Am I really going to do this? I thought to myself. I’d been dragging my feet since my 6am wake up (actual time I managed to peel myself out of bed: 6:40), like a child who doesn’t want to go to school sports day. Unfortunately, though a little stiff, my legs were still able to carry me, and not sore enough to justify cancelling. Is that a headache coming on? My stomach is still queasy. Nope. None of my pathetic excuses seemed worthwhile enough to not complete the challenge that I’d set myself the couple of days before, when I’d told Gemma about the South Wales Trails Half. Silly really to have told her, because we egg each other on to take on ridiculous challenges and so by mentioning the race to her, I as good as collected my medal. It was going to happen. And there’s no way I could pull out when Gemma and Jo were now doing it. After all, I’m the one who’s meant to be doing the challenge races!
So I told my stomach to behave, grabbed my (still wet) trail shoes, and headed out. Mad. Bonkers. The disbelieving faces and words of the few Harriers I’d mentioned it to the day before flashed before me and I knew I had to do it. I was doing my second half marathon in as many days in what was my first proper “back-to-back” challenge.
A beautiful day, the sun was blindingly bright, though it was a little cold due to being high in the hills (is that altitude sickness coming on? Perhaps I shouldn’t run after all). It was the first race I’d run where I was required to carry kit. We were told we didn’t need to take the first aid kit or compass this time as the weather was good, but that we should have waterproofs, whistle, gels, and water. Job done. And my camera, to take selfies along the way, of course. That’s how seriously I was taking this race.
We wore our Severn Bridge t-shirts earned from yesterday’s run as our badges of honour, and were pleasantly surprised and quite encouraged to see a few others wearing theirs too upon arrival. Maybe this two halves in two days was quite normal after all. Not quite: one wearer was simply cheering on her partner, others doing the 10k option. I think one or two were also braving the half, but not so loudly and proudly as what Jo aptly dubbed upon joining, the “crazy gang”.
The race started out around a deceptively large field before turning towards the hills to run past the motorcross (that would have been much more fun, I thought to myself, and made a note to look into other sports), and up into the woods. When within the first couple of kilometres Gemma exclaimed her calf was “screaming” and she didn’t “know if I can do this”, I thought, oh dear, we are in trouble. Gemma never moans. She is usually the positive, encouraging cheerleader beside me telling me I can do it when I’m complaining about something or nothing. So for her to say she was in pain, I knew it had to be fairly serious. Not wanting to be the weakest link, and hoping to repay her for her many encouragements on other races, I helpfully reminded her that our bodies are capable of far more than our minds believe, that it’ll probably loosen up after a few kilometres, to think of those I was running for, etc. I don’t know how she didn’t slap me – I wanted to slap me! But the pain eased up and we had a blast in the hills and forest. The stunning views illuminated by the blinding sun reminded me of running in Austria, all that was missing were the alps in the background! (Although crawling up those hills definitely felt similar to running in the mountains!)
Almost halfway through, me and Gemma nattering away (at this particular moment our shock about a fellow runner who has NEVER done a parkrun, can you believe it?!) when Gemma somehow managed to trip, taking a flying dive faceplant along the path. “Are you okay? Are you hurt? Can you move? You’re bleeding, do you want a bandaid?” I semi-panickedly fired questions at Gemma in quick succession. Her reply: “you’d better make sure you put this in the blog!” Alright Gemma, this paragraph is for you! We giggled for the next few kilometres that her first reaction to falling over was making sure it was included in the writeup! Love the priorities.
It wasn’t to be the only injury on our ramble around the hills, though. With about a third left of the race to complete, as we were happily skipping down a hill, being the clumsy person I am (I’m honestly surprised I haven’t broken anything yet) somehow managed to land awkwardly and twist my ankle. I’m not usually a swearer, but in the moment, a few choice words left my mouth. Gingerly testing my ankle, I hobbled a few steps, realised I hadn’t broken it this time, and knew it would wear off soon enough, so we picked it back up. Another war wound!
Completing a hilly trail half the day after another half marathon, with no likelihood of a fast time, took the pressure off trying to race to a particular speed, and meant I could enjoy it in a new way, taking in more of the views, chatting with Gemma, and simply revelling in the experience and the challenge of back to back racing.
As we came back to the point at the top of the Motorcross, with just a couple of kilometres to go around the field and with the finish line in sight, we picked up the pace a little and it was quite a nice feeling after taking it gently to pick off a few people before the finish! The name of the company, “run walk crawl”, seemed quite apt as I felt like crawling when I finally reached the finish! I was elated to have completed the two races, and we celebrated with bacon rolls as we sat in the sun by the finish line.
I’m running 30 challenge races for 30 years to raise money for A21, an anti trafficking charity who do incredible work in trafficking prevention and awareness, rehabilitation of victims, prosecution of traffickers, and forging key partnerships. Please consider supporting my challenge by donating here.
In case you’ve missed any, here’s a list of my races so far that make up my 30 races for 30 years challenge:
A21 Muskathlon Half Marathon, Bulgaria/Greece (Race 9 – blog to follow)
Man Vs Horse, Powys (Race 10 – blog to follow)
South Wales Trails Half Marathon, Rhondda Cynon Taf (Race 15)
Forest of Dean Autumn Half Marathon (Race 18 – blog to follow)
Mendip Muddle (Race 19 – blog to follow)
Nightingale Nightmare (Race 20 – blog to follow)