100 Mile Run – Cotswolds Way Challenge

I find myself writing my blog for my latest and what can only be described as my biggest challenge to date, at the most poignant of times with the death of Robin Williams in our minds. At the suggestion of friends and clients I agreed to do this for charity and after much deliberation about which charity to select I decided to support DAMH (Dundee Association for Mental Health).  With the back drop of Robin Williams death, mental health has been thrown back into the public eye.  How the media, friends, family, work colleagues, work places and unknown people all react to those who have or have had mental health difficulties.

 

I selected this charity as it really means alot to me from a personal, family and work perspective.  I went in to talk with my contact and they told me they were funded from multiple sources.  One of those sources cut their funding, as many have charities, I wanted to help.  The charity works predominantly with volunteers and I was keen to know how the money I raised would be used.  It was important to me that the money wasn’t swallowed up in a big pot.  My contact told me that the money would be used to fund a physical activity programme that the charity has running.  This involves helping those with the charity to get out for walks in the local area/ hills, this will help the programme to run for up to a year.  But at my last check I have more than doubled my target which potentially means programmes could run for far more time and/ or different programmes could be started.  This really excites me as I fully believe in the power of physical activity, being outdoors and physically active.  Also a great way to socialise!

 

I regularly return from a run telling folks that I have just re-organised my whole life in a couple of hours, never more so than when I run do I feel unhindered by stress of life and personal situations.  The day to head down to Bath to meet the 100 Mile Run team (http://www.100milerun.com/cotswold-way-challenge/cotswold-challenge/) arrived in what seemed like short time after I had soooo long, is it just me that happens to?

 

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I had given myself a whole day to travel, relax and prepare for the start of the run on Friday 8th August 2014.  This passed quickly and I even had time at night to stroll around Bath taking in the the fantastic architecture.  I have been to Bath before but had clearly forgotten its fantastic buildings.   The evening was warm and I hoped signalled a dry day to get us kick-started on the Friday.  I had time that night to get all the kit I needed for my first run where I wanted it and to find my first kit failure.  And that’s before the race had even started.  I was gutted, my trusty garmin that I used in all my training runs broke down, back up plan?  I had been doubling up my recording with a new app on my iphone – Strava and was really enjoying it.  It feeds my competitive nature nicely!

Everything else sorted, I tried to get a decent nights kip – it didn’t work.  My nerves had kicked in, this doesn’t happen outwardly very often and always gets a laugh from my friends.  Friday morning, I was sitting at the coach station looking around at all the other runners Im thinking ‘Oh my god, all these guys/gals look like full-on experienced, FAST runners.’  Yes, I get exactly the same worries as all my friends and clients.  Sitting on the bus worrying that Ill be the last one in , never able to find my way (although this was a bit closer to the truth haha).  Note to self – Work on this!

 

On the bus, you got to see . . .  literally the rolling hills opening up as we left Bath.  Stunning views looking back into Bath, thinking phew – I’m going to be running that back in.  Or not as it turned out.

 

Chipping, Campden was your typical Olde ye English village, beautiful little place with a market selling woven baskets.  very in-keeping with the area.  Once everything was signed, hydration packs filled, changed, standing in what can only be considered a tiny toilet queue and the out front ready to rock and roll.  I was excited, nervous and constantly checking everything – certain I had forgotten something.  There was still time to get some pictures at the stone that marked the start/end of the route with 100 Miles engraved on the stone.

 

We started in what is  a very unusual way to begin – dribs and drabs – the village/town wasn’t geared for bigger starts and as we weren’t racing this didn’t matter.  A common mantra to be heard over the next few days was to be ‘Its not a race’ (With only a HINT of sarcasm).  We were sent straight into our first hill which was what some runners would call a drag and very quickly slowed most down, but easily distracted with the amazing architecture of the area, the stone and thatched roofs had me instantly under their spell.  It was incredible, actually like something out of the olden times.  Unlike my normal running pattern there was not much thinking to be done today.  I was focused on my technique, trying as my old OCR coach would say ‘Less bulldog, more gazelle like’  ALthough I would never describe myself as a gazelle like runner, it was more so than normal.  I tried to stay light on the downhills to take out the impact from my joints and muscles, particularly on the first day of running.

In our wee history lesson on the bus I learnt that Cots = Sheep; Wolds = Hills > Sheep Hills (Thats one for you Karen), also one of the places we run through was called Broadway.  It was called this simply because the road through the town was very broad for access to a major city.  The first checkpoint came and went quickly and felt great to get there so quickly.

I felt great energy wise but knew it would be a good idea to eat something anyway.  Off we went, I seemed to be leading the way for a while, soooo NOT my style. Not to mention the fact that my navigation is eh, not the best, needless to say I did in fact get lost but I’m putting it down to mistaking some of the signs for the ones I was watching for.  I think when you are trying to keep pace its difficult to spot the correct markers.  I really felt myself slowing as I neared markers.  Myself and a gentleman called Graeme (hope that’s the correct spelling) got lost and had to regain some of the ground we made but remember – ‘Its not a race’.  Straight into another hill which hit the quads hard.  My next lost section was after passing through a farm, with what could only be the meanest looking dog I have ever seen, a misunderstanding of a marker led me further down the path but I wasn’t the only one who went the wrong way.  Its very easy to get lost in the moment, when I run I can truly lose myself, I just slip into a zone where nothing else matters its great.  I can be fully in the moment, really appreciating whats around me.

 

After getting the assistance of a local gentleman we (Colin, Kevin and Craig) we got back on track and I felt positive but was keen to see some other runners.  As I neared some runners, I had to keep reeling in my competitive spirit, Tough when you are used to trying to move through the field.

A little further on I began to consider how the body was feeling, quads were starting to feel tired for the first time.  As I thought this I neared a gate at the edge of the field.  On this gate was a massive yellow sign – ‘BULL’.  Are you actually kidding me?!  I peered into the field, couldnt see a thing, sure it was waiting for the next person to head into the field I entered.  Here was the first of my knock-kneed, butt tucked under runs to get to the other side.  All of a sudden my legs would move as fast as I wanted them to.  Just to top this off, there was ANOTHER one, another bull smile – I mean, Come ON!  I swear this gate had THE loudest latch, screeeeeeching to indicate entry.

My heart rate returned to normal some time later,  it was an extremely hot day, fairly exposed section of the path but also with sections with hedges either side that meant the heat of the day was kept in.  It felt like running through a greenhouse on these sections.

Our first day ended at Hayles Fruit farm, where we had the most amazing massage haha.  Great food, good laughs, I had become known as the person who had run 20 miles and not the 16 that everyone else completed.  The day was finished with a shower or rain and an amazing sunset!

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