I do love this race so much so that I have returned here for the third year in a row but this year everything didn’t go to plan from a personal point of view. This year had I been too blase and taken the race for granted or just a bit unlucky? Probably a bit of both.
As always with this race the scenery was truly stunning, even though this year the weather was mainly drizzly rain with low cloud, at least it was warm and actually made for good running conditions.
The day didn’t start well with me waking up very tired after a couple of late nights so I had an extra 20 minutes in bed. I thought I had plenty of time to get to the race but how wrong was I? As I drove to the race, the nearer I got the more I realised I how much mis-calculated my journey time. I eventually got parked up a long way from registration with a mere 10 minutes to spare before the race start. Quickly I got changed and ready for the race and ran to registration at the very smart Coed Y Benin visitor’s centre. I was handed my goodie bag which I knew I hadn’t got enough time to run back with so cheekily I asked if they would keep it for me until after the race which they kindly offered to do. At this moment race registration was closed (how lucky was I?) and the remaining runners (including me) were ushered to the start. As I followed the runners to the start I realised I hadn’t had my usual pre-race drink, I’d left it in my car, not a good start! The only thing for it was to make the most of the water stations en route.
During this race my attention was constantly diverted by what I can only describe as irritating distractions and they lasted throughout the whole course of the race.
The first of these were the local inhabitants, the midges! Constantly throughout the whole race they were there harassing me and everyone else, runners and marshals alike. I looked at other runners who were having the same problem with them stuck all over their faces in their sweat. I didn’t actually get bit much but I could feel them tickling and itching my legs, arms and face, very annoying it kept making me have to change my running style to rub them off or scratch. You know it is bad when some of the race marshals are wearing brimmed hats with veils, black versions of what bee keeps wear.
My second irritation was my new glasses which don’t seem to be fitting me quite right and kept sliding down my nose and bouncing on my nose as I ran. It’s hard to keep adjusting your glasses on your face when you are running, especially on uneven terrain. And if I didn’t keep pushing them back up then they bounced on me nose. Anyone who wears glasses will know that when they bounce it changes your vision making it near impossible to place your feet in the right places on the uneven hilly trails. To make my vision even worse I had rain all over the lenses.
My last irritation or distraction was my long serving running shorts which I think from this race are coming to the end of their natural life, when they got heavy due to the wet weather they kept sliding down. This was worst on the sharp tricky down hills sections of the course were the jolting made them slide almost an inch a step so as well as contending with everything else I had to keep pulling them up!
Have you ever tried to run on a very hilly midge infested course, up and down awkward, winding narrow paths with tree roots and rocks with all these distractions, impeded vision and sliding down shorts?
I had also totally forgotten how hard the race was with its many up and down sections on narrow, twisting forest paths cumulating in 3,500 feet of climb.
I suppose I have just described a nightmare to most runners but most was self-inflicted. One day I’ll get this marathon running malarkey right. All things considered I was pleased with my time, a fraction under 3:57.
The course was once again fantastic and to coin a word my children use too often but I think is thoroughly justifiably in this case is “awesome”. The woodland scenery is like very few places in the UK, largely unspoilt and while you are in it you feel miles from civilization. One runner I got talking to during the race was imagining this is what it would have been like in Britain during the middle ages. For anyone out there that is looking for a very challenging half or full marathon in a virtually unspoilt forest, this has got to be the one to do. As trail marathons go this must be one of the best. I do hope to be back again next year and hopefully a little bit better prepared.