February 25th 2017
A few hours drive from the grim north to midlands saw us arrive at our little pub digs just outside Belvoir in the early evening the night before the race. Us being myself and Adam Jones. Adam was running the 15 miles challenge and me the full.
We had passed Belvoir castle on the way and noticed how very pretty it was. After getting settled in we headed out to grab some food and back to the bar for a drink. The local were incredibly friendly and although we were departing incredulously early had offered to leave us a breakfast in our room to munch on. Nice touch. They also corrected us immediately on one important fact. I had been pronouncing it Bell- Voire – in fact it’s pronounced Beaver. Snigger.
Early to bed as usual and up at the crack of dawn (well it certainly felt like it). The room although lovely was about -35 degrees and I hadn’t really slept. I had been already undecided if I would run this and I had been suffering a fever still from my ongoing sinusitis and didn’t really feel the best. But morning of the race I threw overnight oats down my neck. I could barely stomach these as I had made them too runny blurgh. Race kit on and a look out the window at what the weather gods had in store. No amount of weather app checking can really help you know what’s going to be thrown at you on race day.
A short drive to the village hall where registration was taking place and we managed to park up on a road not too far from there. Most of the car parks were already full. The registration was split into 15 milers and the full and by name so was very easy to collect our race number. Obligatory loo stop and back to the car to keep warm for a while. As the laws of nature called me again I guessed I should go and just in time too as the queues were phenomenal. I only just made the front of the queue before the race was almost underway. Before I knew it we were off running and I guess that’s how I forgot the dreaded…….. to start my Garmin. It wasn’t until we were 0.65 miles in (I know because I asked Adam when I realised) Dam. This was going to throw me out for the whole race. I had a whole fuelling strategy at certain mile markers. Now my head was all over the place. I had to manually work out when I was at every 4 miles with this difference. Adam was sticking with me for the first few miles until we split and then I would be on my own.
Straight away I was in unfamiliar territory. I am not a trail runner. I keep trying, I love the scenery and I don’t mind gravelly paths, or flat mud/grass but put me on undulating/uneven fields and I am in hell. This was my hell. There were miles and miles and miles of clay. It stuck to the bottom of roclites like glue. It became like a giant tennis racket attached to the bottom of each shoe and it weighed a tonne. Just as you thought you were running out of one field to avoid the clay, you’d be in another field with more clay. The ground was so wet from all the rain of the previous few weeks and the people that had already run in front of me churning up the ground. Ever been to glastonbury and got your wellies stuck in the mud? Well that's exactly what this felt like. Every step made a squelch as if my shoes were about to be sucked off my feet.
I just plodded for the first 6 miles chatting to Adam. We moaned and laughed (he really hates the mud). I managed to eat at mile 4 ish (almost forgetting). I had worked on fuelling with sushi rice and peanut butter in training and it seemed to suit my stomach well. Then we hit the hill, we had seen on the map a ‘possible diversion in case hill to slippery’ and it looked steep. We had heard whispers of ‘oh shit the hill is coming’. WHOAH that is a hill. You couldn’t run a) it was too steep and b) the clay I was talking about was on this hill too. So I power walked up it. It just kept going and when you got to the top, it went around a corner and then up again and then again and when you really thought you were at the top there was a bit like a mountain to climb. I begun to feel like I was in an OCR not a trail marathon.
I was holding onto branches and bushes to ensure I didn’t slip back down and become the bowling ball in a game of bowling. There were plenty of people behind me who would have toppled. When finally navigated to the top, feeling like I had conquered Everest, then realising I had a marathon to complete. Onwards through the mud. I carried on chatting to Adam until we reached the first checkpoint at around 6.5 miles and the signs took us in different directions. I didn’t stop to even look what was on offer as I was carrying what I needed. The field seem to really spread out here and things got awfully quiet through the trees.
I just got lost in my thoughts and carried on going. Fuelling every 4 miles on rice and taking in the views. There was a field with a horse in it and the horse was very upset, kicking its back legs. Running frantically. Runners were running past the horse and the horse was running at them. So I stopped and I calmed the horse down whilst the other runners left the field. It was ok when I left the field but more runners approached. I do hope that poor horse was ok, must have been very unsettled by us runners using its field.
The most breath-taking was coming down the valley and up to Belvoir castle. Also around and up the castle grounds was lovely too. The scenery really is spectacular and something to be enjoyed.
I stopped at the second checkpoint just after 12 miles for the loo, something I very rarely do on a run. Chatted to a few fellow runners and headed up the hill for some more views of the castle behind and leaving the valley back through some woods.
I overtook a few runners that were walking and seemed to be on my own with no one behind me and no one in front of me a lot of the time. I hope I was on the right track and just kept looking for signs I was on the right path. There were more hills, more mud and the weather turned for the worst. Drizzly and the wind picked up and was blowing in my face as I tried to cross a field with the clay mud again. I heard shotguns fire, scary. At the next checkpoint at mile 18, I took a sip of squash and trudged on through the town. Although it was nice to see a road, I was struggling to run on the paths in my roclites. They were causing my left foot real pain. This is when I started to reliase I was going to have to put in some walking as the pain was really getting to me now. So I walked a minute after that checkpoint and a couple of runners passed me and I began running again.
It was back through fields and up more hills through to the open elements and the weather was really hellish up here. I was battling against pretty high winds. Walking against the wind was tough let alone running. Another lady caught up to me and we chatted until the next checkpoint at mile 21. More squash and I filled up my water bottle here. Here I got a text that my little buddy and his family would be somewhere near to cheer me on my way.
It was a real welcome sight, big smiles all round and big hugs. Amazing what a boost that can give you when you cold and tired. On my way over an electric fence? Through a stream and mentally telling myself every half a mile only 4.5 miles to go now, come on. My legs were on fire and really didn’t want to go. I had to put in a minute of walking every here and there especially on the rockier ground which wasn’t helping my feet.
By now I was having trouble fuelling, I was feeling sick. Although I had previously managed to fuel a 4.5 hour marathon with no problem. Eating constantly for this amount of time just wasn’t going to happen. A strategy I will need to rethink for future ultras. It’s probably why the last 8 miles were really hard as I wasn’t really fuelled.
So I just kept pushing for the finish line, it just kept getting a bit closer. There were roads, paths, fields, mud, giant muddy puddles to navigate but eventually I saw photographers so I knew this must be it. The finish must be close. I was so disorientated I nearly ran the wrong way, luckily some runners shouted at me and pointed in the direction of the village hall and I felt like I had completed my first ultra not my first trail marathon. The worst bit – my garmin was 0.65 miles out so had to walk a bit extra to top it up to 26.2 (only 0.3 miles) couldn’t have my garmin thinking I didn’t complete a marathon now.
The village hall was alive with activity. Set out with tables and chairs. Free soup and rolls, cakes and custard and tea and coffee. There was however no medal. You could buy a t-shirt and other souvenirs if you wished. Belvoir is a race that is used to raise money for Harby Primary School.
If you like trail running, love scenery and are hard core. This race is for you. If you’re like me and you love road running then you’d be insane to consider it.