What? A marathon without any training! On Saturday I took part in the Saxon Vikings Normans Jeskyns Challenge. SVN challenges are timed events and you can do one lap or you can do as many as you can manage within the time limit. I had entered the event some months ago with the original aim of perhaps managing a half marathon distance but no pressure!
Then two weeks beforehand the aim became a marathon distance. A runner friend, Lynne, is gamely doing 12 marathons in 12 months to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald Trust and unfortunately injury had meant she’d had to pull out part way through her “June” marathon. But she’d reassured her supporters not to worry because she’d signed up for the Jeskyns Challenge and would complete the distance then. I’m not sure what happened, I think I was still on a bit of an adrenaline high from the Harvel 5 the day before, but I offered to run it with Lynne! Lots of pressure!
Hence began two weeks of serious misgivings. Not regret about committing to do it but more concerns that I’d let Lynne down and wouldn’t be able to go the whole distance. The only reason I thought there was even a remote possibility of completing the marathon was because when I’d joined Lynne for a lap and a bit of her January marathon, she was adopting a two mile run/one mile walk policy and I’d assumed this would be the plan for Jeskyns – I thought I had a good chance of doing that. Then I realized that even this would mean 18 miles worth of running! And my training in the intervening two weeks seemed to be going backwards, ie, there was less and less of it – an unintentional taper!
So the day dawned bright and sunny and the runners began to convene ready for the 8.30am start. The course had been changed from its original 4.4 mile lap to a shorter 2.91 mile lap, I assume for health and safety reasons as the original course would have involved crossing a reasonably busy country road. So we all gleefully set off to discover where the route would take us and my pictorial catalogue at the end of this post will hopefully demonstrate how beautiful it was.
The support at these events is outstanding, I remember from my January outing that runners of all abilities encourage and congratulate each other as their paths cross. Even I was receiving “well dones” and I wasn’t taking part! But it wasn’t just from other runners that Lynne and I received support on Saturday. We also had Phil taking photos as he traversed the route, Jane joined us for two laps where her bike permitted and Carina was a star, running our last three laps and making sure we got to the end. Thank you to all three of you for giving up your Saturday morning/afternoon.
The mechanics of the event meant you started off with a little laminated card and every time you got back to the aid station, your card would be hole punched. When you finished your run, you rang a hand bell instead and your time and distance were noted. Although there was a six hour time limit, so long as you had left the aid station by five hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds, you were allowed to complete that lap. There was talk during the initial stages of our run when our pace suggested it might be possible to fit in ten laps and complete an ultra. But don’t worry, the enthusiasm had disappeared around half way and we missed the opportunity anyway!
We used various methods to get us through, from the obvious counting up and then down of laps (although telling ourselves that starting the fourth lap was equivalent to being half way through may have been slightly delusional!), to discussing various options for manipulating our lap cards (ie, cheating!). Could we perhaps stick them together so that both cards were punched at the same time and then we could take it in turns to run a lap while the other had a sit down?
Our motivation for the last lap and a half was the weather. We were surrounded by menacing clouds, thunder and lightening (and the odd spot of refreshing rain). It became a race to complete the ninth lap before being struck by lightening. I had worried about being carted off in an ambulance because my heart had given out, not because I’d become a victim of the weather! And although it was threatening, it didn’t make us go any faster.
The aid station was brilliant and well stocked, everything from water and squash, cakes, crisps, nuts, sweets and water melon which all helped to keep us going. It was such a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, this is definitely the way to do a marathon. The medal, designed for each specific event, could do serious damage it is so heavy and so large. The goody bag was well stocked with chocolate, crisps and beer or cider, no promotional leaflets in sight!
My next SVN challenge is in August, a Formula 1 themed event which runs down the side of the A2. I’m not sure it’s going to be anywhere near as scenic as Jeskyns and I have yet to decide what distance I’m aiming for but I know I’ll enjoy it. Running never tasted so good!
Here follows the pictorial record of our run. All pictures taken subsequent to the event and during my one lap I couldn’t help but wonder how on earth we’d ever managed nine!