On Saturday 23rd July I took part in my second Half Marathon ‘The Great Escape’ which was organised by Pure Trail. This was to be a linear route on Dartmoor starting from Princetown heading off across open moorland to South Brent on the edge of the National Park. This was one part of Pure Trails first ‘Big Day Out’ as they were also running an Ultramarathon of 34 miles called ‘The Crossing’ which had runners traversing the entire moor from north to south – Belstone to South Brent. The Half marathon was definitely a big enough challenge for me at this stage!
The majority of runners chose the option of registering at South Bent and taking the coach provided to the start. Though there were a few issues with limited space for the coaches to pull up and get us loaded, this all ran perfectly to time, everyone seemed to know where to go and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and chat with other runners on the coach. The time was soon upon us to line up at the start, which was the track behind the Plume of Feathers in Princetown. Thanks to the minimal waiting around and the chatty friendly nature of fellow runners I was barely nervous at all. There are also a few new techniques I’ve come across to help with this which I will share in a separate post soon.
The course was fantastic. Nearly all of it was out on open moorland with views for miles giving it a real wilderness feeling. I wasn’t the only one to be truly impressed and thankful for the effort that must have gone into lugging the table, water and snacks all the way out to the first two remote aid stations! Not to mention marking the course! I thought it was all very easy to follow with bits of tape at very regular intervals. Though more often than not you were in a little group or following someone so at least 1 of you would spot the tape. There was a real variety of terrain from wide rocky bridleways to grassy tracks, bogs, stream crossings, narrow footpaths and thankfully minimal concrete roads. I particularly enjoyed the final aid station at Shipley Bridge which some genius had stocked with watermelon, what a lifesaver. Back at the finish, organiser Steve Skedgell’s wife Sophie and family had done a super job once again of providing hot food, drinks and more importantly, mountains of cake for hungry runners. I am not ashamed to say I had to sample 3 different bits (banana loaf, brownies and a vegan energy ball) because I simply couldn’t choose!
Unfortunately my own personal race didn’t go quite according to plan. Up until around mile 7 everything was great. I had settled into the race and run off the nerves much quicker than normal. My times were way up (warning bells should have gone off here!) and I was feeling great, enjoying myself and trying hard to take in the awesome views without falling over! Until I crashed. My legs were still full of life but I was feeling progressively more nauseous, headachey and just plain ill. You know the feeling when you get out of a too hot bath and it makes your head swim so you have to lie down……. it was like that. The weather was seriously hot and having started the race at midday we were now out in the open with zero shade and I was really struggling to cope with it. Though there was the odd bit of cloud cover and slight breeze it was still very muggy. At mile 9.5 I had my energy gel and perked up a little but it was short lived and by the checkpoint at mile 11 my head was so fuzzy I couldn’t balance to stand still and had to drink walking around. Not to be beaten though I stumbled on moaning and grumbling to myself and made it to the finish still running. I did then however need to be ushered in the right direction of shade as I really was about to pass out. Many thanks to Steve for helping me find a lifesaving cold drink!
- I need to learn to pace myself better at the beginning. No matter how good I feel it is much wiser to save something in the tank and run faster at the end! I should run my own race and not panic when people pass me.
- Learn how to manage hydration better. Drink more beforehand and stop at every aid station whether I’m thirsty or not. My handheld water bottle got hot and undrinkable quickly. In future I will use my new vest/pack and pre cool the water. I also need to find a better source of electrolytes to add to the water.
- Fuel myself better beforehand with longer lasting energy such as porridge instead of other cereal and pay closer attention to timings. I ended up having breakfast 4 hours before the race, 3 hours would have been better.
- It has been suggested that during the race, particularly due to the heat,I should have started using gels after 1 hour of running instead of 9.5 miles (approx 1hr45). I then should have continued to use them every 20-30 mins until completing.
- I think with my new focus on strength and conditioning my training is now not including enough miles. I also have a tendency in my training to start fast and slow down as I get tired so I perhaps need to include at least 1 run where I do the opposite in order to gain better understanding of how to control my pace.
According to my Garmin watch I finished in a time of 2 hours 25 mins. Preliminary results put me at 79th out of 125. In all honesty I am disappointed with that result and my own performance as I know, had I managed my pacing and hydration better I could have done much better. I run this distance and further as my long run once a week so I know it’s not a lack of fitness. However beating myself up about it will not get me anywhere so I am trying very hard to just LEARN from what went wrong. I have only been running at all for a little over a year so I am bound to make mistakes. I’m sure everyone does. It is not a lack of enthusiasm and effort put in, only experience.
My next race will be The Volcano a 10.25 mile hilly Dartmoor race on August 21st. For more information on this event and other similarly well run events over amazing courses click here for the Pure Trail website. Alternatively this is their facebook page.