After enjoying a gloriously sunny day for the end of season NEHL fixture at Prudhoe, I knew we were to expect the same, if not warmer, the following day for the half marathon at Wallington Hall. This was actually the only thing concerning me about the run, not the fact that I’d also ran a particularly difficult cross-country course the day before, or hearing tales that the Wallington course is a “very challenging” one. Being a very pale and pasty almost-redhead, I don’t cope well running in warm sunny conditions.
The day started with an hour of lost sleep, due to the clocks going forward. I tried to cunningly compensate for this by going to bed an hour early, but that plan didn’t quite work. After a hearty breakfast, Derren and I set off to collect Chris and Mike, before heading into deepest, darkest Northumberland, which was shrouded in very heavy fog. As we approached Wallington the sun started to burn through and the car’s thermometer began rapidly climbing from just a few degrees above zero.
We arrived with about an hour to kill, so once parked up we headed towards the great grassy courtyard in front of the hall, which was to be the finish, to soak up a bit of the race day atmosphere. Aiden and Dave Anderson joined us at this point, and a bit of chat helped keep my pre-race nerves at bay. With 20 mins to go, we headed back to the car to make final preparations for the race. The start was a bit of a hike up the hill from the hall itself, and there was some confusion about where the actual start was, as It didn’t appear to be clearly marked and there were no marshals about. Standing with the rest of the Bounders (Louise and Terri had joined us by this time, too), I found myself quite near the front of the pack, with the now familiar smell of Deep Heat filling my nostrils.
9:30 came and went and there were still lots of runners making their way up the hill. They couldn’t all have been caught out by the clocks changing, surely? Having run the inaugural event last year, Mike warned me not to be tempted to set away too fast on the steep starting downhill stretch. Almost 700 runners were lined up at the start, pretty much double last year’s number of entrants. After ‘the off’ the first three miles went great. I was bowling along at what felt like a nice comfortable pace, I checked my Garmin and I was doing 9 minute miles – This is usually on the faster side of comfortable for me. I had made the mistake of setting away too fast and I needed to slow it down a bit!
Approaching the first drink station 3 miles in, I grabbed a bottle of water which I then struggled to get un-capped. Trying to un-cap it with my teeth whilst running resulted in a slightly bust lip which continued to bleed for about a mile afterwards. Soon after finishing the bottle I became very aware of a that full bladder feeling. I did my damnedest to ignore it, but the call of nature was persistent and wasn’t going to go away, so I ended up hopping over a wall into a field for a quick pit stop. Call of nature answered, I was on my way again, but I found myself picking bits of prickly undergrowth out of my shorts for the next couple of miles. I’d decided not to carry water with me knowing that there would be drink stations every 3 miles. This was to be my second mistake. As the heat (and hills) rose later on in the run, those 3 miles seemed like an eternity. Because I didn’t have my water belt, it also meant I had limited space for carrying gels. I could only just manage to squeeze one into the tiny pocket of my shorts. I thought that would be sufficient – mistake number three! The undulating course continued to meander through several small hamlets one of them being the aptly named “Hartburn”.
My only gel was gone before I reached the 7 mile marker and knowing it’s effects wouldn’t last long and that the worst of the hills were still to come, I started to worry that I was going to run out of steam. It wasn’t a good position to be in mentally at the halfway point, and by now things were really heating up as I ran this particularly long straight stretch, which was unfortunately lacking in tree cover to offer respite from the sun.
About 10 miles in my legs started to grow very heavy. I was battling with myself now, as all I wanted to do was stop and walk, but I really wasn’t going to allow it as long as I was running this flatish section. At the mere sight of the first of the two long uphill stretches, in the final few miles, I gave in to the urge to walk, but even then I coaxed myself to continue with a run/walk, counting my steps to distract me from the hills ahead. This took me back to doing the Couch-to-5k program with Derren just over a year ago, and instead of beating myself up about having to walk, I started to think about how far I’ve come since then.
Thankfully, the roads by this point were lined with trees and the dappled shade was very welcome. Passing the final drink station, I knew there wasn’t far left to go and I could soon see the brow of the hill, which I hoped signalled the final downhill home stretch – thankfully it did! Approaching the gates of Wallington Hall, I could hear shouting and cheering long before I could make out the Bounders’ vests of Dave and Aiden. This caught me off guard a bit as I’d expected everyone to be at the finish line (or even long gone!). I was quite choked up with a mixture of relief and emotion as I passed them, I tried to thank them but I don’t think the words actually came out. Another pair of friendly faces, Elvet Striders’ Alister and Jacquie Robson, were there just before the final run in under the clock tower. Then I spotted Derren at the finish.
After exiting the finishing funnel it took a little while to compose myself enough to collect my goody bag and find my way back to Derren. The relief was absolutely overwhelming. Mike was on-hand with the remainder of the Caribbean Twist from the previous day’s end of season cross-country celebrations – maybe not the best recovery drink, but it sure did give a much needed sugary boost to get me functioning again.
I was a little disappointed with my 2:28 time, but then I realised it was actually only 3 minutes more than what I had predicted. My first half was such a breeze, and this one was a total shock to the system – a few valuable lessons were learnt that should hopefully stand me in good stead for subsequent halves. As much as I hated almost every step of this particular run, I shall, without doubt, be tackling those Northumberland hills again next year.
Derren Sarginson – 1.39.17
Chris Boyd – 1.45.59
Dave Anderson – 1.48.09
Aidan Hughes – 1.48.09
Terri Cartmell - 1.51.01
Louise Priestley – 1.51.01
Mike Gill – 1.53.50 (2nd in Category)
Sara Sarginson – 2.28.54