Some runs are to be raced, some races are to be run

When I started running I knew nothing. I was learning about myself and my body every run and every race. Even on training runs I would push myself most of the time, then I would push myself more in the races.

During London Marathon training I learned to run at some different paces, not brilliantly but I at least became aware of them. Every run was raced though. I had PBs to beat gawd dam it! I didn’t really know much about social running though. I ran with my good friend Paul for some of the VLM training but often I would be on my own.

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My first Insta race!

In January of this year I started looking for and following more runners on Instagram as I knew there must be more people out there like me. I am quite a social person but didn’t have the time or inclination, (at that point), to join my local running club, so of course the internet could help me out! Slowly but surely I started to find lots of lovely people who really inspired me through their achievements and battles with physical and mental health. I met up with a group in early March for an easy 5K around Hyde Park. Then went to my first Runthrough event in April, (just before the marathon), where I got to talk to a load of the “insta people” I now call friends. Post the marathon I started do fun run half marathons, (Yes, a half marathon is now fun, lol. Who am I!), in London with some of the people I had been chatting to online. During these runs, I got to meet and talk to so many people from all walks of life. People I can now call friends because that’s what running together makes you. You share your stories and listen to theirs. You help and support them when they need it and you accept help and support yourself.

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Running London with the crew

It was during this time that I learned running isn’t always about time and PBs.

This is how I came to be standing at the start line on 28th October in Eastbourne for my 2nd marathon.

In June a post popped up on my insta feed from Charlie (@whatCharlierannext) who I had been following for some time but had yet to meet. She said that she was going to run this crazy race called Beachy Head Marathon in October because it was Clare’s (@thinkingclarely) 30th birthday that day and what better way to celebrate than run a marathon right! Clare was also someone I followed but hadn’t met. Charlie was asking if anyone wanted to join in and help celebrate this day. I was interested, so I googled the race and found out it was a trail marathon with about 4000ft of elevation, finishing over the 7 Sisters. So I thought why not. Before booking it I checked with Charlie and Clare to see if it was cool if I ran it with them and they said yes. Also joining the run was Mel (@little.runner.mel), Jess (@brightonginlover) who I also hadn’t met plus Katie (@katie.ekins.runs) and Kirsty (@kwmarthoner) who I had already met and made friends with over the summer.

Of course I was nervous, I had only run one marathon before and I was meeting new people, which can always be a little intimidating but at least I knew two of them already.

About 1 month before the race, Mel had to pull out, which was a great shame but understandable as her childcare situation changed and made it impossible to make the trip down south. Then 8 days before disaster struck for Charlie, as she fell and twisted her ankle! She managed to get up and running in time which was amazing but made the tough and correct choice to drop to the 10k as the terrain on the course is really mixed and it could have made her injury a lot worse.

My intent on signing up was to run at the pace of the group, because I wanted to have fun and enjoy it. I wanted to take in the views, learn about the aid stations and get to know some new people. I wanted a no pressure run and boy did I luck out with this lovely group of people!

I won’t go into epic detail of the run as Clare wrote a really good blog about it which you can find here. Here are a few highlights as to what made it such a special day….

The Start

Meeting Clare, Charlie and Jess for the first time was of course bloody great. I had wanted to meet them for a while. I also got to meet Clare’s husband and friends.

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Birthday Girl front and centre!

After some photos, the 5 of us lined up at the most interesting start I have ever been on. A start line that almost immediately goes vertical! A start with about 3000 other runners all thinking “oh crap, what have we done but let’s get on with it as its bloody cold right now”.

As a group we talked about times and pace but not really. We said we would just run it easy and see how we get on, walk when we need to and run when we wanted.

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Steep start ahead

Then at 9.00am we started our journey. I say journey as this was what it was, none of us had run this course. We knew there would be hills and hopefully some stunning views but I don’t think any of us were prepared for the experience that lay ahead.

 

The Course

The freedom of running in the country side is something I have been enjoying all summer – mostly on my own. To have the chance to share it with a group of like-minded people was brilliant. I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole way, which you can tell from the photos.

