What a weekend of beasts both metaphorically and literally!
First my metaphorical beast to conquer! Some might be aware that over the years I have had on-going issues with considerable pain in my right hand and during this time I’ve had every test, surgery, x-ray, injection, prescription and physio possible, but to no avail. Over the last couple of years the aches and pains have gradually spread to my other hand, feet and ankles. With the amount of marathons I do it was hard to tell if it wasn’t partly self-inflicted which I’m sure you are thinking whilst reading this, and I don’t blame you for that, but the aches were much more extreme than normal post marathon stuff! The trouble was if I rested the pain was also still there and I had other symptoms which I won’t bore you with. So to cut an extremely long and largely uninteresting story short I saw my fabulous doctor on Friday who I’m sure, patronizingly, is not old enough to be out of short trousers but who cares when he is extremely keen, helpful, doesn’t hurry you and listens! The long and short of it is that I have now been diagnosed with the condition Fibromyalgia, which answers a lot of questions on how I have been feeling too. I am lucky as at the moment my condition is mild compared to many others; long may that continue! For the moment I am researching the condition so I can learn the best strategy for me and I am being sent on a course in May which is about learning to cope with chronic pain and Fibromyalgia. By the time Sunday morning arrived my head was a little bit all over the place; Google can be a blessing and a curse!
But Sunday morning with the return of the Beast, the literal one, would our race be going ahead?! Reading, Newport, Forest of Dean, to name but a few, were all cancelled, but of course The New Forest Running Festival was the only event that wasn’t! I was not entirely sure of this was good or bad news! Paul who had volunteered to drive was still happy to do so, so off we set into the snowy unknown. The roads were a lot worse than we thought and our first post of the day was unfortunately not a Facebook one but a black metal one as we slid into Salisbury! Car 0, metal post 1! We had come this far so we were not going to be defeated, fortunately the roads after Salisbury were much improved and we finally arrived with no further incident. The races were now starting an hour later than originally scheduled to allow for travel and the 20 and 10 mile races had been combined but even with these changes the numbers were seriously depleted so I knew to get my head around the fact that it was going to be quite a lonely run. The route is mostly solid trail and some tarmac so on any other day road shoes would be perfect but today with the snowy, soggy and slippery terrain off-roaders were the only choice. It was also extremely fresh and I have never worn so mainly layers for a race including two pairs of socks, unheard of! At 11.30am we were ready to set-off with my main question at that point being ‘would I call it a day after one lap’?!
The first lap I could always see runners ahead or behind so it wasn’t too lonely. The scenery was in the main absolutely beautiful, even more so with the snowy back drop, but there were also a few stretches which were open, windy and a little barren. The horses were wonderful to watch especially when they ran alongside you and the two water stations and marshals could not have been more welcoming for the fact of just being there but also with such hospitable welcomes in absolutely freezing conditions. The first few miles as always I struggled but it felt even worse than normal and at mile 3 I’d decided I’d only be running one lap as it was so painful. I am not sure if now knowing what the problem is had made it worse, or of it actually was worse or if the cold had got to me but I must admit I was pretty miserable even with the lovely scenery and horses! Finally by mile 7 I got into a rhythm and I was not giving up and ran past the finish of lap one and watched everyone around me run in, oh I was now on my own, whose bright idea was that! Lap 2 was a truly solitary affair, even the horses now looked cold and weren’t interested in my conversations either! The wind was playing havoc with my asthma too but fortunately I seemed to have that under control. The water station at mile 14 was such a welcome relief; just what I needed a friendly chat and a cup of flat coke! On I ploughed and as the wind picked up it felt at times as if you were running through a blizzard as the snow fell from the trees. One of the bleak spots at around either mile 7 or 17, the pain seen etched on my face could have been at either if I’m honest!
Mile 18 and the last water stop and more welcome friendly faces, conversation and flat coke, I asked for Brandy but apparently they’d sold out! I’d convinced myself that the route wasn’t going to be long……at 19.5 miles and the last hill I knew it would be! Finally after 20.6 miles, 3hrs 54mins 1sec I crossed the finish line and thankfully not in last place out of just 38 runners!
The toughest 20 miler so far, and in so many ways as well! My feet ached so much that night I had to sleep with them elevated on a pillow, popped out at the end of the duvet with the bedroom window open in hope they’d get so cold I would lose all feeling in them! Now there’s an image!
One more 20 miler to go and then it is time to avenge my nemesis; Brighton!
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