On Saturday I did the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever been involved with.
10km off road running adventure through woodland, farm tracks and across grassland held on the grounds of Brooksby Melton College’s Spinney Campus.
The longest distance I’ve ever ran continuously was about 5 miles (around 8km) which I did once during my recovery from my knee injury. At that point I was doing 2-3 mile runs and wanted to see if I could step up to 5. I did it and decided that once was enough!
So I guess the first question is why?
Well, why not?
I’ve said before about how I’m all for new experiences and pushing boundaries and when some friends said they were getting involved I thought it’d be a good thing to do with them. If anything it would certainly be an experience!
Whoever designed the course must be some sort of sadist. It starts out with a gentle 2km run with a paddle through a very shallow stream, under a bridge and over some hay bales. All very straight forward and fun.
Then you’re expected to climb quite a steep hill, come back down again and repeat…at least eight times, on the last couple of climbs they give you a log to carry!! This isn’t even the halfway point of the course.
Some you waded through, some you crawled through, some you’d have to swim through if you weren’t tall enough!
The running and hay bales kept coming and just when you think it might get easier more near vertical hills suddenly appear!
Crawling under a cargo net that is submerged in what I can only describe as a large muddy puddle is something I’ll remember for a long time!
The final stretch gave us another net to clamber under before a sprint for the finish line (I have no idea where I got the energy from to sprint to the line!)
Actually getting across the line was an amazing feeling and any immediate thoughts of tired muscles vanished!
I finished the course in one hour and thirty two minutes and finished in 143 place.
The overall winner finished in just short of an hour so I’m pretty pleased at that as a total amateur and my first ever event. There were 278 total entries so 143rd place put me right in the middle, again something I’m pretty happy about.
As well as it being as equally fun and rewarding as it was difficult I learnt an awful lot. Many of these things are useful in plenty of other areas I think!
Long distance running events like this are only in part about physical strength. Mental strength is key. Around the 7km mark ever part of my body was telling me to stop as this was too hard. I really had to push through and tell myself to carry on going.
Never underestimate having someone to lean on. My friend Stewart and I ran the whole thing together. He’s got much more experience at this sort of thing than I have and if I’d been doing it on my own I can’t say with 100% confidence I’d have been strong enough to push through the hard parts. I’m confident I’d have still finished but would I have slowed or even stopped? Quite possibly. He even ignored my babblings about how hungry I was at the 8km mark! Cheers mate.
Know when to go alone. We actually started out as a three running together but Neil was carrying an injury. We initially resisted calls from him telling us to carry on without him but being brutally honest when we finally made the decision to actually do that it was the right thing to do. He made it around in his own time but our enjoyment of the event may not have been the same if we had stayed as three. It worked out fine in the end and we all had a great time.
Preparation is really important. While I didn’t specifically train for the event I was conscious that football aside, I hadn’t done any running since last summer. I made sure I went out six or seven times in the weeks leading up to the event and ran a coupe of miles each time just to get back into the rhythm of running over a distance. I’m glad I did! If I’d thought about it a bit more and done some longer distances that wall I hit around 7km would have been much easier to get through.
Don’t overdo it! Because of how bizarre our winter has been we’ve been playing catch up on football fixtures. This meant I played football Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before the event. With another game on Sunday – ouch. It wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it could be but my calf muscles were starting to cramp up half way around. I was actually thankful for the cold water on some parts of the course.
The London Marathon was the day after and the amount of respect I already had for those who take part shot up a thousand fold! Not that I have any plans to take on that sort of distance!