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Clare giving it to the max!

The views, oh man the views. We were lucky to have a lovely day, where the sun was out for most of it and I actually got a little sun burnt. After we climbed the big hill in the middle it was just glorious. 360 degree vistas of Sussex, just wow!

Even though we were taking it easy, this was still a marathon and not an easy one at that. It’s over mixed terrain with rocky paths, muddy paths, hills, (did I mention that?), forests, chalk, walls, stiles and much more. It is not to be taken lightly and should be respected. This is what I wanted from this run though. This is what I needed. Even though we were not racing, I wanted to know what it would feel like to tackle this kind of terrain for a distance and it didn’t disappoint! If you are going to do this run, please wear trail shoes. Kirsty and Katie didn’t have them and at times it was difficult for them on the rocky paths and steep down hills. It didn’t stop them enjoying the day though.

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Those sisters!

A Running Family

The other runners were just awesome. We chatted to many of them along the way. Everyone was, (mostly), having a great time in the countryside. This was helped by Clare having a large badge on her back saying “30th Birthday”, so every time we ran past some people they shouted “happy birthday” to her or, “are you mad running this on your birthday”, which was pretty funny. A few other moments stood out as well though.

  1. We ran past a very happy couple of girls and as we went past I heard one say to the other “Wait for it, wait for it”, I turned around just as they both burst into song. It seemed they had synced playlists on their headphones! Both were now belting out the lyrics to a classic 80s track which I can’t remember now, but it was amazing!
  2. When we got to the 7 sisters I decided to run some of the ups as well as the downs to test myself. There were pretty steep inclines and I got lots of comments from other runners who thought I was mad but also cheering me on! Unknown to me though was that Katie was doing the same! Just brilliant.
  3. Charlie, after completing her 10k came out to support us at two points on the course. Seeing her was brilliant and gave us all an extra bonus boost. She even brought Jaffa cakes. Thank you!
  4. Also, Clare’s husband James came to run with her just before we got to the 7 sisters. They are a lovely couple and it was so sweet seeing them together.

The Aid Stations and Marshalls

This was my first experience of aid stations, so I didn’t know what to expect really. I had been told at one of them there would be sausage rolls. This excited both Kirsty and I greatly!

Also, I came pretty prepared with water, electrolyte drink, gels and protein bars, so I didn’t really need anything else…well that’s what I thought. Every 9K or so there was an awesome set up of water, (for humans and dogs), squash, sweets, chocolate and other things. I think each aid station had a specialty item, which I didn’t really know about until I overheard another runner say “They’ve got Jaffa cakes’, omg, I was in there straight away! Then a couple of stations later, we were in a village, a band was playing and they had sausage rolls! OMG, again, they tasted sooooo good! I also got stuck into some orange squash too. Why miss this out. Jess, totally went for the hot cross buns too, which were actually warm!

So that’s a big up for the aid stations, if you do this, you must stop and sample!

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Kirsty samples the sausage roll

Now an event like this can’t run as well as it did without the amazing marshals. From start to finish, they were supportive but also really on it with regards to the safety of the runners and general public. They helped us cross the country roads, warned us of dangerous parts on the course and stopped us from getting lost! All of this was done with a smile and a cheer, so thank you!

Beachy Head Marathon 2017 #Sussexsportphotography #racephoto 2:43:13 PM

The Finish

We went back down the same steep hill that we started on and all I can say is Ouch! In fact, I said ouch quite a lot as we ran down…when I say ran, I kind of mean hobbled down the hill! Crossing the finish line was brilliant though. The crowds were cheering and I was just very happy.

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Actually had half a Clif bar in my mouth!

Now I am sure there are many more things I could say about this day but to bring it back to the start. I ran this race for the love of running, for the love of meeting new people, for the love of exploring and being in free with nature.

A marathon is an emotional experience as I found out in London, but this was so much more. I am so happy I decided to sign up after seeing Charlies post. I am so happy I was able to run with these 4 amazing and inspiring ladies.

This was the best run ever!

Until next year…

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