pretty good.
I could hear plenty of laughing going on in a small group some distance behind me which sometimes seemed to get closer before then dropping back, and on occasion I could see someone running along in front of me. In fact it wasn’t until about 5 miles into the race, having come off the NDW heading for Leith Hill, that I even caught up with a fellow runner and we scratched our heads wondering whether the arrow in front of us really was pointing across a ploughed field. It was, so that’s the way we went. We chatted a little bit about running, the weather, the distance and events like Mountain Marathons and Ironman races. I was fearful that my gentle approach to the race was going to affect his time so I told him to go on ahead if he was feeling good.
The climb to Leith Hill went without too much alarm, though I was starting to ache a bit in a few places. Mostly my glutes though, and I was pleased that my hip that has restricted my running in the last fortnight to a total of 12 miles was feeling OK. Coming down the other side of Leith Hill began to highlight a few other issues though. I had the faintest sensation of a similar knee pain to that which I suffered in Chamonix and then to top it all off I managed to stumble a little on my ankle over a wet root. With doubt already lingering in my mind this was the final straw and I texted Lyndsey to get her to meet me at the halfway point.
Going over the top of Holmbury Hill I was surprised as the runner who I’d previously been chatting too came up behind me. I’d past him whilst he had a loo stop I think and although he slowed for a moment to see how I was doing I told him my decision to drop and he motored on ahead.
Coming in to the Duke of Kent School entrance I approached the checkpoint, handed in my number, grabbed a banana and went to join Lyndsey in the car.
I got some wonderful responses on twitter peeps saying how sorry they were for me at having to drop out. I wasn’t sad though. I had crossed the start line well aware that I may only make it to half way, or if I got to 15 miles I could have dropped down the hill to my front door. I have far bigger fish to fry in the not-too-distant future, and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardise those plans. I felt good knowing that I had run further than my cumulative previous fortnight, and 13 miles is longest run for what seems like a lifetime.
Which is a little concerning!!
Must. Get. Stronger.